On Telling Her Stories: Identity

I once asked Andred for a story of Hers that I might tell the world through this blog or by some other means. The message I received was to the effect that I was already telling such a tale–about a warrior and a sense of lost human identity while trying to adopt an identity within another culture. It’s not a new story, though the people and the settings have changed, but these days a lot of people talk a LOT about identity. Are you gay, straight, transgender, cisgender….and sometimes, are you those things enough? Who are you? Who are your people? Your ancestors? These talks come up a lot in pagan circles, in left wing circles, in right wing circles, all kinds of places.

Identity

I talked a while back about my biological ancestry, as shown by 23andMe results, and what it might mean for my identity and relationships with my gods. I talked there about my mother’s lies about my identity, specifically that I was part-Native American. But there’s more to the sense of identity than biological ancestry or tales of such.

For example, I see myself as Kemetic, as perhaps Celtic, but not in the traditional sense. I understand myself as bisexual (so far), leaning toward liking girls. I have been styled as depressed, but I never identified with or adopted the label. I have only ever used it to describe to others what such and such therapist thinks of me. I do, however, consider myself a survivor and a fighter.

And, my identity has changed. In college I stopped identifying as straight, and that was enlightening. I never tried to bind myself with any labels that referred to illnesses, and almost fell into labels foisted on me by my mother about my weight. That didn’t last very long as soon as I got a full body mirror and shed much of my modesty. I stopped identifying with my parents; I changed my phone number and blocked most of the necessary Facebook profiles (depending on when a new one will crop up). This was one of the most freeing things I’ve ever done (besides the physical altercation that led to this falling out, during which I felt I left too much up for debate).

My character is human, biologically. She used to identify as such, but ceased that once she passed through an alien culture’s initiation/coming-of-age rites. She came out less than unscathed, and wears the resulting scars as a mark that she earned her place in their culture. However, her disconnect from her human identity is still apparent, in the back of her mind. She has been affected by this change of identity, in a way that will probably never be fully understood. She has been affected surely by the experiences that shaped it. All people are.

One cannot adopt and accept a new identity without some form of change and whatever impact that might come with.

The fight is secondary, really. The war, the conflict, all that is in the background.

But there’s more to it than that, even.

You can’t escape getting assigned an identity by the people who surround you. I could not escape labels of “gifted”, or “depressed”, “anger issues”, “autism spectrum” (this came up only once and my revulsion to it was enough to silence discussion on the matter), and so on. I can’t get away from the baggage that comes with “bisexual” (or the umbrella term “gay” or “queer”), “abuse victim”, or, what I’m sure is coming: “Estranged Daughter.”

I can define myself and identify how I choose, but I am also identified by others, I couldn’t escape being identified, against my will, as depressed, spoiled, entitled, a brat, and a host of other things. I am not those things, but I cannot avoid people seeing me that way, no matter what I do. My mother, for example, will tell the whole world how evil I’m being by not speaking to her. First she will desperately try to contact me, and if I cave we’ve “made up”, but for now we are “fighting”, and if it keeps up she will eventually tell more people than my therapist that I am “insane” and “irrational”. After all, isn’t she such a good mother? (No. She is not. I have receipts.)

And, that has to be accounted for.

“Rare jackrabbit finds a refuge”

Jackson Hole News & Guide, March 13, 2019 pg. 3A

White tailed jackrabbit

A white-tailed jackrabbit, pictured here in early March, has been frequenting the Miller Butte area of the National Elk Refuge. It’s the first verified sighting on the refuge in 56 years.

Repeated sighting of lone lagomorph marks its first appearance in decades. By Mike Koshmrl

A hefty and exceedingly rare hare has been making its home near the base of Miller Butte for much of the winter.

On several occasions National Elk Refuge staff have spotted a winter-whitened, white-tailed jackrabbit, which is among the rarest native mammals in Jackson Hole.

“It’s been hunkered near the buildings and some of our equipment,” Elk Refuge spokeswoman Lori Iverson said.

Iverson, who has spotted and photographed the white jack, theorized that it might be hanging tight near the Elk Refuge’s autoshop at the base of Miller Butte’s north face to take shelter from predators, such as coyotes that frequent the nearby flats. The area is off-limits to the general public.

White-tailed jackrabbits rarely frequent the Elk Refuge. There have only been three verified occurrences ever, the last being 56 years ago, in 1963, though there was an uncomfirmed sighting scratched into Elk Refuge records in the winter of 1990-91.

“All the confirmed sightings have been in the winter,” Iverson said, “except for 1959, and that was in the summer.”

Diet analyses of coyotes and observations from settlers and biologists suggest that the species was commonplace in Jackson Hole through the first half of the 20th century.

In 20 years of traipsing around Jackson Hole as a nongame biologist for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department before retiring last fall, Susan Patla never stumbled upon a white-tailed jackrabbit, the largest of the valley’s three rabbit and hare species. The others are snowshoe hares, a big-footed inhabitant of conifer forests, and mountain cottontail, which like white-tailed jackrabbits predominantly dwell in sagebrush environments.

“I’ve seen them in Pinedale and Teton Valley,” Patla said, “but I didn’t see any in the direct Jackson Hole area.”

“They’re probably one of those animals that have microhabitat needs that we don’t really understand well,” she said.

A solitary species, white-tailed jackrabbits weigh in at a hefty 6 to 10 pounds, turn white in winter and can typically be found in open prairie-like environments. Their most important food source is sagebrush, according to guidebooks.

Although research relating to white-tailed jackrabbits is decidedly slim on the whole, there have been some local examinations. Former Teton Valley resident and conservation biologist Joel Berger took an interests in the animal’s decline around the turn of the century and convened a workshop about the issue. Berger published recommendations that emerged from the gathering of biologists in a 2006 technical report, “Where have all the rabbits gone?”

The paper postulates that Jackson Hole’s jackrabbits might have been a satellite population connected to more robust populations in the Gros Ventre and Green River drainages that eventually were extirpated. Severe winters, disease, predation, human persecution, habitation change, competition for food with ungulates and chance were all possible – though impossible to test after the fact – causes of the disappearance. Infrequent observations in modern times hint that neutral recolonization would be “unlikely to occur,” wrote Berger, who alluded to the possibility of reintorducing the lagomorphs to Grand Teton National Park.

In a 2004 News&Guide “Guest Shot,” Berger implored wildlife managers and scientists to get a grip on white white-tailed jackrabbits seem to have gone missing.

“Should we fail to cast our net widely, lack foresight that involves thinking beyond rabbits or grouse or pronghorn as individual species, and conduct business as usual instead of treating the well being of the sage-grass ecosystem in Jackson Hole in its entirety, we can be assured of one thing,” Berger wrote. “Our future will still include a park, its land and their inhabitants. But a new generation of visitors will inherit a system that is no longer as rich, as vibrant or dynamic as the one we have today.”

Ancestry

O Andraste, Protector of the People, I call to You

Around Christmastime, my neighbor knocked on my door and told me that he’d gotten two extra DNA kits in the mail from 23andMe, and asked if I wanted one. I said sure, and on a whim I decided to register the kit, set up an account, and send in a spit sample. Made sure to follow the instructions and all of that.

I got my results back, and they are as follows.

Screen Shot 2019-03-12 at 10.56.24 AM

This confirms what I found when I dug through my Ancestry family tree, that some sides of the family have been in the Americas since colonization began, almost, and other sides come much later. “Broadly Southern European” probably refers to my mother’s Czechoslovakian ancestors, of whom she is excessively proud. Finnish was a surprise to me at least, but I can suspect based on my general knowledge of history how that came about.

What is conspicuously absent based on all the crap my mother used to tell me when I was a kid, is Native American. She had this whole story that my father’s mother had an affair with a Native American and my father is the result, ergo I would also be Native American. Except I was white, and I soon figured my father’s persistent redness was sunburn and hard work out in the oilfield, not the mark of an illicit love affair with a non-white person (if she were right, there would be all kinds of benefits attached around this that she really, really wanted).

The weight of evidence is NOT on her side.

And there’s something else, too, that I think may lead me to understand why Andred chose me and adopted me. She is not a universal goddess, the way Isis or the Wiccan Goddess figure might be. She seems to have always been considered a “closer to home” protector of a certain group of people, in antiquity the Iceni tribe that inhabited southern Britain. There is even a forest in that region called Andredes Weald, “the forest of Andred.” Now it’s argued that this refers to “this forest is near a region the Romans called Anderida which is now Pevensey”, but I think there’s something else at play here, too. If you’ve been around a bit, you might guess what that is. There is even a story, I’m not sure how apocryphal, that captured enemies were sacrificed in this forest to Andred Herself.

I have, as far as I understand it, genetic evidence of my British ancestry, and it goes into the column suggesting ties to this region, hence why I was adopted, perhaps long before I was ever aware of it or had the capacity to be so. In American Gods, the gods followed their people into new lands, and a new “version” of them spawned there in that new soil, as opposed to the “original” native version that developed in a people’s original land. I’m not sure how much of that is actually at play, but I don’t think gods are in any way limited by geography. Instead, their only limitation is their personal interests, and this is why not all gods call all people, or can serve all people.

What is a Warrior?

There’s a stereotype in all kinds of science fiction, historical fiction, and other that touches on the subject of warriors. Usually it comes up in battle, if it’s a movie, or a culture, if it’s a series, but there’s a sort of simplification of the idea into the notion that a warrior is someone who picks fights and gains glory in the duel. It’s a very individualistic thing, to contrast with soldiers who are organized and use war as a means to an end, rather than the end itself.

But is it really so simple?

Perhaps let’s start with a question.

Can a warrior back away from a fight?

Yes. A combatant is defined by both fighting style and who they engage with, so it is perfectly acceptable for one to decide that one is not worth the fight, or that the killing of one individual over another would be dishonorable or “bad form”, to coin another phrase. (Consider the point made in the last post about choosing not to kill women and children.)

I stated then, as well, that T’zim-Sha’s judgment of Graham for choosing not to kill him was oversimplistic. The point still stands. While T’zim-Sha’s cheating is responsible for the death of Graham’s wife, and Graham therefore has every right to be mad at the guy and want revenge, the trouble with a revenge quest is that if it consumes you, you have nothing left once you succeed. T’zim-Sha judged Graham for choosing a different way, and looking for a third solution (I won’t discuss the Doctor’s morality here, because that is a hairy conversation that warrants its own post.) I posit that he is still a warrior because of this, despite that judgmental statement. He chose his battles (vs. T’zim-Sha who seems to want to fight everything and anything, and considers every kill a conquest.)

I mentioned in the past that war isn’t everything. There is not always a conflict. Sometimes you need to rest in the middle. Maybe that’s the winter season for you. (As Odin/Wednesday said in American Gods, a victory in winter is a dead victory because winter is the dead season.) Maybe you’re just exhausted and need to patch up your wounds and get back up the next morning after some rest and some food and go back to it. You don’t always defeat an enemy the first or the tenth or the one hundredth or even the thousandth attempt, but as you fight it, you learn its weaknesses, and its tactics, and how it thinks and operates. I know enough about my parents to know that they have yet to consider what they’ve done, and are waiting, perhaps impatiently, for me to come back begging for forgiveness. And in this knowledge I know the way to victory (especially as my win condition is isolation from them, so I can join the rest of the world).

That’s the thing. That’s the true condition of life. There is not always a battle. There is a leave, a time in between where you process the experience. Sometimes this doesn’t go well and you are shell-shocked. Maybe you don’t know how to fix it. That’s OK. A guy who read books and has a degree probably has an idea and can help you. No one lives in isolation, so it’s more than acceptable to ask for help. (There’s a minor attendant stereotype that warriors do everything themselves to the exclusion of their friends, but this would never work, especially in real life. Everyone who’s seen shit has blood brothers, that one set of guys who knows the experience, even if the details are different.)

I have also mentioned how there is more than one specific type of conflict. There are, most times, so many conflicts going on at once that the saying “choose your battles” exists as sage advice. It is impossible to be worried about all things at all times, but this does not make you less of a warrior if your focus is on, perhaps, child abuse or gang violence or sexual crimes. There are more than enough of us in this world for us to tackle all manner of issues, just by doing our own work. My work currently is getting right with myself. That, I believe, will realign me with the universe, and give me a proper foundation for the rest of my life. I’m a late bloomer in this respect, but I have come a long way in the last six years. I’m not the same person I was at the start of my time in college. That person is not the same as I was in high school, middle school, elementary school, daycare, or that little girl that got pitched into her room by a drunken mad man for reasons lost to time. I may think it’s unfair sometimes, but it falls on me to clean up the mess and create a home for myself. That’s a fight too, I think. I’m fighting myself and my past, and so far, I’m winning.

(Note: As I was writing bits of this, I was reading this article about love from the gods, written by a Morrighan devotee. I don’t know enough about Morrighan to compare Her to Andred, but my understanding of the latter is fairly similar. I am called to fight. It’s a matter of self-protection, -preservation, and the recovery of my sense of dignity and self-esteem. I can see the case being made that that is an aspect of sovereignty, of a very personal sort, and I also submit there are tribal elements to it, as well. She (Andred) views me as one of Her people, and so I am treated as such and called to act as such. And, it falls to me to work out what this means. The more I do, the closer we become.)

Rabbit Rabbit (A slightly organized stream of consciousness)

I heard from someone online that they post “rabbit rabbit” or a variant thereof on the first of every month for good luck. It may well be good luck, rabbits and hares are associated with such, but I also find myself reminded of Andred each time this comes up. Like a little regular reminder about how She watches over me, keeps tabs on me, and wants the best for me.

Due to recent events, I’m quite pleased to receive this reminder. I got into an altercation with my physical mother, who then decided to treat the incident as if I were being a rebellious teenager and not trying to defend myself. Both parents are in on the stupid game and have, among other things, two cars in their driveway and on their property that they do not have need for, but for whatever reason cannot or will not get rid of. Lately it gets me thinking about the saying, “Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.” Text messages about how I need to do XYZ and ABC will happen by such and such date and I cannot do yada yada yada that read like bluster about how they are still in charge, and I’m being insolent, play into this theme as well, for now I’ve switched phone numbers and post office boxes, the access to which they will be denied.

I’ve also come to understand a couple of deep principles about interpersonal relations, which I suspect, but have yet to find evidence for, are bits and pieces from ancient codes for warriors, chivalric and otherwise. First is:

You are less of a man if you do not take up for your flesh and blood

The biggest problem I’ve had with my father the past several years is his inability to stick up for me, his actual daughter, and his constant siding with his second wife, my mother, despite her long string of abuses and crimes. So long she even has a record for some of them, despite denying fault to this day and perhaps to Judgment Day, as well. Yet, he quit drinking exclusively so she would not leave him, and either buries himself in work or simply decides that her word is law, in spite of his “man of the house” act.

The thing is, the person you marry is surprisingly little to do with you. It’s someone you fell in love with, and while that can be a wonderful thing, and a healthy couple will find a place for each other should need arise, unhealthy couples are different. When one person is abusive or neglectful or has their head in a bottle of booze, the other has to think about their children. And no, “staying together for the children” does not work in a case like this. The kids will grow up and wish you left. When it comes down to it, if you don’t choose your children over this crazy that you married, then you deserve the crazy.

It also ties into themes I’ve read about of protecting the innocent, and leaving alone those who cannot defend themselves. Hunters, alien and otherwise, do not kill offspring and females if they can help it, and warriors are often those who protect defenseless individuals from harm (or further harm, depending on the situation). If you knowingly stay in an unhealthy, abusive marriage with your children, rather than leave and take them with you, then, to coin a phrase, you are no warrior.

Image result for tim shaw doctor who

(Shameless Doctor Who plug because I can. Though let’s face it, he was oversimplistic to a fault when he dropped that line; Graham is a warrior of a different sort.)

The second aforementioned principle is:

The use of passive aggressive tactics makes you look like a wet blanket who is unable to handle any problems him/herself.

This in part developed as I processed a rather lengthy chunk of dialogue in a comic I’m reading, part of a larger debate on mankind and its relationship with nature, on Earth and otherwise. But I was able to relate this particular section to my own life and my own changing understanding. See, the point to this section was less that the “old ways” were a kind of idyllic pastoral Arcadia that we for whatever reason abandoned, but rather that we were as violent as ever, but more direct about it. The world was also violent and dangerous, and the measure of a person was how well they handled it.

People also, according to this, fought each other directly for standing, or to sort out disagreements. To quote: “But if I bust a guy’s chops he clearly understands that I don’t like what he’s doing.” These days, elaborated slightly earlier in the exchange, people are sneaky and underhanded, going around direct confrontation to get what they want because it’s seen as, perhaps, more “moral.” But human nature is human. I think there’s a good bit of truth to this. Civilization exists to minimize confrontation between individuals, and that actually might be a bad thing.

Without the avenue of confrontation, what’s left are passive aggressive tactics, or being honest and keeping your head down. The latter approach is fine, except for those with ambition. The former approach is where I, personally, have run into problems. Both of my parents are fond of passive aggression as a means to get what they want, instead of outright asking, demanding, or so on. It comes off confusing, and after a while of it, annoying and exceptionally stupid. What’s the point of expending effort being passive aggressive when first, it usually fails to get you what you want; second, it gets people mad at you; and third, it makes you look like someone uncomfortable with direct confrontation. Hitting someone you have power over is one thing, but when the playing field is level, the game has changed.

The differences between myself and my mother, and the way we both engage with the world, has left a few things up for debate between us. She likes it that way, but I don’t. I never have (not in grade school with a dumbass boy playing tag, and not now). Perhaps I live by older rules, taught by my True Mother as a way to properly live. I have no idea how I would fare in an older society run by them, but I would at least feel like I understand it.

On Jackalopes

A jackalope is a local legend where I’m from, and is said to be a jackrabbit with the horns of a pronghorn or antelope. The name is a portmanteau of “jackrabbit” and “antelope”, though a jackrabbit is another name for a hare, and a pronghorn is actually a type of deer. They are said to be the product of male hares and female antelope, and only mate with each other during lightning strikes (and also that their horns get in the way during the process, which implies that the female of the species also possesses them). Also called “the warrior rabbit” (though once again, a jackrabbit is not actually a rabbit), they are known to charge at people and take their legs out from under them, and gore them with the horns.

Can be lured with whiskey, and are exceptional mimics of human voices, a skill they use to elude capture.

I bring all this up because jackalopes came up in therapy today as a means for me to help process some of my baggage. I associate them with Andred in a roundabout way through Her association with hares and the relatedness of hares and jackalopes, and so during session they became Her symbol and Her weapon against my abusers. In my head, they swarmed and attacked through overwhelming, primarily. I’m sure they left a bloody mess behind, but I wasn’t around long enough to see it. That wasn’t the point of the exercise. But it did help me see the relatedness of the two, and bring Andred and I closer.

More on Jackalopes:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jackalope

https://www.legendsofamerica.com/wy-jackalope/

Labor Day

I’m beginning to feel Andred again. The summer heat broke a couple of weeks ago and now it’s starting to be properly chilly. Fall is coming. It’s September, today is Labor Day, and it’s the second or third week of pre-season football (my parents are protesting this year, due to the whole hullabaloo about kneeling/”taking a knee” started by Capaernick last season). And, it has a particular order in this town: summer is tourist season (and also the heat of Ra, who gets brief mentions here where relevant), then we come into hunting season, and then, snow gods permitting, skiing, snowboarding, snow machining, and the annual sled dog race (top notch puppers right there).

In ancient times, this is about the time everyone goes back to their villages from the hills or from wherever they were fighting and raiding, to harvest things, cull the herd, and prepare for winter. It’s time to start cleaning up, regrouping, and preparing for the coming year.

And, as you might be aware, I’ve recently moved (I call it being kicked out with plausible deniability because I don’t like to sugar coat things). I’m almost completely set up, and She has her own shrine space. My mother keeps closing the door on it, but that’s a post for another time. So personally, I have to regroup, because a wrench has been thrown into my plans (to be brutally honest, it’s the latest of many wrenches, but at least the most brutally honest of the lot of them). I have to reassess and gather myself up. I don’t know what awaits in the days ahead, but this is not a season for very much action. This is a season for figuring out what I’m going to do next.

I learned within the past few years that if I move with the seasons, instead of trying to move in spite of them, then I’m a lot happier. Now I’m at least in an environment that ensures me peace and quiet, free from certain toxic persons, and I can still myself and worship the gods. Perhaps this time I’ll make choices I’ll be satisfied with, not ones I feel half-pressured into.