We Carry Them With Us, Always

I don’t know where to begin, except to start at the trail of my tears, and trace back to a place of calm, somewhere where I can recount a time when maybe there was a time when I sincerely felt solace in this space.  I cannot find it now except in this inner temple where I carry you.

The Island in October, photo by Valentina Kaquatosh, 2015

“The Island” photograph by Valentina Kaquatosh, October 2015

And when I speak of you, I do not talk of one single person whom passed beyond this life, but of the several I last spoke to, or seen, if only in a dream, and now remember as if still awake in that dream.  I try to think of poetry, to form my words into something divine so my memories of you can float up into a heaven we can all recognize you in, someday, yes, that dreadful word someday I speak it like it will be tomorrow.  When I type it a bit of thunder rumbled outside my window.  Imagine that, thunder on Samhain!  What solace can be had this midnight with a thunderstorm?  You know how I am with storms.  My heart trembles and my skin goose pimples as the rain falls as if it were made of pure electricity.

Outside tonight the Halloween revelers are all a scream, running for shelter, their individual bonfires flooded out with the down pour as one more thunder strike silences everyone indoors.  A peace falls again, darkness swells as the rain tumbles with the thunder, thunder growing more gentle now even as it swells in intensity all along the clouds.  The rush of the wind makes me feel like I can hear your voice better now, telling me to call it a night, “go to bed, find a pillow, cry into it, or watch a scary movie, maybe take a shower, wash it all away like old make-up” and the rush becomes a fever.  There is heat all over my face.

I can’t help it.  I carry you with me everywhere I go.  I always will.  But you are not a burden.  You weigh nothing, yet only the sorrow is heavy, that is why I have to cry it out in doses, dump all these tears as much as I can and pray, at this moment especially, the Thunderers take it as my offering tonight.  May my salt leave my eyes, stop stinging my sight so I can finish writing these words, release my sorrow-burden and go on pretending everything has not left a mark, and all will be as if you did not die.

I know some of us say we do not die but we change from one life to the next and in this, yes, we must acknowledge death!  Accept death for what it is!  Do not hide sweet death and shy not from darkness…  but why, why take you so suddenly?!  What cause has your death sweetened for this life?  Those who say there is a plan for everything and that this is the work of God are mistaken.  No master plan is behind this.  Nature is random.  Only people put a riddle, rhyme, and reason to it all.  Poetry.  Yes, forever the poetry.  If only life were poetry!

We’d live forever if you and I had wrote our days long-hand poetry.  What epics we’d be now.

In this end, the poetry still leaks, strays away from me, repeats, even when I am at my loss for words I am poem-ing — perhaps that is how I carry you all — I poem you with me, always.  Like starting from a trail of tears to leaving a tiny, dry, dusty trail of glitter behind me as I reach the end of my lines, reaching for my solace.  On Samhain, forty minutes before midnight, my only strength in lighting candles, petting cats, about to watch an old scary movie, a black-and-white one I never got to watch with you, but one of you would appreciate the most.  I feel a smile somewhere in the darkness like an embrace.  It lifts me up a little at my waist.  Blood rushes back to my feet.  My finger tips tingle back to life after a numbing-stabbing of pain when I was at my bursting of tears.

I am not alone.

I’m not alone in carrying you with me.  You can be with so many different people now.  You need for no cell phone or internet.  Travel isn’t a bitch anymore.  Your body is only emotion, imagination, perfectly mobile in every meaning of invisible, impossible, and beyond understanding.  You can fit into anything, can take the shape of everything, and be the talk of everyone like you never were as a person.  No one need measure you by scientific means, or record you on video, or track you with any devices.  You’re gone in the sense that no one need touch or see you if they don’t need to, or want to, and even if they do, you’re there in the sense you never could be when you were.  As a story, more than fiction, but in this I can back that up with my poetry reference.

But in my times of solitude, where I am in my place of believing experiencing you out of your old body, it is another burden to sleep in the closet.  Sometimes, however, it is nice in the darkness.  It can protect me from the garish light, stop a migraine cold in its tracks, and heal me during times when a crowd is an assault to my senses.  When all I want to do is curl up with you, it would be nice to share what you have to say, yet the worry of the words…

perhaps only poetry is the way?

— in memory of Dylan, Joyce, and Shawnus

What You Thought the Oracle Said Wasn’t True: A Guide on How to Read a Psychic


I have twenty years experience giving psychic Tarot readings, I’ve worked as an Occult Consultant for paranormal investigations, I moonlight as a Spirit Medium, and I seek to serve my community as an Oracle, but I will be the first to tell you that not everything us so-called “psychics” tell you are true. In the game of predictions there is a wide margin of error, hence why fortune-telling is more of a novelty and not taken so seriously. It is always up to the seeker (you) to decide what to believe in.  I have read the destinies of many people, some have taken what I said to a degree where they allow it to direct their lives into an unhealthy direction, and some have done what they’re supposed to do with their fortunes; they took what I told them as a guide, they made a choice, they took control of their lives, and perhaps look back at what I said as an interesting story to talk about at a dinner party.

Being a guide, that’s what an Oracle is, she’s not your personal doom seer, not someone to fear and expect death sentences from.  If you don’t want to know the possibilities of whether or not you’ll be with your boyfriend forever, don’t ask the Oracle.  If you really want to know when you’ll die, go ahead and ask, you’ll get a number, but it might not happen at the age predicted.  Or maybe a kind of death will happen at the age pin-pointed.  I was once told I’d have a baby at age 24, and then die at age 39, but both those ages came and went without those events!  However, at the time I was engaged… if I had kept the choice to stay in that relationship, who knows, it could have happened.

Beyond fortune-telling, there is another game, that of psuedo-spiritual advice, and a psychic can do it without a degree, they don’t have to be an ordained minister, and most just jump into it without a lick of experience dealing with the public. All you have to be is pleasant and approachable. But to make money at it, you have to have “game” just like any person out to make a connection with another — a gimmick, a look, some kind of unique talent that catches the imagination of others and leaves them wanting more. I knew about this game when I started making a living at it in the mid-90’s attending psychic fairs, and pandering on the street while homeless during the early 2000’s. The game was highly competitive, like a boot camp for crystal-baring New Age-rs and other metaphysical nerds, and I was never completely keen on the idea of taking money from people who were all-too-eager to buy everything I told them as Bible Truth. In the beginning, I was taught to always add, “Just be aware, no matter what the outcome, you always have the power of Choice”, but the message never quite gets through to people, especially when a querent is desperate for messages from the Powers-That-Be. When I was homeless, I was the one desperate to survive, and I knew how to play a part — I was an actor, I did all my own marketing, and I had a following — performing at festivals, at local cafes, anywhere for anyone, applying the tricks of the trade I saw other psychics use to scrupulous measure. I put Cold Reading to the test, and I must say it worked every time, but it was still very stressful to do because I never knew when I’d mess up. Needless to say, my “performance era” was short-lived, but it was fun being something akin to a gypsy.

Always think for yourself. Question everything you are told. A psychic, just like any good therapist, only shows you your possibilities… and alternatives as you make your choices on life’s path. But when you’re like me, when your life’s path is that of an Oracle — a person who uses trance, and many other means, to connect to the spiritual world according to her religious beliefs and/or cultural, spiritual, and magico-religious practices, to procure messages from the gods to give to seekers — the role of playing fortune-teller twists away from the game of psychic counseling to something altogether different. I have much responsibility and integrity to uphold. It feels dangerous. It’s like playing with people’s’ lives, but only if they swallow the message whole, or use it to further their cause.

In the ancient world it was also the same, I believe, because it’s evident in the hero’s epics — Oracles warn heroes that if they pick a certain path it will lead to doom, but if they pick a more domestic path, one without adventure (and therefore without valor or renown), they can live a long life with their families — yet heroes always pick, despite the Oracle’s counsel, the hopeless cause. Just like in the movie The Matrix, the Oracle seems to know everything that is going to happen, and she recognizes who-is-Who, yet events happen outside of the reach of her knowing, choices change the direction of things, even though the same result is reached, just not the way we all think it’s going to turn out.  Oracles are not know-it-alls!  If we were, we wouldn’t be poor. We’d live like the famous psychics that pop up now and then, selling their series of books and wares, appearing on television series, and what all. And if we were perfect, we’d all not have any mental or emotional pain.

Some people really want to have the abilities that psychics, mediums, and oracles seem to have because it gives them a thrill, they truly want to help other people, and they just want to know more about the spiritual world. But I’m here to tell you it’s not all beds of roses with ghosts in them giving you back massages and whispering secrets about your friends in your ears. Scary experiences will haunt you, and if you’re not strong, you’re in for several breakdowns. Natural ability or not, it’s not easy to figure out what to do, or who to go to for your own counseling on how to deal with “talking to dead people” because there are very real, very serious disorders that can debunk all that. I have questioned myself a lot, but I also cannot deny that, after so many years of practice, training, and testing, clients come back to me to testify I was “right” (whether or not I remember what I told them).

I want to write for you a small question/answer list of what to look out for when you go out for a psychic reading. Want to know what to look for in a reader? Who can you trust? Who is shady? What is all entertainment only, and real spiritual counseling? And how can I avoid misinterpreting the results of a reading? Much of it is common sense, really. Read on and see if you agree with me.

Q: How do I know when a psychic is taking advantage of me?
A: Look for clues in what they offer. Their services are usually outrageous. If they charge you a lot of money for a cleansing, or to rid you of a curse. If they tell you in a reading that someone close to you is zapping you of energy, that your house has a demon in it, or that you have a spirit attached to you and that you need them to get rid of that, and only they have your cure, chances are they want to rip you off. Especially look out for them selling you even more expensive “cures” that are really cheap ingredients like a simple wax candle, “holy oil” that is just canola oil, and soap you can buy anywhere. The money charged is usually in amounts like $99.99. Psychics like that are not true advisers, they’re con-artists. Other fake psychics may actually have some talent, but are in it strictly for money. They really want to keep you as a client. Scare tactics work every time. Believing that something supernatural has it in for you is rather flattering, and thrilling, and these psychics will play you for your money’s worth, not to mention destroy relationships and mess with your mind.

Q: What should I look for in a good psychic reader?
A: “Good” readers are professional — they do not give you any outrageous claims, they are straight forward, don’t ask many questions, and present their impressions, opinions, and advice confidently. Their prices reflect their intentions, experience, and reputation. The more references they have, you can be assured they are doing right. Look for testimonials — real ones, not false advertisements — from clients who are also professionals. Also look for a solid history that is well documented. Even if a good reader does not have these, check out where they are doing their readings: have they been hired by a reputable business? Is their place of business somewhere comfortable, appropriate, or even if it’s campy and/or decorated according to a cultural standard, is it clean and the people there helpful? Do they make you feel welcome?

Q: How can I tell when a reader is telling the truth when they answer my questions?
A: You can’t. They will point out the truth as they see it. You may not agree with them at times, but it’s up to you to decide what is true. Every psychic is an individual and will have their own unique opinions that may, or may not, adhere well to your personal views. If you go to more than one psychic, you may get more than one answer. Some will tell you what you want to hear according to how many dollars you give them. Some will tell you only what they pick up, no matter what you pay. Answers always will vary and change according to your mood, worries, and the energy you are projecting. Psychics pick up more on what is going on with you right now, and what happened to you before, and when it comes to the future, well, the future is always changing based on what you are doing now. Instead of feeding you answers, nearly all good psychics will get you to ask more questions of yourself, and think for yourself.

What is your truth? If it doesn’t match what the oracle says, then investigate what it is about you at the moment of the reading that brought about that result. If you didn’t like what the oracle said, don’t pay attention to it. Why believe everything someone “psychic” tells you? Just because someone is dealing the Tarot cards, does not mean they know more about you than you do about yourself. Pay more attention to how you feel and what you think. Again, you are asking the questions. You are the seeker.

Keep searching.

Q: What should I do to keep track of every psychic reading I get?
A: Bring a notebook and write down the results, record the reading using a voice activated device, or video tape your session. The value of documenting your reading is essential so you can go back to re-examine the results as they happened! If you want to guard against misinterpretation, having documentation to back up someone else’s claims, as well as aid you in any kind of paranormal research, is the smartest way to check the accuracy of a psychic.

Q: How can I find a “real” Oracle, or spirit medium?
A: In my honest opinion, the “real ones” are practitioners in a specific cultural or religious tradition, or have some affiliation within an organized spiritual institution. These are people who have trained and devoted their lives to the practice, and it is foremost the main service they give to their communities. Many of them do not make much money at it. Using myself, for example, I often do an exchange of services, or use a barter system, especially during times when money is scarce. Acting as an oracle is often part of the duties of priest/ess in many cultures. Major decisions are not made without consulting with this holy person. It is a very different way of thought and action than how it is in the average American Joe world. If you seek this kind of person for spiritual advice, you may have to petition them by offering them a favor or two in payment, or you may have to be a part of the religion they practice, depending upon how exclusive and secretive their tradition is. Oracles and mediums work with spirits, they do not command them to do things for people, so often times messages come from the spirits, and the spirits require offerings and favors. Again, not every oracle follows these rules, this is just a few examples added for flavor.

Q: What can a Spirit Medium do? Will they contact specific dead relatives for me? How do I know it’s real?
A: You’ll never quite know. Refer back to the top of the list and beware of the fake psychics who’ll take advantage of you while you’re vulnerable. Don’t seek a spirit medium while you are the most upset during mourning the loss of a loved one. However, sometimes when you do get a reading, miracles can happen. Who knows? It’s up to you to believe and let what needs to happen, happen.

Let me spell out for you what spirit mediums do, and what you can expect from them, with this list…

1. A Spirit Medium is Not a Ouija Board, or a Telephone! However sometimes we feel like we’re being used like a device by the spirits, we just can’t be used by people as if we are.  It would be nice if it were exact, that would at least make the skeptics settle down.
2. Spirits Communicate Through the Medium, ‘They’ Decide if They’re Gonna ‘Talk’.  There is no forcing or demanding spirits to do anything, unless you want a very unhappy, angry spirit on your hands.
3.  Spirit Mediums Do Not Always ‘Hear’ Spirits Talk:

  •  Most of the time that “talking” is our interpretation of dream-like images flashed within the mind, and it’s up to us to decide whether or not they are actually messages from spirits
  • Communicating with spirits is often flashing back to the spirits ideas in the shape of dream images, this going back and forth is a process that sometimes requires me to go into a trance-like state: I let go of my present consciousness and share consciousness with spirits, the spirits and I operate as “one” for a little while. (Not every medium does that, by the way)
  •  Spirits are disembodied beings of pure emotion, and rarely show themselves entirely in a medium’s mind, so most of the time they “talk” by projecting emotions and sensations through the physical body — it can feel like they are attacking you, especially when these sensations become painful (because sometimes a spirit is urgently trying to reach out)
  • Spirits send “thoughts”, and that leaves a lot to the imagination! Not every medium is great at interpreting what’s shared.

4. Spirit Mediums Don’t Just Talk to Ghosts. There are a host of spirits out there. Depending upon the personal beliefs of the medium, they will react in many different ways towards spirits. Some are very afraid, some aren’t. You have to decide what you’re comfortable with.
5. The Success of a Spirit Medium Depends Upon the Querent. If you have an open attitude, the more chances the world will “open” up the possibilities of spirit contact for you. If you are nothing but skeptical and don’t really want anything to happen, everything will remain closed. Simple as that.
6. Shut Up! Stop Telling the Medium All About Yourself. We want to explore and find things out on our own. Feeding us information will spoil a reading. If you want us to validate true contact with the dead, it’s gotta happen naturally.
7. Mediums Always Make Mistaken Identities and Describe Inaccurate Details that Don’t Match Up. It’s hard to tell sometimes when it’s our own thoughts and dream imagery and not that of the spirit world because both go hand-in-hand. It seems like a risky guessing game, but actually it’s funny. Sometimes what I think is the wildest interpretation is the most accurate.
8. Even Spirit Mediums have Skeptical Minds. We question things we think, we wonder if we’re right or wrong, we research what we thought were vibes, and there’s a healthy amount of doubt no matter what. I don’t buy into everything I’m told, why should you?
9. Not Every Psychic, Spirit Medium, Oracle, or What-Have-You, is Spiritual or Religious, and they will be most insulted if you make the mistake thinking that they are. Many don’t believe in angels, demons, or even ghosts. So how can they do what they do? They are experimenting with energy, they use terms and techniques more on a scientific level, often in the name of research and detective work.

After writing this, I realize this all still seems confusing, and I may have convoluted it all with my personal testimony. So, dear reader, before I leave you to your thoughts, I will lastly differentiate all the types of mediumship in this world I slipped into I call Supra-Oracledom:

Valentina’s Guide on How to Read Psychic Readers
Part 2: Identifying Spirit Mediums & Psychic Senses

  • Mental Mediumship: A practice where thoughts are exchanged with spirits as a form of communication. These thoughts are “heard” just like thinking to yourself, they are subtle, almost a type of whisper, and can be intermixed with the medium’s own thoughts. Messages come like dream interpretations — it can be tricky to make sense of what is real or delusion, hence why the margin of error.
  • Trance Mediumship: Partial consciousness shared with spirits where communication takes place as an exchange of dream images or ideas. A variant of Trance is a deeper form where the medium is fully inducted into trance, letting a spirit(s) take over their consciousness in order to communicate with the living. Such individuals require assistance. The practice of Channeling is a variant of Trance — where a medium goes “out-of-body” temporarily to let an entity (such as an angel, or some one-thousand year old monk) take over their body to relay messages.
  • Physical Mediumship: The medium is used by spirits as a sort of battery to plug into so they can manifest in the physical world, producing all sorts of noisy and possibly sudden, violent effects that are quite electrical-feeling. This is the rarest form of mediumship, and the most hoaxed.
    The Senses & Abilities Psychics Claim to Have:

  • Clairaudience: hearing the thought-like voices of spirits
  • Clairvoyance: seeing spirits
  • Clairsentinence: feeling the presence of spirits, taking on their ailments, sharing physical sensations
  • Clairsentience: sensing the presence, or impression, of spirits
  • Claircognizance: knowing something without being conscious of it
  • Clairalience: smelling the presence of a spirit(s)
  • Clairgustance: actually tasting the impression of a nearby spirit!
  • Quick note: All the prefixes clair mean clear

As a parting message, I leave you with words from the great goddess Fortuna, or Fortune, whom I consider a patron goddess of fortune-tellers (for do we not participate in her games of chance and destiny?):

“I turn the cycles of life, and I am happy to bring down those on their high horse, and lift up those who are down on their luck. You’re welcome to step up and spin the wheel of fate! Provided that you remember everything is left to chance, and change. I am not changeable, I stay the same, it is life that changes with my touch. It is said I favor no one, except those who make their own luck, but I am not about luck. I am fate. You’ll never know me. I’ll only give you peeks.  I was there at your birth and will be there at your death, and though you may blame me for the results of your choices, know that I owe you nothing save what I give everyone, my namesake: fortune.”

Magic and Loss

This midnight is better than last year’s
This midnight is better than when you last appeared
This midnight’s better when that old friend disappeared
This midnight’s better because the spirits’ near and cuddling

And Lou sang:

*Magician, Magician take me upon your wings
and … gently roll the clouds away
I’m sorry so sorry I have no incantations
only words to help sweep me away
I want some magic to sweep me away
I want some magic to sweep me away”

Then Lugh says:
“You knew the two you loved most had to go”

And with the new dawn, I learn
grasping at the old fur, I awake
setting aside my brushes, I wash
and with one last cry, I know

The Midnight Angel taught me I can survive even the death of someone I feel I cannot live without, and so he showed me, moving out of the cat’s skin, leaving me behind with all my sobs and wails, to grow silent again.

When I stand, I hear Lou sing:

“I want to count to five
turn around and find myself gone
Fly through the storm
and wake up in the calm”

Before Isis can tell me: “It has been done, They have flown”

My dream unfolds, words have no meaning
two months flow away into nothing
a year and five days and he’s as if no one
but I exist and the story is mine telling, worth knowing
I have meaning and so has my love, I hold on to everything
let go of the ghost of it, hang on to the preciousness

Oshun told me once: “It doesn’t matter if we didn’t mean as much to those we loved, what matters is that we loved, and what mattered is your love had meaning for you.  You have to really love with everything you are, don’t let that be forsaken, especially by your self, because if somebody else didn’t think you meant anything, and you now think you don’t mean anything because what they think matters more — that’s two people’s worth of power overcoming the love you could have helping you survive.  You gotta live on your love.”

And so it came to pass, the cat’s spirit onward his mission
my best friend, grown too big for the body that housed him
and far too powerful for me to hold back, gone to bliss
the cat became part of the Great Mystery, I melt to wonder

When the cat body died I thought I heard a whisper of Lou’s song come out of him:

“Magician take my spirit
inside I’m young and vital
Inside I’m alive please take me away…”

Because the body, once dead, gave birth to the brave spirit
the death was the rejuvenation of the Angel, a welcoming
the receiving of Who He really was inside, but I felt lost
there was no joyful release for me, only the cold shell
what was I to do but bury the thing, now empty, that I held?

But when They — the Goddesses Bastet, Hathor, & even slithering Wadjet — reached for my friend, it was I who began to echo Lou’s lyrics:

“I want some magic to keep me alive
I want a miracle … I don’t want to die
I’m afraid that if I go to sleep I’ll never wake
I’ll no longer exist
I’ll close my eyes and disappear
and float into the mist”

Awake for days, the funeral complete
felt the wind answer “yes”
and heard the paws in the leaves
and the echoes of many voices in the woods
announce my friend’s acceptance into Beyond
and worries ceased
and prayers increased
and many strange eyes peeked

Asleep for days, one month since death
the wind still carries his cry
the silence continues to say my name
and the memories of our life built a blanket fort
home is where I am surrounded by You, little friend
and I no longer think about that guy
and I can finally rest
and only worry is ‘have I really let go?
or will I obsess all over again?’
sometimes I think it someone else’s fear
at times all I think about is the lonely things

Wadjet-Bastet hisses-whispers all the same to me:

“When will you be done with all this blubbering? We’ve given you a new day, time has come to wash away, a new skin has grown, can you not feel the underneath, the twitchering-feeling-slickery-flickering? Lick at it. Roll on it. Dance with it.  Take your beauty back. Heal.”

I do. I do!  I will.

And Lou sang:

“I need more than faith can give me now
I want to believe in miracles – not just belief in numbers
I need some magic to take me away
I want some magic to sweep me away
Visit on this starlit night
replace the stars the moon the light – the sun’s gone
Fly me through this storm
and wake up in the calm …
I fly right through this storm
and … I … Wake … Up … In … The … Calm”

And I know what he was meaning in the singing
but I know all the magic all the more for the loss
it’s been the story of the year
it’s been what I was given

all the wonder
all the pain

Lugh said:
“It’s also in your painting. Look closer at what you do. You don’t do anything without a reason. And you were never nothing.”

I see the spirits inside the cat who was my friend
I see him now in many different ways
again, I tell you, he taught me how to live
taught me I can live, survive, live through loss

the loss of someone I cannot live without has not killed me
it is the magic that has swept me back up into Me
I am still who I am without giving in to the
ostracization that made me think me lost
I did not need some role to fit in and
don’t need work for a man’s
approval when all along
all I need is just
home and cat
and love
my God
life
be
me

*———————*

*My favorite Lou Reed song is ‘Magician’ from the album ‘Magic and Loss’*
Lou Reed died on October 27th, 2013, same day as a friend of mine was found dead from apparent suicide. Lou’s music is now married to memories of this friend, especially echoing the last conversation I had with him.

This song especially speaks to me of the losses of life and friendship I’ve endured this year. I understand the pain and the death, but don’t know why we have to lose people we love in this world. I wonder at the magic of the other world… at what may be waiting beyond my wondering.*

*———————*

Coming up soon: So much to talk about! So much has happened! Exciting news, strange paranormal happenings, new friends, renewed vigor, and finally getting my act together as pieces of my puzzle come together. Wish I had all the time in the world to write it all down. Samhain 2013 marks a little milestone for me as I finish a playing card deck and start a new venture as a spirit medium and paranormal illustrator. Yes, you heard that right.

Plus, something adorable has brought joy into my life. I have a baby girl! Um, kitten. Her name is Miss Velvet Rose the Lady Monster. That story I have to save for next time.

Expect some changes around here as I celebrate my second year here at WordPress. Yay!

Why You Don’t Have to be Ashamed of Paganism

Do not judge and you will never be mistaken. ~Jean Jacques Rousseau

If you are insecure about what you believe, much less what you practice, chances are you are losing your religion. Or perhaps the faith was not yours to keep to begin with? If you become embarrassed by the way your fellows worship, could it be a sign that you are simply prejudiced against your own kind, or that you really don’t belong? If you cannot join them, why are you there? Why complain and judge and spend so much time debating how they should change, when perhaps it is you who needs to make the change? If you are not dancing with your friends, the joy gets knocked out of you, and you cannot experience the joy the others are sharing. The only way to find your true way is to take a cue from your heart, step back, do not judge, and move towards that different beat calling you away…

If you find yourself ashamed of what you once loved, take it as yet another “ordinary” omen; you are growing into and beyond faith, moving past the surface you clung to, and soon you’ll prove to yourself what it is you truly believe. At some point we have to separate ourselves from the community we once identified with, and it is very healthy to become disillusioned with the behavior of our peers, especially when we decide it is time for us to create our own practices.  But it is also just as important to remember our roots, to honor where we have come from, and thank the people who fostered us during those early days when we first set foot on our path.

There are a great many young Pagans today who are ashamed of being associated with other Pagans and who are embarrassed by public performances of Pagan communities at Pagan Pride celebrations. This used to anger and upset me to tears. I took this as a terrible rejection, especially when close friends decided to no longer worship with me, or after many years apart I would find out they were not Pagan any more.  We would get into arguments over whose way of thinking and believing was more correct, or needed improvement, and we’d compare religious thought like who has more money in the bank.  I would tell myself that this is how we were showing each other we cared, yet we did was hurt each other and waste our time, time we could have spent building each other up instead of putting each other down.  With time, I’ve come to accept my friends’ choices to quit Paganism, not as a rejection, but as part of the personal spiritual journey they are going through. Who am I to judge them? And why should I care when they judge Paganism an embarrassment?  For I am certainly proud of it.

It reminds me of a time when some lesbians and gays would get embarrassed by all the flamboyant drag kings and queens on the floats at Gay Pride parades. “I don’t want people thinking that’s what we’re all about,” they would say, worried about the images of gays presented to mainstream America in the media.  It still pervades today among different subcultures across the world — we all get our panties in a bundle over stereotypes! So worried other people will lump us all in with the louder, weirder, crazier, fluffier, campy members of our little tribes that it keeps us from truly enjoying who we are and what we do.

The problem with letting this embarrassment get to you is the shame of it all. At the heart of being ashamed is humiliation and guilt: both are tell-tale signs that we make ourselves feel inferior to the point where we remain restrained by the anticipation of shame brought upon us by another culture we deem more powerful, all because we are guilty of belonging to a group we believe is without power. When we believe our community does not have power, we in turn believe we have no power when we stand with them, and we cease to believe our religion has no validity compared to other religions with less embarrassing behavior and practices.  When we are ashamed, we support powerlessness.  We cave in.

I am an invisible man…. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids – and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. ~Ralph Ellison, The Invisible Man, 1952

The other danger of letting embarrassment rule your judgment is the way in which you come to treat other people — will you let yourself fall into the Hall of Assholedom?  Or love, respect, and wisdom?  The people we are embarrassed of, are people we make invisible.  We stop validating their feelings, experiences, thoughts, and rights.  We start to judge them, not for the friends they are, but as strangers you deem them to be.  Even if you know them, you stop seeing them.  You don’t know what level they are standing at, or what they’re going through, and they have no more importance.  Even if you claim to live by a code of honor and be the best human being you can be; if you hold any prejudice against a group for being different (that includes flaky), you best check yourself.  It is not righteous or heroic to bully a group’s right to worship as they see fit, and they will worship and behave as they will, with or without your approval because it makes them happy.  The same goes for any individual who is different than you, too.  Let them be different.

When in a group, it is good etiquette to practice as the group does, improvise when the time is right, share ideas, and speak up! If you do not like working with a group, don’t work with a group. To get along with others it is essential to let people be who they are. Let them tell you what they are all about. Don’t assume you know all about them just based on how they look or even what they say. They might be deeper individuals than you think. People always surprise me once I get past that first impression. Judge a book by the cover? Covers lie, my friend. Ask any best-selling pop fiction author, they usually never get to pick what art will grace the cover of their books, but the content may blow your mind every time.

If you judge people you have no time to love them. ~Mother Teresa

I tend to fall in love with people no matter who they are, regardless of age or sex, and want to adopt them all as my family. Perhaps I am unique in that sense. I have never really been ashamed of the silly, fringe, New Age-y members of our community, however at one point I was greatly annoyed to the point of irritation. I was in my mid-twenties then, found myself surrounded by adults older than myself who talked about Witchcraft like teenagers giggling about boys, as if it all were the latest fashion, and I immediately assumed these women were definitely not going to stick with “the program”. Then I realized what a waste of time it was that I spent complaining about them. As I whiled away the time groaning over their girlish behavior, anxiety ate at my gut and I could not relax. They were really having fun and I was rotting like a big poop.

Focusing instead on being more productive, plus cutting loose and letting my (to *gulp!* quote one of those New Age phrases!) “inner child” out to play, was so much better. I often liken our rituals to getting outside to play! When you feel ashamed, you won’t dance or laugh, you can’t do anything but stand there feeling the fool. When you are free from shame, you’ll not feel like a fool, in fact you will be far from caring whether or not someone else thinks you are one. This is when being part of a group helps loosen the inhibitions. You’re not alone at play! You’re among your own kind and we will not judge you… at least that is the way it is supposed to be.

Why else do you think we swear perfect love and perfect trust? That was not made up to procure fantasy.

You do not have to change an entire religion in order for one person, or a new generation, to feel comfortable and respected by the rest of the world. There are reasons why neo-Paganism is the way it is and why it will remain so. There are no rules other than:

  • Everyone has the right to follow their own Path
  • We believe in a Higher Power(s) — God/desses
  • Nature is to be venerated

So why worry about what other people think? When confronted with co-workers, family, strangers on the bus, or other silly persons who snicker at the religion I identify with, I adopt an attitude of being Un-Spookable, because ultimately my religion is a personal issue that is left out of their business (they can say whatever they want, but they can’t take it away from me and I shall not be bothered!). When I’m at a job, I’m there as an employee. I leave my private life at home. If someone brings up my beliefs, or anything else that is private, I do not discuss those things at a job. It’s not professional to get friendly like that. If a boss Googles me, they are sticking their nose in my personal business. It does not matter if I have made my blog public and that I call myself Valentina the Witch, that is my persona separate from any other job I’m hired to do. Yet. I have it easy. I’m freelance, it does not matter if I advertise myself as a Witch or not, it goes along with my illustration.

It’s weird that nowadays folks find it easy to make fun of Pagans and Witches then be afraid of them! There are still some parts of the world where announcing your religion of choice could get you killed, yet at least here we can express our spirituality as we see fit. In the late 1980′s/early 90’s when I first discovered Witchcraft, I saw a few Goddess-centered public rituals that were pretty damn intense that included nudity, fire, mud, and large statuary representing giant genitalia. Back then more people were spooked by Paganism not scoffing at it!  A lot of people liked the tenets of belief and practice, yet weren’t as brave or wild to invent such crazy performances, so even then there were people embarrassed by that. Thus began movements to tame down ritual into simple, child-like, easy-to-swallow forms for personal and public use.

Pagan religion, movements, traditions… they are always evolving, changing, rituals get rewritten, no one way is supposed to be the only way, you make your way of worship your own way.  This is not disorganization.  This is individualization.  It is the way all of religion is flowing into the future.

Most Pagans today find an introduction to our religion by books, or by websites, much of which filled with half-truths and myths written mainly to lead an individual to further study.  In our age with the instant gratification of information and popular spirituality, we have a multitude of authors (some posers, some true authorities) out there to test young minds.  Yet I find that part of being Pagan is discovering the truth behind the fictions we are given.

I once had a teacher who was a terrible drug addict and dealer! I did not know it at the time, but there was something about him that did not feel right to me, some of the things he said and did were off, and after finding out how messed up he was, I still walked away with mighty lessons. He taught me what NOT to do, but even though he was delusional, he was a powerful magician with years of herbal medicine experience and introduced me to other Witches who weren’t addicts who taught me more than he could. His behavior was appalling, and perhaps someone else may have walked away in disgust, never again to dabble in the Craft, but not me.  Even the worst guide can still be a guide.

Our thoughts are unseen hands shaping the people we meet. Whatever we truly think them to be, that’s what they’ll become for us. ~Richard Cowper

I find that often Paganism is a gateway religion for many seeking another path that is out there for them to discover and experience. Yet I would advise you all not to abandon Paganism for a passing fad, or continue to treat Pagans with harsh criticism because you have come to the conclusion that it does not work for you, or you find you do not fit in with the crowd. If any of you grew up in a strict religious family, or have ever been confronted with ultra-right-wing religious conservative people,  you would do well to remember how having their doctrine forced upon you felt. And the more someone argued with you, attempted numerous times to convince you how wrong you are, and policed your behavior with phrases like “you ought to be ashamed of yourself!” while you were simply just being different, the less you stayed within the church of your upbringing, and the less their words had any effect on you. Pagans are against that practice. Why?  Because we are not a religion that hates or inhibits anyone’s freedom.  We do not force people to stay in a religion that they are embarrassed of, or have out grown. If you must move on, please go in peace. We will not try to change you.  We ask nothing from you.  Just be yourself.

So, please, with all due respect, do not try to change us. Because we’re happy with ourselves. We’re not ashamed like you are. Don’t shape us into what you think we are. You might someday discover we never fit that mold to begin with. But we’ll forgive you just the same.

As for me, this Witch always has room in her heart for you, who ever and where ever you are, no matter what religion or subculture you belong to, and even if you think me silly and want nothing to do with me, I’ll miss you while I dance with the whole wide world under the pale moonlight!

Postcard #43: To Make Up for All the Lost Days

Forgive me for the days I surrendered this body to the wind. The days I lost my voice and forgot to sing. I did not realize you would miss me so much. Those were the days I took for myself. Days of a sacred silence so fragile, gossamer-precious, and so fine — I wore it all — a gown made of breeze, with dying flowers and leaves for accessories, leaving nothing to cover the delicates — and I moved in worries and whispers, sore lonely, exposed for attention, and yet not receiving it. Like a nude on frozen block, I grew chapped and bitten, and as night made sun shrink, and with each growing less-and-less day, each twilight the shadows sought to cover me. Quickly they had their way with me, kind, warm fingers and hands preparing me for the winter. And as their stretched-all-too-long forms grew darker, denser, heavier, their arms stronger, lifting me up, carrying me home, putting me back to bed, they remind me that as the darkness makes the cold harder, you are disappearing further away. But, to the Shadows, any thing moving away is disappearing. And I tell them dis-appearing does not mean no-longer-being-a-thing.

“For look at You, in the darkness You yet live,” I say, and soundlessly they scatter about as if dancing in and out of flickering firelight.

We start the day in darkness. We end it in darkness.
Just as we end and begin each year in darkness.
All things are born in and return to the dark.

Darkness is not a no thing. Nothing. Darkness is not nothing.

Yet why do we fear these Shadows inching close upon us? Stay in the light and go into the light! so often is said to lost and wandering souls, because the darkness seems an enemy, a void, dead and vast, the eternal black without escape. Light projects the sense of salvation, but only because it allows us to see what is ahead of us, and to know what is all around us gives us no need for faith or trust. Light is the easy way out, the drawing away from all that is profane and not heavenly, the point out of this tenebrous Earth.

But… to make friends with the dark! That is a true way to develop faith and trust, in yourself, in your Gods, in all the invisible things that stretch out to you and support your life. Shadows have no need to deceive. They project no thing. No thing ceases to exist when it disappears. When a thing is lost, it has moved, no longer in sight, yet lives beyond our reach, becomes a thing now living past our sense of sight and touch, like a spirit, or existing in spirit, or might as well be a spirit. And we can talk to each other like we do our spirits. We can conjure up a chat. Create an astral coffee-house. Sit a spell in a space within my mind and dream up embraces…

But you are not a thing, not just spirit, you are a Being. There is the difference. And when I wrote ‘Being’ a crow in the distance calls and the wind kicks up the leaves just outside my window as if to answer it.

Last half of August and all of September I was truly naked, now you can find me in the woods with my full winter cloak on, and dancing with all the happy shadows, and it is almost as if I cannot feel the cold. There are so many happy shadows in October, ever so eager to talk in that silent way that wolves and cats do, you know, with their eyes and the simple movements, but they people-mimic-it as all shadows learn to do. They spring out behind me, dance from tree to tree. Sometimes take to sky, glide from branch to branch, ride on the crisping leaves and shake them — the only way they can try to sing — that whisper-rustle that happens without the wind, or you could have sworn there was no wind, yet there must have been… And anywhere you are they can follow unseen, get mistaken for other living things that walk through the leaves, just a step behind or in front of you, more than one of them, happy in the knowledge they can do anything they want to without you freaking out. Because the Shadows are darkness and humans associate anything black with evil. But it is such a lovely secret I share with you and I dare you to come out into the darkness with me. The shadows are especially beautiful when they cast themselves over the big full white moon on a clear sky, shaking the last October leaves left on the skeletal oak branches, making the moon seem to move like a globe filled with black glitter. We can stare at that for hours, sit on the hard ground while our cheeks and eye-lashes get dusted by frost, watch as the shadows only seem to disappear as dawn convinces them to change form, and delight at how it is not yet too cold to sleep outside, but how sweet it is now to drag feet back home for a hot thing to drink.

More crows gather on the very branches where I saw the shadows dance over the moon last night. They sing their crooky-crackle songs that always seem to announce that, yes, this is October. Grease blue-black wings look best against a background of reds, oranges, yellows, and the last of the green.

The days I did not post cards from home, I spent in dis-appearance and in dis-courage, retreating into bed. I was not lost, more like hidden, in love with my own shadow, grieving over no thing. I felt ‘what I do has no meaning for anyone else but me’ especially after a loved one casually told me ‘did it ever occur to you that what you write are things no one wants to know?’ but they did not mean it to hurt me. Never is it the critique of strangers, but the innocent and disparaging comments of our closest loved ones who are the hardest on us.  (Why is it that family is does that so well?)  And then, just as I am about to believe all I hope to achieve is pipe dream, an audience finds me, writes back to me, asks about me, voices from faraway tell me how much I mean to them, and a different pressure pokes me, ‘now that I’ve created meaning for others, what is it do I mean?’

To make up for all the lost days, I write thousands of words, start over, re-write, trash that, make more starts, think I need to erase and edit, tighten and try for something better, but there is no excuse! Shadows release me from doubt. After a long while of restlessness, it is not sleep I lacked, it was the healing that darkness brings to sore eyes and mind, it shelters and cradles me like a mother’s womb, and it is from there I revive.

I am not starting over. I am smoothing out my feathers. I am picking up where I left off. It no longer matters why I am writing, who I am writing for, what I am writing about, only that I write, and that what I write is out of my own truth. Whether or not everyone I love reads it, you, out there, the one reading this, you are my reader, my muse, my unknown lover, the subject I write to, what ‘you’ is all about.

I am here.  I’ll be here.  Devoted, visible, not a no thing, friend of shadow, always your girl, no matter where or who or how far you are.

This is for you as much as it is for me.