Herne’s blessings – vulva healing and sexuality

Surprize! Getting the inflammation in my vulva down to a dull roar did not instantly fix my sex life.

Surprize! Struggling while trying to restore my vulva to the state the Goddess intended for it brings up unexpected daddy issues.

Surprize! The God makes a reappearance.

Surprize!  People can be exceptionally kind sometimes when you let them see you. Continue reading Herne’s blessings – vulva healing and sexuality

Unveiling

Fly me to the Mooooon...
One of the things that is complicated about the polyamory community is our strange inability to talk about our love lives, since everyone we know that is poly is likely to be webbed up in some way with whomever we want to talk about.

For example: I’ve been on three dates recently. All women are really nice, but there are some caveats and I seem to be hesitating with all of them. I don’t want to be caught in not acting, but am inclined to take time to digest things when I’m uncertain.

Anyhow, two of these woman are quite connected in the poly community so I can’t talk about my dates with the two others by name or in detail with my poly women friends (who would get it) because they know these women, and if the haven’t dated them themselves at least might be dating a man who is. Nobody wants to gossip, which is good, but makes it hard to hash things out with your girlfriends. I can’t talk to my wife about it either, for good reasons as well.

One of the women is about 15 years younger than I and seems not to have a lot of time. Another is really nice and smart, has some shared values, and is attractive, but has a live in partner who smokes so their place reeks and makes me cough. He’s also quite a dominant guy, and I was sensing him doing some alpha pecking order stuff with me, which as you can imagine, aint gonna fly. I don’t accept male authority outside of work relationships, where who I defer to is based on knowledge or formal rank, and has a rational purpose. This guy is her primary partner, and I respect that. I’m willing to be polite, friendly and fair, but not deferential.

The third is a woman I like and respect that I’ve known peripherally (mostly through women’s workshops) for several years. Let’s call her Jane. She’s a very interesting and soulful woman, and I would have dated her long ago (or tried to) if I hadn’t been in a monogamous relationship at the time. She’s perhaps interested, but we haven’t formally broached the topic, although we’ve been spending time together. She has some of the qualities that drive me nuts in my wife, introverted, kinesthetic, reluctant to talk about feelings, discomfort with her own nudity. She also seems to have trouble setting boundaries with people who are imposing on her, again like my wife. Do I need two of these? On the other hand, she is a lot better at creating community and art than I am and I could really learn from her there. She is also pagan.

Here’s the important thing. Jane told me recently she’d had a dream about me after I’d told her that I was dedicated to Aphrodite (which I am). In her dream I embodied Aphrodite.

Okay, this is a really, really big deal. Dreams about Goddesses are not random things, and Aphrodite is quite a hands on Matron deity. The last woman I was with (independently of me telling her anything) felt a huge energetic connection with me that felt Goddess driven, and I think it was. It’s like some women are drawn to me as a priestess to learn something about love. My connection with that women (Let’s call her Amy) was really intense, and, it felt to me, Goddess driven. If Jane had an Aphrodite dream about me, it Means Something.

My take on life is that the Goddess(es) and Gods guide me – not by bossing me around, but by providing me resources to learn and do things I said I wanted to learn and do, like a mentor.

I have a fantasy where Jane and I become co-primaries and I spend part of my week with her and part with my wife. This woman has a very rich life in a nearby community, so I’d have to travel a short way to be with her, but it wouldn’t be onerous. I can see us having a lot to learn from one another, but I can also see places where she might drive me nuts.

Looking at the other women I’ve been on dates with, I think all of them could drive me nuts a little. Heck, my wife drives me nuts a little, although less so now that we’re poly.

What I hunger for is someone who can meet me. A woman who isn’t afraid to be naked and to dare, emotionally, physically, spiritually. I’m like Hermoine’s purse in the book the Deathly Hallows, a little clutch that was a warehouse inside. There are so few places to unfold.

Lois McMaster Bujold’s Challion series has some spiritual concepts in it that I relate to strongly. I love her description of the relationships between her characters and various matron or patron Gods in it. It’s similar to how I experience my own relationship with Aphrodite and with the God as Stag. In her book she talks about how the Gods can only enter and act directly in the world through people who have developed the ability to open to them, usually through pain and loss. One of the characters describes how perhaps a hundred people had been set on a path toward a particular quest by the gods, and only he arrived. She talks about how the Gods most love the great-souled, but that becoming great-souled is the result of a lifetime of learning, opening and making choices.

Dragonfly in a tree; "Stained Glass Dragonfly"Since I’m relatively anonymous here, I’m going to risk looking arrogant or foolish or full of hubris here. I think I’ve earned a relatively large and open soul in my lifetime. What I most want is to feel it unfolded in ways that seem to be rare and few so far. It has opened through surrender to music, through the Aphrodisian albeit brief intimate connection with women like Amy, opened sometimes through writing, through mystical meditation and rare moments of connection with the Gods, or simply doing the right thing at the right time despite opposition.

Generally, I can’t open like that with someone who hasn’t experienced their own losses and grown from them. But people don’t wear that information on their sleeve, so it sometimes takes time to know. And some get overwhelmed with such large energies, in themselves or someone else, and close themselves up, like Amy did, at the moment things are most powerful and beautiful.

I’ve sworn I won’t obsess, but instead will envision the future and create it. In my future – I am unfolding my soul in places that have space to embrace it. I am finding more and more of those spaces. I am trusting my heart and my intuition, as well as my intelligence and experience. I am unfolding the wings I have kept closed to my side and learning to fly.

~ Tricks For Treats ~

Ethical Polyamory

Okay, I know this is a blog about later recovery from sexual abuse, and specifically waiting for my abuser to die so I can dance on his grave,  so what am I doing talking about polyamory?

Well, part of being a child sexual assault survivor, particularly once the flashbacks have died down a lot, is learning how to have an adult healthy sexuality.  Like many survivors, I have apparently picked a partner who is not going to make any sexual demands on me. Now earlier in my healing, this would have been great, ideal even. All the affection, love and support with none of the having to deal with trying to satisfy a partner (and remotely possibly even myself) without triggering a whack of flashbacks. Perfect.

However, now that I’ve done all the hard work of reclaiming my own sexuality and sexual desire, I’d really like to enjoy the fruits of my labours.  I have a lot to catch up on from all those years.

So why don’t I just divorce my wife and find someone who actually wants to make love with me?

Well, as a result of the abuse and neglect, I’m also what you’d call ‘insecurely attached’. This means it takes a long time to create a close mutual personal bond with someone else and as a result, these are priceless. I’ve been with my wife for over a decade. She loves me, she gets me. She’s almost the only family I have left. I want to keep her. She wants to keep me, and she wants it so much that my basically monogamous wife is willing to indulge what I admit has been a long time fantasy, having an ethical additional relationship with another woman.

My material life too, would be a lot simpler if I didn’t have to divorce my wife. We have a house neither of us could afford alone, and a lot of family connections on her side of the family. I help connect her to her family, and on a lot of levels, we work as a couple.

Is this non-mainstream choice another evidence of me being an abuse survivor? How the heck would I know? I had a really offensive commenter last year who said that I was gay because I’d been abused, and wrote a response on sexual orientation and sexual abuse that said that survivors often have difficulty figuring out what we want sexually, as a result of being forcibly divorced from our bodies and sexual autonomy at such a young age.

This, as they say, is not my first rodeo. I’ve been trying to connect with my true self, first my body sensations, my personal autonomy, my creativity and my right livelihood, my entire life. One of the benefits of having to work to connect with what is authentic and deconstruct the layers of slime put over myself by my abuser and upbringing, is that I get to dig a little deeper than most people, and to value my authentic reality more for having had to work for it.

I can say, honestly, that I’m not a jealous person. If my wife wanted to take a lover who treated her well and made her happy, I’d be happy for her. Of course, if she did take a lover, some of our other problems might be solved, as she’d have her sex drive back. I can also say, honestly, that I’m very Pagan/Wiccan in my sexual ethics, which means I support all loving, pleasurable sexual expression that doesn’t hurt anyone. I have strong reservations about BDSM, but I’m not going to oppose the practice, just stay away from it personally.

The BDSM thing is actually getting in the way quite a bit, strangely enough. It seems that most of the gay and bi polyamorists in my area, or at least the visible ones, are quite into what they call ‘kink’, which usually means BDSM. Sigh! Once again, I’m kind of unusual, apparently. I may be involuntarily celibate for a good long while longer.

I had a conversation once with a woman I was friends with, who considered herself a sadist top in the sack.  She was also, I knew, a child sexual abuse survivor. I asked her how she could participate in sex that recreated some of the activities and dynamics of the abuse. She said that by participating in them again on her own terms, she got to process them and get control of them. I still don’t think that’s a good idea, but that was her take on it. I think that acting out the abuse for pleasure gives some very dodgy messages to one’s inner child condoning the abuse. I also have said before and will say again that at the very least, we have a responsibility to ourselves to be our own abused child’s best allies. However, that’s my personal take on it, your mileage may vary and be equally valid.

So am I duplicating some aspect of the abuse here? Is my partner a stand in for my neglectful mother? Am I a stand in for my ‘philandering’ father? I can certainly see the mother end of thing, and that’s worth pursuing. However, I can’t see me trying, at this late date, to justify or condone any parts of my psychopathic father’s behavour to myself, seeing how I’m pretty sure I’ve worked out all residual needs to please daddy or pretend to myself that he actually loved me. I know from experience what bargaining to avoid accepting truth smells like.

Speaking of which, I’m more concerned that I’m bargaining with the inevitable end of my marriage by saying that if I just find a complementary second partner, I can keep what I have with my wife, by expanding it. A lot of people cheat on their partners in this situation, and that ends the marriage, or doesn’t. Some men have both a wife and a mistress for long periods. Obviously other people experience this kind of dilemma, but I am not willing to sacrifice my integrity or sneak around. I’m not going to cheat, and if my wife decides that me having another partner is intolerable to her, then we’ll have to break up.

And what about breaking up? Could we be friends and share the house if we got divorced? I think this time is a trial run for that too. It could go either way, really.

I’m having a hard time figuring out whether to tell anyone about our reasons for opening the relationship, seeing how my wife is clearly not at heart a polyamorist. It makes me look bad, like I’m the big slut who needs other lovers, even though I’m doing it really as a result of her inability to have sex with me. If I can’t provide that second bit of information, I’m going to look like I’m if not cheating on her, at least taking advantage of her.

To that I guess I have to thicken my skin. Guard your honour and let your reputation take care of itself.

Am I deliberately hurting her? I know we have discussed this and she’s in favour of our current plan, but we both know and have discussed that she may feel differently when it’s more than theoretical. In her heart of hearts, I’m sure she sometimes wishes I’d just give up and go back to how things were.

It was her decision to live and at times sleep separately in our house, even knowing that it might be a deal breaker for me, and to be clear that she has no sex drive. She thought that maybe having her own space would help her get it back, but so far that’s not happening.

It was my decision to stop waiting for her sex drive to come back, even though it might be a deal breaker for her.

I think both choices are the right ones and ultimately lead us to our correct path.  If it turns out to be a slower, gentler breakup instead of a new life together, then so be it. As long as we continue to behave honourably to one another, I’ll be able to accept whatever happens.

Bailing vs Being Self Protective, a case study…

Never say there is nothing beautiful in the world anymore. There is always something to make you wonder in the shape of a tree, the trembling of a leaf.- Albert Schweitzer
I’m fine. All is well. There’s no drama, generally or abuse wise, in my life.

Except, I feel edgy and menstrual, which in itself is probably the cause of the edgy.

I have a performance this Friday. I’m not looking forward to it. I’d like to be better prepared, but feel like I’d be wimping out if I bailed.

I really really want to bail. Firstly, my guitarist who would normally play for me can’t make it, so if I want accompaniment, I have to sing with a recording. I’ve never done that before, and don’t have a lot of faith in the sound tech for this event. This in itself gives me a good reason to bail, as I told the organizer my acceptance was contingent on my guitarist being able to make it.

What is actually a bit worse is that I volunteered to help with the opening blessing, and yesterday got an email letting me know who the other priestesses are to be. One of them is a woman who is an ex housemate. We had to kick her out of the shared house we lived in because she was bullying me.  What this looked like was a lot of yelling and imposing body language on her part and a lot of cringing and ineffective arguing on mine, much like my experience was with my father/abuser. Generally she did the worst stuff when no-one was around to witness, until one day my wife came home when she was at it and intervened. We lived together during the time shortly after my father/abuser was in a car accident and I thought he would die, so I was quite fragile and definitely in no shape to defend myself the way I would normally do. It is the first time since I left my home with my parents that I have felt that afraid and helpless.  At one point I was so afraid of her that I left my wife and dog at the house and went to live with a friend for two weeks, so I could make it through to the time she was due to move out. It was a close thing as to whether she would succeed in bullying me to leave or would leave herself.

This happened over six years ago, and I have run into her at events from time to time since then. Mostly I ignore her and don’t initiate contact with her, and that works out tolerably. Since she seems to have gotten into leadership roles in the community, I’ve mostly bowed out completely so I don’t have to be around her. This has cost me opportunities to priestess and be in community, but honestly there are other things about this community that don’t fit well either. Priestessing a blessing together would require interaction.

Generally, the more orthodox Pagan protocol for these types of situations, is that if two members of a circle have a conflict they cannot resolve, it is the responsibility of the parties to put it aside during the ceremony completely, or if they cannot, to withdraw. It’s kind of like “speak now or forever hold your peace” at weddings. Some circles even ask “is there peace on the circle” before starting to ensure that people have a chance to withdraw if they need to. I’m on the orthodox end of things when it comes to pagan ethics, and this community isn’t, so withdrawal wouldn’t be required of me by community standards, but is absolutely required by my own standards.

I have stopped going to religious events in my former community because this bully is quite active in leadership roles. At the time, she was angry that she was kicked out of our house, not accountable for her behavour (as bullies seldom are) and has no doubt spread her perspective among the other people in our formerly shared community. One or two of her friends, when I have run into them, show signs that they have been told something (I’m not sure what) that makes them cooler toward me. The way Pagan opening ceremonies work is that the people doing the opening have to stay to the end and participate in the closing, so I wouldn’t be able to leave if the going got tough.

My third reason for wanting to bail is that, I lead a choir that has offered to perform that night, and we’re just not ready to perform publicly.

The fourth reason is that there are lots of other performers, and we probably won’t be on till about three hours in, and I’ll be fried from the priestessing and the waiting and even less likely to be able to perform competently because of it.

One other glitch is that the organizer has disclosed to me that she has BPD and I know rejection, if she takes it that way, might be particularly painful for her.

I don’t want to do a bad job in a hostile environment as my first time performing in awhile in front of people who may have been poisoned against me. I don’t think it would be good for my currently fragile performer’s soul.

I am an amazon; I can get through anything, but do I want to? I really should let the organizer know now, so she can find someone else for the opening.

_____

Okay, I’ve finished drafting my bail email to the organizer. I haven’t sent it yet, but I should do soon, as the gig is less than a week away.

Now I’m not certain. Is this a challenge I should accept, making myself visible and possibly a target, or a valid warning that I should avoid?

What I learned about faith and child sexual abuse

Photocredit: Denis Collette

My adult spirituality developed in first or second year university. I was taking a philosophy of religion course, up to my neck in flashbacks and attending 12 step meetings of Adult Children of Alcoholics. The Courage to Heal and ‘You can heal your life’ were my lifelines.  In the 12 step meetings I went to, the word God was used, but often the phrase ‘higher power’ was substituted. My 12 step colleagues felt that any higher power was better than no higher power, and a person had a right to choose what felt right for them.

By this point in my life I had had quite enough father-rule. I decided that if I needed a higher power, I was going to invent one that I could trust completely. Instead She found me.

But this isn’t what I wanted to write about. I’ve written this before.

The part of faith that transcend all specific religions and are empowering for survivors are these.

Somebody knows all about the abuse and how dirty and ashamed you feel inside sometimes, and loves you. She/He/It/They both see you and love you. This is the magic bullet for shame – to be both seen deeply and loved.

You don’t have to connect with the same God(s) you were introduced to as a child, or if you do, to interpret and relate to Him or Her in the same way you did then. You can choose to believe in whatever and whomever feels right and safe for you. In my case, I didn’t feel good about opening up and feeling vulnerable to a male God. My God had to be a feminist. Your mileage will vary and that’s okay, in my opinion. I don’t know if there is one God with many aspects or many Gods or something altogether different, and that’s okay with me.

It is okay to be mad at God. She can take it and He gets it. Once I yelled at Her at a 12 step retreat. I can’t remember now what I yelled exactly, but it freaked everyone out and then I cried myself into exhaustion. I told Her She might have a reason for not intervening to stop me being abused, but I didn’t have to like it. This was the beginning of an honest relationship with deity that has deepened and strengthened me immeasurably over the years. Sucking up or bargaining with God(s) isn’t nearly as helpful.  There is no point pretending you aren’t mad that a powerful being didn’t intervene and stop an innocent child, you, from being abused and that the abuser got away with it if they did.

In philosophy of religion, this is called ‘the problem of evil’, a core subject that basically comes down to: if God(s) is omnipotent and good how can God(s) allow evil to happen?

The standard answers are: “It all makes sense somehow, we just don’t get it.” and “God wants people to have free will so they can choose to be good rather than have it forced upon them.” A variation on answer number two is the existence of an adversary or anti-God and the two of them fight it out. All of these answers have a lot of logical problems that philosophers of religion haggle about endlessly.

The main thing I learned from philosophy of religion is that all fundamentalists are alike and all mystics are alike, no matter their religion. A Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Wiccan mystic will have more in common with one another in their core values than they will with a fundamentalist of their own tradition.  This essentially means you get two basic types of religion – one where being devout is about obedience to holiness rules and religious authority, where the will of the Divine is interpreted through priests, and a second type where the Divine speaks directly to the person, whose own conscience is informed by that intimacy with God(s).

The first type of faith is about holding to the rules and structure even when they don’t make sense, and being rewarded with a sense of solidity, certainty and connection with community and tradition.

The second type is about ecstatic connection with the Sacred. Faith in the Divine is unnecessary if you experience the Divine directly. Faith is expressed by trusting that the connection is real and opening to it. It can make you feel whole, but it can be very vulnerable.

I personally think the mystic’s path of direct connection works best for survivors. Here is why.

Firstly, the direct and intimate relationship with a loving higher power of our personal and direct understanding is shame reducing.

Secondly most of the hierarchical religions have a vulnerability in that they are easily exploited by predators. Even if survivors escape further abuse, survivors can be re-traumatized by structures and philosophies that enable or condone abuse, and which might not be as painful for others. When people give their moral compass to someone else blindly, they will likely as not have it returned with it’s pointer bent, and this is intolerable for those of us who have been betrayed by authority figures before.

It is my opinion that only God/Goddess is big enough to hold the need, the pain and the sorrow of a survivor’s inner child. Bargaining with that fact by trying to find a lover, therapist or parent surrogate who can do it only postpones the inevitable. We need to learn to love ourselves, and God/Goddess is big enough to hold the enormity of our pain and need. There were times when I was so grieving and heartbroken, that all that would help was to give my pain to the ocean to hold. She was big enough, she could take it, and in the process of giving it to Her to hold, I learned to let the pain flow through me and out of me.

Connecting with the Divine is an ongoing relationship that evolves over time. It’s about learning what connects you to the sacred, what it feels like to turn your burdens over and ask for guidance from a power greater or deeper than yourself, and how that process works for you. It is about healing the relationship and in my case, forgiving Her for not saving me from being abused.

You don’t actually have to believe all the time. Faith is like abuse memories. Sometimes you’re sure they’re accurate, and others the doubt creeps in or you’re cut off from your source  of certainty. God(s) don’t mind if you doubt, She/He knows you and gets why and loves you anyhow.  Connecting with the Divine is like reaching your roots down into fertile soil that steadies and nourishes you, or challenges and heals you. You already know how to do it, you may just not know you do.

I think I have written better pieces about faith and survivors than this one, pieces that actually come from that connection more than I am feeling it today. I invite you to read them here:

Checking in

Seen Scene - Photocredit: Via Moi (flickr)

I haven’t been writing because I’ve got a lot going on but most of it is not particularly survivory, and is private in that it involves more than just me.

I’m still doing the music, still struggling with continuing to rehearse, but I’m taking weekly voice lessons. I got the number of a piano teacher who I’ll follow up with when I can handle the extra.

I’m starting a pagan choir in my town, and have 5 people signed up, which is good to start with. It’s going to be more of a chorus than a choir.

My current drama is mostly about my relationship which will either end in the next few months or it won’t. We’ve been together for a decade, are legally married and have things like joint property and such that would get complicated if we split, but we’ve both accepted that the way it is can’t continue. Right now it’s in the air whether we’ll sort it out and come out better than before, or we’ll end it, or we’ll have an open relationship. Whichever way it works out the plan is to keep living together, which sounds crazy I know, but if you know the specifics of us and our living situation, could actually work. My wife is my family, my home, my security, my ally and I’m not keen to lose that, even if we’re not working in other ways.

Wish me luck!

Visiting Family

Stag on Hillside Photocredit: Kev747 via Flickr

Well, I went back east for a week to visit my moms siblings, my dad / abuser’s sister and a bunch of cousins and second cousins. It went very well, and I got a lot of loving supportive connection and reconnection and lots of validating and useful information.

I’ve been researching sociopaths lately and am reading a good book on them by Martha Stout. I’m only partly through but it’s good. I am working on the assumption that my dad/abuser is a sociopath. I told my maternal aunts and uncle this, and they were receptive. My uncle looked up what a sociopath was on the internet and told me the next day that he agrees that my dad fits the profile. Very validating. I got to ask them all kinds of questions about my parents and they were very open to answering. I also explained about how I’d been injured in the rapes and how I now know that my mom would have had to have known.

This is now what I think happened.

I got raped and injured when I was little. Mom found out when she found the wounds. My father went into a big sob story about how it was because he’d been drinking so heavily and drinking hard liquor. (According to Stout, the ‘pity play’ is almost universally used by sociopaths, and a person who behaves badly toward you more than once or twice and tries to make you let them off the hook out of pity is likely to be a sociopath.) My mom forced herself to believe this and told him she’d leave/call the police/whatever if he ever drank the hard stuff again. He drank beer from then on. I remember this being a rule that he complied with that my mom had set, she told me she’d forbidden him to drink hard liquor. Since my dad was an incredibly sexist, arrogant, dominating patriarch, he would never have complied with a rule set by his wife for so long with a rule she set without a really compelling reason. Being a sociopath, he wouldn’t have done it out of guilt since they don’t have any. Also, it was the very same excuse he gave me in his letter he wrote me, that he didn’t remember abusing me but if he’d abused me it was because of the alcohol.

Now she feels so guilty she did this that she’s either blocked it out, or is unwilling to confess her guilt to me. I don’t think my mom is a sociopath, since she wouldn’t have stayed with my father if she didn’t fall for his bullshit, and I think she’s actually shown empathy, although she is very selfish.  She’s a workaholic, probably in part to keep herself from thinking about any of it, something I know from experience works very well. You can pretend you don’t even remember, although if you stop bailing constantly, that boat sinks instantly.

So I think this was her ‘deal with the devil’ to try and keep me safe while holding on to the status of being his wife, which I also learned was incredibly important to my grandmother. My mother had been groomed to be a rich guy’s trophy wife, and they thought they’d caught one, except my dad, although he’d been from a rich family, was never rich himself. Sociopaths are motivated differently (to say the least) from other people, and avoiding debt or providing for his family would never have been a big deal. My dad was motivated by exercising power over others and torturing people, so he didn’t need to be very rich to do that. His behaviour with money didn’t make much sense until I read that some sociopaths will just take the path of least resistance and sponge off of others. He worked just enough to maintain his status. My mom was a beauty queen, which also fits the profile, as sociopaths, since they don’t love anyone, tend to pick partners that iether support them financially or are high status in some way.

It’s all starting to make a lot more sense. I don’t need to worry about confronting him, because I won’t be able to affect him, he has no sincere connections with other people. I’m released from that. He’s probably also not interested in haunting me either. I was just a toy.  My father never loved me, which is good to know since it’s consistent with his behaviour, although I did do some grieving.

I had a neat pagan thing happen.

I was heading out to visit my father’s sister and was quite nervous, since they’re snobby and besides, they know I’ve disclosed the abuse. On the way out there, a stag leapt across the road in front of me, not close enough to be dangerous, but close enough to see him clearly. Stags are the symbol or embodiment of the God, the positive, brotherly, nature god of Wiccan belief and brother or consort to the Goddess. So it was this positive image of maleness,  who represents sacrificing that others may live like the meat animals or the grain that is cut for food, and not incidentally the polar opposite of my sociopath father, who blessed me on my journey to may father’s family. In a way it was like the really wonderful love and support I’d received from my mom’s older brother on my trip, who was very supportive and loving.

I got to swim in the lake I’d swum in as a child and spoke with my favourite cousin and met her kids. I found out a little  information, like what the age difference was between my father and his older sisters. My aunt was not someone I could ask abuse info from, but I may pump my cousin for info later, now that we’ve reconnected.

I went to all my grandparents graves and had a talk and a cry with them. I went to a florist and picked out flowers I thought each of them would like to put on their graves as offerings. It was good. My maternal aunt and uncle came with me to help me find the graves and then left me alone when I asked for some time to mourn privately. Since I hadn’t been at the funerals for any of them, it was important for me to do that.

My mom’s sister said their childhood was fine, with no abuse or neglect, although she doesn’t remember any of it (yikes). I didn’t point out what you will know is the obvious explanation of that. Perhaps some other time. She struggles a lot with compulsive/addictive behaviour, particularly to do  with food,  but there’s only so much you want to intrude on someone else’s process.  She was very welcoming and loving and willing to answer any of my questions. She even offered to talk to my mother and get some info from her on my behalf. Both my maternal aunts and uncles wanted me to make up with my mother at first, but once I explained I think they got it, and understand why I’m waiting for my mom to provide the info I asked for.

Anyways, it went very well, and I don’t seem to have much of an emotional hangover from it. I was very proud of how I handled everything, and felt so healthy. I didn’t even stress-eat. I brought my mp3 player and some noise cancelling headphones and listened to comforting music and relaxation meditations, which helped a lot too. I rented a car, and would sing pagan hymns or meaningful songs  to vent feelings and give myself strength.

Getting to Core

I just reread my last two posts (and found and fixed some typos).

Getting to certainty is important. When I read Tarot, I get myself calm and centred, and then reach down to my roots and dwell there. This helps me be grounded in my intuition and my connection to the Goddess. If I don’t do this, the cards are just cards, and nothing magical happens.

But when I connect deeply, I know with certainty. I can judge my emotional and spiritual health, no matter what is going on, by how deeply connected I feel. I am a tree with deep roots. I am a bird who rides the updrafts. I am the sunlight sinking into muscles and the green generators of plants. I am the water seeping into the porous soil, filling every tiny crevice and crack.

When I am connected, magic happens. A month or so ago I read a book about the science around psychic phenomenon. I’m not going to get into all the interesting double-blind, scientific evidence that certain kinds of extra-sensory perception exists, which was amazingly credible to a gal with a university education and a sharp analytical mind. This book validated something I have believed for a long time.

When I changed my first name, the name I chose fit me so well that even my mother agreed it was better. I chose it because it was a name I’d given as a child to several of my most precious stuffed animals and dolls in succession from early childhood. Then I looked it up in one of my mythology books and liked what it meant. It fit in a way that my birth name had not. I hadn’t intended to change my first name, only my last one, as a symbolic disowning of my father, but ended up changing both when I connected with this new name so deeply.

I have spent many times in the past twenty years connecting with myself as a child, talking to her, sending her love and the assurance that things will work out well in the end, that she will survive and that I love her. I have told my younger self this during flashbacks and when her fear and pain makes me afraid at night. I have done this for years.

As a child I had no-one, really. I drew my comfort from plants and my self-centred older brother, my books and my dolls and my teachers. I had few friends, a precarious social existence with my peers and a mother who was the complete slave of my father. I had a dear younger brother, who was also my bratty younger brother.

But I did feel connected, somehow. Connected with rocks, and trees and the stuffed animals and dolls. I named the most important and comforting of these, the ones that were an extension of my self,  with this name I now wear.

I believe that I felt then the love I’ve been sending to that self.  This kind of retro-time communication is one of the effects documented in the book I read. I believe that it actually, literally reached me in my most painful and terrifying moments and that’s why I’ve done so well for myself despite being alone and abused.  The Goddess used me to reach out to myself.

Lois McMaster Bujold, one of my favourite authors, writes through a character named Umegat in the Curse of Challion that “The Gods are parsimonious”, meaning that they work through people rather than the flashy miracles most of the time. And yet the more open we are to the path we are led to, the more beautiful and right what flows through turns out to be. The lead character in the book, Cazaril finds his way to a place he’d lived as a boy after a horrible ordeal and betrayal in war, and is drawn by his own good character and at times reluctant willingness to be used by the Gods into ending a powerful curse.

Perhaps we survivors are suffering in the service of a greater goal, to end a powerful curse on the whole biosystem, a curse of domination and greed.

In the book, the curse can only be broken by someone who dies three times for his country. Cazaril turns out to die three times, once by intervening as a galley slave to save a younger slave from a likely lethal beating, which he incurs instead. The second time he performs an act of death magic to kill a villain who  is forcing a princess Cazaril has been entrusted to protect to marry him and intends to rape her. The spell itself is a prayer for justice and price of is one’s own death in addition to that of the guilty party, who must truly be guilty. When a Goddess by miracle seals the soul of the guilty man inside a tumour in Cazarils body, the death of the enemy is accomplished without Cazaril’s death but Cazaril is burdened with constant and physically painful haunting. The last death is when Cazaril is fatally stabbed by the villain’s even more evil brother, who pierces the tumour, and ends up paying the death magic price in Cazaril’s stead, freeing him of his brother’s soul as well.

The whole point of this convoluted tale is that all this was actually necessary. The Gods needed Cazaril to learn the skills of surrender that allowed them in the end to enter the world through him so they could correct what was causing the curse.  It was all a lesson in becoming empty and getting out of the way.  They really wanted to end the curse causing so much pain, but couldn’t do it without an agent in the land of form and matter.

As clumsily as I have paraphrased Bujold’s beautiful story, it inspires me. It makes me believe that the lessons of being a survivor are worth something that are worth the price paid.

When Cazaril experiences the miracle sealing his enemy’s soul inside him (with effects very reminiscent of being a trauma survivor, actually) he becomes a saint, and is recognized as such by a temple priest Umegat, also a saint, who has been holding the curse back from killing the king. Cazaril asks Umegat what the duties of a saint are.

Umegat says”

“You cannot outguess the gods. Hold to virtue—if you can identify it—and trust that the duty set before you is the duty desired of you. And that the talents given to you are the talents you should place in the gods’ service. Believe that the gods ask for nothing back that they have not first lent to you. Not even your life.”

Then Cazaril says:

“If the gods are making this path for me, then where is my free will? No, it cannot be!”

Ah.” Umegat brightened at this thorny theological point. “I have had another thought on such fates, that denies neither gods nor men. Perhaps, instead of controlling every step, the gods have started a hundred or a thousand Cazarils and Umegats down this road. And only those arrive who choose to.”

“But am I the first to arrive, or the last?”

“Well,” said Umegat dryly, “I can promise you you’re not the first.”

So, taking Bujold’s lesson to heart, what does that mean in my quest to do the Goddess’ will in making the world a better place?

Hold to virtue, if you can identify it.

Trust that the duty set before you is the duty desired of you. (hmmm… I  see a court case in my future.)

And the talents given you are the talents you should place in the gods’ service. (I see a squad of holy sword dancers outside a courthouse in northern Canada. I see speaking and writing and singing about this. )

Believe that the gods ask for nothing back that they have not first lent you. (I will have what I need.)

unfinished business

Photocredit: Lawrence Op
Photocredit: Lawrence Op

(Trigger warning to my ritual abuse survivor allies – the following has description of positive pagan ceremony. )

Last night I got together with a friend of mine who shares my religious beliefs. We got to talking about how neither of us are completing our creative projects to our satisfaction. As we talked, we both realized that it’s at least partly about being seen in our authentic selves. Me, to be seen in my gritty survivor art that I am drawn to now, and her in her art at all. We decided to do a symbolic action in sacred space to magically invoke the ability to be seen. The Goddess we chose to bless us was Aphrodite. Aphrodite is the only Goddess I know of who has no myths about having been raped. She is often depicted naked and makes independent sexual choices about her lovers and seems to have no negative consequences for that independence. I think that a person who is able to be safely naked/vulnerable/visible without need for armour and violence is much more powerful than someone who cannot. So that was the aspect or spirit we wanted to bring in, the courage and strength to be visible in our true selves.

We decided we would cast a circle, call the sacred elements and Aphrodite to be present and then for 40 minutes my friend would write a story, and I would try and complete an arrangement of a choral piece that has been unfinished for over a year.

Something magical happened.

My music notation software malfunctioned and I couldn’t edit my work. Every time I clicked on the score to edit it, it would play my piece for me, in its full imperfection and incompletion. For 40 minutes I read the manual and struggled with it, and got absolutely nowhere. Parts of it were perfect already, playing similarly to how I hear the three part piece in my head, and parts of it were incomplete and didn’t sound right, and I could do nothing to change it. By the end I was ready to cry and wracking my brains for what it all meant.

My belief system is that anything that happens in sacred space is meaningful, and is likely a message from the Gods/Goddess. My friend didn’t seem to get it, and gave me a ‘better luck next time’ kind of encouragement, but what I really wanted to know was why this freak computer bug had emerged in sacred space when I’d invoked assistance on my creative work.

When my wife came home, she understood immediately. Bless her! (things are going a lot better with her, by the way.) In talking it over with her I figured out why the Goddess was playing to me my same old song, unchanged, over and over. It was a song I’d written almost 20 years ago, one I’ve gotten a lot of recognition over, and could easily find a choir to sing for me if I had sheet music to give them. I’ve only heard it sung properly once by three voices and it made me cry. The topic is about finding strength from a relationship with a tree and the earth, but isn’t overtly about the abuse.

It’s an old song. It’s not me as I am, naked. It’s me as I was 20 years ago. No wonder the Goddess of healthy empowered nakedness rejected my work on it as an offering in sacred space.

I have decided to make another offering.

I am promising to myself and Aphrodite that I will practice voice daily. Each day. Every day. Using a CD I have with some vocal exercises, the ones that fill me with a feeling of joy and mastery in my voice. For a year. Voice practice needs to be done frequently and for short duration, as the muscles involved are small and damage easily. By practising a tiny amount daily, I will do more good than practicing once a week for hours. By practising regularly I will build a much stronger voice, that I can depend on.

I need to prove to myself that I can persevere with something I’m passionate about. So mote it be. (That’s a think pagans say at the end of a spell or intention, which means roughly, ‘it is so/it must be so’.

I told my therapist about this today and she’s going to help me stay on track, despite my resistance. I’m also telling you, and I’m going to report in on my blog when I’ve done it each day.

I’ve lost 28 pounds since January. I’m proud of that. I’m eating more healthily, taking my vitamins and getting regular light exercise, just brisk walking but it’s good and my wife walks with me so we’re working on it together.

Exercise

I’m out of shape and overweight. I’ve lost over 20 pounds this year, mostly water I think, just by counting calories and exercising a little. I’ve got about 30 more to go till I’m at the top range of what the most generous charts say I should weight for my height. Lately, I’ve been exercising twice a week with some friends – we’re trying to get in shape and lose weight, with a little friendly competition built in. Normally I avoid that stuff like the plague, but it seemed right this time and so far it’s been okay.

Whenever I get into exercising, or being sexually active on a regular basis, my emotions gets stormy. I get easily frustrated, moody and bitchy, like a bad case of PMS out of cycle.  Mostly I just want to be left alone and read a book for a long time, to still my body enough for it to go away. I’ve been exercising the past few weeks, and charged up by the ‘feminist vitamins’ of my trip I was happily surprised to not be experiencing my usual storminess.

Well the holiday is over. Today I should have been working and I’ve spent almost all of it reading a novel, and being cranky with my wife (it’s her day off) to keep her away from me whenever she intrudes upon my funk.

Craig’s death might have something to do with it – really does it matter I use his name since he’s dead and really only my family would know who he is? I don’t even know where his grave-site is, but dancing upon it is not appropriate, since I’m still not certain it was him. I don’t need to take power back from him, if I ever did,  his life seems to have done it for me, and his death, dying a homeless drunk is enough of any kind of revenge I might have needed.

What comes up in me when I exercise is perhaps a body memory, a memory (oh now I start crying) of waiting around after the rapes for my body to feel better and my fear and adrenalin to pass. The frustration of being pinned down and helpless again, with no way to win, that comes up for me easily when I am doing something physically difficult and hard.

So that’s it, a body memory of being defeated by my heavy, stench-coated, sweaty opponent. The frustration of struggle and pain and defeat. There is shame in it, shame I was not stronger, that I could not get out from under him, that I could not draw anyone in to help me, anyone that would be effective.

My brother called to tell me about Craig’s death as he will one day likely tell me about my fathers’. I think I’d told him about Craig, and he knew the import of what he told me.

Now I’m crying, properly, harder. Crying in grief relief that my brother did actually get it, did get that I’d want to be told.

I don’t want to feel helpless anymore. Would learning to wrestle defeat this feeling of being vanquished? Not unless I won every time, I think, and I’m afraid of what I might do in the heat of it. I’m a big strong amazon of a woman, and not afraid to use it, but what would it feel like at last to defeat my father, knock him out with a roundhouse punch, throw him to the ground and hold him there struggling with a knife to his throat, to tie him up and strangle him as he did me? It would dirty me, I think, to use his methods to defeat him. Cancer and time will do it for me, with my victory no less welcome.

I will be the Bear when I exercise, I will walk through this and remind myself that I am powerful, that I will never be a child raped and torn again. And when he dies I will be strong enough, fit enough to dance on his grave with physical strength and power to match that of my spirit.

So mote it be.

Feminist Vitamins

I’ve been telling my friends that coming back from my week at camp I feel like I’ve had a megadose of ultra-strength feminist Mother Earth vitamins. It’s not like I”m any different, just more of myself, and I feel stronger and more resilient.

How important it is to be in a space where I can drink deep of the healing power of swimming in a lake, breathing in the moist scent of pine, cedar and soil, having a whole day, a whole week even with nothing to do but enjoy and visit with nice women. How critical it is as a survivor to be able to be frank.

There was a woman there who had just finished hearing about the sentencing of a man who had almost killed her.  I told her I appreciated how frank she was being about it, and we compared horrific life experience stories and betrayal byour mothers and families in a laughing and cynical way that was very refreshing.

I had a huge cry on the first day of the camp about the scars and the deeper level of reality of the rape of  me as a child. It was so good to let my sorrow go into the Earth, and to know that I was safe. For the rest of the camp I felt joyful and strong, which I often do when I’ve been able to let deep feelings flow. Intimacy with myself, in ceremony, lovemaking or sometimes solitude, often produces this type of crying release, but if I stop the flow to spare the sensibilities of others or feel I’ll be judged, it cuts me off from myself, and from my wife. I noticed a few other women crying, and made a point of connecting with each of them. All had something legitimately horrible they were grieving, but by releasing the feelings in safe space, like me, they all seemed to feel better. I invited them to be real with me, and was able to be real in turn, which meant I had women who knew and accepted where I was at sprinkled throughout the camp. I made a point of being a cheerleader for crying “go cryers, go cryers!”  in a playful way to point out that I’m a cryer too and it’s good to cry when you need to. People laughed. Crying when you needed to became a normal and good thing. Blessings.

On my last day at the lake I was swimming with a woman who I’d become friends with. I told her how healing it had been to swim naked, to allow the sacred lake to bless my body in a way that wouldn’t have felt the same in a swimsuit. I told her about the scars I’d recently discovered and she looked at me and said “isn’t it interesting how all sharing here seems to reach an understanding audience”. I won’t tell you what she disclosed to me then, but although she who was not to my knowledge a survivor, she also bore the scars of a betrayal by someone she loved and trusted.

Today on the phone I was talking with a good Pagan friend who knows I’m a survivor. I told her I’d recently had an exam that showed me some scar tissue I didn’t know about from when I was raped as a child. She said “scars where?” and I said “where do you think?”  A silence followed as she allowed that to sink in. We talked together about our murder fantasies of killing the men who had done the intolerable to us – her ex husband who is damaging her son’s spirit, and my father who had done the unthinkable to me. I said to her “you don’t have to pretend it’s not as bad as it is, I’m one of the few people who actually understands a good revenge and murder fantasy”.

Feminist vitamins. Sharing reality, building solidarity, becoming less alone. One capsule at a time.

The Bear

Photocredit: Buzz Hoffman
Photocredit: Buzz Hoffman

So I figure I’ve got grieving nailed down now. At the retreat this week I had several gut-shaking cries that were very cleansing. In a wierd way, I like grieving, it’s when the pain leaves my system and I feel peace.

So now I’m on to anger and rage. Like when I first started grieving, it tends to give me a hangover for a few days and leave me feeling vulnerable. It’s tied up in my ability to exercise hard, something I have problems doing because they bring up feelings that seem to intense for public spaces. Such a relief to be at the retreat where I could just duck off into a nice forest or drum when I had feelings to express!

Yesterday in therapy, my therapist asked me if there was a spirit or energy that went with my anger and I realized there is. The bear. A big brown mother bear with all my mass and bulk, strong forearms and claws. The bear can eviscerate my father with a few strokes of clawed arms, with all the weight of her large fur-covered body behind each stroke. In anger as/with the bear, I can express anger safely.

I’ve joined one of those exercise ‘boot camps’ with some friends. Normally I get triggered while exercising hard, but with my emotional backlog cleared at the camp I was able to just exercise without tears or getting bitchy or overwhelmed. I’m hoping that exercising with/as the bear will help me learn to be in my physicality again. Physically I am kind of a bear (without the fur) so it makes sense on that level as well as spiritually.

I also tried invoking the Goddess Artemis, Bear Goddess and Guardian of Virgins, but becamed overwhelmed with the energy and conflicting emotions connected to her. I should have realized that she and I would have some talking to do after seeing for myself the scope of the damage to my virgin self. I haven’t dipped into those feelings yet, but I suspect they are about the Goddess’ rage and my own at the magnitude of violence against girls, as well as hurt confusion at not being protected by Her. It is in a way lucky for me that Artemis and all the other Goddesses were not the Goddesses of my childhood. I think God/dess/es generally don’t protect us so much as empower us to support/heal and protect ourselves, which often seems woefully inadequate.

As a girl I believed somewhat in the standard vaguely Christian male God of my Anglican and United Church parents. This particular God has often been on the side of oppressors (sorry, but it’s true), so I now choose other deity forms that fit my values and experiences better. Do I want to support the God that has been used (perhaps against His will, perhaps not) to prop up abusers and the patriarchy for centuries? This God does not seem very interested in or effective at inspiring His supporters to love their neighbours as themselves and quite good at supporting men at being mysogynist power-trippers.  However, perhaps I am being unfair. Perhaps this God has just taken on the toughest cases: the bigots, the patriarchs, the mysogynists, the warmongers, the paedophiles and the racists, and is just taking awhile to influence and heal them. May it be so.

For my part, I see my own wounding and recovery as an unfortunately necessary passage, like childbirth, in order to create a woman’s voice and warrior that the Earth and humanity needs. It’s my job to do what I am guided to do to make the world a better place, and I know that my background and what I’ve learned helps me do that. Perhaps when I’m dead I’ll understand more about why this was necessary, but it will do as an explanation for now.

Filling a space

Photocredit: paul+photos=moody
Notice how they have the same tail curve, gait and body posture? Photocredit: paul+photos=moody , Photocredit: Bazin Erwan

Last night I was reading in bed waiting for my wife to (finally) stop messing around on the computer and come to bed.  The book I was reading was on psychic self defence, not a topic I particularly needed, but it was the only book in the bookstore by an author I like.  Anyhow, he was writing that one way to divert an attack of yucky energy (or the more common garden variety yucky energy around places where negative things are happening, for example) energy is to ‘entrain’ it with the good energy coming off of you, which is kind of like how your heart beat and your lovers begin to beat in the same rhythm when you are pressed against one another. Vibrations tend to ‘entrain’ or match frequency when associated with one another. This might be why we often absorb the moods and attitudes of people around us.Anyhow, he suggested filling a space around me with the energy of ‘calm and friendly’. The idea is that being clear and focussed (sending a louder, clearer ‘signal’) makes it more likely that any energy around me will dance to my beat instead of forcing me to trudge along with it.  It took me awhile to figure out how to do ‘calm and friendly’, when my headspace was more impatient and tired. Finally I thought of sitting in the sun doing my meditation, how the sun feels friendly and the meditation feels calm and my body is all relaxed.  I let that energy surround me. He suggested focussing on this for 10 minutes, which I don’t think I did, but after about 5, I felt great, and my bedroom (which has a tendency to grow shadows and creepy feelings at night sometimes) felt much safer. It was like the feeling of having Reiki or a really good massage, or a nice hug after a thorough cry by someone who understands.

The Man Who Planted Trees

Photocredit: Denis Collette
Photocredit: Denis Collette

This video/story has nothing to do with being a survivor, really, but much to do with hope and making a difference. It’s an allegorical tale of a man who spends his life planting trees. This is the type of movie I’d like to see more of instead of reality tv, never resolving dramas and sensationalized violence and disfunction. 

If you’re looking for a dose of beauty, truth and gently inspiring hope, I suggest watching this film, the Man Who Planted Trees, a CBC animation with Christopher Plumber narrating. 

http://www.viddler.com/explore/Ms_Valerie/videos/240/

If you’d rather just read the story (the video is the full story and is about a half hour, and very beautifully done) here it is: http://home.infomaniak.ch/~arboretum/man_tree.htm

The man in the story is not real, but here is an example of a real person who did something similar: http://forests.org/archive/asia/indfor.htm Beautiful and hopeful.

Cords and ties

Photocredit: Hamed Saber
Photocredit: Hamed Saber

My therapy session today was unexpectedly intense yesterday.

I’ve been giving myself a hard time lately about not being able to persevere.

In general, particularly with certain things like learning physical skills, if I meet resistance or difficulty, I have a lot of trouble continuing on in spite of it (except in certain thing, or things I know I can succeed at). Part of me thought that it is because I have a high IQ and there are lots of things that come easy to me, so I didn’t get any practice working through frustration. I also experience a lot of fatigue, and end up not being rested by even a 10 hour night’s sleep, which could be any number of physical things.

This isn’t entirely the story, I figured out today.

It IS that I didn’t have experience working through frustration, but not that I didn’t try as a kid, but that I was never allowed to win or see progress. My father was a perfectionist about other people’s work, and enjoyed setting impossible tasks for us kids. Actually, he just enjoyed dominating people, kids, his wife, whoever he could, forcing people to try and fail to do things that were hard, frustrating or impossible with fear and intimidation. He always had to win, even if you were right and he was wrong.  The penalty for not submitting was always the same for me – getting abused. For the  others I’m not sure what he used.

So no wonder I give up when things get hard, I’d been conditioned to do it.

Today in my therapy session, we worked with this. My therapist got me to find/remember a body posture that was expressive of being frustrated, overwhelmed and submitting because there was no way to win. I remembered being pinned down and helpless, and letting my arms release in submission.  Then she asked me to find a posture and words that were the opposite or antidote to that.

I ended up standing up in martial arts warding position, telling him to back off.  I told him no, cursed him out and in general felt like an angry adult amazon.

Then I had an intuition that there was something more going on. I looked for the energy level this was playing out on and let my therapist know that I was going to ‘try an energy thing’. She knows I’m Pagan and is supportive, thank Goddess.

The following is a Pagan thing. I visualize unhealthy (and sometimes healthy) connections to people as energetic cords. The cords are iether made up of my energy and run from me to the other person, like when I desperately want to convince someone of something or change them, or they are someone else’s energy and run from the other person to me, when that person wants to connect with or control me.

Good cords, in my belief system, form the energetic manifestation of intimacy between people and connection to the Earth. For instance, I always want to have a cord between me and the Earth, since that keeps me grounded, but would experience an energy drain trying to keep a cord between me and anyone else, and might be drained by someone maintaining a stale cord connected to me. Mothers, I’m told, appropriately have a cord between themselves and their infant till the child is up to a year old. However, in all other cases, cords are meant to be temporary connections, not enduring ones, and the approved method of psychic hygeine among witches who experience things this way is to get rid of all stale cords when you notice them. Stale cords are energetically draining, which might account for the fatigue. Whenever I remember this and de-cord, I feel a lot better.

Photocredit: Found Drama
Photocredit: Found Drama

To eject someone else’s cord is actually pretty easy with practice. It’s like taking hold of a carrot and pulling it out from the energetic soil of one’s body, and then making oneself inhospitable to it or sealing oneself up so it doesn’t take  root again. Generally cords attach or extrude at the chakras.  To pull in one’s own cord, I have to detach myself energetically from trying to change or influence the other person, or let go of keeping a connection with someone energetically after a moment of legitimate connection (positive or negative) has passed, then call that energy back to me. I find the biggest key to de-cording is to figure out which way the cord is running because it’s hard to detach if you don’t know which end is the one with the ‘plug’.

Today I discovered cords going both ways between me and my dad.

A cord stemming from me and attached to my father was me wanting his approval, probably because as a child not showing up on his negative radar was necessary for survival, and his criticism was a precursor to being abused. I had internalized his expectations, his definitions of the right way to be, in order to not stick out.  It was weird to discover I’d actually wanted his approval – that he’d set some standards I’d internalized about who I was to be. Combined with pressure from my mom to be high achieving no matter what was going on and I’m set up to have some pretty unrealistic self expectations. When expectations are too high or criticism too pervasive, now (and then) I just give up, since it was ineffective to fight him, and much safer to submit.  He himself was a real failure on just about every scale you could measure a man. All he really had was class privilege and gender privilege that he used to oppress his family. Once I realized that, I rejected his right to define who I am and pulled in that cord from my heart.

Another cord was his energy, running from him to me. He wanted my silence. His cord stretched from him to my sore tight throat. I told him I would not be silent for him, that I will tell anyone I want about what he did to me, that I will not keep his secrets. The cord disconnected from me and returned to him. My throat felt a lot better.

The last cord I felt at my forehead. To me, that area is associated with connecting psychically with the ancestors, spirits of the dead and other extra-sensory and psychic perceptions. That gave me the clue I needed to figure out, it was me reaching out psychically for  his death, and when I realized that, it felt true. I had been unconsciously reaching out so that I would know when he died, like some part of me is listening intently for that to happen. People often ‘just know’ when someone close to them dies. I don’t want to be connected to him in this way. It must have been draining me to do so.  I decided I would let go of listening for him to die, and instead ask my younger brother (who I’m still talking to) to call me immediately if he hears anything about my dad dying.

In all of these things I feel a lot of relief, and had more energy after the session. Could this have been part of the source of my fatigue?

Perhaps. I’m a firm believer of the “trust in God but tie your camel” philosophy. I’ve also started taking an iron supplement, looked into allergy resistant bedding and bought a book on meditation  which I did this morning for 8 minutes. It actually helped, I felt a bit calmer and less scattered.

Warrior – the Real Wyrd Sisters

The Real Wyrd Sisters – Shame on Warner Brothers

I have two items on the subject of being a warrior that I want to share – here is the first:

The lyrics to “Warrior” by the Wyrd Sisters. When looking for a recording or video of this song, I found out that this Canadian band from Winnipeg, who has been one of my favourites for years, is being sued by Warner Brothers, who want to steal their name. WB is legally in the wrong, but has way more money and wants to market a band of their own with all kinds of spin off products (based on the one in Harry Potter with a different name) with the same name. The Wyrd Sisters named their band for a Celtic trinity of Goddesses, and have have written some beautiful songs on important issues including child abuse. Shame on Warner Brothers!

WB is probably going to bankrupt these nice socially progressive folk musicians, who have done so much to support the spirits of those of us concerned with social justice. I’m so mad I could just spit!

I love the Harry Potter books, and respect JK Rowling, but honestly the movies are just a weak knockoff of the kind, good and inspiring features of the books. The band in the book (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) was named the “Weird Sisters”, probably a pun/nod to the same Celtic Goddesses.

WB should ask themselves WWDD (“What Would Dumbledore Do?”) and negotiate something fair with the Wyrd Sisters instead of crushing them. They could name their movie band “The Wierd Sisters” like in the book instead of the Wyrd Sisters their marketing folks like better, compensate the real Wyrd Sisters for using their name, and mention in the credits that the real Wyrd Sisters are in Winnipeg Canada and have generously allowed the similar name to be used. This lawsuit shows that WB have no respect for the values the Harry Potter books illustrate. I encourage people to Boycott / Girlcott  / Pagancott / Survivorcott Warner Brothers Harry Potter paraphenalia unless they do the right thing. If you want to see the movie, wait till your local library gets the DVD.

Here’s their myspace page: http://www.myspace.com/thewyrds and you can hear “Warrior” there. The lyrics are below.

I was a shy and lonely girl
with the heavens in my eyes
and as I walked along the lane
I heard the echoes of her cries

I cannot fight
I cannot a warrior be
it’s not my nature nor my teaching
it is the womanhood in me

I was a lost and angry youth
there were no tears in my eyes
I saw no justice in my world
only the echoes of her cries

I cannot fight
I cannot a warrior be
it’s not my nature nor my teaching
it is the womanhood in me

I am an older woman now
and I will heed my own cries
and I will a fierce warrior be
’til not another woman dies

I can and will fight
I can and will a warrior be
it is my nature and my duty
it is the womanhood in me

I can and will fight
I can and will a warrior be
it is my nature and my duty
it is the sisterhood in me

 

Apparently, the back story for the song is that the Wyrd Sisters member who wrote it worked in her youth in a mental hospital, and saw first hand how at least one girl who had disclosed child sexual assault was treated  in the hospital. The abuse was severe and documented but the administration treated her like she was dirty, a liar and the source of shame to her family rather than her father/abuser, and the songwriter felt helpless to help her at the time.

Learning to be here

I met a woman at the Pagan conference who presented on a topic I happened to have a book on that I’d read but didn’t really understand. However, I knew that she would find the book of interest so I brought it and gave it to her. She’d heard me sing, and in return gave me a book she’d written about the journey of the Bard in Celtic shamanism.  In the introduction of the book it suggests you might want to read one chapter at a time with a couple of weeks break in between to let it filter through and become part of  your dreams and work. I’ve decided to do that.

Photocredit: L. Brumm
Photocredit: L. Brumm

The first chapter was about that state of being connected to the sacred through the present moment. It’s like when you look up at a tree (as I often have) and feel it fill your visual field, your heart and your mind at once. In moments like that I feel like I am as grounded as the tree, like I am at peace. Or standing by the ocean and allowing it to fill me up, exchanging my grief with the flow of the water, thinking of nothing but the ocean. Her thesis is that these moments are the door through which we connect to the divine. I think she’s right.

So today I made sure to take a few instances of being fully in the moment, in nature. It was a beautiful day and for a few breaths I was connected. Less so than I would have thought, I felt a bit guilty about taking a break from activity, or more likely a little reluctant to settle into waters that might take me deeper than I felt I had time for.

Late in the day, I found out that a friend, a woman I’ve known for about 8 years, who follows the same tradition as I do, has died suddenly of cancer. In finding out and processing my shock and grief, I was able to be present and aware. Every moment is a sacred moment. Now, I feel at peace. She would, I think have certainly wanted to live a longer life, and had lots more to do. She leaves a wife who is no doubt devastated, and who we will need to find ways to support. However, I think she was a woman who enjoys new experiences, so wherever she is, I’m honestly sure she’s having a good time.

Photocredit: Denis Collette
Photocredit: Denis Collette

There is a song from my spiritual tradition that I sing when someone I care about dies.

“Weaver, weaver weave her thread, whole and strong into Your web.
Healer, Healer, heal this pain. In love may she return again.

We are dark, and we are bright. We are formed of Earth and light.
On the wheel of Life we spin, from birth to death and back again.

Weaver, Weaver, weave her thread, whole and strong into your web.
Healer, Healer, heal this pain. In love may she return again. ” – Starhawk

Blessed be, my friend.

Pagan Conference

This weekend I attended a Pagan conference and met some interesting and helpful people.

Photocredit: Sinjy, 2006
"Wicca Apples" Photocredit: Sinjy, 2006

Have you ever had a period in your life where you appear to be in Grace? Where challenges emerge and are defeated easily? Where it seems simple to be calm and powerful? The voices of the divine and your own truth seem strong and clear? I seem to be in one. My music is going fabulously, I’m attracting all kinds of resources I’ve needed, and most importantly, other people’s gunk seems to be sliding off my back like I’m coated in Teflon(R).

Pagan gatherings are a quite a bit in feel like science fiction conventions – a variety of flavours of modern neo-paganism are represented. One thing I realized, that unlike the women-specific spiritual events I’ve attended, which are generally attended and organized by smart, highly competent, healthy and empowered women, the mixed Pagan ones attract a nerdier, more fringe crowd. This is not to say that most of the people I met weren’t remarkable and nice, but that I noticed a distinct difference in general social functioning, on the whole, with several people who didn’t seem to be doing well at all. Seeing how it was a Canada wide conference, I attended to see what was going on and do a bit of networking.

Amazon warrior that I am, I got into several heated intellectual discussions (which I enjoy, for the most part) and at least one controversy.

There’s a split in modern Paganism, or perhaps only in the sub-category of Wicca or Witchcraft, between the folks that are into a fertility based practice and those whose practice is ecstatic. Fertility practice of Wicca (also known as traditional or Gardnerian Wicca) is essentially a religion that gives relatively equal prominence to both Goddesses and Gods (with Goddesses being slightly more central), celebrates heterosexuality as a manifestation of the creative power of the Gods, and is based in the tradition started 50 or so years ago by Gerald Gardiner. The most central imagery, rituals and practices are often concerned with celebrating heterosexual sexual expression. This is NOT to say they’re having orgies all over the place, it’s just that the erotic attraction between men and women occupies a similar symbolic place in traditional paganism that for example the imagery of torture and murder via crucifiction occupies in Christianity. Christianity isn’t all about or even mainly about torture and death, but the imagery of crucifiction, which was a historical method of torture/execution,  is a big part of their imagery and festivals such as Easter. What’s interesting to me is that unlike the traditions I practice, the women-oriented facets of fertility, particularly virginity, pregnancy and birthing, don’t get nearly the amount of emphasis in these ‘fertility’ traditions as the sexuality itself.  Gods are seen primarily as lovers or fathers and the Goddess as lover or mother. Sister and brother Gods or virgin Goddesses do not carry much importance and do not appear to be emphasized. In some of the traditions I have experience with the Gods as brothers and sisters are just as important and provide important models of respect and cooperation between the sexes.

By contrast my own practice is in the ecstatic and social justice traditions (some examples are Reclaiming, Dianic, Goddess Sprituality and Feri traditions) which are not nearly as focussed on heterosexualily and more on relationship with the Gods and taking positive action in the world. Understandably as a gay woman, heterosexual sex, while as sacred as any other,  is not of interest to me, so my expression is more about individual growth, recovering and celebrating my own body, intuition, honouring the Earth in action (environmentalism) as well as observance, and creating and discovering rituals and connections with the Divine Feminine that reinforce me and other women in being powerful, effective and strong.  It is based in both Feminism, Goddess Sprituality and Wicca, with a social justice component from a tradition called Reclaiming.

The controversy began when a non-pagan film-maker presented her film about witches and invited discussion and feedback afterward. The only voices represented in the film were from fertility traditions, some of whom represented that in contrast to male centred religions, Wicca was about the balance between God and Goddess.  Since the film maker was looking for feedback, I pointed out that my style, which is primarily about the Goddess, had not been represented. At this point, some reps of the other style – all older males, told me in paternal tones that while I was certainly Pagan, I was not a Wiccan because I didn’t give equal importance to male Gods worshipped via the imagery of straight sex as they do. I was, of course, offended, but couldn’t help but remember a conversation years ago with someone from an Evangelical Protestant sect who told me straight faced that Catholics weren’t Christians. Seeing how Catholics invented Christianity (or are at least the earliest surviving version I know of) this is patently ridiculous, so I had the perspective that all religions seem to do this infighting thing over stupid differences in practice. Similarly, I’m pretty certain that if they start up the bonfires to begin burning witches again, assertive female activist feminist witches will be the first they want to throw on the pyre. Our enemies know we’re all witches, so these boys need to just get over it.

I defended my point pretty well I thought, and even though I could have felt ganged up on (those in the room who I later found shared my beliefs kept their mouths shut), I didn’t really. I mostly just saw their rigidity and dogmatism as coming from their own insecurities, as older men holding onto what privilege they’d scrounged together in a religion that is, at least officially, led by women (The high priestess is technically the leader of each worship group, although a high priest may also serve). Most religions do this kind of infighting. It’s too bad, but really nothing personal.

Standing up to the patriarchy and heterosexism, and being a misunderstood minority in a room full of peers,  really ought to have worn me out, but didn’t particularly, do my great surprise. I’m truly grateful. Perhaps this preparing to dance at or on my fathers grave is changing how I see sexism and oppressive men. It’s like exercising over a period of time for awhile, and then suddenly realizing you can run up a flight of stairs without getting out of breath. Mostly, thoughout the weekend I felt confidence, happiness, acceptance and warmth for and from the people there.

On the helpful people end of things, I made contact with a pagan social activist from my home town, who I asked for information on who I could connect with up there about my sword dance ritual. He said he and his wife (who is also pagan) would help, and gave me the name of a woman’s shelter contact who he thought I should make contact with as well.  It feels like a Goddess-given connection.

It’s very interesting to me that men seem to be among my important allies in this sword dance ritual – from my friends who helped me search for a sword, to this man. Brother allies are a good thing. It looks like the person I’ll be taking sword dance classes from will be a man too – the women teachers I approached weren’t interested in teaching adult women. 

I’m finding more allies than I expected.