Andred and Mental Health

The video that started it all. “A Case For Community SPG: Ares and Mental Health”, Aliakai, Jun 17, 2021

My first impression of this video was to the effect of “Hey, this kind of reminds me of Andred and my relationship with Her.”

I have prayed to Her for protection (chiefly from creepy, controlling, or otherwise dangerous men), and She has answered every time. (The times have been few, because I have baggage about asking for things, but when I have asked, She has answered.) When I first met Her, before I even knew Her name, She kept an eye on me. I remember in college in December when the path between the dorm and the location of a test was icy, but the Moon shone in the sky, making sure I got home safely (this is mentioned briefly here).

She is not a Mother Goddess or a goddess of healing and health. That’s the thing. I’m something of a practical-minded person. I feel like if I have a direct means of solving a problem, then I can relax about it. Kind words are great and all but I don’t feel they are all that useful to me. In my experience Andred has not been about simply saying it’s gonna be OK and leaving it at that. She and Ra have helped me organize my life, giving it a structure it might not have outside of school and work. I pray daily. It’s a good reckoning, a cue that the day can begin (which is rough when I have to actually start the day before that point due to reasons, but that circumstance is very rare, and a topic for another time).

Instead, I’ve gotten pointed down different directions. I’ve been told, “I’m your mother now.” And most recently, I’ve been given practical, mundane instructions. “Pick up these things, leave them here. Finish this project.” Or sometimes I get pulled to read up on a given subject (for example, the Fae or English folklore).

Practical directions and reading material get me out of my own head, and while I haven’t needed that much lately, I can’t say it hasn’t helped. Because it has. I feel accomplished when I get something like this done, and that goes a long way toward my self-esteem. Going and doing and reading keep me from doing something self-destructive like dwell on the past with my family.

So, on a deeply personal level, She has been good to me in that way. It’s like resting the body. Resting the mind can help it heal.

Mischief Night Update

As I mentioned, October 30 is Mischief Night, a non-calendrical holiday where assorted bored teenagers get up to pranks. It isn’t very popular where I live, but can be found in urban centers in the East Coast region and the Great Lakes.

October 30 was also when the town held its Trick-or-Treat, on account of the 31st being a school night. I wasn’t present for the affair but according to the transfer sheets where I work, we alone went through six bags of candy. Others tell me it was wall to wall people, confirmed by photographs in the Nov. 5 edition of the local paper.

I suspected everyone and their brother would be out, after around a year and a half of dealing with, or trying to deny, the plague (not technically the plague but you get the point). We’ll see if the Gavle Goat survives this year, or if the ropes will finally snap. In my understanding, things haven’t peaked, but are just getting underway this year.

But, other than a ridiculous number of trick-or-treaters of all ages, very little happened on October 30, according to the Sheriff’s Report printed in the paper (I think by law, along with other public notices). There was a major accident, and a caller reported a youth in a bloody mask attempting to trick-or-treat, but who was told to come back the 31st. That’s it, really. (Of course, around here roughly 40-50% of calls are about wild animals and livestock being places they shouldn’t be. So there’s that.)

As mentioned, I’ve been cultivating a theory that many of the spirits and forces we associate with Halloween don’t associate themselves with Halloween, and we may be seeing more Yuletide activity than anything else.

Preparations

The past 24-36 hours, I have felt the urge to make sure my emergency travel/magic kit is mostly stocked and there are certain supplies in my car (blankets, shovel, spare charger, that kind of thing). I’m not sure why. I feel like something is coming. I may have prepared in completely the wrong way for what may be coming.

But now I’m succumbing to the slightly subtler urge to blog about it. And I know this is where Andred makes me put things She wants me to write about. So I think She might have something to do with this. So I may have been guided correctly after all.

In an upcoming post I discuss an incident early in our relationship, before I knew Her name, when She protected me on a walk home. I remember still how that felt. Undeniable.

I think She may be acting again in Her capacity as protector. Of women, of the people. She has acted this way before, and I have prayed to Her specifically for protection on several occasions. Perhaps I am finally being nudged down a path that will lead to my ultimate safety, through the winter or more long-term. It’s hard to tell, and shockingly my precognitive powers are close to nonexistent (although tarot is a useful tool to me for preparing for the most likely scenario).

Maybe nothing will happen. Maybe something will happen. But I suppose it’s better to be somewhat ready than not ready at all.

I feel the spirits in this Chili’s tonight (or, Fuses DO just blow)

At around 7:30 PM last night (11/2) power was lost to about one half of my workplace. Lights, coolers, freezers, hot chocolate machine, gas pumps, etc. without power. Until around 8:30 or 8:45 I thought we’d be able to have the registers running enough to do important closing paperwork. And then that turned out not to be the case. My bosses and I also discovered in the course of the night that a neighboring building was also without power, a slight concern to one resident who was on oxygen (but thankfully not on her deathbed because of it). That resident also says she heard a pop noise from the transformer. I was allowed to leave early, but as we were leaving gentlemen from the power company (whom my boss called three times) arrived to try and fix the issue. I heard talk of a blown fuse.

When it first started I was immediately overcome by the chill across my skin that tells me that spirits are present and the Otherworld is close. It is the feeling that lends itself to encounters like this. (Note: the rabbit is innocuous, but I felt the need to document it for a reason.) The feeling persisted for almost three hours, long after I got home and decided to lock the doors and not emerge until the sun came up (a decision I am still holding to in the morning). I was sitting in the darkened store with a candle, staring at the streetlights and thinking there was once a time when it would have been completely dark. No light of any kind but the fire. And we came pretty close to what that would have looked like. Waiting out the darkness with a sense of creeping shadow and cold, for it was also a little bit chilly.

Now, to be clear, I’m sure a fuse did blow. And fuses do blow. This is a thing that fuses do when they are worn out, overloaded, or both. This is a reality of modern living.

It is also folklorically attested that certain spirits react poorly to substances like iron (and most probably steel, which is mostly iron anyways). The fact that humans use steel in pretty much everything of import from cars to transformers to buildings has caused some to erroneously believe the Fae, who are intolerant to the material to varying degrees (except probably smithing Fae), are nature spirits or prefer natural habitats. And of course, it is also attested that there are beings that simply set out to cause problems, and may exploit their weakness to steel and iron toward this end. Or they may see a situation like a fuse going out and taking out power to two buildings as an opportunity to make themselves known, or cause other mischief.

I can’t say, but I felt the spirits in that Chili’s last night.

A good summary of my evening.

Samhain 2021

I discovered on 10-27 that the Gavle Goat, a perennial favorite target of Yuletide vandals, has survived 2020, as I had predicted. (I have been researching and preparing mentally for Yule 2021, for which I have big plans I may discuss at a later point.) Now I wonder if the Goat will survive Yule 2021, after four consecutive years of survival, or if the impulse will overtake someone and they will set fire to the straw figure once more (or at least, make an attempt).

I bring this up primarily as an update to a previous post, and a prediction for the future (in a sense). But I’m also doing it because in my mind, it is only the beginning of the most haunted, spiritually active time of the year. Last year I felt it to some degree or another until around May 1, but it peaked in December and January. The spirits will be out and about for a while, and I think many of the oldest ones are a bit slow to change with the human calendar. (In The Krampus and the Old, Dark Christmas, Ridenour postulates that some customs were shifted around in accordance with various factors, from the Catholic liturgical calendar to the state visits of important people. Generally, he suspects, some things moved “up” or earlier in time from older observances. This dovetails neatly with the theory that older wassailing traditions (and drunken carousing) have influenced Halloween trick-or-treating (and drunken carousing), and Christmas spirits and ghost stories being mostly abandoned in America in favor of Halloween spirits and ghost stories. Though that one is in part due to the Puritans banning Christmas altogether because it was too Pagan and too fun.)

That coupled with the general ramping up of spiritual and Otherworldly activity that everyone and their dog has noticed by this point, means I think we’re going to be seeing quite a haunted yuletide (see also When Divination Hands It To You).

I recognize there are a lot of mundane reasons that drive someone to vandalism of Christmas or other property: boredom, drunkenness, doing it because they can, seeing if they can get away with it, any combination thereof. But, I have been nurturing a theory that something else is also stirring this on, encouraging it. A potential candidate? Of course, I can’t be 100% certain of these things, especially these things, and I won’t say there’s one single answer to everything all the time, but I think there’s something here worth looking into.

Mischief Night

Mischief Night (sometimes called Devil’s Night) is not on any calendar, but I grew up with it being the night before Halloween (making it 10/30). It was the night when houses were TP’d or egged, and pumpkins smashed. Now, police don’t take kindly to such rowdy misbehavior, as the kids who went around smashing pumpkins around here a few years back probably learned (if they were ever caught). But, as I’ve researched into the concept of Yuletide vandalism, I’ve started to suspect that the world needs a little bit of that energy at least once in a while.

My going theory is that there is some potentially otherworldly force (nothing large, mind you, just a nudge) urging people to do things like kidnap baby Jesus figures out of nativity scenes or set fire to the Gavle Goat. I’m unsure what this force is, but I think it’s connected to (and possibly remembers) ancient customs of going door to door demanding food and drink from one’s wealthy neighbors, getting progressively inebriated as the night wears on. Things like the Lord of Misrule and upturning the social order for a little while each year (such as by dressing in costumes or as the opposite sex). I wonder if this force is urging people to do the things they do (like TP houses and yards or egg cars) in that same spirit.

Perhaps bored, drunk teenagers are just the type to be susceptible to that kind of influence? Alcohol can be used to lower inhibitions and allow one to enter an altered state of consciousness. (Don’t ask me about entheogens please.) And perhaps some of it is tied to a resurgence of the otherworldly into the world we have considered “physical” and even “ours” for so long.

But the haunted season is only just beginning.

Black Dogs of Norfolk

The Iceni were a tribe who lived in the area of England now called Norfolk.

According to Black Dog Folklore, there are eighty-two accounts of black dog sightings of various kinds (or of some kind, as there are no details in many cases) in the region. Also according to Black Dog Folklore, East Anglia broadly is home to the Shuck type of black dog ghost, an ominous creature sometimes said to kill those who witness it.

Going off the data provided in the book:

  • at least seven sightings position the dog as an omen of death
  • there are two headless dogs
  • there are five dogs with chains
  • there are three one-eyed dogs (possibly Shucks), one is a local legend
  • there are two reports of hell hounds, including one local legend
  • one dog is called Skutch
  • there are four overt references to Shucks
  • there are four dogs with physical effects, sometimes violent

There are several for which no data has been recorded, so it’s hard to say how things really look without living over there yourself.

There is also the concept of the cu sì, or fairy dog, which I learned about from Morgan Daimler’s works Fairies: A Guide to the Celtic Fair Folk and Fairy Witchcraft. Fairy hounds are recognized as unusual in some way and are sometimes conflated with (or possibly otherwise connected to) other forms of black dogs (many fairy hounds are black, but they can come in white and green, as well as other colors, missing limbs, eyes, etc.), such as the aforementioned Shuck.

I had a sighting of my own, which could fall into either category. All I know is I got a vibe off the encounter and I remember it well.

On page 173 of East Anglian Witches and Wizards, an individual is described as having had a sighting of a Black Dog or Shuck while he was a child, an encounter which inspired him to become a “traditional magical practitioner”. The chapter goes on to describe further encounters with the Shuck, some of which I recognize from Black Dog Folklore but others of which are new to me.

In both sources the Shuck or Barguest (depending, I suppose, on where you are) seems to be connected to the dead. Ancient burial mounds and old tracks used to take the dead to the graveyard. Crossroads. (Barguest may be a corruption of the phrase “Barrow Ghost”, but who knows?) The lines in the Isles between the Gods, the dead, land spirits and the Fae are notoriously blurred, hence the aforementioned conflation, and Christianity has changed a great many things in order to comport with its worldview. (The earliest written account of a Shuck, involving two nearly simultaneous attacks on churches during a thunderstorm, attributed the apparition to the work of the Devil, but if the motif existed then (and there’s a whole discussion to be had about using handy metaphors to describe inexplicable things, it happens to this day in the UFO world) then it is surely based on something.)

It’s possible the Iceni and their tribal neighbors knew of entities similar to the Shuck and other Black Dogs found throughout England. But it’s too difficult to tell and no one’s bothered to write anything down about it. The spirit (which I believe is there) has surely been around for quite some time and is still around, causing the odd spook here and there. Perhaps more sightings will come in given the increasing awareness of the magical world. Who can say?

When Divination Hands It To You

Every month this year, I have striven to do a tarot reading at the start of it, to peer ahead about three months and see what’s what, and what I might need to plan for or worry about. I did skip one on accident, but otherwise I have managed to keep consistent. The format of the reading is adapted from a divination I did at the start of the year, which was about what each month would hold. The cards representing each month were set aside, and three more cards pulled from a shuffled deck to elaborate and highlight things I might need to focus on.

Usually I keep these notes to myself, but this month’s reading (covering October, November, and December, rounding out the end of the year and reminding me that next month I will only be reading two months ahead) was unusually intense, energetically speaking. Cards elaborating on both October and November highlighted something I have been reading about increasingly in the past few years. The phenomenon is termed variously by Pagans as “The Otherworld Bleeding Through” or “Tower Time”, and is a combination of the general dramatic collapse of the American Empire and everything it “stands for” (those nebulous American/Traditional/Christian/Family Values), and an increase in the presence of Otherworldly beings of all stripes in the lives of us mere mortals.

Last year I was especially aware of the shift between a “solid” seeming “physical” world and a more “porous” one. I was not the only one; someone in a Discord server I am in also said they felt the world has become more “porous”. It began, for me, with a dog.

A couple of nights ago I had a rough nightmare involving a spirit I could not observe directly (the attempts shook fear into my soul the way only an immersive nightmare can) invading my home and needing to be forced out over a threshold of salt. I have details in my dream journal, but everything about the creature from its size to its nature to its obsession with the milk and eggs my dream self possessed (evidently), screamed, as I woke, “fairy”. I’m concerned it’s one of those rare warning dreams I sometimes receive; the last of those I had involved a figure in Egyptian cosmology that must routinely be fought against. It turned out that someone was going around in the community at that time asking about how to worship that specific entity, seemingly not understanding the fierce resistance they were met with on all sides.

Then, today, I did a reading (so that I do not forget for this month), and I found eight out of twelve cards screaming at me about spirits. October in particular stood out for having one card from each suit present. It became, to me, this grand something or other involving the Four Jacks to which Penczak introduced me. But one of the cards present also reminded me of the time I meditated on it, and found its environment forbidding, dangerous, even. I see it as a reminder that the spirit world is dangerous, that the fae are dangerous, and, as per the dream, I have no business getting in over my head with them.

November also showed something interesting: in one half, suggesting a short rest, but only that, from some problem I am facing in order to gain perspective. In the other half, I was reminded of a series of posts on this blog, about Gwyn ap Nudd (depicted in the Sacred Circle arcana card “The Underworld”, which is #14). He balances the world, and since humans have stepped out of line, he will balance it again. More details on the blog I linked. Nature is reasserting itself, spirits and Otherworldly beings are reasserting themselves, and there’s very little we can do about it. But, y’know, a good break to gain perspective never hurt anyone.

So I have been energetically drained by the experience, with the chief takeaway that the traditionally haunted time of year is about to be extra haunted. Mind the old rules, lock your doors.

“I call upon you as woman speaking to woman!”

This is something I noticed and reflected on last night.

The only surviving story of Andraste is in the account of Boudica. The quote above comes from Dio Cassius’s version (although I think there is one other floating about). The Romans had stolen Boudica’s portion of her husband’s inheritance to her and beat her and r*ped her daughters when she protested, and this is what motivated her to rebel against Rome.

After divining with a wild hare, Boudica is reported to have said:

I thank thee, Andraste,​ and call upon thee as woman speaking to woman; for I rule over no burden-bearing Egyptians as did Nitocris, nor over trafficking Assyrians as did Semiramis (for we have by now gained thus much learning from the Romans!), much less over the Romans themselves as did Messalina once and afterwards Agrippina and now Nero (who, though in name a man, is in fact a woman, as is proved by his singing, lyre-playing and beautification of his person); nay, those over whom I rule are Britons, men that know not how to till the soil or ply a trade, but are thoroughly versed in the art of war and hold all things in common, even children and wives, so that the latter possess the same valour as the men. As the queen, then, of such men and of such women, I supplicate and pray thee for victory, preservation of life, and liberty against men insolent, unjust, insatiable, impious, — if, indeed, we ought to term those people men who bathe in warm water, eat artificial dainties, drink unmixed wine, anoint themselves with myrrh, sleep on soft couches with boys for bedfellows, — boys past their prime at that, — and are slaves to a lyre-player and a poor one too. Wherefore may this Mistress Domitia-Nero reign no longer over me or over you men; let the wench sing and lord it over Romans, for they surely deserve to be the slaves of such a woman after having submitted to her so long. But for us, Mistress, be thou alone ever our leader.

Text of Roman History, Cassius Dio. https://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Cassius_Dio/62*.html, emphasis mine

Typically in summaries of the events, quotations stop at “I supplicate and pray thee for victory, preservation of life, and liberty” as though the second half of Boudica’s speech did not exist. In fact, most of the derision of Rome as a nation of women is omitted. I have checked, and there is one book, Women and the Colonial Gaze, which seems to comment on the fact that Boudica is masculinized by Cassius, portions of which certainly show in her speech.

But, that isn’t the important part to me today.

The important part is, “I call upon thee as woman speaking to woman”, which in the context of her story, suggests something to me. It suggests that Andraste may have specifically been a goddess who protected and got vengeance for women, or was connected in another way to women’s affairs, such that Boudica felt safe calling on Her in this capacity. Of course, as with 99% of what I know about Andraste, this is UPG (unverified personal gnosis), and not even properly contemplated UPG at that.

But it is significant or at least interesting that this is the only surviving account of Andraste’s existence and worship.

American. Fucking. Gods.

Like all of the rest of the internet, I thought the first season of the show American Gods, based on Neil Gaiman’s novel, was fantastic! It even ended when Easter took the spring and that shit was fire! It was awesome!

Only recently did I go back and watch seasons 2 and (half of) 3 as of this writing. And… I’m less than impressed. I was star struck by the first season, and listening to the audiobook along the way, I was eager to meet characters in the show whose chapters I just listened to. I was having a good time.

I was not having a great time for season 2, but it was passable. Season 3 is falling apart before my very eyes and no amount of fisheye effects and oversaturated or undersaturated color palettes (depending on if we’re “Backstage” or not, basically in the otherworld or in the real world) can save a mess of a plot.

I’m not qualified to talk about the representation issues caused by white guys deciding Anansi “sends the wrong message” (or, for that matter, whether Anansi’s portrayal was accurate) and then moving on to a storyline about the Orishas that, as far as I’ve gotten as of this writing, is primarily about holding out hope that tomorrow will be better. Which is fine for Annie, but like the man himself said, “Angry gets shit done.”

But there’s something else here, too, and it’s baked into the premise, into the source material. OK there’s a couple somethings.

The Goddesses

There’s something strange I noticed about the goddesses Gaiman chose to write about (and then subsequently made it into the show). The two most prominent (in the show at least) are fertility/sex goddesses Easter and Bilquis, who are respectively the Girl Next Door and the Vamp. I give credit to the TV series for fleshing out Bilquis’s character where Gaiman originally did not, but a first impression like that is hard to shake.

There’s the scene where Bast has dream sex with Shadow and heals his wounds. There’s New Goddess Media offering Lucy Ricardo’s breasts for Shadow’s viewing pleasure.

And unless I’m missing anyone, that’s… it.

I mean if you’ve been following along and doing your own research you’ve probably worked out that goddesses in myth are many and varied, multifaceted beings. Aphrodite, stereotypical love goddess, has a warlike aspect and is thought to be connected to Ishtar and Inanna. (And her Roman counterpart Venus began as a harvest goddess and evolved into the Mother of Rome itself.)

(Noted mortal female character Laura Moon is fridged and then unfridged primarily to propel and assist with Shadow’s plot, although she gets development in the series, because adaptations can actually be great like that.)

The Theology

The basic premise, if you’ve been living under a rock, is that gods come into being because humans believe they exist, and are fed by prayers and sacrifices of time, energy, and even blood. Human sacrifice gives gods the most power, which is probably an excuse to have crazy death scenes of all sorts of varieties.

Now, I have no idea how the gods came into being, but I don’t necessarily believe my belief in them has caused them to be or sustained them in quite such cut and dried terms.

I’m not trying to say we shouldn’t strive for reciprocity with the gods, because I believe that we should. Prayers and offerings may be primarily for the benefit of the human practicing them; I know that my routine of prayer gives structure to my days and I can’t do without it.

But I also wonder how easily this whole thing could fall apart if humans just never happened to think up the concept of divinity. Sure, trees may have been the first to fill “the god-shaped hole in man’s head”, but what if they weren’t? What if that hole never existed? That’s really the load-bearing idea here, and while humans as we know them are religious creatures, I think based on the way I think about the gods, I would’ve executed this premise differently.

Additionally, I want to take a minute to bring up the antropocentrism of the premise. Gods exist because humans specifically believe that they do. Easter takes the spring to spite the New Gods and the humans, without thought for her other charges. I follow Beckett’s thinking in that gods are gods of other things besides humans. There are more forest and river deities than I can name, as well as gods with sacred animals (whom they probably also have to look after). I happen to hold that Andred is the goddess of hares and rabbits as well as victory in battle, and they are among Her other charges that She is worried about.

Conclusion

So yeah, that’s where I’m at with American Gods right now. I don’t know if I’ll finish season three or just go back to season one and wash the bitter taste from my mouth. Maybe finish the audiobook finally and call it a day with this franchise.