Wandering Out of the Woods

A painting of an auburn-haired woman with green eyes. She is illuminated in a dark room and wears a large multi-color flower crown with gold leafing throughout

It’s been almost 3 years since I’ve updated this blog. One was me putting myself in time out for being unkind. One was a year of silence where I contemplated all that had been given to me and all it meant. The last 8 and a half months have been a flurry of work and dealing with a pandemic.

A painting of an auburn-haired woman with green eyes. She is illuminated in a dark room and wears a large multi-color flower crown with gold leafing throughout
Mavka copyright M. Woodland, 2019

This sabbatical has been both good and bad for me. Good because I took the time to root myself down in Memphis. I returned to the Unitarian Universalist Association. And while I’m still carrying the reputation of being a recluse, I am now a local CUUPs officer. Last summer I started teaching workshops and performing public rituals.

It’s been bad because I’ve come to realize that there are some areas where I will never feel like I know enough. And in those moments where I act confident, it’s usually false vibrato… Except in emotionally removed way I also understand that I have learned so very much on both spiritual and academic levels that I probably should be confident. If you’ve not been in this space, I don’t suggest it. For those who get what I’m saying on a personal level, I offer my understanding nod and empathy. It’s not a ride I recommend.

For some reason today was the day to wander out of the woods. There are sticks in my hair. My clothes are tattered. I probably look a little wild-eyed as I return. Maybe I’ve grown as a person? I like to think so. Have I grown as a spiritual being? Probably? I don’t know. Maybe not. I do know, however, that I have a lot of nonsense to share when I have the time.

Last year I returned to working as a religious educator while also homeschooling my daughter and being a Girl Scout troop leader. With the pandemic happening, a lot of my work is online, and it’s taking so much longer than it used to. I’m learning (and getting close to possibly releasing) perfumes and oils. I’m still making art.

I have no massive epiphany to share, and I guess that’s the lesson I’ve learned… Massive epiphanies rarely happen (or I’m about to receive one due to stating that).

Anyway, hi. How are you doing?

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.

 

 

 

The Tempest of February

I may not have much to update with in the next few months, since life is pretty intense currently.  These things happened last month:

  1. I was diagnosed with Chiari Malformation Type 1 of the brain, which means my brain has slumped down in my skull and the cerebellum’s tonsils have fallen out the bottom into my neck.  Just slightly.  Enough that I have symptoms.  Which means I’m facing a very likely possibility of skull/brain surgery (and/or spinal cord surgery) in the next few years.  Ideally after my husband is done with his residency.
  2. My husband was gone for half the month interviewing for residencies.  We’ll know in 23 days if he was accepted to one of them, and if he has been, we’ll move in June or July.  So now I’m working to get things thinned down to bare minimums around here.  I may have some shrine tools and pretties going up for sale.  I’ll post them here.
  3. Pony was diagnosed with ASD (specifically what would have been considered as Asperger’s before) last week.  This came as no surprise to us, but due to the fact she’s able to pass as neurotypical in most situations I have had no less than 3 people question the diagnosis.  This week has been a blur of phone calls, more evaluations, and trying to figure out what will be in her best interest and not just what they suggest to come off as neurotypical.
  4. I got everything in line to get my wheelchair built for me and should be getting it in about 9 weeks or so.  I’m excited about it, because by the time it gets here I may need to rely on it due to fatigue while I recover.

 

A Perfect April Day

DSC01421

The Kalends isn’t over, but we’re taking a moment to rest in our day.  For me that means I get to do what seems to be becoming a job, but is still basically a hobby (This is my justification for it today, since I have always tried to not “work” on the Kalends, Nones, and Ides).

Yesterday over at my blog on Witches & Pagans’ PaganSquare, I wrote about my plans to observe the Kalends with my 3-year-old daughter for the first time.  The day is only half-way over, but I’ve been so moved by how the day has unfolded that I couldn’t wait to post.

My daughter had breakfast, and I had coffee with a few peanuts.  I fast for the Kalends, Nones, and Ides from sunset the night before, but my health issues require I don’t do a full fast these days.  I don’t feel that 3 is old enough to fast, but I explained why it was I wasn’t having my normal breakfast to her.

After breakfast we went out to find a stick to make our windchimes with.  We put it together while I explained that it was to bring good fortune and help protect us.

We went out to our front step.  I gave her the little broom she has, and together we swept off the step, making sure it was clean for where we were going to set up our offering.  We sat down the offering bowl.  Then we carried the tray off offerings out.

I showed her how to cover her head with a veil, and offered her a silk scarf I had picked out for this moment.  It’s a smaller one I bought years ago, and it was the perfect size for her.  She was so excited to have a veil to wear like mine that she kept it around her shoulders for quite some time afterwards.

I showed her how to hold her hands while praying, upturned to the sky.  She didn’t keep them that way, but I’ll be sure to demonstrate this position each time I pray in front of her to reinforce it.

And then came the offerings and prays.  I poured a little water into her special pitcher for her to put into the bowl, and she had picked tortilla chips (one of her favorite foods) to give to Janus, Juno, and the Lares today.  I offered the prayer and then directed her to pour and place chips into the offering bowl for each.

I admit that I am rarely moved to tears during rituals.  In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever cried during a formal ritual.  But as I sat there watching her pour and offer, her sweet face peaking out under her veil, I felt my heart grow 10 sizes with joy and pride.  My eyes welled up with tears.

We hung up our windchimes.

Afterwards we sat on the front step, watching the birds.  She asked me while looking around, “Where are the Gods?”

I chuckled.  I couldn’t help it.  She was clearly disappointed They’d not manifested in a way she could clearly see.  So I quietly explained that the Gods show themselves as birds, as the feel of the wind, that They are everywhere.  They are in the plants and the flowers.  They are inside of us, and They are the love we have for each other.

As I explained this, my arm wrapped around her little body, I understood this on a whole different level than I had before.

I thanked her for teaching me that lesson.

NaNoWriMo is Coming!

This is basically just a note to say that November will likely be quiet on this blog, because I’ve decided to embark on writing a novel for NaNoWriMo.  So if you’re doing that, too, you can find me at the username: DaizzyMegs.  I’m considering possibly posting a small weekly excerpt, but I’m not fully decided.

Fall Equinox Conversations at the Foxglove House

Background: Mr Foxglove is an agnostic humanist.  He is pro-raising our children Polytheist/Pagan as long as we stress that it’s the duty in our life to help our fellow man simply because it’s the right thing to do instead of where we go afterwards, which obviously fits in with my worldview perfectly.  After this many years, though, Mr Foxglove has developed some rather peculiar Pagan outlooks on things and is in complete denial about it…  I am starting to record them, because while it’s maddening to me, it’s kind of hilarious at the same time.

Today’s conversation thus far…

Mr Foxglove: Hey, what are we going to do for the Fall Equinox?

Camilla: I hadn’t really planned on much for the family this year.  My tradition states this is when Apollon begins his journey towards Hyperborea for the winter, so prayers and offerings for that.

Mr Foxglove: Heh.  Apollon goes to Florida for the winter…

Camilla: No!  He goes to Hyper- Actually, that’s pretty accurate.

Summer Bounty

DSC01096Hail to the Gods, Big and Small, the Lares and Genii for providing my house with the bounty of summer.  Hail to the Penates for keeping these treasures safe until we are able to enjoy them.

 

Ehlers-Danlos, Hypermobility, and Finally Finding Answers to Chronic Illness (Subtitle: Where I’m At)

I have been quiet lately. I have a lot on my plate. I am behind in life and everything I have promised to others. I am sick and tired constantly. This is a flare. The pain is always looming on the edge of my bodily perception. The bermuda grass is taking over my garden outside, and as I continue to find myself sick feeling if outside in the sun too long I’m beginning to pack away the dreams of a farm. Maybe next life.

We’ve traveled a lot in the last couple months. My husband’s mother was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, so we have been traveling back and forth to see her as she goes through radiation and chemo. We went and visited my father in Iowa for the first time in 4 years. Travel makes me sick. I’m finding as I get older (because 33 feels ancient in this body), it’s getting harder and harder to recover from the pain and fatigue from a long car ride.

After nearly 20 years of trying to find an answer to my chronic fatigue and pain, I was diagnosed last month with benign joint hypermobility disorder. That’s an outdated term for joint hypermobility disorder, which is also likely a full-blown case of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Hypermobility Type.

We’d worried I had Lupus. We looked at the criteria for Fibromyalgia and nodded slowly. We found that I was genetically at-risk for Celiac Disease, and considering how we discovered my bipolar disorder was actually a severe case of gluten-intolerance we suspected that I did, in fact, have Celiac Disease. It was just that I’ll never be able to confirm it, because after being off wheat for my daughter’s food problems as an infant taught me that I can no longer eat gluten without getting violently ill. There’s also an egg allergy/intolerance thrown into the mix.

But even with the food issues worked out for myself, I was still in constant pain. I was still sick. I was finally sent to a rheumatologist with a full lab work up saying I was slightly insufficient in vitamin D and had inflammation… And a history saying that my liver freaks out any time I get put on a new medication and starts eating itself.

At the end of 4 hours split between 2 appointments and 5 rheumatologists (at a teaching clinic), I came home angry that all of my problems could be blamed on being double jointed. They might not have spent enough time explaining things to me. When I started googling, though, the final puzzle piece fell into place and I realized that they were, in fact, correct.

I have Joint Hypermobility Disorder, which depending on what expert you talk to is also Ehlers-Danlos Hypermobility Type. This means that I am incredibly flexible, which I could have sworn was supposed to be a good thing. What it really means, though, is that my muscles are weak and fatigued constantly, because they are working overtime to keep my joints from dislocating…

Because my joints dislocate or subluxate (slip in and out of place), or they do anything in between those two things. It’s painful. I’ve dislocated a hip in my sleep. I’ve dislocated my back bending over to pet my cat. My neck is so weak that I recently cut my hair, because long hair was giving me severe headaches due to the weight it was putting on my neck. I am tired all the time, because my spine compresses and causes severe, burning nerve pain up my back down to my toes.

I fall sometimes. My ankle rolls, and suddenly I’m on the ground.

EDS is a genetic callogen defect. Collagen is the glue of the body, and it’s in most of your body. Mine doesn’t work right, and because of that some days I feel like I’m falling apart. This has been going on since I was a teenager, at 14 my knees started going out. I had a doctor tell me at 16 that my sciatica was simply due to being obese and having poor posture, because, you know, sciatica is really common in 16-year-olds.

My pregnancy was a nightmare, but I couldn’t get my OB to listen to me, because she’d had a bit of back pain while pregnant and it was normal…  Except many women end up in wheel chairs and destroying their backs with pregnancy when they have this, and, oh right, epidurals?  They don’t work, because local anesthetic doesn’t work.

The funny thing is that beyond the pain and fatigue, I thought all of this was normal. Despite it being a rare disease, both of my parents have these problems to varying degrees. My grandmothers on both side had problems

With this I most likely have an autonomic nervous system problem, which causes my heart and blood pressure to do crazy things throughout the day making me feel weak, dizzy, ill, and anxious. My heart races. I find myself having a hard time breathing. Apparently this isn’t normal? Apparently it’s not just anxiety.

Apparently it’s normal for a person with EDS/JHS to be diagnosed with a million things, including mental illnesses, because doctors learn this is a rare disease they will probably never see. It took me nearly 20 years to get a diagnosis, more if you count my stomach problems that started at 9.

My husband is now working on getting his own diagnosis for EDS (I would have preferred the odds be used towards winning the lottery instead of us both having the same rare disease, thanks). Our GP looked shocked and said, “I’ve never actually seen this before. I’m going to have to research more,” when he pulled his skin away from his arm and neck to show how it stretches…  Well, after she cringed and gave a very professional “Ew.”

I don’t plan on this becoming a blog about my chronic illness, but I probably will vent from time-to-time about it. This is a personal blog, after all, and I talk about my life here. This is a huge part of my life. Now my life is filled with physical therapy appointments and starting next week cognitive behavioral therapy to help me manage the pain and anxiety that has developed due to pain and what we thought were panic attacks.

Mainly I just wanted everyone to know I’m still here. I’m still alive. I’m working on stuff for the blog this afternoon, including videos! I’m working on getting thank you notes written, but truth be told I’m slow because lately my hands haven’t been wanting to hold pens much… Which doesn’t bode well for my art. Little bit at a time. I will get things done.

More on EDS: http://www.ednf.org/
More on Hypermobility Disorder: http://www.hypermobility.org