“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.

Santa Claus

So I stumbled into a huge collection of articles about “The Santa Lie” (i.e. parents telling their children that Santa Claus literally exists and is capable of a host of magical feats, and the realization or learning of the truth of the matter having a host of consequences such as eroding trust in their parents and possibly threatening their religious beliefs). Listen, there are a host of controversies about Christmas, especially this year (every jackass on Twitter is commenting about how “communist regulations” are “canceling family” or whatever). This is “tame” by comparison.

But I really think it’s a matter of worldview. I hold a view of the world that accommodates magical, spiritual beings. I wouldn’t be running this blog if I didn’t. In my brain, Santa can be literally real, but not a physical entity. (As to the point on how some kids who learn Santa isn’t real begin doubting God or gods, well, it’s the same sort of thing. I don’t take the gods to be physically real in the same sense as this laptop, for example.)

John Beckett talks a lot about materialism as a worldview and why he disagrees with it, and I think this is an instance of that. People tend to believe that because Santa Claus is not a physical reality with a literal workshop at the North Pole and elves (helpful or otherwise), then he simply flat out doesn’t exist. They believe this about God, as if there must be physical and indisputable proof of a divine entity for that entity to be taken as “real”. (I’m using the words “physical” and “real” a lot in this post, so apologies if they stop seeming like proper words by the end.) However, as anyone who has had a mystical experience and touched the numinous can tell you, this isn’t necessarily the case. Andred is real because I have experienced Her, many times. She has yet to make a physical appearance in the mortal plane, but is that really a necessary thing?

We know there’s no workshop at the North Pole these days. We’ve taken satellite photos, explored up there, there are probably scientific expeditions going on considering the looming threat of global warming and glacial melt.

To pull another example, we have yet to find any evidence of alien life, despite all the UFO sightings and allegations of cover up and secret bases and so on and so forth. A diligent researcher can probably explain almost all sightings, given enough time and resources. But that is different from spiritual beings (including gods), who have been defined for ages as belonging to an otherworld or otherwise separate place distinct from the human world (but anchored in it somehow). They are distinct and separate from humanity, even if they can or could once “walk amongst us”.

Aliens are not gods, despite what Ancient Aliens may have its viewers believe. (I could go on a huge tear about how that show tries to shove spirituality into a materialistic framework if I could be assed to watch it again.) Physically separate, yes, but in a different way. Aliens are always assumed to be physical entities, that we can touch and interact with.

And some people think Santa Claus or Jesus or Ra or Andred must be physical entities that people can touch and talk to face-to-face, or the people who claim to believe in them (at least the gods on this list) must be hallucinating, delusional, or lying. I would not (intentionally) lie about my experiences of Andred, when it was She who taught me Her name in the first place. So I’m of the opinion that there is a third option.

Perhaps, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He lives in the Otherworld, where time moves differently than it does here, and in general none of the usual rules apply. Do not forget your offerings on Christmas Eve.

(Although in my reading a point was brought up to nix the Naughty/Nice list dichotomy and instead teach kids that Santa loves us all regardless of behavior, and leave the coal at the door.)

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.

Starting the Decade – Initial Thoughts

I’ve been spending the last hours of 2019 and the first hours of 2020 reading, and thinking. I’ve once again returned my attention to the resurgence of the Otherworld, which I started reading about earlier last year and possibly once more before that, but I can’t remember. I’ve been reading about the Fair Folk and the call of the Gods, and thinking about how obligated I’ve felt over the past holiday season to be festive. I want to try to parse this all out.

Obligation

I sensed it for Halloween, feeling obligated to get those lights up and choose a costume and do the other Halloween things. By then I wanted to get to Christmas already, and then I did, eventually. And by then I had worn myself out of Christmas hype. Fighting Command hooks did me no favors there. People kept asking me if I was going to spend Thanksgiving or Christmas with my family and I would have to explain that no, I was cooking for myself. I made too much food, and I had to throw out most of Thanksgiving dinner. Christmas dinner has lasted longer only because part of it is currently being frozen for later. I burned out.

And now I’m sitting at the start of 2020, reading and thinking, and wondering if perhaps I had sensed something else brewing in the coming winter that required, well, a different response than cooking my feelings. I don’t know what that was supposed to be, but as the harshest bits are yet to come, I think I can still figure it out. The Christmas lights, however, are staying on for as long as possible.

The Otherworld Bleeding Through?

I don’t class myself as the most observant person, but across religious lines people I know have sensed a kind of shift in the world. There was a point when climate change was no longer reversible. There was a moment I knew who my gods were (for them both, I want to say around 2012 or 2013). People believed the world would end in 2012 and while there was no apocalypse as we had come to expect thanks to Hollywood, those who can sense have detected, sometimes as early as 2013 but sometimes well into the middle of the decade, a change in the Otherworld. There are theories: some say Gwyn ap Nudd has decided to restore balance by protecting the Forests and the Fae from humanity, the current standing threat to the planet. Some say the gods, in particular the warlike ones, are recruiting. While I would argue Ra is not “warlike” the way bloodthirstier gods are “warlike”, I can tell He would never shy away from conflict, and is much more likely to keep a level head during. Andred is soaked in blood and the Mistress of the Field, which certainly settles that. If they are on their own side or the side of humanity or the side of only some humans or completely against humans entirely, I cannot tell.

Interestingly, however, these gods being fully present in my life has led to some dramatic changes, especially in the past two years. Changes that require me to be on my own and figure myself out. Changes which separate me from poison so I can recover–only a fresh fighter can effectively go into the field. I’ve begun to see myself, and in the process question everything I’ve done up to this point. Maybe I will get to where I want to be, but at this point, looking back, I think I will get to where I need to be, and where I am needed.

The Fair Folk

Periodically I find myself reading articles on these creatures, and how one should always be cautious with them. One writer thinks we will see more of them in the coming decade and beyond, and maybe this is true. Many say spiritualism and interest in magic (even if it is superficial) are on the rise in the general public. The Binding of Trump was for quite a while its own attractor of media attention, and the attention of “spiritual warriors” on the other side of the aisle. Recently, I’ve internally speculated whether some of these workings have sown the seeds for Trump’s impeachment hearings.

I’ve felt for years that but for a few exceptions, most spirits should be approached with caution and honored from a safe distance. That may become impossible, and it may be necessary to renew my extant relationships with some of the spirits I’ve come to know. I am still careful, and I think I will always be so, because I doubt I can be protected from them, even by the Gods. I would never think to ask for such a thing, as it is; my safety with regard to the Fair Folk is my responsibility.

People acting recklessly with the Fae have been compared to people trying to take selfies with elk. Where I’m from, elk, moose, and deer are everywhere, as are wolves, bears, and coyotes. You can find bison in a few hours, as well. Personally I’ve heard of people get gored by bison for their recklessness. One group tried to take in a bison calf in the back of their van because “it looked cold”, and the calf was shunned by its herd. As I know better than to get reckless with wildlife, I know better to get reckless with spirits I’m unfamiliar with. This, of course, is not to compare the Fae and wild animals, as the Fae are sapient through and through, but they have unknown powers and being reckless about that is the same as being reckless with bison or elk, or moose.

Priesthood

This is another thing I periodically find myself reading about. As I am cautious with the Fae, I am also cautious with oaths and vows. I was held to obscene standards as a child, that I either sensed or outright knew never applied to my parents. I was told to be good and behave myself and my own father failed at that so spectacularly he had to serve thirty days in the county jail. I failed to understand how I had to never do anything “bad” but I could be continually picked on by everyone I knew in my age group. Mommie Dearest moved the goalposts of my behavior so often that I could begin to see where she contradicted herself.

It has taken me a long time to accept that the Gods who adopted me are not the same as my physical parents. For one thing, They are patient, and that’s a pretty rare commodity in a modern American society. The one constant is that They are older than all of this and value different things as a result.

But the other matter is, there is a difference between my relationship with Ra and my relationship with Andred. She has specifically asked me to chronicle my experiences with Her and what I learn, and to write down in this blog what I think that means as it pertains to Her pretty much exclusively. I’ve stated elsewhere that Ra periodically gets mentions, however, as I’m His just as much as I’m Hers, but this is about what it means to be Andred’s, to follow Her. I have work to do, in that regard.

I don’t know if this makes me Andred’s priest(ess), but if so I’m the first I know about in roughly 1500 years. Probably 2000. The thought of it is as intimidating as the thought of further interactions with the Fae. It gives a sense of “you need to prepare right away”. I have no idea if these are things I need to prepare for or not, I can’t pick apart exactly what it all means yet. Maybe, by instinct, I have figured out the key to my own survival, but then I would have to reverse engineer it to fully understand.

Conclusion

I’m approaching 2020 once again thinking about the future. An ill advised tactic if you do too much of it, sure, but a part of me knows that I cannot remain in a tenuous present forever. Though I’ve given up on the news and would argue my mental health has benefitted, not even I could ultimately escape the word that Trump’s impeachment was being decided by the House a couple months ago. That still won’t stop climate change, the relentless push of extremism and reactionary extremism, the politicization of everything I could encounter, and once again the growing sense that nothing I could do would be good enough.

So, I surrendered on politics, and I’m not even sure if I will vote this time around. I know it’s my civic duty, but I also feel that my voice doesn’t matter to the wider human-created systems that led to this mess and show no signs of getting us out. I happen to know for a fact that when it comes to certain political sects, my voice doesn’t matter at all regardless of whether I say the right things or not. So I don’t think they deserve my support regardless of if I were involved or not.

I’m not looking forward to this election year, and I’m certainly not looking forward to any of the chicanery surrounding it. Of all the otherworldly events allegedly happening around this, as well, I do not even dread them compared to how much I dread the shrill cries of how racist I am based on my skin tone and refusal to tow a party line. I’ll take a glowing green bird over any of that any day of the week, honestly. Maybe in that case I would begin to sense a glimmer of meaning in my life.

Rabbit Rabbit – Dec. 1 (Dec. 4)

The Christmas season is now upon us, and I’ve done something peculiar with it. I know a lot of Pagans choose to eschew Christmas altogether for its religious connotations, choosing Yule or another winter holiday instead. But I’ve decided that if a lot of Christmas symbolism is Yule related, then I can nix any talk of the Nativity without much trouble and throw up the lights, wreaths, and trees, and put on some eggnog or cider and hope February is not abysmally cold. That seems to be about the only thing humans in the northern hemisphere have agreed on, after all: that winter is a bitch and it’s best to hunker down, put on as much food as possible, welcome guests you see out in the cold, and try not to starve to death.

I have generally given Christmas over to Ra as a means of honoring Him and it makes logical sense based on my geographic location. But there is also an element of Andred there. She is not particularly a hearth goddess, but there is something to be said for being home during the winter, for having an “off season” from war. (This was, I should note, a convention historically for quite a long time. Nobody had any mind to go out fighting or raiding or so on after the harvest was over, and that carried over into the customs of war until WWI, if I recall correctly.) And there is definitely that feeling in the air this month and through most of the worst part of winter. You just want to hunker down by the fire with people you like and some hot chocolate, with some nice warm lights up perhaps. It’s a good time, and I don’t see why that should just cut off at the start of a new year (arbitrarily setting the new year in the middle of winter is another matter entirely but we’ll get there).

I look to this season for a sense of warmth and happiness, that home is an OK place to be and not some backdrop for the horrifying nightmare surely brewing. Christmas especially was the time of year my parents didn’t try to kill each other or myself, and even though I was probably the only one that did any decorating nine years out of ten, it was still OK. It was warm and pleasant and that was never a feeling I wanted to lose. In fact I’ve been able to hang onto it more and more after moving into my own place and shifting away from preferring Halloween (although the collection of free candy is pretty sweet, if I’m not too sick and exhausted to go out for it). As the song goes, Oh the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful.

Rabbit Rabbit Revisited

It is five months later, and a lot has changed since then: I own the car, my mother is off the apartment lease, and we still don’t speak. I can’t believe that it was snowy in May, and I further can’t believe that I’m back in the Christmas spirit before Summer is officially out. My father has my phone number, but I was forced to block my mother after she got a hold of it. He continues to insist that I “talk to her” about “whatever it is”, because surely it must be “in the past”. Historically she’s been terrible at listening to me, so talking will probably not work and I have little interest in it, regardless. I learned from him some of the facts of the three years or so in which the lawsuit, Mom’s cancer, and Dad’s arrest were so tangled up that I could not pick them apart.

However: I also learned that he sees himself as a hopeless victim and still has a “woe is me” mindset, but there is no chance in hell that his wife is any sort of crazy wicked beast, at all. None.

I still consider those principles true (even though I have yet to find any proper evidence still, but perhaps that will be a later “Rabbit Rabbit” post). Perhaps I will add to the list, things like: “The only purpose in fighting a war is to end it” (which is more “soldier” than “warrior”, but I have never held any delusions about glory in battle and bloodshed). It is a slowly growing list that I might make a page on, distilling each down to a fairly simple explanation, hopefully.

And, as “Rabbit Rabbit” is curse breaking, I may endeavor to make more of these posts, on the first of every month, discussing aspects of the journey, contemplating life, maybe expounding on these principles. Time will tell.