Omens: The Gods Make Themselves Heard

A black locust tree lays fallen in the author's backyard

I regularly hear people say that they’d need to be hit over the head to notice messages from the Gods, but allow me to stress that if the Gods want to be heard, you will get a clear and obvious message. Those in the Roman community (and likely others that I don’t frequent) regularly discuss ways to read omens, as it’s historically a part of the tradition from birds to entrails. This week I’ve fully cemented a new and obvious way to read omens.

And yes, this was very, VERY serious, but my main defense against life is humor. I’m putting this story out there as a reminder that even with having a place as a teacher, part of the ever-going process of learning means that lessons never stop coming. The Gods make it very clear if they’ve been offended…

Very clear.

Wednesday I went to a labyrinth ceremony with a group of women I’ve spent some time with lately. They are not of my religion. They are not under the same spiritual obligations as I am. It would easy to go on a rant about how New Age is excessively eclectic, but at the same time what works for others and how they approach and the engage the Powers is honestly okay and absolutely none of my business. Our paths are our own.

I spend time in the New Age community, since quite often my interests actually overlap. I take these moments as a lesson in the reciprocal nature of hospitality. I do my best to approach everything I encounter as the best guest I can be, which means that if I choose to interact that I try my hardest not to hold people to my own religious expectations while involving myself in a level that is comfortable to me. If I find tools to be useful, I incorporate them into my practices.

However, the ceremony that took place was far from what I knew to be acceptable in my covenant I enter with my Gods. Trepidation kicked in, but I ignored it figuring it was just me being judgmental. I rolled with the flow of things while trying to see to it that I worked within the perimeters I was greatly aware I couldn’t set aside.

While walking the labyrinth and meditating inside of it, I had a perfectly pleasant chat with my God. The wind picked up. A blue jay called in the distance. He was there, and I was very aware of it. We talked about what the next leg of the walk I’m taking involves in regard to tasks I’m set to do. It wasn’t a deep religious or spiritual experience, but I did see the practical uses of the labyrinth.

During this point, I was told if I kept my eye out, I’d get the message if my offerings were accepted. A crow flew over and called while sitting there afterwards. I didn’t think it was the message, but it tickled in a way that said it was some sort of sign. One of the women noted the way she’d looked to see a larger tree swaying in the wind, but was aware its large roots held it firmly in place. That resonated, but again not the omen.

Afterwards my friend and I went out to lunch. We talked about it and had a nice time. As we drove back to my place, I noticed that in my part of town the winds had picked up. Dust was flying through the air. I thought to myself, “I’ve not seen that happen here before.” But again, I knew it wasn’t the omen I was waiting for.

When I got home, I went out back to ground and was wandering around. The wind had knocked over some of my orchid pots. I was standing and looking up at the branches thinking, “Hello. That’s some pretty violent wind up there,” when suddenly about a foot away I heard the tell tale sound of cracking wood.

In that split second looked over to see which way the tree next to me was falling, and I realized it was safer for my to just stand there instead of running. I watched as the trunk broke off and the tree went down in front of me. My mind quickly went to the promise of an omen on if the offering was accepted, and the words that fell out of my mouth were, “I fucking guess not.”

Okay, they were yelled. I may have peed my pants a little, not gonna lie.

(Meanwhile in Missouri, a tree was falling in the backyard I’d gotten married in. The third and final tree in that yard to fall in the last 4 years.)

I came inside and texted my friend who had been with me that day telling her what was going on. I said that I was going to be burning liver sooner than later to make things right, and needless to say I would not be partaking in any more ceremonies. I was very, very aware suddenly that it was absolutely out of the question for me to engage in spiritual or religious practices where the Gods do not take first precedence. It’s funny how clear these things are when you’ve nearly been taken out by a black locust falling.

Not too much later she texted me. She’d been playing Boggle on her phone and had gotten a few words that seemed eerily out of place and like a message: witch, liver, pyre, Luna, spear, Titans.

Beyond my typical question of if I’m actually a fictional character in a novel, I knew what almost all of these words meant:

Witch: This is how I tend to identify these days when it comes to labels.

Liver and Pyre: Well, as stated I’d just invited my friend over if she wanted to get in on the offering of liver to the Celestials, so I feel like that was explained quickly.

Luna: This one I’m not sure about, but will likely have pop up sooner than later.

Titans: So lately I’ve been pondering the stories of the Gods before the Gods that tend to rest within the Indo-European family. Lately I’ve been wondering if perhaps the clear stories of the Gods putting the order to chaos, sometimes allowing the older Gods to stay around, and generally what those older Gods represent is a narrative that is starting to reflect in my own religious practice. I look for the older Gods in the stories of those we tend to worship. More divination will have to be done to figure out exactly what this message meant, but the word alone confirmed that this was a message.

Spear: Divination needed as to why this was put into the mix, but spears are a regular order of business in messages sent through other people for me. Considering the nature of falling trees, I decided to play it safe and assume that He wanted me to get Him one. When flowers aren’t enough of an I’m sorry, always fall back on the gift of weapons.

So there is my story for the week. I pissed off the Gods enough that they took out a tree in my backyard while I was standing next to it. Divination did reveal that I’m to make a few things out of some of the tree for myself as a reminder of what the Gods want of me along with a few gifts for others. I also have a hand-forged reproduction of a La Tène Era spearhead coming from Great Britain for a new cult piece.

However, the take away from this and the lesson that I will impart is that we do not always have the same covenants with our Gods that the ancients had. But the Heavenly Ones won’t hold back in letting you know what They want from you. May you not have a tree dropped on you while figuring out what those rules are, my friends.





My Polytheism

(My addition to the current conversation that’s growing at My Polytheism.  If you’ve not looked into the project, I highly recommend it.)

My polytheism began when I was a little girl and my father expressed that the trees and everything around us had a spirit. We were wandering around a pond the land we owned, and I remember the truth in this settling into the very marrow of my bones. There was a give and take I placed there even then.

If we take, we must give back. If we give, we will receive, though it will always be more of what we need than necessarily what we want.

My polytheism grew with me. Even now as I grow and get comfortable in the space of adulthood and motherhood, it grows as I do. I am a microcosm of the nature of the universe around me. My bones are the stone under the soil of my skin. My breath is the spark of life and the wind in my hair. My actions ripple out into the macrocosm of it all.

This is why the wind in the trees and the summer cicadas’ singing feels like home, like family, like peace. Like Gods.

This is why I struggle with saying we must put the Gods first, because the thread that ties everything together is a God. If everything is tied together, if that current is a God, then we all are the vessels of sacredness, like a lamp holding oil. We are all bits of Divine. We are capable of burning bright and wild or gently and dim. There is really no wrong way to be a flame for the Gods. There is only sustainable and unsustainable.

The Gods are within us as we go about our daily lives. I recognize that the Gods are individuals just as we are. I understand that serving the people, building our communities, and honoring the needs of others is, in fact, putting the Gods first.

We cannot build a temple without a foundation. In a history that has been constructed on the backs of suffering, it is our duty to see to it that our builders are healthy, happy, and strong. That we don’t exploit those who depend on us in whatever capacity it is we fill in the community. That we take care of each other. That we honor our differences, and we keep in mind that it’s both healthy and expected for there to be variations.

Rome, as they say, was not built in a day and neither are sustainable traditions for the Gods. And the piety of European ancestors included caring for the members of our families and our later communities and civilizations. This is the evolution of piety in the hands of humans, for we approach the Gods not as equals but filling a needed role all the same.

My polytheism falls into the constant ebb and flow of the life in my home. On the days I am tired and not sure I’m interested in keeping the hearth shrine, I’m joined by a young child requesting we offer to the Gods. On the days I’m not sure I’m thankful, she is there like a gift to remind me that I am. We continue to feel out the world of the Gods around us on the constantly shifting clay soil as we encourage the roots to sink in deeper. Our work is that of a horticulturalist carefully tending the starts brought over the ocean from our Ancestor’s lands of the World Tree, assuring that the growth is strong and the roots have taken hold.

My polytheism celebrates the simple joys. We offer our favorite foods of both the New and Old Worlds – Tomatoes, peaches, and cornmeal. Soy beans for an Ancestor, who dedicated his life to the plant. Catfish to the one who was said to know the Missouri River better than any other fisherman, a legend in his neck of the woods. We celebrate the birthdays of those who came before us, because they never fully go away. We mark the anniversary of their deaths, bittersweet that they have left us but overjoyed they have gone to the Ancestors that allow us to still have a relationship with them.

My polytheism is pulling over to the side of the road when meeting a funeral procession. It is flowers on the graves of my Beloved Dead on Memorial Day. It is hours upon hours of combing through French documents year after year in hopes of finding a clue to where my family tree originated from.

It is not very interested in worrying too heavily with breaking away from cultural thought that is steeped in a history of monotheism simply because it was from a monotheistic history. It’s more interested in finding the truth and reason behind those cultural moorings, deciding if they matter and pertain to my life now, and tossing away what holds no use to me in the present. At the end of the day I recognize that plants grow stronger and better when put in soil with some manure in it for lack of a more graceful metaphor. My Ancestor’s beliefs, those of some of the first ministers and religious revolutionaries, were beliefs that their lives revolved completely around. My approach is firmly rooted in approaching those Ancestors in a way that allows us to compromise. To simply throw them completely away isn’t necessary as long as I am aware of the hows, whys, and where of their origin. Throwing everything away feels like impiety to the branches that connect me back to the source of mankind.

My polytheism is unapologetically animistic. I have laid my ear to the exposed rocks of the river bluffs to hear their whispers. I have experienced the purifying and healing gifts of the great rivers flowing through the Midwest. I have found peace while having tea with the plants I tend. As an artist, I have breathed the life of spirits into the pieces I create, and the spirits come wishing to have their stories told in paint, in metal, in clay.

It understands that nature isn’t here for me. And sometimes it’s beautiful. And sometimes it’s brutal.

My polytheism informs every part of my life. From the broom sweeping across the floors of my home to the way I go about making dinner for my family to the prayer of “Drive safely” each time one of mine go out on an errand or away for the day. My family of blood, my family of choice, each relationship within it is sacred and important, and without them I would fail to thrive or have full purpose. Of that I am not ashamed. For that I am thankful.

But the most important part of my polytheism is that it’s open to new ideas and experiences. Rituals change. Observance of a set religious calendar waxes and wanes, starts anew, some things lingering some things losing meaning in the environment I am in. My own understanding of the way things are is humbly changing as new evidence is brought to me, molded by the hands of my Gods and co-religionists in their bravery of talking about their own experiences openly, willing to speak vulnerably and honestly.

Willing to put their necks out.

Willing to brave the fickle waters of our community.

Sometimes we’re on the same boat. Sometimes we wave at each other in passing. Sometimes we break against rocks or get pulled under by an undercurrent.  Sometimes we try to sink each other. But we’re still on the same water, and ignoring that weakens the strength that many spirits can build in order to keep us all afloat.

Dreams & Letting Go: 2.5k Words on My Current World

At the end of February, I had a dream that concerned me.  A bulldozer came down the hill behind my house, destroying the wooded space until I could see my neighbors’ homes.  Later in the day I went out to my backyard to see that someone had destroyed my shrines.  Every last one.  All of them Roman – Altars included.  Busted and broken.  Scattered.

I was terrified.  I ran to my home, slamming the door shut, but all the locks were broken.  I kept looking for my dog (which in reality I don’t have), but I couldn’t find him to protect me from whatever it was coming for me.  Everything was going to be destroyed and they were coming for me.  No one was there to help me.

The next day in my waking life, a friend was kind enough to come sit down and look into the space.  I was scared for my hill.  I was scared about being attacked somehow, and I made sure to ward my home more than I had in years. I realized I wasn’t really in danger, but it scared me all the same.  We sat next to the man-made stream and sat with the hill.

As we got to talking, she said that there was something coming.  That it was big, dark, and cold.  I remember chuckling, because I know Who she was talking about, because I’ve spent so long with Him now.  I admitted I was still scared, though, because I couldn’t see what was on the horizon.  So much of my life is up in the air and prone to change at any moment radically.

She asked me why I thought what was coming was a bad thing.

That answer was both easy and hard to answer.  Despite the chaos of all the changes in the last few years and the rending away of things that didn’t really matter, I’d held on tightly to other things that I’d worked so hard to obtain for myself – Things that had been my anchor during other points of upheaval in my life.  Things that I always fell back on when I felt like I didn’t have anything else.

What I was talking about were my Gods, the Roman pantheon, and the rituals that layout the groundwork of Roman polytheism.

I knew that my path wasn’t meant to remain in Roman cultus, but it’s been hard to let go of.  The Roman Revivalist group on Facebook is one of the few friendly and (relatively) drama free Pagan/polytheist groups I’ve ever been in, and I’m very proud of the members being willing to work to keep it peaceful and open.  (It’s like we can all be adults on the internet or something!)  I’d started the project of laying out framework for bringing more user-friendly education out, though that’s been stalled for so long.  I was offered a blog about Roman polytheism on PaganSquare.

All of this happened the same month I was told by more than one person that my home wasn’t going to remain in Roman polytheism.  My journey was going to go elsewhere.  These things had just been fought for or had fallen into my lap.  At the time I thought eventually I’d publish some work and build a stronger community.  I didn’t want to give that up.  The relatively small Roman community, especially at that point, didn’t have a lot of voices in the larger Pagan and polytheist communities.  As someone who slowly came into the bravery to say, “Yes, I am a Roman polytheist despite not being a stringent reconstructionist,” I was, and still am, afraid that the wrong voices will try to fill the void in the larger community.  I’m afraid they will be taken seriously.

People say we need to keep politics out of religion, and to some degree I agree.  I think the various religious communities in the larger community should take responsibility to remove those who are likely going to do more damage by speaking even subtly (but obviously) about things like racism.  If people put the word minority in quotation marks, for instance, that’s a sign to me that maybe they are harboring some sort of race issue.  To me that’s concerning, because if they’re given a platform to speak in an area where there’s a void of authoritative voices, we find things possibly taking an ugly turn.  If you see them swinging around accusations of fascism without any proof what-so-ever given to the community to judge, it’s equally as dangerous.

Especially if they’ve expressed more than once that they want to be in a place of leadership and have their hand in our traditions.  Even more so when they’ve said it regularly and have years worth of blog posts bragging about their power, authority, and greatness while talking down to any group they see as less worthy than them.

More concerning to me, though, is that people are aligning with these two extremes.  They’re giving them a platform to speak and that inevitably hands them power.  Power in a place where their words can reach the ears of those who may be vulnerable or needing guidance, because despite us not being monotheists we still have those vulnerable and searching for the truth.  Our lack of vetted clergy and professionally trained support systems makes it everyone’s duty to watch out for those we claim are in our communities and tribes.  When we choose no leaders, when we revel in our lack of hierarchy, when we deny the need for education in our clergy due to fear that man will be corrupted by power, but still rallying to the sides of those who are the simply loudest, we are required to step up and care for our own.  The loudest and most charismatic become our leaders, and when drama is kicked up people are made or broken in the shuffle to take sides.

If you don’t consider yourself a part of the larger community, but you’re still selling services, educational materials, or items made specifically for the community that means you’re a member of it whether you want to be or not.  Many times those doing so are considered leaders or educators, and if they don’t see that then they are sadly not doing their duty to the group of people who are paying at least some of their income.  This may sound like it’s directed at a single person or one side, but it’s not.  Those who are in leadership positions of any capacity have a moral responsibility to protect their community from extremism, and we need to set aside our need to be right about something to realize that extremism comes in many, many forms.

In my moments away from blogging in the last few months and doing my best to stay out of this recent polarized The Neo-Right and Progressives are Eating Our Babies drama has made me realize something.  We waste so much time debating and warring against each other that could be spent building our traditions.  We do it on Facebook.  We do it on blogs.  We do it one other social media… Except maybe Pinterest, but that’s only because no one has written a blog on how to preserve the heads of our enemies in mason jars yet.  Though I’m sure someone is working on it.

I stop nearly every day and ask myself, “Is what I’m spending my time on what I want my legacy to be?  Is this how I want to be remembered if I were to die tomorrow?”

Lately I’ve been saying no a lot.  Especially when it comes to my religious community and my place within it.

A week or two ago one morning when I was drinking my coffee, I looked out my back window at my hill to see this:

A small piece of riding machinery cutting away a wooded area.

The cloud of dirt as the trees and plants were broken or ripped from the ground looked like what I’d seen in my dream.  I don’t live in a forest overlooking a lake, and my back yard isn’t covered in shrines due to having an open yard.  The hill is there, though, and the spirit living there and I have been talking for much longer than I’ve lived here.  It’s not happy with the changes coming, and really neither am I.  The wild space is getting smaller and smaller where we are.

It was warning to brace myself for what was to come.  I just didn’t know what.

A few days ago I realized that I’m tired.  I’ve heard myself say all too often lately that I just want to be the witch by herself in the forest that’s left to her own devices.  I’m tired of the fact that no matter what I say someone will always come along and tell me how I’m wrong.  Most of the time that involves personal attacks or some expectation that I’m going to cave because someone doesn’t want me where I am.  I am endlessly thankful for those who stand up for me while I sometimes struggle in finding my words, because sometimes it takes me a while these days.  Two days ago someone accused me of supporting a group which is considered a dangerous cult and is run by a convicted child molester. They had decided that due to my announcement that I’m a progressive democratic socialist (a fact that has never been hidden, mind you); the humorous thing to me is I’d never even heard of the group and had to look it up.  Others people in the Facebook group stood up for my choice to ban someone who had a history of being openly racist and polarizing.  I finally got my shock and anger in check enough to stand up for myself.

But I was left with this entirely too realistic feeling that I’m done.  I’m done with the constant assault of new people coming into the group and invariably having to learn that in some parts of the Pagan/polythiest internet, there’s a group that doesn’t run in a way that is regularly business as usual with insults and shit-flinging.  This shouldn’t have to be a thing we deal with.  We shouldn’t allow for disruptive voices and a lack of common decency, but as a whole our community is a petri dish for it.

This week I also found everything finally fell into place and I realized fully what my entire journey over the last few years meant.  I realized where I’m going religiously.  I realized what I’m meant to be doing with all of it.  And I really, really realized how emotionally done with the larger Roman community I am, because we are absolutely infamous for being a bunch of stringently petty assholes with too many obscure sources to look down upon the less educated.

I have spent so much of my energy on trying to change that over the last few years, and somehow there is a constant influx of people coming into my world who attack me typically due to something personal – My sexual orientation, my gender, my disability, or my politics that have been absolutely woven into the movement I’ve been trying to build with others.  And they do that because on the internet the loudest and most aggressively knowledgeable or verbally charged  are the ones who gain power.

Recently I’ve seen some discussion and suggestion about how we can keep our elders and leaders in our communities.  Typically they involve giving them more power (and maneuvering for said position).  You know what the number one step should be?

We should quit being assholes. (Myself included.)

My swan song in the Roman community is being sung at the point where I see how the future has the possibility for some very, very bleak moments that will never foster the type of activity that makes the polytheistic traditions of Rome having a major voice in the larger community.  I see a handful of voices shouting out above the constant drone of drama and dreams of temples being rebuilt, but save for those few voices I have yet to see the work done that would bring the traditions to their full potential and awareness in the larger community.  I’ve seen bullying and posturing.

The Roman community is a microcosm for the larger polytheist community.  I’m sure these struggles have played out in multiple places over the ages.  I’m not entirely sure I will see a future where the people I’ve met over the years, those who I feel have a good grasp of what the true beauty of Religio Romana or Cultus Deorum is, aren’t worn down by the masses wishing to dominate with their self-weighed superior scholarly skills.

Y’all, our rituals are supposed to be what’s perfected, not our accumulated book knowledge.  More than once in my life I’ve been chided about my focus on the home cultus over the grand festivals of the State religion.  Rome, they say, was a religion of the community.  What they fail to understand is that without the flame in the hearth being fed every day, the People starve, and if the People starve than there is no one there to honor the Gods as a community.

There is no larger community if the flame goes out.

If our traditions are tiny candles being lit across the world one-by-one in homes, how do we get the fire built to feed not only the Gods but the communities we wish to build?  How do we feed the flame instead of fanning the fire that makes it burn too hot and fast?  What do we need to do to keep the fires burning in our hearth?  The blazing funeral pyre destroys.  It doesn’t nourish.  There is no future if, in the deepest darkest of nights, the flame goes out.  We freeze to death instead.

These are the questions I’ve been asking myself while this blog has been generally silent.  I’m not sure I have answers yet, nor do I think I, alone, will ever have all them.

And for those of you worried that I’m going to run off from my community duties as soon as I hit publish on this, don’t worry.  I’m still going to stick around to wander into certain groups and say, “Hey, you crazy kids, be nice to each other” for at least a little while longer.  At least until I know my old sandbox is in safe hands.

I just can’t say I’m a Roman polytheist anymore.

My shrines have been destroyed and scattered by my neighbors.  My altars tumbled.  Well, metaphorically.  I’m not that impious.

But you know what?  There’s freedom in that.

On the River and the Flooding

We in Columbia aren’t experiencing the massive flooding that’s hit around the state at a devastating rate that in some places is surpassing the floods of 93, which I’m old enough to remember very clearly.

I haven’t been out to see where the Missouri River is at.  I almost can’t bring myself to even think about it.  I have a specific cultic practice towards the Matronae attached to the Missouri that eventually I will get around to writing the booklet for, and this winter’s flood of the major rivers to me shows the massive arrogance of man thinking they can control the will of living Place.

My great-grandfather was one of the Army Corp of Engineer members that worked to control the Missouri River, which turned the Missouri River from a feared natural waterway into something completely different than what Lewis and Clark experienced…  And in turn it has been a natural disaster.  He is remembered dearly as a conservationist, an early one at that, so I wonder sometimes if he knew that this would happen.

While there are obviously less boats sinking on both the Missouri and Mississippi these days, we see over and over again that the levies we keep building to protect development we build on flood plains continue to make flooding worse.  The water has to go somewhere, and the fact that we’ve yet to realize that we need to respect the natural course of the rivers and the space they need to relieve themselves of too much water is, to me, a travesty all on its own.

Our community needs to settle into our understanding of our rivers and the Powers behind them.  We need to have our hands in the silt and clay, rebuilding what our not-so-distant Ancestors decided were ours to tamper with.  We need to find ourselves helping to bring these living landforms, ever evolving and changing, back into balance.

When I look at the Missouri River, or even the Mississippi, I see a caged creature that has been cut up and mutilated in some sort of twisted reconstructive surgery in our hands so that it conforms to what we want of it.  I see mankind’s willingness to force its will onto everything around it.  Rivers aren’t domesticated livestock.  Rivers are living entities who don’t really give a crap if they destroy our homes and businesses when we build in their spaces that they historically flow into when necessary.  The more we tamper with them, the more damage we do to the world around us, even if it helps our own existence.  But that’s not something a big river is going to put up with when it’s bloated and uncomfortable from the rain.

They are bigger than us.  We can try to control them all that we want, but time and time again we continue to see that it doesn’t work.  The water has to go somewhere.


Depression: Round 4

Today I’m going to talk about depression. At some point yesterday, I felt myself stand still in a moment where chaos was unfolding in my home and listened to what my mind was telling me. I didn’t like what I heard. I have been watching since then, quiet and mindful of the words I’m using on myself. There is decidedly a part of my brain that needs to, quite bluntly, shut the fuck up. I’ve been here before. More than once. I’m sure this will not be the last time I am here again. This will be the 4th major depressive spell I’ve had in almost 34 years of my life.

This time is different, though. This time I have a certain quality of mindfulness that I didn’t have the last 3 times. This time I don’t have some defining moment where I take depression as a weird comfort, the apathy being a welcome difference to the deep, aching pain that had no origin.

Yesterday I was standing in the hall, as my daughter ran off from me in the middle of trying to get her dressed for the fifth time that morning while laughing and calling me all sorts of names, and I heard my inner-voice say, “Everyone would be happier if you were dead.”

There’s a certain quality of defeat I can’t even begin to describe over the moment where you are being verbally abused by a child and go there mentally. I don’t talk about my daughter.  I don’t feel like I have the right to talk about her life publicly; partially because I want to protect her. But my daughter was born of 2 adults who have ADHD and likely both are undiagnosed autistics. I have a wicked case of sensory processing problems, and she was recently diagnosed with sensory processing disorder while we wait on the 8-month-long waiting list to get an appointment to get her evaluated for behavioral health… I don’t talk about it in part because people don’t see the way she acts at home at night when she’s tired. They see a shockingly intelligent little girl who is absolutely gorgeous and sweet. They don’t see the nights where she’s beating her head against the floor, throwing her body into the wall while being unable to sit still, or gagging over each piece of food she tries to eat. They don’t see her at 3-and-a-half telling her mother she’s an idiot. They don’t see her refusing to have her hair brushed, struggling with potty training, or being unable to go to sleep on her own. And I don’t talk about it, because no one sees it or understands when I do. I know most of this she will grow out of, but there are things she won’t.

I wake up every morning facing this. I go to sleep every night worrying she’s going to fall through the cracks, that they won’t see it until she’s in her teens, if ever… I worry she’s going to have the same outcome of battling depression, social anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder that her mother has, because at 14 when I recognized I had ADHD and asked for help, I was told girls don’t get it, they just get depressed. I was “just” depressed. For some reason people still think women don’t struggle as autistics or have other behavioral differences… No, we’re just depressive. Hysterical. Irrational.

I have a reason to be depressed, but that situation isn’t letting up any time soon and is really just the spark that starts the fire. Some part of me had hoped that I would be able to hold out. Hold out until we get the phone call saying we’ll be seen soon. Hold out that my husband will get a residency and we’ll move back to a blue state. Hold out while I deal with the fact that my health is possibly declining more. Hold out…

Gods, please don’t let me crumble. Let me fight the stress of being poor, disabled, and a mom to the most magical little creature I have ever encountered.

There’s an ugly beauty to the depressive mind, a certain beauty to the art of being able to tear yourself down that only another depressed person will understand. In my experience, it slips in slowly at first. Depression pretends to be your friend. It understands your pain. It understands your suffering. It shows you the beauty of suffering. And for me there’s always been this defining moment in my episodes where I open the door and invite it in fully, seduced by that beauty. Where those little urges to harm myself cease to be quite as terrifying as they should be, because I’m too exhausted to ignore them anymore even if I’m present enough to not carry them out.

And there is a gift there. You get comfortable with the concept of death when you’re simultaneously wishing it upon yourself while fighting against that desire. You start to see the beauty in death. You, in short, get fucking morbid as hell.  That’s not necessarily bad… It’s the actively wishing to be dead part that is when, hey, you’ve got a life to live still.

But yesterday I was standing in the hall, listening to a 3-and-a-half-year-old tell me how stupid and scared I am, feeling like a complete failure, and when that little voice in my head said, “You’d be better off dead,” I stopped and named it.


I looked over the months I’ve not wanted to do anything. The untouched tomatoes of summer that normally bring me so much joy. The unfinished art. The unstarted plans. The mess that’s my kitchen… The insatiable hunger and exhaustion that leaves me too tired to move. My friends who I’ve not seen in months. The dread of being responsible in any way, shape, or form of anything at all. The guilt over it all. So much guilt. Feeling like I’m not a good mother, a good friend, a good human… Desperate to be left alone.

Oh, Depression. You’ve been here longer than I realized. You sneaked in this time uninvited, and it’s taken this long for you to gather the bravery to really start talking to me.

This time I don’t have the luxury of breaking down. I don’t have the luxury of possibly swinging manic or even hypomanic. I’ve got shit to do and a life to live…

You aren’t welcome here, and you are not who I choose to be.  In short, you’ve got to shut up.

So I give myself a few days to get over this darkness I’ve found myself in, and then I have a psychiatrist picked out to start seeing if it doesn’t somehow magically lift… Because the “in case of emergency” plan for the unmedicated bipolar-not-bipolar-maybe-bipolar-who-knows-anymore person that is me has always been very, very detailed, and as soon as we got health insurance I picked out a psychiatrist in the event I needed one. Because depression never magically lifts. It magically implodes into all sorts of ridiculous fuckery that is not acceptable to me at this point in my life. Even if I had a 5-year remission, that threat of this happening has always been the elephant in my room just camped out in the corner smoking a hookah that I’m always aware of.  The what-if.  The please don’t let this happen ever, ever again, please.

Well, this time I’m not hitting rock bottom before I get help.

I’m going to practice what I preach, which is medication-based intervention is a completely acceptable and sometimes needed route to go.

Why did I decide to talk about it? This is my personal blog. Because people need to be open about this sort of thing. Because I refuse to hide this part of me due to stigma.

Also because it makes me feel better to write, and even better when I hear that what I’ve written touched someone else. So, if you’re that person needing to hear it… You aren’t alone, and neither am I.

The Miraculous and Unexpected Happened

August 15th last year, I found myself on a table in a fluoroscopy lab as a resident, assisted by a lab tech, took directions from another doctor yelling from the other room on what would end up being the 4th or 5th attempt at a spinal tap with my body barely responding to the local anesthesia they were using on me.  To be fair to the resident, most of those jabs weren’t his, and he would have gotten it his first time if they’d realized I needed a larger needle than most people.  The pain shot and burned around my rib cage, following the nerves there like electric wiring; it pooled in my hips and ran down my legs over and over again.

I’ve been meaning to talk about that day before now, to talk about how the pain I experienced was nothing less than ordeal work that has changed me forever.  I no longer fear pain like I did before.  I no longer worry if anything they do to me medically is going to hurt (though I still am not that fond of having my eyes touched, which happens regularly enough that I know I can get through that, too).

What I remember, though, is that my God was there for me, and in that moment of agony, I felt his hand tightened around mine.  I heard his voice tell me that everything was going to be okay, but it was important for me to experience this.

A month later He would drop the bomb that He was leaving.  Somewhere in there I handed the management of my healthcare (note: not my health, but healthcare) to Odin, who promptly lit a fire under my ass and forced me to stand up for myself in a situation where I wasn’t getting heard.  The day I saw my new neurologist, I spotted a valknut hidden on the side of some hippie van covered in flowers in town.  I knew things would work out the way they were supposed to…  I was still skeptical.

I had another follow-up about my pseudotumor cerebri two days ago, and the days leading up to it were horrifically stressful.  The only thing they’ve found helps take some people into remission is weight loss, and since I have a history of eating disorder this has been the part of this experience I’ve struggled with this most.  And to make matters worse, I had managed to gain weight instead of lose it, though to be honest beyond worrying about getting lectures from well-meaning doctors, I haven’t cared.

My appointment on Monday came with me not being able to see one super subtle thing on one of my visual test.  There were some extra beeps on my visual field test.  I was absolutely certain that my vision was going, which is the big fear of the disease.  I was sure I’d gotten worse.

I commented to my mother that what I really, really wanted to hear was that there was no sign of pressure and that it was time to wean me off the diuretic that has started to effect my autonomic nervous system and give me more heart issues than usual.  But I’ve been at this chronic illness thing for 30-some years.  I said that I didn’t expect to hear any of that; I no longer hope for the best but accept that things may not change.  That is a hard thing for someone to understand who doesn’t deal with this level of illness, but it’s the very best place one can be in coping-wise as long as they don’t let the darkness of it all swallow them…  Because that’s the danger of it.

My doctor came in, read all the tests, and checked out my eyes.  And then the very last thing I expected to happen happened…

He said the words, “I see no signs of pressure today.  I think, despite your weight gain, that your neurologist can trial tapering you off the medication.”

I started to cry the moment I got out of the clinic.  Yesterday I was prone to weeping in joy.

But as the shock has worn off, I started to realize something…

Last January my friend acting as Volva yanked something off of me in the middle of seidr, and it was terrifying.  My friend who very obviously was introduced to me in a way that I still can’t entirely believe wasn’t orchestrated in part of this story by the Gods.  But what was even more terrifying in an exciting way was that I felt something open up and start to drain at the back of my head that night.  And while the process has been slow, looking over all the reports from doctors between then and now shows that in the last 7 months the pressure in my head had started to wane where before it had been getting worse.

I rarely share publicly words from my private journal, but I feel compelled to here.  What I had asked that night in seidr was what it was that Odin wanted of me.

The answer was knowledge, knowledge, knowledge (by the end she was yelling the word).  She said she saw me with a black veil over my head.  She saw the iridescence of black feathers.  My left hand was a raven’s wing, and in my right hand was a rock.  I was standing on a labyrinth that had been smoothed by water.

It was at that point that I asked where I was to start.  First, she screamed and doubled over in pain, which…  Everyone that has ever looked into my wyrd has had this sort of reaction, or they’ve at least spoken of pain.  Much pain.  It’s pretty fucking terrible to understand that the pain I feel reaches out that far.  Someday I may get enough bravery gathered about to ask why that is…

But she told me the labyrinth was my brain…  Not my mind, but my brain.  She said something was at the back of my brain blocking “it.”  It was effecting my arms.  Then she yelled, “Careful!  Careful!”  She proceeded to feel for me, and climbed onto the ground.  She found the woman next to me, and grabbed onto something in the air and yanked.  However, I knew she was aiming for me, because when she did that I suddenly felt something dislodge and pull from the base of my skull.  I felt the pressure in my head drain.  Later she said it was like a parasitic worm that had been wrapped about my chest. – from my personal journal, 1/13/2015

I hadn’t thought much about that night in my living room where I had my first experience with seidr until this morning over coffee.  The skeptic in me is hard-pressed wonder if this was just a coincidence, but the believer in me will win out in the end.  Checking over my neuro-opthalmology notes, in January the signs that I had pressure in my head had lowered slightly just a 2 weeks after this experience.

Now those who know me in my personal life know that when I talk of the Gods, it is with belief and all the conviction that goes behind it.  There are layers there, though, where somehow I didn’t believe as much as I do now.  My utter avoidance of all things Team Heathen turned into a brilliant line of where Odin (Woden?  He’s preferring Woden lately) tipped one domino stacked against a hundred more, setting off a chain reaction to reveal that He’d always been there.  Always.


I am a mystic.  I am a believer.  And I am a woman of both science and faith…  And perhaps that “and” is sometimes more of a “but.”  While the medicine and modern science was 100% necessary and the right choice, I know that in the end this disease that has no real treatment, no cure, no explanation as to why it happens is/was in the end is managed and treated by Odin.  I may not be in remission.  I may not be able to get off some of my pills…  But part of me rests in the comfortable place where Odin has this.

Out of what feels like a million novels about the Gods and Spirits stepping into the lives of others that I feel like I’ve read, I didn’t see this coming.  And perhaps that’s what this situation has taught me the most…  There are degrees of belief and faith in the Gods.  Sometimes those beliefs don’t have to be tested.  Sometimes the Gods metaphorically pull the tablecloth out from under the dishes without them breaking over dinner, and you’re left in quiet shock, eyes bugging, because your life has suddenly became the makings of fiction.

And your heart explodes with love for Them.  You can never go back to the way things were before, but no matter what happens you also realize that doesn’t really matter anymore.