The Shape of Devotion

When I first started with Mara, devotion was simple. She likes candles and shiny things. Shiny things certainly seemed befitting a wealth goddess. She liked pilgrimage, visiting her at Disney, but that’s complicated and she has always understood that. I didn’t think too much about it, honestly. The person who’d introduced me to her used green seven-day candles, so I used green seven-day candles. She used a certain kind of statuary to stand in for Mara, who of course had none of her own; I used the same kind of statuary.

It was a very basic practice, but it was a workable one. I didn’t have to think much about it – I only had to deal with the candle once or twice a week, even. When you’re new to a devotional practice, starting with a structure someone else has outlined makes a lot of sense. Whether it’s a recommendation from someone else who works with that deity, something from a similar culture that you can adapt, or an outside structure you can apply to a wide variety of deities, like an ADF ritual, starting somewhere is what matters.

The initial style of my devotion worked for me for a long time – several years, even after I lost touch with the person who’d introduced me to the practice. While it was working, I had no real desire to change it. Eventually, however, it stopped feeling correct and effective. The point of starting is just to find a way you’re comfortable reaching back to this deity or spirit that you have reason to believe wants a relationship with you.
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When Spirits Break

I have a group of… house spirits, I guess you could say. They help protect me and my space. Each is housed in a core object, and some of the oldest are more than ten years old. I don’t have control over it, really. If there’s a name for the precise process I use, I couldn’t tell you what it is, but it comes out of my chaos magic practice and is similar to the creation of an egregore. Each has their own personality and is very much an independent spirit after some time.

A few days ago, one of the oldest ones, Faith, broke. I was pretty heartbroken when I realized what had happened. I’ve had figures go away by disappearing before, but it’s been a long time since I remember one breaking. The last time it happened, I thanked the spirit for her help and gave her offerings to send her on her way.

This time, she didn’t want to leave. She’s been with me for so long, I suppose it’s not too surprising, but it caught me off guard. She asked if she could have a new “home” instead. I was reminded of Anne, who has several ball-jointed dolls with life of their own, and suggested to Faith that she might like one of the dolls I’ve collected as her new “home.”

Faith accepted and I placed the figures carefully before Mara, as she is the goddess of the home, and so all of our household spirits are in her care and service. With her blessing, it was successful and Faith was able to settle into her new core object.

There’s a lot of discussion about plastic and the inherent magical qualities of different materials. Plastic has never given me too much trouble, though. I’m sure it’s one of the many things that vary from one magician to the next.

In general I find that what people tell me should work and what actually works can vary. I just experiment for myself and take note of what works and what doesn’t. If this hadn’t succeeded, Faith and I would have tried something else. The key is always to figure out what works, and if possible, why.

The Time I Promised My Service To The Sea For Dumb Reasons And Lived With The Consequences

I see a lot of general advice about spiritwork, generally of the ‘don’t do it, you’ll fuck it up’ genre, but people rarely seem to talk about what that actually looks like.

About eight years ago, my ex-then-significant other was embarking on a devotional relationship that I believe eventually turned out to be with La Sirene, but at the time she didn’t know who it would turn out to be. She wanted my support, and as part of that, she wanted me to promise my service with her.

Now, there’s a time and place for making promises to deities who are interacting with you but whose names you haven’t learned yet. However, I do not recommend doing it lightly. In my case, because I didn’t have any real idea who she was working with except what she had told me, I just promised my service to the sea for seven years.

Yeah, don’t do that.

At the time, my work was pretty closely aligned with hers because it made her happy, so at first nothing seemed amiss. I did the same work she was doing, and it was pretty straightforward. She was overwhelmingly scary sometimes, but hey, at least we were in this together.

Then the relationship started to get strained and my religious work went off in directions that were not what my ex was doing. I wasn’t getting anything but crickets from most of her gods, so I figured I was safe. I went back to Taoism, and I got a sharp sense that Someone was poking at me. Divination, meditation, and research led me to Tien Hou, a sea goddess.

“You’re already promised to me,” she said.

I’m fairly sure I did the metaphysical equivalent of staring, slack-jawed.

“You serve the Sea. You’ve changed directions, but the Sea is constant.”

Because awkwardly worded promises don’t go away because your interests have changed, it turns out. So I built an altar and burned incense and visited her temple in Los Angeles, and I did as she asked. She’s a merciful goddess, and I was fortunate. I would send someone who needed her help to her in a heartbeat.

And then Odin came back into my life, and directions shifted again. It happens, life is complicated. I can date this one precisely, because I knew I was getting poked and so I sent a request in to Beth for Mabon 2009’s seidhr. I asked the dreaded “who’s calling me?” (Beth, if you read this, I’m sorry) and was told Aegir, Ran and Njord were poking around.

The sea gods. Well, I felt pretty silly then. Ran ended up with the rights to my “contract” and she was a lot more demanding than Tien Hou. When she wanted me at the ocean I ended up at the ocean – I suddenly had travel obligations for work that landed me oceanfront on both east and west coasts, regardless of the fact that I suffer from vertigo and flying is painful at best. I wrote for her, I sang for her, I gave blood and other offerings in both oceans. When we drove up the California coast I greeted her and her daughters at multiple beaches, like I was on some kind of magical scavenger hunt.

I came to love her. But it was hard, and there was bitterness on my part that I didn’t feel I’d signed on for “this” even though I had. But I did what she asked and while she was demanding she was never cruel.

By the time she released me to the Columbia, I’d all but forgotten service was for a term and not forever. I was pretty lucky, in that respect.

I can’t say I’d choose to do it again, especially blindly. The contract lasted longer than the relationship that prompted it. But in the end, I learned a lot from the Sea, all three of her, and while I went into it completely unprepared, I survived it. My life was not destroyed.

We learn from the mistakes we make. Most of the time, they’re not permanent and not fatal. I don’t recommend that you go promising yourself to gods known or unknown forever without any exit clauses, and I think you should carefully consider a spirit marriage or job the same way you should consider carefully a job or marriage in your physical life.

But eventually you have to take a risk to go forward. Sometimes you do something without thinking it through. It isn’t the end of the world, either. Keep your promises, fulfill your side of the bargain, and be open to the opportunities you have. If you find yourself in over your head, you have an amazing opportunity to learn how to swim.

Good luck.

A Journey With Mr Rogers to the Neighborhood of Make Believe

Mr Rogers and his puppets

the Neighborhood of Make Believe and some of the many teachers who live there

This is written in the style of guided ‘astral’ journeywork, though I leave it as an exercise for the practitioner whether or not the Neighborhood of Make Believe exists on the astral. I showed this to a friend of mine and she thought in particular it might be good for people who need explicitly gentle help, an I agree, though I think it could also work well for anyone who remembers watching Mr Rogers’ Neighborhood as a child.

You close your eyes. You are standing on the front step of a normal city house, and you ring the doorbell. In the distance, you hear the gentle call of a trolley. A kind man in a sweater greets you and calls you Neighbor.

“I want you to meet some friends of mine,” he says. “I think you’ll like them. And I think they’ll like you, because you’re unique and that makes you special.”

He leads you to the waiting trolley and joins you on one of the warm, wooden bench seats. The trolley cheerfully toots and zooms off along the tracks. Feel the sun shining down on you and the wind in your face as the scenery slowly becomes brighter, more colorful, but simpler. Finally the trolley will stop, and you and your Guide disembark.

As you look around, you see a castle, a large world tree, a grandmother clock, and many other fascinating buildings. Later you may wish to explore them as you get to know their inhabitants.

“Here is the person I wanted you to meet, Neighbor,” your guide says. “I think they have a lot to teach you.” He leads you into the center of the neighborhood, where your teacher is waiting for you. If you don’t see them right away, be patient. You’ll get a sense of who is here for you.

It may be the bombastic King Friday XIII, the gentle Queen Sara, the shy Daniel Striped Tiger, the crone Lady Elaine Fairchilde, the wise Owl X, the sweet Henrietta Pussycat, or someone else altogether! He or she will speak to you for a while before sending you back to your Guide and the waiting trolley.

“Now that you’ve been to the Neighborhood of Make Believe,” your guide says as you step onto the trolley, “you may visit whenever you like. Your neighbors here will always welcome you.” You notice he doesn’t climb on the trolley with you this time. “Oh, this is my Neighborhood too, now. But I’m sure I’ll see you again. It’s such a good feeling to know that we’re friends.”

Completion

Dear Mara, I see your echoes everywhere
in the pale blue sky and the painted starscape
in the clawed hand that leads me down below
in knotted trees and warm stones and good brown earth
in the full market basket and the simmering stew
in hearthfire and under a solid roof
you are more than I can fully understand
and that’s okay. you are an exercise
in letting go of what I cannot know
and appreciating mystery.

Nourisher

Annapurna, Giver of Food, Nourisher,
the harvest season continues on.
I put up tomatoes and blueberries,
stock the freezer, line up the cans,
snug up the house as winter comes on.
I feel your touch in the food I store
as well as in the food I give away.
You provide that which nourishes:
vegetables, fruits, meat, breads,
ideas, sensations, experiences.
It is you who shapes the life I live,
you who makes an illusion taste
of warm risen sourdough and sharp
tomato sauce and sweet berry jam.
For all nourishment, I thank you,
I praise you, I sing your many names.

Rainbowland: Lala Orange

Lala Orange

Lala Orange

As I tried to focus on working with Orange, I found myself distracted by other things. I wrote a guided meditation just to get it out of my head. Today’s poem came more easily than anything else I’ve written this week.

Lala is a boisterous, energetic person. She likes some chaos in her life. She flirts, she’s not afraid to go after what she wants, and she one of the more creative colors.

Last time I did this, I wrote of Orange: “Orange is the color of change, the fire that cleans out impurities and lets us burn brighter. Lala Orange is a flirty, feminine figure, energetic and a little bossy. If you stand still too long, she’ll push you forward. At the same time, if you need a little help getting to the other side, she’ll hold you up.”

Frankly I don’t know what to expect. Last time I worked with Orange, I quit my job, sold almost everything I owned, and moved across country to a city I’d never visited. It worked out, and I am glad I did it, but wow. Change. Guess we’ll see where that takes us this time.

Rainbowland: Thoughts on Red

Red ButlerMy month with Red ends with me literally bleeding. It doesn’t get much redder than that, does it?

Murky and Lurky are a great deal further back than they were at the beginning of September. I was inspired to use an old trick – replacing anxiety I didn’t know how to handle with anxiety that I did know how to handle. It worked quite well, all things considered.

This did feel very much like a Firebird month. I’ve spent several weeks now tentatively working with the Laetha, a god of the Otherfaith, but we’ve come to the mutual decision that I have too much on my plate to give him what he would want from me right now. I hope to come back to that when I am a little less overwhelmed.

A major project got a rebirth this month as I received some wonderful inspiration and it is now going in a different direction. I got some writing done. Health issues

My breakthroughs this month are tied to that creative project – some aspects of my understanding of Mara clicked into place, and along with that, I was inspired to approach a project for her from an entirely new direction. I’m still dealing with health issues as well as Murky and Lurky, but I feel like I can see the light on the horizon.

I’ll have my initial thoughts on Orange tomorrow.

Lady of Illusion

Great Parvati, you are reality itself
and we take joy in that creation.

Though reality may be an illusion,
it is also all that we experience;
this world is what we know and share.

You are food and comfort,
you are touch and taste and smell.
All of my senses are yours.

While we live incarnate upon the earth
we are wrapped up in you, dear Maya.