Jack Frost

Now, last post, I mentioned witnessing a black lab running about town (I suspect; I saw another black lab this morning, being walked by someone, but I am also unsure whether that is here, there, or anywhere). It maybe spirits, omens, or other such things, and I can’t be sure. All I really know is I get vibes off encounters like this.

I also get vibes off of reading the encounters others have with the numinous. Most of the time, I think I can tell whether someone is telling the truth about a god or spirit, or making it up (in the former camp we have, off the top of my head, Mankey’s encounter with Santa Claus with which he opens his Little Book of Yule, and in the latter we have the infamous “Smarmy’s Set Interview”, which can be found here).

This is all a bunch of set up to talk about Jack Frost.

This year, I have been feeling the pull of the spirit world, especially around fall and winter. I’ve been seeking it out and it has been answering. Ancestors, nature spirits, and so on are putting in appearances while I dive deeper into the lore of the season. (I’ve also been watching Rise of the Guardians on repeat for the past week, and that movie is a cinematic masterpiece, but really the former led to the discovery of the latter.)

So I took the leap. I sat down today and instead of reaching for a quiet Goddess (and She has been quiet lately, but She isn’t the only one and it isn’t as though I’ve been abandoned), I reached for Jack Frost.

In preparation for the big moment I had done some research, trying to find out the average pagan experience of the figure. I stumbled onto the account Christopher Penczak offers in The Temple of Shamanic Witchcraft: Shadows, Spirits, and the Healing Journey. His theory of the God is that there are eight iterations, four Horned and four Jacks or Johns (so to speak). One of those four Jacks is Jack Frost (the other three being Green, Barleycorn, and O’Lantern). I’d read the excerpt, in which Penczak describes how he never quite liked winter, and when he tried to reach out to Mr. Frost, Jack had been hostile and short with him, and asked that, to make up for it (besides thanking the guy for keeping him safe each winter), Penczak was to offer a drop of his own blood.

I could not get a read off of this account, on whether it was true or not.

And so I decided this morning, when I visited the painter, I would ask. And I did.

To me, Jack Frost was excitable, animated, bouncing around everywhere as if he was finally happy to have someone to talk to him just for its own sake. He took to me well enough, recognizing me as someone who likes the peace winter brings to the world and feels the pull within me to sleep later and go to bed earlier (to, essentially, hibernate). But, he said the blood thing was true. He suggested it was one of those things that goes for people who don’t like winter, who try to resist its energy.

Now, this is just my first visit, my first impression of him. I like him, but he’s already shown signs of the complexities he embodies, being the personification of and/or bringer of winter weather. The thing about winter is that it’s harsh to the unprepared, and quite frankly, those who cannot, for whatever reason, afford to prepare. This is the importance of giving, and of being able to survive yourself. It requires forethought, and selflessness. It is, in short, complicated.

He is complicated.

The Dark Half of the Year

Traditionally, the dark half of the year begins at or around Samhain and ends at or around Beltane. These are the two points where “the veil between the worlds” is at its thinnest and spirits can be reached. People have argued for years that this veil has been shredded or at least exceptionally porous lately, more so than it has been in the past.

I don’t know about any of that, but I do know that this year, I’ve been highly sensitive to the porousness of the physical world. It started, to me, somewhere two weeks before Samhain. I know that I was gradually being consumed by thoughts of ghosts and spirits. And then, three days before Halloween, I saw a black dog running across the street, in direct line of sight from where I work. I’m unsure if this was a sign, but it felt like enough of a thing for me to take notice.

I’m not sure what it meant.

Then there’s the persistent quest this year for something to Yule and Christmas that isn’t the usual cheery nonsense. Something deeper and scarier. This is the realm of Krampus, Berchta/Perchta, the Wild Hunt (in all of its forms), and, believe it or not, A Christmas Carol. This is the world of blizzards and bitter cold and the struggle for survival and the impulse to huddle together with loved ones (note: the key phrase is “loved ones”, and there are people I am biologically close to that I do not love). Part of me craves that atmosphere, as though the blizzard will contain the numinous.

Based on all the folklore, I think I’m on the right track with that one.

Rabbit Rabbit 8-1: Augury

In Beckett’s post “Run, Rabbit, Run – An Augury for One” he puts forth the following theory: gods do not direct animals to perform certain portentous actions wherever humans happen to be able to witness. Gods direct humans to where portentous events are occurring so that we can witness them. There’s a big difference between the two. The first is human-centric, the second is not. The second regards humans as another “cog in the machine” of nature. Gods can direct animals, but direct us instead because it’s all the same and the outcome is more important.

This wasn’t intended to be a Rabbit Rabbit post. I’ve been sitting on the above paragraph for a couple of weeks, wondering where I was going to go with it.

Last night, I baked some bread. I offered a slice to the gods, and Andraste asked to hang onto it. Then, later today, I was asked to give it to the local river spirit (of a body of water I refuse to accept is a “creek”). I confess that my last interaction with this spirit was essentially asking a stranger for a favor. I knew what I had done and tried to keep radio silent on the matter. I’d succeeded for two years, and then came tonight.

Finding the right secluded spot away from people was a challenge provided by nature and complicated by people, with a live music event in the nearby park. Slight water logging and many bug bites later, I had found the spot. I sat, and I explained myself.

I said Andraste asked this of me. I thought about how best to disperse the bread (worried someone would notice). I apologized for the incident two years ago. I explained that I had become acquainted with the work of someone who taught me better, who was steering me toward right relationship with nature.

I think the river accepted. I know something between us mellowed out after the final bits of bread floated downriver. I talked very briefly about how everything was collapsing (in that, I tried my best in the world we live in and I disagreed, but was a cog in the machine, and the full weight of the year of our Lord 2020 has been brought to bear on capitalism). And I sat there for several minutes staring at the pool I had found in the river, between two bunches of dead trees and fallen branches.

I had wondered, but dared not disturb, what took shelter there.

And, for a little while, I was completely alone with the river, or so it seemed. And that was fine.

I’m recounting this to suggest that I had been guided there for that specific purpose. When I bid my farewells and began to feel more at peace, I remembered this post and what I had been working on. I suspect the thesis of Beckett’s piece is that humans can be guided the way we think animals are guided by the Gods, and it is probably easier for the Gods to guide us than to guide a multitude of players to compose a specific scene They want us to see. I think as a result, humans are guided more often than not (or whacked with the appropriate clue-by-four, as needed), but think too highly of our own agency and centrality in the world.

(Yes, we have agency, but no, the world does not revolve around us.)

And I will say, this is certainly the year of my changing pagan practice. I think the tree in my yard would agree.

Rabbit Rabbit 7-1

Ever since the lockdown started, I’ve been neglecting my Rabbit Rabbit posts. (The last is from March 2nd, and it looks like before that I struggled with consistency, too.) I’d picked up the phrase from a tumblr blog doing its best to spread good luck and blessings, and frankly my skimping out just won’t do, not in times like this.

It’s been stressful, and frankly I spent a lot of the past few months wondering why I’m getting punished, why my coworkers get treated a lot better than I do. The truth is the system is inherently rigged and I was set back by an alcoholic father, who refuses to make amends for what he did to my starting financial situation (or anything else, for that matter). So I’ve been increasingly advocating for burning the whole thing down and starting over.

I think Americans need to stop worrying about money as the only value of the human experience. Republicans especially will whine about “the economy” whenever someone wants to pass a safety net bill, but money is not the value by which life is judged. In fact, wanting money to have money is a bad thing. The average person doesn’t want a hundred dollars or a thousand dollars or whatever. They want what that can give them in the moment in a capitalistic society. Food, shelter, money toward their medical bills and other debts, travel, and so on, generally in that order. We want to be able to meet our needs, and I’ve come to believe we should do something about the middle man in that equation.

Maybe moving beyond money is ridiculous, so let’s change the way we look at it. Us Americans have a saying, “The Almighty Dollar”. (And, coincidentally, a pastor named Dollar, who is a televangelist.) Idea time: consider money as a means to an end, instead of the end itself. I kind of think this is part of the idea behind Medicare For All, which also dovetails with concepts like sovereignty and obligation.

For the novel I’ve been working on, one of the alien cultures believes, “Those who can, take care of those who cannot”. It’s baked into their society even if their current struggle is over who “counts” as a member, despite the existence of their empire. Children are in the legal care of nearby adults. Health care, food, shelter, and so on are not treated as “rights of the people” but as obligations of “those who can”. A clan elder is responsible for those his or her junior, just as an officer is responsible for those in their command. This responsibility is pounded in as something one expects when one gets older and starts their own career. And here’s the kicker: money is a recent invention for them. They don’t understand all the peculiarities that make currency and economy tick. And this has caused them problems.

The reason I write science fiction is because I want to present what I think we should be more like. I want to show people what’s possible, because it can be dreamed, even if it’s by that one radical you knew as a mousy little twerp in middle school.

I Write Science Fiction

For the past couple of months, I’ve been watching the world spiral out of control. Between the pandemic (and the economic strain it places especially on “essential” (read: poor) workers) and news of a host of other disasters, it was hard to think otherwise. And then a man was killed by cops, sparking protests and any and all efforts to shut those protests down.

I won’t write one of “those” posts (whatever you think “those” posts are). You can find much better elsewhere online. But I will say that I have been thinking about (and writing, and worldbuilding) the fact that it doesn’t have to be this way.

Why do we need cops? What are those shifty bastards good for that we can’t manage by ourselves? (And furthermore, why aren’t we managing those things ourselves? Why aren’t we protecting our children? Why aren’t we helping people out? Why did we decide this was OK?)

The more this goes on, the more I think it’s perfectly OK to collectively shame people into proper behavior. Not outmoded standards about how women should behave, of course. That’s bullshit. But the basics that we can all agree on, like “murder is bad” and “everyone is equal so treat them that way” and “don’t diddle kids” (yes, that last one needs to be stated). I know not everyone agrees on all of those, but plenty of decent people do. Hopefully critical mass.

We express the ideas we think about, and how we regard them, in fiction. This is the principle behind storytelling “karma”, that authors will punish specific actions to show their readers that a thing is not OK. Or do the reverse and reward some actions to provide a role model of sorts. This is where the “evil slutty woman” trope comes from, among a ton of others. And I think that principle can be put to good use. If the things we used to write as good were written as bad, and vice versa, and if we wrote those books and published those books, we could reach a few people. One or two of us might be bestsellers, or hit an equally big potential audience piggybacking off of something else. And there go the dominoes.

Write the book about someone outside “the box” (you know the one, labeled “Blank Slate” in big red Sharpie). Those things you see demonized elsewhere? Show they’re good. I know this has been said a LOT, a ridiculous amount, and it won’t directly counter the tide of every other bad message elsewhere in the world, but it’s a good place to start, and there needs to be a lot more books like it. And, if you have to, stand by your authorial choices. Don’t change your protagonist because the agent doesn’t like it.

On Cycles

History doesn’t repeat, but it often rhymes.

Unknown

As we know, this is a peculiar time to be alive. I don’t know about anyone else, but I find myself thinking things like “This must’ve been what it was like to live through the Black Death” or “…the Spanish Flu.” There’s a group of pagans, bloggers and otherwise, who have sensed for years the coming of dark times and Otherworldly beings. One suggests the latter at least is a cycle.

It’s as good a time as any to talk about cycles, I think.

According to the Llewellyn 2020 Sabbats Almanac, under the Cosmic Sway section for Ostara:

A new thirty-two year cycle started on January 12, 2020, with Saturn conjunct Pluto. Jupiter joins the fray on December 21, 2020. The Great Conjunction, as it is named, is associated with huge shakeups, politically and planetarily, literally and metaphorically. Nine US presidents have been killed, died of illness, or experienced an assassination attempt during a Great Conjunction. Volcanic eruptions and earthquakes are also more common. The Great conjunction is all about destruction. To add more misery, the weather predictions for the winter this year are heavy snows brought on by a strong La Niña depression off the coast of Central and South Americas. The time for preparation is in the spring and summer. Prepare for a lack of food, water, and electricity during the winter months. Sow heavily in the garden this year, and sow often, taking advantage of the planting days. Can and dry and pickle and ferment; save all of the food if possible in case of a long, difficult winter. Stock up on firewood if that is an option, otherwise prepare for long power outages and lack of heat. Water is always the most important emergency provision, so store water, as well as gasoline for a generator. Don’t forget blankets, candles, and matches.

pg. 132

The Almanac was released in late 2019, before the coronavirus outbreak, during which many are already experiencing some of the things listed above (namely food shortages), and plenty not listed (shortages of things like cleaning supplies and toilet paper). If this winter is as bad as all that, then we should expect plenty of hoarding behavior then, as well.

I don’t understand astrology very well, I’ll be the first to admit, so I had to google “Saturn conjunct Pluto” to work out what that means. The most I’m able to parse out from the vague word salad of astrology-speak is that something big has begun either earlier this year or late last year, and will persist for quite a while. It would be easy to say that astrology predicted the coronavirus, but I won’t, because I’m probably wrong.

But this isn’t about coronavirus, at least, not entirely.

There’s something else at work here, and I think I’m finally beginning to see it (took me a while, eh?).

This brings me to the real reason for all this pondering.

Search “otherworld” on John Beckett’s blog (https://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnbeckett) and you will find posts about the glowing green bird and his theory that the Otherworld’s “proximity” (for want of a better word) to our world waxes and wanes throughout truly epic scales of time. I’m sure that’s possible, as everything else in nature works in cycles, from the movements of the planets down to a day, a year on Earth.

And speaking of Earth, I bring you Milankovitch Cycles (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milankovitch_cycles). These are a collection of long-range cycles the Earth goes through and what that means for the climate. For example, eccentricity (how close or far the Earth’s orbit is from “circular”) is, at last Wikipedia update, .017 and decreasing. This means seasonal changes are getting milder*. Axial tilt also changes, and is currently at 23.44 degrees. (I seriously hope you don’t need me to tell you how this affects Earth’s climate.)

*I will not be taking comments from people who want to use this to day humans didn’t affect the climate at all ever and therefore should let it work itself out.

Eccentricity runs on a roughly 100,000 year cycle that we seem to be roughly in the middle of. Axial tilt was max 8700 years ago and will be at its minimum 9800 years from now. We can speculate that “the time of gods walking among men” and other such things ended at roughly the dawn of human civilization (more or less, and accounting for regional variations), which was maybe sometime between these last two end points.

Now, cycles move independently of one another and sometimes line up with other cycles in interesting combinations. For example, the eccentricity cycle is an order of magnitude longer than the axial tilt cycle. Mercury retrograde happens at least once a year (and boy do I hear about it). The Saturn Return is roughly once every 30 years. Sometimes, statistically, two or more of these happen at the same time.

Now let’s return to our Saturn conjunct Pluto. It happened to occur in the earliest days of the outbreak, and also in the midst of the Otherworldly changes going on. AND ALSO, for an election year. And, for Yule this year we get the Great Conjunction (just what I always wanted!), which may or may not be a portent of doom. So, that will just so happen to occur following the results of the November election, and hopefully once we’ve got this outbreak under control. And we will probably still be in the middle of whatever the Otherworld is doing.

I’m not the greatest at suspecting the Otherworld is doing much of anything. But, people whose work I respect have noticed, so I feel fairly confident taking them at their word.

I’m Still Confused by the Buttwipe

What a lovely month it’s shaped up to be. Coronavirus has swept the globe, going from a faint abstraction a month ago to literally the next county over as of last week. If you aren’t under a shelter-in-place order, all the public spaces are closed, which is basically the same. Gloves, masks, hand sanitizer, Clorox wipes, Lysol spray. It’s. Everywhere.

And people did as people do: panic, and behave strangely (the hoarding of toilet paper, of all things), or pretend it’s all a government hoax caused by the Democrats because “they couldn’t impeach Trump” (even though last I checked that was held up due to the fact that Republicans refused to cooperate with Democrats under any circumstances but the ones that would allow them to throw out the evidence).

We’re still out of toilet paper, by the way. Distilleries are making hand sanitizer. People I work with are still trying to downplay the very serious pandemic going on all around us. One day I was deeply overcome with anxiety over the whole situation. Ever since, I’ve put more feeling into appealing to the Gods for health.

Thankfully, I haven’t had a crisis of faith yet. Those all seemed to happen before I knew who the Gods were, the ones I’m specifically talking to and praying to right now, and who are also making sure I eat something resembling health food every morning. I’m not sure if They saw all this coming, or if this is part of everything else which is going on, between the election (#hidinbiden) and the environment and who knows what else. Perhaps They did, and They know that small routines are good for times like these. Where would I be otherwise?

But, I don’t think about it tremendously much. I try not to panic. I avoid the news. I wait it out. I read other things, on other topics. I’ve been keeping myself sane for the most part. And, I’ve noticed very little change in my actual habits. I’m an introvert, after all. It just feels weird that the rest of the world is with me on that. (And, in the mean time, my Christmas decorations are still up, and a little off-season Holly Jolly never killed anyone, far as we know.)

Rabbit Rabbit 3-2

It’s been a year. A full year.

I’m still not done with that book. My parents still make weak attempts to contact me. My dad especially continues to be a disappointment. I even told him what she did to me and he doesn’t care. I’m about ready to walk away from him entirely.

Of course, I don’t think the police are willing to do anything since he’s “cleaned up his act” by quitting alcohol.

That’s the trouble. No one’s ever been willing to protect me. Not parents from bullies, not Dad from Mom, not boyfriends from parents or anyone else really. Except that time the child pornographer started issuing threats. But he was a child pornographer. That doesn’t count.

So here I am, wondering what I do with myself and feeling set back by the very people who should have propped me up and done right by me. I feel like I’ll be trapped forever in a tiny apartment, at a dead end job, with nothing to show for my life when I inevitably have enough of it.

I’m considering officially hopping on the Bernie train, since that looks like the best way out of this right now. Imagine what I could accomplish if I didn’t have to worry about things like health insurance (or any kind of insurance), or getting my bills paid. Ideally I’d want my job to be automated, freeing me up to do something I actually care about. Anything I actually care about. If we’re being really optimistic, I’m looking forward to a post-scarcity future where no one has to worry about money and we can all do whatever it is that makes us happy. I’d wax poetic about “the good old days but with indoor plumbing”, but see my last post. (And I’m still not sure how I feel about living in a commune. That sounds like a fast track to a cult if we’re not careful.)

And, in the mean time, maybe when the boomers die off we’ll have solved most of sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, etc.