So this morning, in honor of Washington's actual birth date, I put on my playlist of Revolutionary War period music, starting with the "President's March", which celebrates Washington and the heroes of the Revolution. It is hard to realize how revered Washington was in this country's early days. And the amazing thing is, he seems to have deserved it. He may not have been the greatest general, but he was a superb commander in chief during the war, and it was clear he was the only man who could hold the country together during its first fragile years.
The other thing that amazes me is the fact that almost as soon as the Constitution was approved, factions sprang up, and that they are in essence the same factions we are dealing with today-- states versus federal government, liberal versus conservative, city versus country, labor versus capital. However on the whole, the divisions don't seem to have had religious grounds. I suspect the English-speaking peoples still remembered the horrors of the English Civil War too vividly to want to risk religious war again. The Founding Fathers were absolutely determined to keep the United States from becoming a theocracy dominated by /any/ of the denominations present.
Considering some of the bizarre statements the current crop of candidates have been coming out with, I think it's time to reactivate the Freedom-fathers' project and invoke the help of our founding fathers and mothers to keep us true to their ideals.
I'm home from Pantheacon, one of the more remarkable phenomena of the Pagan Revival--2300 people from every possible pagan or alternative religious tradition in a hotel. Kabbalism, Strega, Heathenry, Umbanda, Wicca, even the occasional mystical Christian. Pantheacon started as a local (Northern California) celebration, but these days people come from all over the country, and I get to see folks I've met at other festivals. This year they included Margot Adler and Ivo Dominguez, among many others. It's worthwhile for the people-watching alone. Masks and wings, hats, jewelry, tattoos, robes--you name it, somebody is wearing it. It's a great opportunity to explore spiritual options, and what you don't get from the workshops you can find out at the hospitality rooms sponsored by various groups. This year I actually was able to spend some time in the Heathen Hospitality Hof and the room sponsored by the Fellowship of the Spiral Path.
One of the differences between this and other events I attend is that at Pantheacon so many from my home community come too. This means I can do things that need a full team. This year it was a ritual play on the death of Baldr, with 7 speaking parts and a chorus. Herding all those cats was exciting, but the result was worth it. Ritual theater is a way to convey information and insights in a way that reaches people's souls. And there's nothing like the high when it's successfully done! I'm very grateful to the wonderful people in Hrafnar kindred for working with me on this.
This year was especially fun because Weiser books brought a box of advance copies of /The Way of the Oracle/. People snapped them up and I got a lot of positive feedback. After 20 years of doing the work, it is good to be able to share this harvest at last.
Hi, folks, Lorrie here (as Diana's webmaster) with some important news:
The Way of the Oracle: Recovering the Practices of the Past to Find Answers for Today
Diana L. Paxson
Come the first of March, you'll be able to buy it directly from the publisher, and of course your local friendly neighborhood occult bookstore should carry it--and if they don't, the above information is everything they'll need to get it in for you. The publisher is also the one to speak to regarding versions for Kindle, iPad, and other devices--they've had these made for the rune book and the trance book, so I'm sure they will for the oracle book as well. I'll list those in another post.
( Wanna get it early? Like, a week and a half before everyone else? Click here!Collapse ) The astute reader of the publisher's page, or gleaner of other publicity about this long-awaited tome, may notice a certain new website as being the author's official one. If they were astute a couple weeks ago, why, they might have found a simple page in a typewritten font that was extraordinarily unaesthetic. We're not quite ready to announce it ourselves--there's brass to polish and glass to fit--but the clever and determined may search themselves for a bit of a sneak peek.
This past month, one of the runes we've been studying in the Rune Class is Wunjo--Joy. In one sense, it’s pretty simple. In another it’s an abstraction that’s almost impossible to define. The best image I could come up with to represent it on the altar was Snoopy doing the happy dance. In the class discussion, I tried to analyze my own feelings on the subject. Today I find myself still chewing on the question. When do I feel Joy? Why? What is the function of Joy in the scheme of things?
One of the things that stimulates the sensation I define as Joy most often and most easily is Beauty. The poet Keats says “Beauty is truth, truth beauty—that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.” (“Ode on a Grecian Urn” 49-50) He takes fifty lines to make his point, but the final two say it all. But what is that Truth that Beauty defines? Why does looking at something beautiful make us feel joy?
When I try to analyze why I find something beautiful, I seek beyond conventional definitions to come up with terms like pattern, balance, harmony, symmetry, order. I believe that we have been programmed by evolution to recognize and appreciate them. We find these elements in everything that exists—the dance of electrons, the spirals of our DNA, the petals of a rose or the folds of a mountain range. In these things we see an essential order that is profoundly reassuring. Even things that at first glance appear to be asymmetrical or disorderly can elicit that response. Artistic movements alternate between a controlled, formal esthetic and a celebration of the unpredictable and “natural”. In Europe, the Classical formalism of the 18th century was followed by the wild enthusiasm of the Romantic movement. We find both mathematically perfect patterned brocade and the apparent freedom of a brush-painting in Japanese art. We are hardwired to see beauty, though, as with many other things, we may need practice to exercise that skill. We are surrounded by beauty. The artist with a brush or camera learns to “frame” a picture to capture that beauty by including a balance of color, shape and movement, fix the moment of beauty for those who look but do not /see/.
I propose that the reason that we respond to something in which we find is because we all—redwoods, the chambered nautilus, the lark ascending, have evolved together. Our response to Beauty is an instinctive recognition that we are part of a unity. Whether or not there is an Intelligent Designer, the structures of Nature are an intelligent design. When we connect to the harmony around us we feel Joy.
The awe and delight with which I view an especially esthetic sunset are not a proof the existence of Truth, Beauty, or God, but they certainly make it easier for me to live without certainty. From our instinctive response to Beauty we derive an ideal of order, balance and harmony on which to model our lives.
Is Beauty real? In my mind, that is not a particularly useful question. But it is certainly a useful concept. Awareness of Beauty enables me to believe that the world can function in a positive, productive way. No matter what goes wrong, focusing on one thing that is working beautifully gives me hope. To align myself with order, balance, harmony, to move more gracefully, clear and clean a kitchen counter, contemplate the exquisite architecture of a flower, to be mindful in small things, is to strike a blow against entropy (although I have to recognize the possibility that entropy itself may be an apparent disorder in a pattern too large for us to see).
I also choose to believe that our response to this unity with Beauty includes something beyond the evidence of the physical senses, that a part of this order is Spirit, and that the capacity to respond to religious practice with joy is evidence that the Beauty with which we have evolved includes the Divine.
The equinox is past, the fog has come back in, it must really be fall, and time to make plans.
Like where I'm going to stay for World Fantasy Con in San Diego. I just recently decided that I really need to be there this year and check out the latest info on what people are doing with e-books, etc.
So if any of you know of someone who needs a room mate at the hotel, do let me know...
So on a rare evening last week when I didn't have a meeting, I was sitting at the computer trying to get some work done when my grandson Michael asked if I wanted to participate in a one-hour lights out event. He's in an environmental emphasis program at Berkeley High, and apparently this had something to do with energy dependence. Well, I could certainly get behind that, and I wasn't getting anywhere with the work anyway.
By the time I got downstairs, all the lights had been turned off, and the family was busily lighting candles. Greyhaven by candle light is really beautiful. I went back to my room and got my harp, and as everyone gathered in the living room, talking and doing craftwork that didn't require too much light, I played.
It was a beautiful hour, no computer, no TV, just being together. Our family does celebrations, but they are always loud and busy. I can't recall the last time we just quietly enjoyed each other's company, though I admit to a few pangs of gratitude that we were doing this voluntarily and had not fallen into an S.M.Stirling novel.
And this was the kids' idea, not something imposed on them, and they'd like to do it again....
Just wanted to let any of my LJ friends who are in my area that we're starting another round of the Rune Class this Wednesday at Greyhaven at 7:30 p.m.
I'm also doing the introductory class as a presentation at PantheaCon at 9 a.m. on Monday. We'll continue on the 3rd Wednesday of each month. We'll draw two runes to decide which ones we are studying in March.
If you're interested and have questions, let me know. Also, feel free to pass the information on to anyone in the Bay Area that might be interested.
Finally got to see /Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows I/ last Friday. I've read the book, and I was interested to see that the more relaxed pacing resulting from splitting the novel allowed more time for the actors to show their response to events. But I noticed something else as well.
This is the first of the stories to spend much time outdoors. The first six books take place mostly at Hogwarts, with some scenes in London, magical or muggle, and suburbia. The thing that struck me is that although there are magical creatures outdoors at Hogwarts, and references to magical beings elsewhere, except at Hogwarts, we never see them.
Specifically, in the seventh book, while Harry et al. are doing their "See Beautiful Britain" tour, bouncing from one campsite to another, not only do they not encounter other humans, they don't see any animals, nor do they encounter any magical beings-- there's not a nymph or dryad, dwarf or fairy, to be seen. Rowling's universe, however engaging, is essentially sterile. The magic is no more than an unusually colorful technology. The books are about virtue, not spirituality.
This observation is not exactly news-- I think that most pagans like the books for almost every reason /except/ the magic. Perhaps it was the emptiness of the lonely, lovely settings where a magically sensitive soul should have found spirits galore that brought it home. Having recently re-read Diane Duane's "Young Wizard" series, in which studying wizardry teaches one to perceive the magic in all Life, I couldn't help regretting thinking that Rowling's universe suffers by comparison. Harry and his friends are muggles in the natural world.
…does not actually mean the day on which we box up all the Christmas left-overs and try to put them away, or spend the day lying about recovering from the excesses of the Jul feast.. Nor is it a day for the sport of boxing, although in some places boxing matches, among other competitions, are held. Nor, although in the British Commonwealth it is a time, like the day after Thanksgiving, for sales of things which are carried away in boxes, is it actually concerned with sales. It is, however, an official holiday in the rest of the English speaking world, secularized from the feast of St. Stephen, which itself was adopted by the Church to replace the visitations of mummers, guisers, straw-boys, and hooligans who invaded houses as hunters of the wren. The custom, and the meaning, is very close to trick-or-treating at Hallowe’en. Although these processions of “Wild Men” may have lost some of the potential for violence we hear of in earlier traditions, they represent the incursion of the wild, untamed power of the Otherworld that balances the peace and order of Jul—the earthly representatives of the same power that manifests in the Wild Hunt, as the intercalary days between Jul and New Year’s open the door between the worlds. When the mummers arrive, what is old and decrepit is swept away. Offer a drink of wassail and a penny to the wild powers as they pass, and receive their blessing.
No longer is the Yuletide boar paraded through the feasting hall so that men can lay a hand on his back and swear their oaths for the new year, but the Christmas ham still is the center of the feast, basted with brown sugar, or studded with pineapple rounds and cloves. Family and friends affirm their bonds by exchanging gifts, and feast together to affirm abundance. Instead of the Greek “Chi”, let us read the X in X-mas as the Runic “Gebo”, “the Gift”, whose crossed arms signify exchange. We exchange gifts, love, energy, and in so doing, balance each other and the world.
We raise the drinking horn to hail Freyr and ask for peace and good seasons in the coming year.
Tomte, tomte, household wight Ward us well throughout the night. Porridge hot we offer you, And milk that’s laced with tasty brew. As by the holy hearth you dwell, In peace and safety keep us well. Yuletide blessings grant to all Both clan and kin within this hall.
Hail Thor, Midgard’s Defender, Son of Jordh and Odin the old. You are the strength of the oak, linking earth and heaven, Strong oak, Law oak, Mightiest of trees, Limbs thrashing in the wind, roots gripping fast. You hold out one hand to your people and one to the gods. Sheltering, protecting, Your deep laughter puts trolls to flight. I gaze upward, seeking your presence, And find you, Strong Defender, striding at my side, Walk with me, Thor,let me lean upon you, secure in your might against all ills. Strong and steadfast, trusted and trusty, To you this brew I offer. Bless your people, both children and grown.
And a bottle of beer was duly offered at one of the oak trees at the corner park, and when I headed home again, I was not alone....
12/22/10 In Northern lore, Yuletide is not a holiday, but a season. In northern Europe, it begins with the feast of the dead at Winterfinding or Samhain, and the ancestors remain a part of the process, remembered as we repeat traditions from our childhood or open up the family collection of ornaments for the tree. In the Shetland Islands, they believe that at the beginning of the “merry month” the “trows” are released from underground to run riot through the season. This is a liminal time when the barriers thin between the worlds. Are they trolls, or “drows”—“draugs”, the walking dead, riding with the Wild Hunt or returning like the ghosts of Christmas past to haunt their descendants? In Victorian England, Christmas was a time for ghost stories.
When winter storms howl through the forests, slain warriors follow Herne or Woden through the skies. In Holle’s wagon, unbaptized children ride. At any time during the season, but especially in the liminal time between Jul and New Year’s, hail Odin, and put out a mug of ale for the riders and an apple for the horses when the wild winds blow.
But theirs is not the only magic. We can identify a succession of festivals whose actual dates migrate depending on the calendar and the century. St. Nicholas is celebrated now on Dec. 6th. Officially a 4th century Christian bishop from Myra in what is now Turkey, he became a giver of gifts who rewards the good, accompanied, as Thor travels with Loki, by a demonic associate, Rupert or the Krampus.
On December 13th, another “Christian” saint, Lucia, takes an older form as Scandinavian daughters, crowned with candles, bring coffee and cakes to the family at dawn. Changes in the calendar have transferred customs that originally belonged to the solstice, when it was Sunna or Saule who appeared after the longest night to promise that the sun will strengthen once more.
When she is not wandering the night with dead children, Frau Holda drives wives to uphold the standards of Germanic housekeeping, finishing the spinning and putting the tools away, no doubt to clear the decks for the orgy of cleaning and cooking needed for the holiday. Female ancestors bless their descendants on Mother Night, a time for family stories and recipes.
On the Thursday before Yule we may follow the Shetlanders who celebrate Tunderman’s Night with an offering of beer to Thor. On the Eve of Jul itself, we put out porridge (don’t forget the pat of butter on top), or milk and cookies, for the tomte or housewight who lives by the hearth.
The day of Jul itself is a time for feasting, for asking Freyr for peace and good seasons, and swearing oaths on the back of the the Jul-boar who will provide the feast. With fire and food and gifts we affirm abundance for the coming year
Today, some of these customs have transferred to New Year’s, especially when we use the energy to make resolutions for the coming year. At any time during this period the Wild Hunt may whirl through, spreading terror and blessings, until the season ends in mid-January when we put away the decorations and banish the trows/trolls back underground for another year.
Light… and darkness. Dark and Light. From space, a blaze of lights, extending in networks of sparkling lights, like spiderwebs jeweled with dewdrops caught by the rising sun. Networks of light, brighter still at this season when every house is lit. Lights everywhere, a festival of lights, defying the cold and the darkness. In the world’s darkness we kindle our lights, build up our fires, proclaim hope and dedication, endurance and perseverance. We are here, we live, we celebrate the light.
Was the world born of ice and fire or from dark and light? Without light, the darkness of space is absolute, the cold, the lack of movement, the inability to change. Darkness is the endless frozen stasis of interstellar space. The stars are suns, brave fires that melt ice, awaken the potential for life. Combustion, energy, destruction and creation, change…
Heat and cold, dark and light, meet and part in an endless dance. From their interactions comes all movement, all potential. The moments when dark or light reach their apogee are times of danger. What if the process does not stop? What if this time, cold and darkness increase until earth is a lifeless ball of ice rolling through space? Or what if light and heat intensify until earth becomes a dessicated husk that finally bursts into flame?
The moment of the turning, when the planet tilts back and light or dark begin to grow or diminish once more, is the promise that change is possible. The stability of perfect balance may be fleeting as well, but the moment when everything shifts is a promise that “nothing too much” is a law of nature as well as a dictum of humankind. The earth tilts, the pendulum begins its long slow swing back until the other point is reached, and turned, and it all begins again.
Rejoice in the light, but do not curse the darkness. Rest in the darkness, but do not flee the light. Move back and forth, in dynamic equilibrium, appreciating each day for the challenges it brings. Blessed be rest and motion, ice and fire, darkness and light.
Whoever's with us at the end of the affair will help us decide where we're going for dinner--even if you don't necessarily have anything to sign, it's always nice to see local heathens and pagans when we travel, so come down and support your local independent occult shop.
Our apologies for the short notice! I hope you'll be able to join us.
Hope everyone has recovered from PantheaCon. I had a good time, hope you all did too!
Last summer I did an interview about Trance-Portation with an online station called "Planetary Spirit." It will be broadcast this coming Monday evening on www.cyberstationusa.com from 9-10 PM ESTZ. The following week, if you go to the website and in the top right, click on "The Shows" then scroll down to Monday 9-10 PM "Planetary Spirit" it will be under "This Week's Show" and the next week move to "Last Week's Show".
Since I've forgotten what I said, I'm looking forward to hearing it too...
My father had a PhD in Math from CalTech. He must have been confused when I grew up unable to deal with numbers. He had to tutor me through High School Algebra, which I barely passed. In my twenties, I decided it was unbefitting an educated person to go glassy-eyed whenever I saw an equation in Scientific American, and started an Algebra class via UC Extension. This lasted until we got to the multiplication of negative numbers. Now I always understood that multiplication was a short cut for addition. 3 + 3 + 3 = 9, or 3 x 3 = 9. And minus 3 is like spending $3, right? But when I add 3 $3 purchases in my checkbook, what I end up with is minus $9.00. So I decided that they had been lying to me all these years about Math (as opposed to English) being Reality and algebra was really magical thinking, and I dropped the course.
So now, all my grandchildren are doing variations of homeschooling. This means that I have much more opportunity to talk to them about what they are learning than families usually get. They are taking algebra, so I asked Evan and Mike to explain to me about negative numbers. My grandchildren are all bright, interesting people, and a lot of fun to talk to, and I was delighted to have a topic of mutual interest.
Various well-meaning people have explained the mystery of negative numbers to me over the years, and I have temporarily understood it. Temporarily. But after a lot of discussion with the kids, it suddenly occurred to me that maybe what we are talking about here is not subtraction, but negation. Negating 3 three dollar checks could leave me with a positive $9. This may be/probably is Really Bad Mathematics, but for the moment, it allows me to get my head around the problem.
On the principle that the best teacher is someone who just learned something, and explaining something is a good way to learn it, I think that maybe it's time to let the kids teach me. But I'm going to have to have to go back to pre-Algebra to even get up to the point where they are.
Anybody got an old book or know any good on-line courses I could try?
Focus…relax…listen to the silence of the house, the party done, the guests all gone, only the family, and the rhythms of the house sighing and beginning to ease. It is the 12th day of Yule, time to bring the celebrations to an end, and I seek the world within for the last time this season.
The mountain is damp and rainy, cold when the wind is off the sea, but I wrap up warmly, and with compass and lantern, seek the world within. And once more I find Raven waiting. Together we pass over Bifrost and seek the gate.
Tonight a white ram watches the gate, but it is Himinbjorg that is lit up. Heimdall himself hosts the final feast of Yule. The ram nods his head, and we turn that way. ( ”Heimdall’sCollapse )
Downstairs, the house is full of people, talking, eating, drinking, dancing, small children scurrying with apparently endless energy. Soon it will be midnight and no longer 2009. I’ve made a brief escape to see what’s going on in Asgard (and to be truthful, to sit down for awhile).
Breathe in… and out… in…and out again. Let awareness of all the other sounds fade away. Moving within, I seek the mountain, wreathed in mist, all silvered by the moon. Easy, on such a night, to move between the worlds I take my compass and follow the path through the Wood between the Worlds, down through the forest to the Worldtree.
Raven is waiting. “Happy New Year,” I wish her.
“Almost,” she replies. “In your world, the planet turns, night wheels on to morning, but the midnight hour is a point of balance, both here and there. You give it meaning tonight.”
“And what do the gods do?”
“Let us see….”
We take wing and soar above the glimmering, vibrating radiance of Bifrost Bridge, and come to the gates of Asgard. Asgard is ablaze with light. Torches by the gate and along the wall, torches set to mark the paths and the halls.
“Yule is drawing to an end,” says Heimdall. “On this night, Allfather opens his hall. He will welcome you there.” ( I take my own formCollapse )
Too busy cleaning for New Year's to post until now.
A blue moon, veiled by thin cloud and haloed in rainbows, an evening with only the least of breezes, calm and and still. Moonlight shines in the world within as well. No need for a lantern tonight. I take my dwarven compass from beneath the rocks and find that its dials have their own glow. I hold in my mind the image of the Worldtree, and the familiar path takes me there. Raven is waiting. Together we wing upward and come to the gate.
Heimdall sits beside it, his white garments shining in the pale moonlight. "I watch," says the god, "But Mani can see even farther than I. When he reaches the other side of Midgard the wolves will catch his chariot and begin to devour it. But here, Mani is safe. He brings peace."
"Peace is a good thing," I agree. "I’ve had little of it lately. Is there a peaceful party I can attend?"
Outside, irregular spatters of rain and the sound of wind chimes as the breeze shifts. Inside, the hum of the computer. It’s chilly in my room-—maybe that will help me stay awake. I breathe slowly and deeply, counting, and feel my focus shift. On my mountain it’s cold and wet too. I hurry down the path, and it grows warmer. The trees keep off the rain, or maybe the rain is now in some other dimension. I come out onto the plain of Midgard and call to Raven, who comes circling down from above.
She bears a message from Heimdall. The party tonight is in Svartalfheim.( Really?Collapse )
Breathe in and out… the pattern is established. Let the memories of the day emerge and fade away. I see in memory the pale orange of the sunset between the dark silhouette of the mountain and the bar of grey cloud. Then that fades, darkness falls, and I am on the mountain once more. Again I have a lantern, and use it to make my way downward and inward until I come to the great plain of Midgard that lies within. I call to Raven. We make the now-familiar journey up to the Gate that Heimdall guards.
He is wrapped in a white cloak, for the weather there, as here, seems to be cold and damp. “Be welcome. Tonight your way lies to Noatun.”
I thank him and fare through Asgard and out the western gate where a path leads downward to a sandy shore. In the summer time, this place is busy, nets drying on the shore and people everywhere as ships come and go. But at this season the harbor is frozen and the boats immobilized until spring. But the life of the place goes on, and its center is the great hall of Njordh.(
It has been many yearsCollapse )
Stop, settle, breathe. Finally, silence, save for the purring of the cat, and the hum of the computer. The pattern takes me, awareness fades, I see the mountain side beneath a half moon, quiet in the darkness. I take the path that leads down the hill into the deep woods, and come out onto the plain of Midgard and the Worldtree. I touch the rough bark of the trunk and hear Raven’s call. She is on a low branch, still high above me, but sails down.
I take her shape, and together we wing to the Bridge, and then upward to the glow that is Asgard. Heimdall sits by the gate, watching. He nods as I approach, in my own shape once more.
“Tonight, the feast meets in Alfheim,” he tells us. “Take the path down through the upper branches.”( We turn.Collapse )
From now on I will try to post each journey the next day. Except for fixing typos (which are many when you are typing with eyes closed), they are not revised.
Outside, rain and damp, windy darkness…a boom of thunder, a flash of light… no weather to go abroad, but I can go within, breathing deeply, slowly. Focusing, centering, drawing inward I seek my place on the mountain and the path away and through the forest, and come out onto the plain of Midgard at dusk. In the last light, Bifrost glimmers, sunlight through cloud. Together, Raven and I fly upward, and come to the great gate.
Heimdall smiles in welcome. “This night, the gods meet at Thruthheim,” he says. “I think that Sif will make you welcome there.”
I pass through the gate and make my way along the road to Thrutheim’s lofty walls. On the ground outside I see a number of round boulders strewn about like children’s toys—they /are/ children’s toys—Magni and Modhi have been playing. But these toys will not suffer for being left outside in the rain and snow. A light snow is falling here, but from the lower distances I can hear a roll of thunder. Then I realize it is the rumble of chariot wheels I heard, for here is Thor, forging through the heavens. His goats‘ hooves strike sparks from the air, his wheels rattle along. He brings the chariot down, and Thjalfi runs from the stables behind the hall to take their bridles and lead them away. His beard blazes red in the last light of the sun. His cloak is russet fur, lined with bright red, and his tunic is blue.
Thor shakes snow from his cloak, starts toward the door, and sees me standing there.
“Hail lord,” I call, “and thank you for the rain.”
“Are you late too?” He laughs. “Come then, and get warm by the fire.” He looks at me more closely “Ah, you are the one who paints pictures. Look at me well, and show me swinging Mjolnir to bring blessings down.” He stands for a moment, hammer upraised so that I can contemplate him “I stand upon my mother’s strong earth, and bring down blessings from my father’s wind.” He waits a moment to make sure I have got that, then mounts the steps, waving to me to follow.
At least every one will be too focused in the entry of their lord to worry much about me. I follow Thor into the hall. In the long central hearth a good fire is burning. Trestle tables are set up to either side. He strides toward the table at the end that is set up before the high seat where Sif is already sitting. The mouth-watering scent of roast beef fills the air. I slide in on a bench at the end. Trenchers of wheat bread are already distributed. Servants are going around, laying slices of beef on the bread. Another maid comes by to refill cups from a pitcher of beer. Looking up the table, I can see that what they are bringing for Thor is a whole haunch, and the drinking horn set by his plate is gallon size. The other principal gods and goddesses are seated to either side
Everyone eats their fill, fruits and vegetables following the meat, with plenty of good bread and butter and cheese. But presently all are filled, and the utensils are cleared away. Now Sif leaves her place and returns with a large, silver mounted drinking horn. She bears it first to her husband. Thor rises and takes it in his powerful hands. He lifts the horn.
“A toast,” he calls, “to those who have labored to preserve my mother. To those who struggle to guard Midgard from their own mistakes and greed, to rein in those whose actions would open the gates for the jotnar to come in. Let those who fight for protection call on me to aid.” He drinks deeply, then hands the horn back to Sif, who bears it to Odin.
He lifts the horn—“ “To the skalds,” he calls, “to those who write the words and tell the stories and make the movies that alert men to their danger and inspire them to fight. Let them call on me and on Bragi for aid!”
Next, Sif takes the horn to Frigga. “I raise this horn to honor the hall and the Lady of this hall,” she says, holding it. “May your strength and sweetness always temper that of your lord. Give your blessing, lady, to all things that grow.”
The horn goes back and forth, and each guest speaks a few words of salutation or blessing. We ask the gods to save the earth, but they are asking us to reverse our own deeds. As we honor them, they honor us as well. Thor is a single champion, but even he appreciates those who make his job easier.
A door in the side of the hall opens, and Modhi and Magni come in, already bigger than an ordinary human, though they barely come up to Thor’s shoulder. He gives them food from his own plate, and they run out again. Thruth has joined her mother, and is carrying a second horn of mead down the other side of the table. She has her mother’s sweet smile, but her hair is the same fiery red as Thor’s. And eventually, she comes to me.
The horn looks larger than it did from a distance. I wonder if I will be able to lift it, much less hold it properly to drink. Thruth keeps her hand beneath it, and I find that I can manage after all. Together we hold it up. What can I pledge? I will seek more reusable plates for my kindred to use at meetings, and send an extra donation to the organization of my friend who is a warrior on the seas.
I do not think anyone can hear me in the noise of the hall, but Thor is watching. He catches my eye and grins. I hear his voice in my head—- “Your folk have a hard fight ahead of them. We cannot guarantee you will win, but we are in the fight together. What matters is that you try!”
Thruth carries the horn away. The feast is over. Various guests are breaking into groups to drink, or play Hneftafl, or sing. It is time for me to depart. I ask Thruth to give my thanks to her father and make my way outside, where I find that someone has provided Raven with a nice pile of innards to pick through.
Together we make our way back through the Gate and down the bridge, then across the plain to the Tree and so home. Outside the rain has stopped. I breathe in and out, stretch my stiff back, and return.
Down the path to the Tree, call Raven. She settles to my shoulder, a smooth, warm weight, and gives a little raven kiss to my ear. We make our way to the Bridge. The plain is dark, but the colors of the Bridge glow. We make our way upward. This time I am walking, and come to the Gate. Heimdall waits, sitting in his straight-backed chair. I offer him a bottle of Lorrie’s homebrewed beer, and he smiles.
“Go on in,” he says. “Tonight the party is at Freyja’s hall.”
My steps slow as we pass the borders of Folkvangr and come to Sessrumnir. In the yard there is a great bonfire. The doors of the hall are open and light streams out from many torches. Everywhere there are people, men and women. Laughing, talking, drinking from the big barrel by the back door. But something is missing. There are no weapons here. Mingling with Freyja's warriors and maidens I recognize various goddesses and gods.
Over the fire a pig is turning on a spit. On long tables are pies and bread and cheese and some precious fruit and only a little wrinkled root vegetables.
“Eat, and be refreshed,” says a voice at my ear. I turn and go still, recognizing the strong, graceful form of Freyja herself. Her wheat-colored hair is drawn back into a pony tail. She is wearing a green long-sleeved tunic with a gold wool apron dress over it, edged with tablet woven braid threaded with gold. Her eyes are a kind of blue green. Two orange cats rub against her skirts, glaring balefully at those who come too close.
“Be welcome to my hall,” she tells me. Here is music and dancing, conversation. As I watch, she pulls up a shawl of undyed brown wool and wraps it around her. Around her neck gleams amber.
I take a deep breath. “Why is it you who hold the feast this evening?”
“Surely you know the answer—“ she replies. “My runes are Fehu and Gebo. You need the first to buy all those presents. Gebo is the power of exchange. Giving and receiving is the essence of this holiday even among your folk. You give each other presents underneath the Worldtree. You give each other the gift of food and drink and good company. Families draw together, playing, eating, talking as you have been doing this night.
“Hár has good things to say about equality of exchange. But as Gefion, I say that love is better than a strict accounting. Give because you hope the gift will please, not because you have calculated the value of what you received. Moderation is good, but not when it becomes so rigid an accounting that the gift loses meaning. Seek for gifts that bring joy.
“And then make time to relax. Plan time in your festivities when there is no planned activity. Offer possibilities—games, entertainment, but do not require that folk play.”
She turns, smiling as she sees two of her men wrestling in the snow. Presently one goes down, then both rise again, laughing, brushing snow off their garments, and head for the vat of mulling cider. Beyond them dancers are circling the fire to the sound of flute and drum. From the other side of the yard I hear laughter-—jokes are being told there.
“This is Sessrumnir, the many-seated hall. Here I am Gefion, and I offer hospitality to those I love. Whatever your desire, you will find it here, whether it is to make merry or to sit in peace, to drink till the world whirls around you, or to do no more than taste. The offering I wish is the gift of energy and thoughtfulness. Remind your family of this. To be kind to one another can be a greater gift (and harder to give, sometimes), than an expensive thing. But that is sufficient sermon. Remember that the greatest gift is love. I must leave you, but here’s one of my men to escort you.”
"Give what is truly desired", I think, and meet his smile as he draws me into the dance. There is eating and drinking, but presently I have the sense that the night is passing. Perhaps it is because there are not nearly so many people around the fire, and most of those who are, huddled into cloaks and furs, are talking very quietly. I see Raven, waiting patiently on a branch.
“Time to go home, I guess.” I make my farewells and follow her through the wood and along the path to the gate of Asgard, pass Freyja’s blessing on to Heimdall, cross the Rainbow bridge and through the wood and home….
(After the usual day of furious last minute preparations)
Breathe in and out… try to relax, to let tired muscles ease. I let the chair support me, listen to the silence. I take the path to my place on the mountain side. On the slopes behind, lights twinkle, but here it is all dark and still. To find my way I need a lantern. I light the candle and start off, the flickering light showing now a trunk, now the path. When I come out onto the plain of Midgard, it is lit by a radiance that is neither dusk nor noon.
I come to the Worldtree and call to Raven, still preening herself, replete from yesterday’s feast. Together we fly through and over Bifrost Bridge, and come to the gates of Asgard. Heimdall wears his godly form tonight. He holds a mug of something cinnamon scented and frothy in his hand.
“is there a feast tonight, and may I observe?”
“Come through the gate,” he replies, “and take the path that winds to the left and downhill."
I nod, wondering, for I have not been thus way before. The woods are very thick, many firs, so far north, less pine, interspersed with deciduous trees that lift stark skeletal branches against the sky. The woods are very dark, and I am glad to have my lantern. Presently I smell woodsmoke, though not, thank goodness, the scent of gingerbread.
Still, the house I find is very much like the one in Hansel and Gretel, thatched and whitewashed. The whitewash is shining, the path newly swept, the garden weeded, though all that grows in this season are a few evergreens. Hesitating, I go up the steps and knock on the door.
It is opened by a bright-faced girl with a kerchief over her brown braids. She holds a broom in her hand. She welcomes me and hands me the broom.
“I’ve been doing housework and such all day”, I complain. “Why the hurry? The house looks clean enough to me.”
“No doubt it does,” comes a new voice. “I have seen your kitchen. But I would be ashamed to greet the holy feast with dirty floors.”
I look at the newcomer, an old woman, though still hale, with ruddy cheeks and bright eyes. Her silver hair is pulled back in a bun. She wears an apron over a blue tunic. The brown haired girl goes into the other room and I hear the sound of something heavy being lifted and shaken. Through the open door behind me I can see that it is beginning to snow.
“Well, come in, woman, don’t let the cold air in.”
“Yes, Lady Holda”, I reply, for I know where I am now. “I am sorry to disturb you. I was told that there was a feast here?”
“Told? I think not—-only that he told you to come this way. Tonight is for preparation, to clear the space, open the way, create a setting into which the new year can be born. So, you wear yourselves out finishing your shopping.”
I can understand that. It’s why I struggle to have all the presents wrapped early, but rarely succeed.
“I understand,” I reply, “and I will help you, if you will help me to continue trying to clean up my house tomorrow morn.”
“Preparation is also holy, it is also a prayer, to bring order to chaos, to heal, to repair, to cleanse. All these things are part of the holiday. Teach your children. Say it aloud. You cannot expect them to understand what they have never been told. They are my children through you, and this is part of their heritage….”
I continue to sweep, and with every stroke, the room glows a little more to my sight. When the room is done, Holda comes and leads me to another, where there are fruit and pastries, and hot food.
On the table is a cake with a crumbly top, and mugs of cocoa. When I have eaten, I turn to go.
“A blessing on your house and on all those who live in it." I hear her laughter as I make my way back down the path.
Through the gate, and over the bridge, through the woods and I am at my beginning place once more, which becomes the guardian of my home.
12/23/09 – report on journey led as a pathworking for the trance class
I settled myself and began to beat the drum. It was hard to focus with the group around me and noises from the other parts of the house, but soon the trees of my own mountainside were before me. I led the group down the trail and through the green shadow of the forest to the Midgard that lies within, and we all congregated at the Worldtree.
I asked them all to call their totems, helpers, and allies in animal form, and we trekked across the plain to the place where Bifrost intersects, arching upward toward the top of the Tree and passing through the surface to the worlds below. We changed to appropriate animal forms, those of our allies or another, and made our way up and over the arch to the gates of Asgard. As usual, I took the shape of a raven, and my ally and I flew.
To my surprise, Heimdall was waiting for us in the form of a large, snowy white ram (though another member of the group saw him as a seal). He told me that the party this night was at Skadhi’s, and we should take the road through Asgard. Passing the homes of the gods, unusually quiet, tonight, we came to a small gate on the other side of Asgard that I had never seen before, and went through.
Before us rose the mountains of northeast Jotunheim, rugged, with rock poking through the snow. Here and there stands of fir trees rose black against the pale snowfields. The wind was bitter, the night sky blazing with stars. The way was clear, for the snow had been trodden down by many feet, paws, hooves, and the like.
Presently we could hear the sounds of animals, and saw the palisade of Thrymheim rising against the sky, the peaked roof of the hall behind it. The gates were open, and torchlight streamed through. But before we reached it, a pack of wolves came racing out to bar the way. This didn't happen last time either, but then, I was alone. The leader, a silvergray male, came forward to sniff everyone before giving his approval and letting us pass.
Inside there was a central fire, and in different parts of the large yard, piles of food of every kind—skinned and disjointed carcasses for the carnivores, piles of hay and troughs of grain for the herbivores, nuts and potatoes and carrots. There was even a pond with open water within which we could see fish swim. And each feeding station was thronged with animals. A pale form passed among them, sometimes in the shape of a white wolf-bitch and sometimes in Skadhi’s human shape, tall and fair. She made us welcome and encouraged us to eat whatever was appropriate to our forms. As a raven, I had a little of everything.
In one corner I saw a big red-brown bear I identified as Thor, licking honeycomb off his paws. With him were a large, very dark brown female who I think was Jordh, and a silvery male with one eye (though I suspect he may have shifted forms throughout the evening). Freyja was there in mountain lion form. I’m not sure about the others, but I think that they were all there. It was a little hard to tell, because they were mingling with animals from all over Utgard. Sleipnir, tonight shining pale grey, was eating with the carnivores.
We ate our fill, and then it was time to return, retracing our steps through Asgard and over the Bridge and back through the forest to my living room once more.
The day has been windy, a breeze that is chill, though not yet bitter, not here. The treetops move in the darkness. Inside we have heat and light, but it is chilly even so. I put on a sweater and enjoy the feel of the wool, close my eyes and breathe in… and out… I follow the familiar way to the hilltop on the mountainside. The path winds away, pale in the darkness. It is even colder and windier here.
But as I move downward, the wind remains in the tops of the trees. On the path it is protected and a little warmer. I come out onto the plain of Midgard and call to Raven. Together we take flight, up and over the rainbow bridge, feeling its colors vibrate through our feathers. At the gate, I take my own form again, the form of Heidhveig, and greet Heimdall.
“Is there a party tonight?” I ask, “And may I observe?”
“Go to Vallhall,” he answers me, “but I cannot say what you will find.”
This is a road I know well. The great doors are wide open, but I do not see men feasting. Instead, the courtyard is full of horses and men, tightening girths and checking saddles. The einherior are preparing to ride. One by one they are mounted, the horses pawing and snorting, eyes shining in the torchlight. They grow still, and silence falls, as a horse greater than any of theirs moves forward. In the darkness he seems black, and big, larger than any ordinary steed. His legs are a deeper darkness, a moving shadow. His eyes glow. He bears neither halter nor bridle, but there is a saddle cloth. Huge, and terrible, with large teeth that gleam. He is a creature of terror, clearly of giant kin. He turns his head, and the gaze of everyone present follows the movement. Odin is standing on the steps, or rather it is Ygg, helmed and armed and cloaked in black. He looks around the courtyard, counting the heroes, then goes to Sleipnir and leaps lightly to his back. The stallion arches his neck and stamps. Ygg’s gaze finds me, and he laughs.
“This riding is not for you, lady, not now, not yet, but I will give you vision to follow us part way.” And then, of a sudden, Sleipnir leaps forward. The great gate opens, and the Wild Hunt streams after him like leaves blown by the wind. I climb to the top of the wall and see them rushing onward, out through the gate of Asgard and away across Bifrost bridge. My vision lengthens and I glimpse their wild ride across the fields of humankind. Where that wind passes, even those who have never heard of the einherior will lock their windows and bolt their doors.
Where they pass the air is set in motion, swirling, shimmering, each atom awakened. The changes of weather bring change and growth, to remain still is death. Rising and falling they speed across the land, and as Sleipnir rises, Mani’s light touches him and for a moment he is blazing white.
Then I can see them no more. I return to the gate and bid Heimdall farewell, take raven form, and follow my friend to the base of Yggdrasil. From here I know the way well, up through the tunnel of trees and back through darkness scarcely less dense and windy, and from there to the chill air of this room.
I breathe in and out, stretch my stiff neck, blink and return.
Several years ago, I tried doing a trance journey to Asgard each night of the 12 days of Yule, starting with the solstice. It was fascinating, but I didn't write the results down. This year, I'm trying to do the same thing with automatic writing. I'll post each night separately up to the present, and hope to keep it up through to the end. For those who like such things, this is my Yule gift to you.
Breathe in…and out…in…and out…let your outer awareness fade away. I am at ease, focused. It is very easy to go within.
I see the place from which I begin, dark and muddy now with winter, fir trees swaying in the wind off the sea, cloud clinging and swirling around them. The mist swirls, and I see a path. I follow through manzanita bushes that catch on my cloak. The path winds downward, and now it is lined by fir trees, whose fallen needles make a soft and silent path. I come to the bottom of the slope and find a blaze of light, and the entry to the Midgard that lies within.
In its center is Yggdrasil, greatest of all trees. A glimmer of rainbow light passes through its upper branches, and as I turn I can see it arching downward and passing through the plane of Midgard. I cross the plain, and suddenly the Bridge is before me. Shimmering rainbow mists, how can it support me?
Raven sails down to alight on my shoulder. “Take my shape”, she tunes her voice to the moan of the wind. “Take my shape,” she says, and I feel myself changing, body growing sleek, arms lengthening, strengthening, until I have a shape that can ride the wind. She starts off, and I follow, together winging over the shimmer of rainbow light until we come to the great Gate of Asgard.
I bow to Heimdall. ”Fair father, I am here on pilgrimage. We have given the gifts we could to the gods. Is there a party, and may I come and observe?” He nods.
“Go to Gladsheim,” he says. “Not to the main feasting hall, but the one with the silver entry.” He opens the gate, and Raven and I pass through.
I find Odin in a small chamber off the mead hall. Even the einherior are quiet tonight. But there are candles. Candles everywhere, on the surface of tables…. It is surprisingly quiet.
This is how it begins, he says. In stillness and hope, as we encourage Sunna to return. He is wearing, oddly enough, a white tunic heavy with embroidery and tablet woven braid with gold. The white in his hair and beard shine. Light fills the small room, shining on the smooth feathers of his ravens.
“This is the beginning of the holiest season. Tonight we reflect on our hopes and fears, and prepare to affirm all good things for the coming year. A well-stocked larder, a clean house, labor finished so that you may enjoy its fruits. We watch the light burn, and let it fill us. We are the reginn, the shining powers, we are the lights that illuminate your days. Look around the room, and you may glimpse us as we truly are.”
I look around, and realize that he is not alone. The other gods sit with him like pillars of light. My gaze moves around the circle, and I recognize the essence that shines through each one-—Thor’s steadfast courage, Sif’s devotion; Frigga, her face changing like light on water as the spirits of her handmaidens shine through. Freyja blazes like a fire, sparkling and spitting, Freyr’s flame is more steady and warm. Tyr is a pillar of light that blazes up and shines down from above. One by one I salute them.
The stillness and light are warm and restful. But at last a time comes when there is a stir, and I understand that it is time to go. I bow and thank them all, and make my way to the door, and across Gladsheim, and to the gate. Raven is waiting. Heimdall smiles and opens the gate, we fly back down to the plain, where I resume my human form and travel through the woods and up the trail and back through my beginning place. And then we are home. Breathe in and out and open and waken.
Greetings from Elaya, where lwood and I have spent the past weekend running a workshop on oracular skills for a very talented group of Los Angeles pagans. We had 24 talented people attending, about half of them heathen and most of the others Celtic Reconstructionists and/or ADF. They were also made of sturdy stuff: the weather had turned hot again and the venue--the Max Kade Institute for Austrian, German, and Swiss Studies-- had no air conditioning. So we invented a new variation, "sauna seidh". Despite the global warming, everyone did really well, and I think there's a good chance they'll be able to organize one or more groups that can do oracular ceremonies at Southern California events. ( Read more...Collapse )
Lorrie already posted most of this information on her blog, so if you've seen this, apologies, but the two populations don't entirely overlap, so here's my schedule in L.A. for any of you who might be able to drop in on an event and say hello, or have friends who might be interested.
I've been hearing about the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society for years, but have never actually been there. They want me to say something intelligent. How bright I will be after driving down from Berkeley I don't know, but years of doing SF cons has left me able to think on my feet. Come and ask questions.... Address: 11513 Burbank Blvd, North Hollywood, CA 91601-2309. Doors open around 7:30, meeting starts between 8:15 and 8:30. There is no cover charge to attend this event. For more information, see the LASFS website, http://www.lasfsinc.info/
This is a lovely little shop in the Silver Lake area of LA where my mother once lived, much more serious than the name would imply. 2818 #1 Rowena Ave in Silverlake, between Hollywood and Downtown. Bring books and I'll sign them. They'll also have them for sale.
If you're interested in the Oracular Seidh workshop (see below) you can sign up there, though they'd rather you got in touch with them now.
We will be performing oracular seidh to kick off the workshop weekend. I'm not sure when doors open, but they will close, promptly, at 7:30 PM . This is open to anyone with questions, even if you are not doing the workshop.
Seidh will be held near the USC campus, at a private home, so you'll have to call the bookstore for the exact address: (323) 644-0268. We'll debrief afterward over food.
Saturday 17 October, 10:00 AM to 9:00 PM Sunday 18 October, 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM: Trance Workshop!
I believe there is still room in the workshop. Participants are expected to have purchased, and read, /Trance-Portation/ before attending the workshop, and are strongly encouraged to have attended the oracular seidh the night before. There will be meal breaks, but food is not included in your registration.
For more information, including whether there are any spaces left, call Cauldron Kitty at (323) 644-0268. The workshop will be held at a location rather near the USC campus; call the bookstore for more details.
Sunday 18 October, 5:00-7:00 PM, Book Signing @ Alexandria II, Pasadena
The signing is at the Alexandria II Metaphysical Bookstore, 170 S Lake Ave in Pasadena. For more information, see the bookstore's website, http://alexandria2.com/
Last night I happened upon the BBC Discovery Channel special on Ardipithecus, the earliest hominid for which a fossilized skeleton has been found-- a young female nicknamed "Ardi", unearthed in the Middle Awash valley in Ethiopia. They were expecting the missing link between humans and chimpanzees (our closest primate relative), but instead found a new creature with unexpected characteristics.
If I remember correctly, they were:
a pelvis that indicated she walked upright, and human-type hands which were not adapted for knuckle-walking, but feet with a splayed big toe that could grasp like that of a chimpanzee;
small, human-type canine teeth, rather than the large canines chimpanzees and other apes use in mating displays and fights.
An analysis of related fossils showed that ardipithecus lived in a woodland, not a savannah.
A multi-national collection of scientists took ten years to analyze all the data, which upset the theory that humans evolved on grasslands where they needed to be upright to run fast. The current theory, which I have to admit offers support to some of the feminist theories I have seen, goes like this--
Smaller canines indicate less aggression, especially when there's less difference between the size in males and females.
If males weren't fighting over mates, maybe that means females were fertile all year around instead of coming into estrus seasonally, and males and females pair-bonded instead of simply mating.
Females preferred males who could help them feed their young.
It's a lot easier to transport food through a forest if you can stand up and use your forelimbs to carry it.
And that's why humans are bipedal.
Among other things, this theory would suggest that we are somewhat less hard-wired for aggression than we thought, especially over sex....
September was Odin's month this year (with a few exceptions, but that's another blog). Of course 3 is one of his numbers, but with all those 9 days and nights stories in his history, 9 has become even more significant. On 9-9-09 Hrafnar celebrated with games featuring the number nine and a blot to Himself. Most of the month was taken up putting together the next issue of IDUNNA, and since this was #81, it obviously had to be dedicated to him. It has been ten years since the previous Odin issue, after all. I'm really pleased with the contributions we got for this one-- some wonderful poems and excellent articles.
I'm also really jazzed because the need for a cover motivated me to clear off my worktable and get out my paints and START PAINTING again. The first picture didn't quite work--technically ok, but it wasn't nearly active enough to convey my sense of Odin. The second one was much better--
Not perfect, of course, but now that I'm set up, I expect to do more.
On the last day of September, the printed copies arrived, and with the help of some Hrafnar folks, Lorrie and I got nearly 300 envelopes stuffed for the Troth. Sent it off this afternoon.
My first "close encounter" with Odin was more than 20 years ago, now, and the connection is still strong. But it's been awhile since I've had an excuse to focus on him this completely.
In 1909, a Colonel of Marines stationed on Treasure Island built a house for his family on the then almost empty swatch of El Camino Real in the Elmwood area of Berkeley. In 1971, our family moved in, at that point consisting of me, Don, Ian (age 3), Paul and Tracy, Fiona (age 2), Mom, and David Bradley. Today the personnel consist of me, Ian and Elizabeth and Evan, Michael and Arael, Nancy and Astrid, and Melissa and Suleiman. A lot of people have lived here over the years, and it has been the setting for lot of writing, rituals, music and dancing, laughter, and occasional shouting.
Somehow, both we and the house have endured. None of us are likely to make 100, but the house has done so, and so tomorrow we're honoring the achievement with a birthday party from 2 pm to whenever....
I'd be delighted to see any of my LJ friends who would like to drop by--[edit to: remove home address, e-mail me for it?]. Come, share the munchies, and admire our new paint job.
I really don't like summers when every week or so I hear that someone else is sick.
In addition to Teddy Kennedy, this week, two of the people I have been praying for passed on. The first was the youngest daughter of one of my cousins, Jessica Lliteras, age 30, who had been battling cancer for several years. The second was Ann Braude, a room mate when I was in grad. school and notable SF/Fantasy fan, who died of intestinal sepsis after several very painful weeks. In both cases, it had to be a welcome release from pain.
I knew Jessica mainly through her mother, the closest of my cousins on my father's side. They are all staunch Evangelical Lutherans who really do live their religion-- the kind of people who give Christians a good name. Prayers were asked, and since I believe in doing unto others as they would do for themselves, not as I would have them do for me, I put out a prayer to Jesus. I got the sense that he really cared about her, but neither my prayers nor those of several Christian congregations produced a miracle. She does seem to have been the kind of person whose courage inspires others, and it's clear that her life enriched life for those who knew her. My sorrow is for her mother-- to lose a child must be the worst of griefs.
Anne was a brilliant, witty and knowledgeable fan, and an excellent writer, who will be deeply missed by all her correspondents. For her, I was talking to Kuan Yin, my fallback deity for healing, or "the best possible outcome". According to reports, Anne was not lucid very much after she went into the hospital, but she did make it clear that any life that did not allow her access to her books and her cats was not acceptable, and that's what she would have been condemned to if she had survived. She was fortunate in having devoted friends, Bruce Arthurs and Hilde Hildebrand, who visited her, fought the system to get her care, and will probably have to sort through a house crammed with books and papers to settle her estate.
By the way, can I put in a plea to everyone to make a will? If you don't have the kind of property that requires a formal legal document, at least write down your wishes about funeral services and the like, and some directions on distribution of things like books and religious items, so your heirs don't end up cursing you instead of mourning? I even have a checklist-form for such things that I will be happy to send to anyone who asks.
Meanwhile, enough, already! Everybody who's sick, get better, and if you're well, please stay that way!
Sherwood Smith’s Inda, that is, the hero of a meaty four part series whose concluding book, TREASON'S SHORE, just appeared. I picked up the first volume, INDA, at a MythCon a couple of years ago, but didn’t get around to reading it until last year. I was immediately hooked, and rushed out to find the second book, THE FOX, and then had to wait for the third book, KING'S SHIELD. When I finished rereading them all earlier this summer I had a feeling it might be time for the fourth, and was delighted to find it available for pre-order on Amazon.
So why all the enthusiasm? Sherwood has been writing for a number of years, and she’s not nearly as well known as she ought to be. The Inda books are everything you want from a fantasy series—an interesting, fully-developed world with several languages, environments, and cultures that are evocatively described, a complex but not confusing plotline with a number of unexpected twists, really well-written action scenes, and above all characters whose lives you follow and whose fates you care about. She includes all the elements needed for a good solid fantasy, and deals with all of them in original ways.
In TREASON'S SHORE, all the favorite elements from the earlier books come into play. There are scenes at the training academy and a long sequence with the (ex)-pirates. Sherwood does great sea-battles, something you don’t often see in contemporary fantasy. There are no cop outs and no easy answers, but the ending satisfies. What makes this book a worthy conclusion to the series is its focus on character. “Character-driven” too often means a preoccupation with the internal drama of people who weren’t that interesting in the first place. In TREASON'S SHORE, the developing conflict between Inda and Evred, two characters whom we have come to love, transcends the physical conflict with the enemy, and we realize that even more important than winning the war is winning the peace. In the end, the real victories come not through physical strength but through communication and love.
If you know anyone in the South San Francisco Bay area who is interested in trance work--
On Thursday evening, June 4th, from 7:30-9:30 p.m., I will be presenting a workshop on trance at the East West Bookstore in Mountain View.
This will be a live introduction to the skills covered in Trance-Portation. For anyone interested in learning how to move into altered states in a controlled, safe and effective way, the workshop will be an opportunity to try it out with some backup. This would be especially good for anyone who wasn't able to get into the trance class, but would like to work with the book.
Those with more experience are welcome to share techniques. If you are in the trance class, you can come and kibbitz.
The address is 324 Castro St., Mountain View CA 94041, and their phone number is 800-909-6161 if you have any questions. The event is free.
Time flies when you’re having fun, I guess. This spring has certainly whizzed away. First I was busting my buns to finish Sword of Avalon, and then Turquoise Scepter started eating my brain, not to mention the manual for the Troth Clergy Program. And there was Pantheacon, and recovering from Pantheacon, and a trip to LA and a workshop in Chicago….
All of which I should have reported on, but I was too busy doing them.
And now it’s time for Baycon.
For some reason, they have put most of my events on Sunday. That’s all right, I’ll take the laptop that Lorrie refurbished for me and work in the room. Or maybe even go swimming on Saturday…
Anyway this is where you'll find me at the convention.
The Friday night meet the guests thingie, and maybe some of the dances...
Birds of a Feather: Westria
As it happens, I have been working on the sequel to The Golden Hills of Westria, even though I don’t have a contract. Because it HAS TO BE DONE. Since they don’t seem to have given me a reading, I’ll probably read something from that. The working title is The Turquoise Scepter. The book does start in Westria, but a lot of the action takes place in Elaya (southern CA), and Aztlan (Southwest), especially since I just got back from a trip to LA for the Nebulas, and some lovely days staying with Bonnie and Tim Callahan, old friends from the Mythopoeic Society who are expert in southern California geography, geology, and flora. (Sunday, 10:00 AM)
The Ecology of Cloud Cities I get to moderate this one, which means if I don’t have any ideas myself I can ask lots of questions…. (Sunday, 11:30 AM)
I Kissed a What!? No this is not about my love life. I have the interesting task of moderating a panel on the resurgence in supernatural romance, a subject on which I haven’t written anything myself (unless you count gods). But my son Ian’s on it too. Does this mean I get to find out what he’s been kissing? (There are some things mothers were not meant to know) (Sunday, 5:30 PM)
Writing for the Long Run Having just seen Star Trek, I’ve been thinking about what happens when earlier books constrain what you can do with later ones. My brother-in-law Paul Edwin Zimmer solved this problem by writing a series of prequels. Tolkien just kept revising. Ideally, you have a story arc with room enough for surprises. (Monday, 1:00 PM)
Reading? I notice that only a few readings are listed. If they do end up giving me one (they haven’t sent out panel announcements to the authors yet), I will be reading from Sword of Avalon, for which I just turned in the revisions. This is the one with the sexy bronze-smith in it.
And don’t miss—
If they haven’t given me much to do, at least my nearest and dearest are well–represented.
Jon DeCles, aka jon_decles. When the Last Paper Dies (Saturday, 1:00 PM) Reading – Probably from Storm Wars, which is just out. We’ll have copies. DonJon reads really really well, so be prepared for a treat. (Saturday, 5:30 PM) Iron Poet – this should be fun…. (Sunday, 11:30 AM)
Ian Grey aka grendel_todd It's Not Cancelled, It's a Comic (Saturday, 5:30 PM) I Kissed a What!? See above. (Sunday, 5:30 PM) The Light and Dark of Superheroes (Monday, 10:00 AM)
Lorrie Wood, aka lwood (For Lorrie’s inimitable comments on these panels see her blog) The Zombies Are Coming! (I thought that was after Trothmoot…) (Saturday, 11:30 AM) When the Last Paper Dies (Saturday, 1:00 PM) Floating Islands and Lost Cities in History and Literature (Monday, 11:30 AM).
If I am going to put this in my blog, I guess I need to provide some explanation for the many who will have no idea what I'm talking about.
Way back in 1990, I started working with the survivors of the first rune class to recover the oracular practice of the Viking period, known as spae or oracular seidh. I worked out a ritual based on elements from the Eddas, the account of such a ritual in the Saga of Eric the Red, and the journeys to Hel described in Saxo and elsewhere.
A number of years ago I was at a SFWA (Science Fiction Writers of America) cocktail party at some convention—one of those affairs where we all stand about with drinks in our hands either complaining about our publishers or trying to sound more successful than we are. I fell into conversation with a (male) science fiction writer who shall be nameless, mainly because I have forgotten his name. What I do remember is his observation that of course I, as a writer of fantasy, didn’t have to do research. Presumably unlike science fiction writers, who regularly write about faster-than-light travel and societies which have somehow retained contemporary military ranks centuries into the future, on an unlimited number of earth-like planets. I forget what I replied—I think I was too stunned to say much—but the conversation ended shortly.
So let me tell you about the research that as a fantasy writer I don’t have to do. I particularly noticed this today because my upstairs ethernet is not cooperating, and in order to access the internet I had to tromp down two flights of stairs to the office machine.
In order to write half of Chapter Seven (of SWORD OF AVALON, which takes place at the end of the Bronze Age), in no particular order, I needed to know:
--The native range of cedar trees --The location of prehistoric copper mines in the British isles, and the dates during which they were worked. --The date of the earliest European coinage. --The shapes into which early tin ingots were cast. --The types of ships built and used in the Mediterranean, the Atlantic littoral, and the British Isles. --the names and characteristics (if known) of pre-Celtic Iberian cultures --the language of Tartessos (related to no known European language, by the way) --early trade routes for copper and tin --how ingots were packed for shipping --the contents of a bronze-smith’s toolbox
I already knew what Penzance and St. Michael’s Mount look like. I’ve been there.
Even five years ago, that much information would have required a search through the bookshelves in our library (which currently is filled with my nephew David's furniture and inaccessible anyway) and a trip to the UCB library, and several points at which I would have waved my hands and hoped, or decided I didn't really need to include that detail anyway. In fact, many of those details won't appear in the book because they would result in what I call "creeping footnotism", and bog down the narrative flow. But in order to know what information not to include, I have to know what it is.
My, what an exciting week. Samhain and Elections - as Swedish musician Erik Ask-Upmark observed at the Draam concert last night, it's hard to say which is the most scary. There is, however, a way to combine them--
As you call on the ancestors this Samhain, pay some extra attention to our American heroes and heroines, who fought for liberty and justice in their various ways, and surely have an interest in preserving them.
At the Spiral Samhain celebration next week (Tuesday Nov. 4, at 7:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Fellowship hall on Cedar & Bonita-- Spiral observes the quarter and cross-quarter festivals at its "Gateway" series, on the first Tuesday of each month), Charline Palmtag and I are going to be calling on the Founding Fathers and a selection of other American notables from Abraham Lincoln through Eleanor Roosevelt and Martin Luther King. Just because they're dead doesn't mean they can stop working. Unfortunately today's conflicts are actually evidence of continuity in American culture. The moment the British left, the factions that are still fighting sprang into being. Washington's genius was his ability to balance them. So as the American ship of state wallows through the currently troubled waters, hang on.
The immediate problem, of course, is the election--not so much who is going to get the most votes, but whether all those votes will be correctly counted. I'm willing to bow to the will of the People, but I want to make sure that the published results in fact express it.
My plan for the next week or so is to spend some time every evening visualizing Lady Liberty shining her torch across the land. As that light penetrates every dark corner, it banishes fear, confusion, and deception. I ask her not only to inspire people to vote for the laws and candidates that will be best for the country, but to illuminate the vote-counting process so that the true will of the people is known.
If you like this idea, spread the word. The more of us who hold that image, the more powerful it will be.
It's a song and a sigh of the weary. Hard times, hard times, come again no more. Many days you have lingered around my cabin door. Hard times, come again no more. Stephen Foster
It's been awhile since I've posted-- I apologize. I meant to continue with reports on the Greek trip, and I do intend to get back to that, but I am most motivated to write here when there's something I need to say. As I watch the stock market tumble and my savings diminish, the chorus of the Stephen Foster song keeps echoing in my head, I always thought that was a Depression song, but it goes back to the 19th century. Hard times come in every era, and eventually good times return. The trick is to make it from one era to the other.
Those of us who were raised by parents who grew up during the Depression already have a clue about how to survive. For those of you whose parents grew up during the 50's and 60's, here are a few thoughts on the subject.
Of course, today, Global Warming and the Energy crisis complicate the issue. Or do they?
The more I think about it, the more it seems to me that the remedies may be complementary. Whether we are trying to save money or the environment, we need to make the most efficient use of resources that we can, and support our local communities. Buying locally not only cuts down on the carbon load, it keeps the money circulating here. Given a choice, buy from companies that have not outsourced all their jobs.
But an even more basic strategy is to cut down on consumption across the board. Instead of replacing appliances and other useful items, retain, recycle, re-use, repair. We can use our communication resources, such as LJ and chat lists, to find people who do need the things we can no longer use. People who know how to fix things are about to become very popular. Let us know who you are. We can decrease our dependence on the cash economy by trading skills.
The same energy- and resource-saving moves we were already making for the sake of the environment will also lower living costs. Getting more of our protein from vegetables and learning creative uses for leftovers will lower the grocery bills. Rather than driving somewhere to go hiking, I want to do more shopping by walking to the local grocery, which will support local business, save gas, and give me some needed exercise. Trade clothes instead of buying new. Repair and remodel - would anyone be interested in a class on mending?
I am currently being inspired in this quest by the discovery of a new goddess, or rather a new path of a Power I already knew about, Oshun Ibu Kolé. This is the path of Oshun whose peacock plumage was burned into that of a vulture when she flew up to beg Olodumare to lift the drought with which he had punished everyone for thinking they could do without him. She appears as an old woman by a muddy river, also associated with sewers and toilets. She is the one whose white dress yellowed because she washed it so many times. Her name, depending on the translation, means "Spirit of the River who Transforms", or "the one who takes out and brings back the trash and dust". In other words, she's the perfect deity to invoke for recycling.
The other day she and I had an interesting exchange. I was going to get a new piece of cloth to wear when I danced for her, but somehow, I couldn't quite make up my mind to buy it. It occurred to me that I ought to ask her what she wanted. The information I got was that I should recycle some other garment, like the fringed scarf I inherited from my nephew David, who just passed away, and add a little decoration. When we had finished that part of the discussion, she told me to go down and empty the garbage.
What I didn't know was that the refrigerator repairman had arrived to try to fix the freezer so we wouldn't have to buy a new one, and my son had taken out all the packages of food that had been freezing and thawing for variable amounts of time. Including quite a lot of meat. So when I got downstairs I was presented with a bucket full of such packages. These days, the Berkeley recycling system allows us to put food scraps in with the yard trimmings. Thus, the immediate sequel to my conversation with Ibu Kolé was to hand over several pounds of spoiled meat for composting. I cannot imagine a better offering for the Oshun the Vulture! Sometimes the gods make themselves very clear.
Vulture beak, vulture beak, Doing what you must, Takin' out the trash, recycling our sorrows, Beauty from the dust.
Burning wing, burning wing, Fly and bring the rain. Old witch woman, by the muddy water, Give us hope again.
(with apologies to Shirley Maclain, who wrote a book with that title, in which it referred to her trip to Peru in search of enlightenment)
The thing that nobody tells you about Greece is that it is vertical. Culturally, the country may be ancient, but geologically it is very young. Most of the coastline rises sheer from the sea, with occasional beaches that shelve off steeply. It is easy to believe that these are the mountaintops of a drowned land.The country consists of mountain ranges with plains between them. Here is what the Argive plain looks like from the mountains between it and Lakonia.
The flat, arable land is limited, and over the centuries the Greeks have gotten very good at terracing, sometimes on extremely sheer slopes. If you flattened out the mountains, Greece would be the size of Europe. Here's our little car in front of the mountains farther in. If you look closely you can see a herd of goats, the animal that makes the best use of this terrain. From a distance the landscape looks a lot like places in Southern California and the Southwest, but on closer examination the vegetation, though equivalent, is different.
(It has been brought to my attention that some of you may not be familiar with the film Never on Sunday starring Melina Mercouri. In that case, do go out and rent it. It will be a good introduction to the Greek spirit as well as explaining the title of this post.)
So, as those of you who have friended my husband already know, we spent a month in Greece. Since he is reporting as a sequential narrative, I’m going to try and extract the essence in some essays. If you want the chronological version, you should friend him at-- jon_decles
For the most part things went well. We saw:
11 acropoli (cliff with citadel atop it, as in “The Acropolis”)
Greece has a lot of museums, and many of them are open. The major archaeological sites have museums attached to them, and many towns have their own museums as well. Because they mostly close on Mondays (I suppose the staff have to rest sometime), it helps to have something else to do on that day. Go to the seashore. Not every exhibit has a label, but they are in both Greek and English. Mostly. For some museum reviews and pictures, see the rest of this post.( Read more...Collapse ) Things We Have Learned about Greek Museums, #1:
Most museums are closed on Mondays.
Most sites close at 3 p.m.
Many small museums may be closed. Period.
Most museums will let you photograph the exhibits without flash.
Some museums will not let you pose with the statues.
Museum snack shops charge double what you would pay in town, but the food is usually good.
So, we're all back from Baycon at the new site in Santa Clara. It was a pretty good Con-- interesting panels, amusing GoHs, good Art Show, and an astonishing array of booze at some of the parties. Although in most ways the hotel was quite good-- especially the free and abundant parking and the restaurant, the rooms were a surprise-- apparently furnished from IKEA, measurably smaller than those at the Doubletree, with double instead of queen beds and miniscule closet and bathroom space. Trying to fit the Greyhaven contingent in was...interesting.... only made possible by the fact that Elizabeth (my daughter-in-law) can sleep anywhere. We hummed "Norwegian Wood" a lot.
I had asked for a "birds of a feather" space to do a release party for the new CD. This turned out to be the patio between the pool and the barbecue, which could only be reached through the bar, so many people never figured out where it was. On the other hand, it was nice to be outdoors in the sunshine. Margaret and Kristoph were there, and did some of the songs. We had an amusing moment when Kristoph sang "Are you the meadowlark..." just as an airplane flew over. Guess I'll have to write another verse for the song!
This is the CD I've been burbling about periodically all spring. Margaret and Kristoph have done a wonderful job. My favorites are "Marana", which has some very original and evocative harp accompaniment as well as Margaret's lyric soprano, and "Bird of My Heart", in which she sings descant to Kristoph's excellent rendition (without airplanes). The "College of Bards Choir" comes through very well.
I have copies of both Jewel Songs and The Wandersong for $15 each, postpaid. If you'd like one, let me know. Expect to see more here soon--MP3's and sheet music to download, liner notes to peruse, and maybe even a more efficient way to order it!
For the past month I've been doing my best to immerse myself in the Bronze Age, but lferion came to town for CostumeCon, and since she is one of the most enduring and dedicated of Westria fans, talk naturally turned in that direction. In fact she came up with a character who will undoubtedly appear in the sequel to The Golden Hills of Westria, which I really must get started on one of these days.
Did I mention, by the way, that the remaindered hard copies of The Golden Hills of Westria did arrive? They are available for $20 (includes postage). I'd be happy to send you one (really happy, the boxes are still stacked in our front hall because I can't figure out where else to put them). Send me a response with your address and I'll let you know where to send the money.
I also finally got the CD's for The Wandersong printed up, which is worth the $15 for the cover alone, featuring donsimpson as Silverhair with Mt. Tamalpais in the background. Those are also available, same deal as the book. Margaret and Kristoph are almost done with the sequel Jewel Songs (songs from the four Jewel books, featuring the College of Bards Choir). They just sent me MP3s of some of the songs, and this one will be even better. Margaret has the perfect voice for some of the more lyrical pieces, and Kristoph sounds like Silverhair. I am working on putting the sheet music up on the Westria website.
Speaking of which, the other thing that lferion did was to ask if we could go to the Kingdom of the West's Coronation Tournament to see Elis step up as Queen. Given that Westria is where I turned my energies when I realized it wasn't fair to use real people in the SCA as my artistic medium (I had this odd idea that my characters would be easier to manage), and given that one of the premises for Westria is that a lot of SCA people would have survived the cataclysm and contributed to the resulting culture, going to a tournament is rather like visiting Westria, especially when it is in Mendocino, one of my favorite parts of California.
The site was gorgeous, the weather was gorgeous, the people were gorgeous, and I had a wonderful time. A lot of old friends came out of the woodwork to honor Elis, so it was something of a reunion as well. I took some pictures there (and on Hwy. 1, which we took north), and was sufficiently inspired to actually process them and get them up on the Westria website. In fact I got so inspired that I went through all my photos for the past two years and added quite a number to the galleries for Seagate and Las Costas. Have a look and see for yourself!
In the course of digging I got to the shots from a roadtrip with our houseguests for this year's Pantheacon across the southern borders of the Royal Domain to the sea and found this, which may be the best photo I have ever taken.Enjoy!
As many of you already know, Steve Abell got the ball rolling to go down to the old Fernwood campground for an impromptu minimoot on Earth Day weekend. The grandkids really missed those campouts, so we loaded everybody up and trundled down. To our relief, the improvements, far from destroying the site, have actually improved it, being much more esthetic than the old trailers that used to be parked beside the meadow. Our old sites by the river had not been disturbed at all, except that the decaying BBQ pits have been replaced by nice iron ones. The new cabins cannot be rented yet, because the camp failed to get permission before building them. If they ever are, they might actually make the site *more* usable than it was before, as they have electricity, kitchenettes, and enough beds for at least 4 people each, if they're friendly. Thus they would be able to accomodate people with "nose hoses" and visitors from out of state.
Most remarkable (beside the temperature, which, with wind chill, made the fires VERY welcome), was the welcome we got from the spirits of the place. I think we all had a deeper connection with the place than we knew, and it felt like coming home.
Those of you who know my husband, jon_decles -- will probably at some time have heard the saga of the once and future teahouse that he has been building at his place on Cobb Mountain in Lake County. Jon has been studying tea at the Urasenke School off and on for about forty years. Along the way he has collected a number of certificates and an amazing variety of tea equipment (and tea ceremony surpasses any avocation I have ever encountered in the number and variety of tchotchkes one must collect to properly play). He started building the teahouse when he and Kelson moved to Lake County, and work has proceded in stops and starts for many years.
But as of April 17th of this year, the teahouse is officially open. My grandson Evan and I drove up for the full-dress kaiseke (food) and tea (thick and thin) ceremony that formally inaugurated it. It was quite an experience.
The building is tucked away among the manzanita and pines, and though the color scheme is evocative of Frank Lloyd Wright, the details are a graceful amalgam of native Californian and Japanese. Despite the red plaster work, the building is remarkably serene. Evan wants to build one in the back yard.
Jon did a heroic job of putting the event together, especially since his helpers were unable to be present, and he had to cook, set up and serve the entire 14 item kaiseke feast alone. Working our way through this took all afternoon. We had an intermission to allow him to reset for the actual tea ceremony. By the time this was ready it was dark, but we got in some portable lights that gave a very chiaroscuro quality to the room, which added to the solemnity of the occasion. The tea was in two phases. In thick tea, the powdered tea is mixed into a frothy substance about the thickness of a smoothy, which tastes sort of like green tea ice cream without the sugar and cream. It's an acquired taste. This was followed by thin tea, which is a little more familiar. Each, of course, requires a different set of implements and bowls. All were beautiful.
By the time we were finished, it was a quarter to ten. But the tea kept me wide awake for the two and a half hour drive back to Berkeley. Thank you, love, for a beautiful experience.
For a full set of pictures, go to my gallery of teahouse photos. With luck, Jon will find the time to write up his own account of the day, or at least give me the proper names for all the utensils.
Today the twins (my grandchildren Michael and Arael) turn twelve. Their brother Evan is thirteen and a half. How did this happen?
Seems like yesterday they were in a playpen, following the action around them with an alert stare that always reminded me of the velociraptors in Jurassic Park. Not evil, just very, very intent. Now every time I turn my back they seem a little taller. I, of course, have not changed at all.
At birth, Arael was sweet and smiling and Michael frowned. Today, his ambition is world domination and hers is apparently to become a pirate. Perhaps at Wendy's Lost Girls Pirate Academy. They can do more things with a computer than I can.
No one is perfect, but I can say that on the whole they have been a joy to live with, mostly cheerful, reasonably cooperative, and capable of carrying on intelligent conversation. They've been great children. Adolescence looms-- even now I get the occasional glimpse of the teenagers they will soon be. My prayer is the prayer of any parent or grandparent-- grow safe and strong, grow into your potential, try not to blame us too much for making such a mess of your world.
So, someone left a big fat calendar book here at Greyhaven that gives you all the historic events, birthdays, etc. that have occurred on each day of the year. The natural response is to look up one's own birthday and then the day on which one is reading the book.
Which is how I discovered that February 6-10 is "Freelance Writers' Appreciation Week". This appears to have been cooked up by the Public Libraries. At least they are the ones with a website about it--
Exactly /how/ one is supposed to express this appreciation is not clear. My suggestion would be to go out and buy a book, or maybe visit a library and encourage /them/ to buy books from your favorite author. Maybe I'll trot down to our local branch library tomorrow and give them a chance to appreciate me .
Actually, I did get a little appreciation yesterday at the voting booth, where the sweet young thing at the the table looked at my name and asked, "Are you /that/ Diana Paxson?" Turns out her mother reads my books. She herself is specializing in Victorian Literature and doesn't, but she had me autograph her Survey of Literature book. Probably the only way I'll ever get my name in one!