#2042

There’s a War on Christmas – In My Heart


Oh Christmas, what a strange holiday you have become. Some say you have your source in paganism, others in Christianity, and still others curse you as a capitalist conspiracy. Regardless, you have centered yourself in the American mindset as the most important holiday of the year, so important in fact that you overshadow your competitors – Hanukkah usually gets a polite nod, Kwanzaa the occasional tossed crumbs, and as for the rest, well, they have to be content with “happy holidays”.  But I don’t hate you, Christmas. In fact, up until the last few years Christmas was one of my favorite holidays. I love how cheerful everything looks covered in evergreen boughs and twinkle lights; I love holiday foods like stuffing and pumpkin pie; I even love the old Christmas hymns like We Three Kings and O Come Emmanuel. This time of the year hearkens back to all those happy Christmases of my childhood, filled with choir performances, homemade decorations, and the nervous excitement of trying to fall asleep on Christmas eve. And yes, I’ll admit, I am certainly a fan of getting lots of gifts.

That being said, I’m just… not feeling it this year.

Actually, it’s more than not feeling – I’m downright bah humbug. I know my lack of enthusiasm is from a mixture of the usual reasons so many people hate the holidays: family drama; monetary stress; no two weeks of freedom like when you were in school. It can be hard to recapture the magic you felt as a kid when you’re unwrapping a tofu press instead of a new toy, or giving a gift to someone you are obligated to interact with but don’t actually like. It’s even harder when you’re in a committed relationship and either have to slight one family in favor of another or spend the holiday apart. So yeah, partly I’m being a grinch because Christmas as an adult isn’t nearly as easy and fun as when I was a kid. There’s more to it than that, though. I think. My feelings are very tangled right now, but when I try to work out the knots and get to the problem in the center I get the feeling it’s not just about family drama. It’s not just because I miss kid-Christmas. It’s because Christmas… isn’t my holiday.

Uh, DUH, you’re probably thinking if you know me. You’re pagan, of course Christmas isn’t your holiday. And yeah, there’s the rub. Up until 2015, I was a pseudo-agnostic content with celebrating a Christian holiday which has forced itself into the secular world. After all, almost everyone I know celebrates Christmas regardless of their spiritual beliefs, and in America it is very much assumed that you celebrate Christmas too. Sure, some folks go to church on Christmas eve, but many others just stay home and have cocoa. No one questions why you would celebrate this particular Christian holiday if you’re not Christian, and so you grow up not questioning it either. After all, most of us got baskets of candy on Easter, too.

But this year I find myself tripping over that “Christ” in Christmas. Despite how secular Christmas has become in our society, this year its religious connections seem to chafe me. Don’t get me wrong, I think Jesus was a great guy – but he’s not my savior. Why am I celebrating a Christian holy day? I’m proudly Kemetic, so isn’t that a little insulting to both Jesus and Bast? Somehow, celebrating Christmas as a pagan feels less okay than celebrating it as a maybe-agnostic, even though in both situations I’m still celebrating the secular version of the holiday. I feel like the guest no one invited to Baby Jesus’ birthday party, you know? Some friends dragged me along and now I’m standing awkwardly in the corner while Mary’s asking Joseph who the fuck I am.

To clarify, I don’t think I’m getting these vibes from either Jesus or the Netjeru. I don’t think anyone is angry or feels ignored, or is trying to push me into a decision I’m not ready to make. I think this is just the next logical stop on my spiritual journey; where I go from here is up to me. That’s kinda scary, though. What if I decide I don’t want to celebrate Christmas anymore? Does that mean I have to start explaining my religious beliefs to everyone who asks? Does it mean our family traditions have to change, or that I have to forgo seeing them on the holidays? What would my wife tell her staunchly Catholic family? What would I tell my fairly atheist family?

I know I have a lot of options no matter what decision I finally make, and Christmas 2018 is quite far away. Still, I think these feelings mark a turning point, and I’m both excited and scared to see where they take me. I’m pretty unapologetic about who I am – I’m fiercely queer, fiercely feminist, and fiercely geeky – but pagans don’t get a lot of respect in American society. People who embrace my queerness might mock my belief in Bast behind my back; people who support my rejection of Christian morals might draw the line at worshiping actual pagan deities. You just never know, and that unknown makes me anxious. Right now I fly below most people’s radar, even with my ankh ring and tattoos. Am I ready to be seen as pagan by everyone and to possibly defend my faith to family and strangers alike?

Advertisements

#2023

[ A prayer to Bast for protection over a dwelling/property. I like to imagine a shining yellow light outlining the space I want protected when I say this prayer, and sometimes even something “bad” (I usually use shadow figures) trying to cross through the light but being repelled. ]

Dua Bast, Lady of the East, of the Flame, and of the Truth!
Dua Bast, Glorious Goddess and Protective Mother Cat!
Dua Bast, Vengeful Eye of Ra, Lady of the Ointment Jar!
Dua Bast, She Who Is Without Equal!
Dua Bast!

Great Lady, I ask You to protect this house and all who dwell within;
let nothing that means harm step onto this property
let nothing that means ill cross over this threshold.
This dwelling is a safe space for all who we welcome here;
may this place be sacred to You and all who enter be under Your protection.
Goddess of Family and Home, secure our borders with tooth and claw;
tear apart that which would harm us and let pass through only that which is good.
May this offering and my love bring You strength as You safeguard us
and may the family we create here bring You much joy.

Dua Bast, Lady of the East, of the Flame, and of the Truth!
Dua Bast, Glorious Goddess and Protective Mother Cat!
Dua Bast, Vengeful Eye of Ra, Lady of the Ointment Jar!
Dua Bast, She Who Is Without Equal!
Dua Bast!

#2021

After my Samhain ritual of remembrance for all the cats I’ve known and lost, I conducted an autumn-themed tarot reading (layout found here) with Bast. As you can see, She really does LOVE throwing major arcana cards at me. I usually pull at least one or two each reading, but four?!

Question: Harvest – What is one thing I should take with me into the upcoming season?
Card: The Fool
Interpretation: What a perfect card to pull for this question. The Fool is a card filled with wonder, adventure, and a willingness to learn. The Fool embarks on their journey with open eyes, leaving behind any burdens or preconceptions so that they are open to receiving whatever the world sends to them. Considering I’m just coming out of a long slump and am working to enhance my spiritual and psychic senses, this card tells me that I’m on the right path. I need to move forward with the courage and sincerity of the novice to continue my spiritual journey.

Question: Compost – What is one thing I should leave behind?
Card: The High Priestess (reversed)
Interpretation: The High Priestess is a card of magic, mystery, and intuition; reversed, it can represent being overly analytical, relying too much on external validation, and ignoring your inner voice. The High Priestess urges me to leave behind all of my self-doubt, fear, and need to understand and control everything in my world. Moving forward, I need to open myself to not only the messages being sent from the universe, but from within me as well. I need to trust my own experiences and beliefs, and stop seeking a “proof” that will never be good enough. Perhaps even more importantly, I must give myself what I need, not just what I think is necessary to look or be a certain way.

Question: Light – What is one thing I should take out into the world?
Card: Judgement (reversed)
Interpretation: For some reason, I have a hard time interpreting Judgement when I draw it. Reversed, it can represent upcoming consequences of a bad decision or negative karma. It can also represent an unwanted change, unhappy ending, or the necessity of hard choices. There isn’t anything in my life currently that could play out that way (that I know of) so I was drawing a blank. I thought maybe I would be called upon to help someone else through a rough time or to make a difficult decision. However, my wife pointed out that it could also mean giving others what they deserve, a sort of reversing of the object being judged. Either way, it sounds like I’m being urged to speak my mind truthfully and directly.

Question: Dark – What is one thing I should meditate on?
Card: The Emperor
Interpretation: I pulled this card last time, too. The Emperor represents order, control, responsibility, and rationalization. It can encourage creating order out of chaos by bringing structure and balance to your life. However, it can also represent the duality of logic and intuition; the Emperor is no dictator, but a ruler who understands how all things must balance each other. I think this card plays the same role as it did in my last reading, in that it’s reminding me to be diligent and study-oriented in this next phase of my learning.

Later I pulled one card to determine what kind of home our current foster kitten, Mitch, would go to.

Question: What kind of forever home will Mitch go to?
Card: 5 of Pentacles
Interpretation: The Five of Pentacles is a card about stagnation and sorrow. This card denotes someone who is drowning in spiritual poverty, who is feeling isolated and hopeless. The Shadowscapes version shows a woman loosely bound in thorns, her head bowed by her fears and worries. However, because she is so weighed down with her sorrow, she cannot see the butterfly right before her or the beautiful flowers that grow on the vines. Here, I believe this card represents someone (or perhaps an entire household) who is drowning in negative emotions and in desperate need of a light in the darkness. I think Mitch, with his playful attitude and sweet disposition, will be the companion this person needs to bring them out of their depression. After pulling this card, there was no way I could even consider keeping Mitch (though I wanted to!). He clearly has a very important job ahead of him, and I’m sure he’ll face it with the curiosity and courage he showed while staying with us.

Thoughts?

#2020

Mother, if I stop to think how many of Your children are suffering or dying right now, right this very moment, I nearly drown. The grief is an unseen tsunami and the hopeless part of me wants to get it over with, let the wave wash me out to sea. How can I have any faith in this world when Your children are tortured, hunted, abandoned, experimented on, killed by a thousand different heartless methods every day simply because their lives are not valued? When they are born in cages and die in cages, having never once felt the sun? I want to reach out, to find and be with them in their dark places, their last moments, but their reality’s terror cripples me. I ignore the truth like an open wound I cannot tend – the only option is to keep going until it heals or hurts too much to move. All across the world Your children do the same and I am their sibling, after all, though unbelievably lucky to have been born in a body and place that ensure me basic rights. Your children have no rights anywhere. No right to live and breed freely in the wild; no right to be the masters of their own bodies; no right to be seen as a living creature at all, let alone an individual with wants and needs and a soul as valuable as every other.

People will say I’m exaggerating. I’m not. You know I’m not. Help me, Mother. Teach me how to shield my heart so I don’t have to harden it. Show me how to embrace the pain without making it part of myself. I refuse to be ignorant; I refuse to be uncaring; I refuse to be hopeless. But it’s so hard to face a future that feels inevitable and a truth that seems too heavy to bear. I have feared all my life that it would be my fate to watch Your children perish by the species, and thus far I have been given no reason to think it might be otherwise. So what do I do? How do I move forward? Help me, Mother.

#2017

I need to stop being lazy and start actually recording my tarot readings and other pagan practice stuff, so HERE GOES:

I’ve been in a deep, months-long religious funk, but last week I finally knelt down at my altar and spent time with Bast. Meekly, I laid out my cards to check in with Her (meaning “ask if She was angry with me”). I laid out the following reading:

Question: How do You see our relationship currently?
Card: 3 of Wands
Interpretation: Bast gave me this card back when I first started to work with Her and had asked a similar question. I’ve pulled it a couple times since, and it always gives me a feeling of adventure and excitement. The Shadowscapes deck’s picture is of a traveler standing on the edge of a cliff, overlooking a deep wooded valley splashed with sunlight. At their side stands a small cat, which gazes into the future with them. It’s a very uplifting card, and I was very relieved to pull it. She’s not mad!

Question: Where do You want our relationship to go next?
Card: The Emperor
Interpretation: A major arcana card. Of course. I haven’t drawn The Emperor before, so my understanding of it isn’t solid. I sense an emphasis on structure, concrete goals, and rationality. There is also an urging to be neither too rigid nor too flexible. My exploration into the clair- senses will require more studiousness and planning than I have employed previously. Sounds like tough but rewarding work ahead.

Question: What do You want me to do to accomplish this?
Card: 8 of Pentacles
Interpretation: The pentacles are, for whatever reason, my least favorite suit and I have to work to overcome my dislike of any pentacle card I pull. In this one I read an emphasis on returning to a novice state, to nurture learning and maybe seek a new skill to learn. This may be encouragement to learn new styles of divination and intuition, or perhaps a more physical skill or hobby. I’ve been meaning to mess around with my pendulum…

I’m also interested in developing my psychic senses to better communicate with my gods and other entities, so I conducted a reading about this with Bast and drew the following:

Question: What is blocking my third eye?
Card: The Hermit
Interpretation: A major arcana, no surprise there. I’m not totally sure how to read it, though. Does it mean not enough patience and introspection, or too much? I sense it’s maybe indicating a lack of wisdom and experience, that I don’t yet know how to go about building my psychic powers and that’s why I feel like I’m blocked. At the same time, though, I feel like it’s also cautioning me to not become too much the hermit in this process – that I need to seek out the experience and knowledge of others to help me grow.

Question: How can I unblock it?
Card: 9 of Wands
Interpretation: In the Shadowscapes deck, this card shows a line of sentinels standing ready to defend their land. It speaks of defense, strength, vigilance, perhaps even some final battle for which energy must be reserved. In this context this might caution diligence and vigilance, which makes sense considering I’ve been hoping for an easy and quick fix.

Question: What will the outcome of my current path be?
Card: Queen of Cups
Interpretation: I grinned when I flipped this card over. The Queen of Cups is a card of intuition, emotion, and psychic ability. If she is where my path eventually leads, then I must be doing something right. I think I need to be studious, patient, and retain my strength for this road.

Coincidentally (NOT), I recently offered Bast a fortune cookie and the fortune inside said. “Rome wasn’t built in a day, be patient”. So thanks, Mom, for hammering that lesson home.

I also attempted my first meditation intended to open or unblock my third eye. I’m not very good at quieting my mind, so the session felt unproductive. I did have an interesting mental image of an arrow being fired into the center of my forehead, right into my third eye. It reminded me of the dungeons in Ocarina of Time where you have to shoot the eye icons to make doors open and close. Afterwards I didn’t feel any different or more magical; however, I was kinda woozy and one ear seemed oddly plugged when I sat up. My stomach also hurt the rest of the night, but my stomach always hurts so I can’t read much into that.
Thoughts, anyone?

#2015

Kitten Fostering as Service to Bast


My wife and I have been fostering kittens for over two years now. It all started one night when she called me during her shift at the local humane society and said hesitantly, “So… I’m bringing a kitten home,” as if I might refuse. Right – me, refuse a kitten! The little ball of black fluff she brought home was only a few weeks old and had been dropped off at the humane society after hours. With no one else to care for her over the weekend, Chriselle had no choice but to take the kitten back to our apartment. We named her Phedre, and she lived with us until she grew into a two pound monster who loved chewing on her foster moms – at which point we sent her off to her forever home and took in the next kitten. And the next. And the next. In the last two years we have fostered over forty kittens and that number will only keep growing. For Chriselle, it’s just who she is; she works to save animal lives all day, and it’s only natural to her to come home and keep doing that. For me, it’s about service to Bast; I know the cats She brings into our lives need us, and I could no more refuse Her than I could refuse Chriselle that very first time.

This service isn’t always easy, though – nor does it always end in a kitten finding their forever home. Sometimes it ends with us losing the kitten. Thanks to Chriselle’s veterinary skills and a little extra luck from Bast we’ve only lost three kittens so far, but each time hurts like they’re one of our own children. It’s so, so difficult to lose a foster. You blame yourself no matter the circumstance, because at the end of the day you took charge of that tiny life and ultimately let it down. It doesn’t matter that the three we lost all died of unknown and untreatable diseases – I will always carry the guilt of that failure. It’s just who I am, and who Chriselle is too. Animals are our world and we’d willingly lay down our own lives for any of them. We carry the memory of our lost ones close, and I know we remember them each time a foster has a close call.

After the loss of a foster, I have to remind myself that Bast brings each kitten into our lives for a reason. With the fosters we end up losing, I believe that reason is two-fold. One, I believe it’s because She knows we will properly mourn every little life and will never forget a single one of our fosters, even those who were only on this earth for a matter of days. They deserve remembrance, and they will remain in our hearts forever. Second, I believe it’s because She knows the loss won’t break us. We’ll cry together, yes, and deal with our anger and guilt in separate, probably not totally healthy ways, but we won’t stop fostering. We’re prepared for the hard parts of fostering kittens – the loss of sleep and free time, the fleas and vomit and diarrhea, the potential at any moment for a life to gutter out no matter our efforts – but not everyone is. A lot of folks who foster only want older, healthy kittens who will provide the most amount of cuteness for the least amount of effort. And during “kitten season”, when the shelters are all overrun, that’s okay! Thousands of healthy, happy kittens need foster homes until they can be adopted. But we know, and Bast knows, that we’ll always opt to take the risky little runts over the sure-bets any day. It’s who we are, to both our blessing and our detriment.

I absolutely couldn’t do this work without my faith in Bast, and I absolutely couldn’t do it without Chriselle. I’m so lucky to have a partner who is strong, patient, and an endless well of love and caring. Her veterinary knowledge and dedication make it possible for us to foster day-old kittens who need hourly bottle feeding or sick kittens who need constant care and vigilance. She provides the medical support – I just provide the love and prayers. Together, we seem to make a pretty good team. It’s a tough road, no lie, yet I still kneel at Bast’s altar once a week and tell Her, let me do Your will in this world. And this is how She responds.

2017-10-19 20.05.52.jpg

Twix (left) and Candycorn (right) who we lost within days of each other.

2015-12-26 19.13.43

Thomas, the first foster we lost. 

#2007

Dua Bast,  Goddess of Family and Home! Bless this marriage and keep safe the family we build together. Lend us the strength to be loving and kind even in times of turmoil. 

Hail Inanna, Lover and Beloved United As One! Bless this marriage and help us to stand strong against those who would judge us. Lend us the courage to stand hand-in-hand for all the world to see. 

Dua Wepwawet, Shepherd of the Path! Bless this marriage and guide us safely as we embark on this journey together. Lend us the patience to face whatever life’s road may ask of us. 

Dua Bast! Hail Inanna! Dua Wepwawet!