jacktellslies: (crow)
I'm doing a bit of midnight cleaning. My house is obviously possessed, so I'm scrubbing its mouth out with soap before forcing it to swallow thirty gallons of holy water the wrong way. A proper storm stalks outside, the thunder breathing heavily on us while it watches. Tom and Erica recently travelled to New Orleans and were kind enough to buy me a bottle of voodoo floor wash. I'd planned to keep it as something of an amusing prop, but fuck it, I'm using it.

I bought a mask in Brussels: a woman made of dark, dark wood and human hair, her eyes narrowed to slits and her smile a knowing sliver, a scar or a moon. I work with that mask, sometimes: I'll ask her questions, or ask her to watch something for me. I moved the mask aside before sweeping, and living behind her face was a spider, a small one, perched in her web. Well hullo, old lady. The mask has a far finer mind than I could ever boast, and the spider has demonstrated superb housekeeping. It's good to know that I've been directing my enquiries to the proper authorities.

(I'm a touch disappointed that Krys wrote what she did tonight, because I'm afraid that she's rather stolen my thunder. Given the sort of woman that she is, I may be forced to admit that the thunder was hers to begin with.)

As I've grown older, I've stopped calling the gods by name. The more one learns of them, the more obvious it seems that one would do best to avoid their attentions as much as possible. But my distrust has never been less than amicable. It's often quite loving. But all this year they've been taking things from me, unravelling my efforts, the things that I have carefully built.

They are old and they are mad and I no longer trust that they have a point to make. If they had something to say, they ought to have said it. Because I have things to learn. I am very busy. And they have been getting in my way. Now I am going to start feeding them to each other.
jacktellslies: (crow)
One of the dishwashers with whom I work approached middle age like a traveler, and as he was obviously only curious and exploring the territory, age has mostly left him alone. He's a beautiful man, tall and quite dark with admirable dreadlocks. He has the sort of hands that one would expect could do any number of things, but I think mostly he reads.

He is the grandson of a woman who was blind, but could see the future. And she told him once, with what was for her unusual solemnity, that if he ever saw a black bird suddenly fall directly out of the sky, as if it had bashed its brains on the sun, the world was about to get so bad that no one would want to live in it anymore. It happened in 1995.
jacktellslies: (circusfolk)
Thank you all so very much for the kind words and advice. I've regained regular internet access, although I'm feeling a bit quiet again.

However, while on the topic of losing data, this is worth mentioning: Robin's Bookstore, one of my favourites in Philadelphia, is closing. The place was always stocked with interesting things, although my devotion to it derived from the fact that its sections on magic and related topics were superb. I don't think I've ever been in the place without finding some useful or interesting text I'd not known about yet, which is a better record than any shop I've ever known, even ones specifically devoted to those things. I suspect that either the person responsible for their ordering knew what they were doing, or someone twitched their nose at those particular shelves to make them unusually useful. The place closes on the thirty-first of this month, and all of the first floor books are half priced until that time. This gives me twenty-one days to decide whether or not I need or even want a nicely bound three-part edition of the complete works of Aleister Crowley.
jacktellslies: (this machine)
I've been contemplating menstrual cycles, seismic hormonal shifts, rage, darkness, and blood. I've always enjoyed bleeding a great deal, but the emotional earthquakes that accompany it can at times feel unbearable. It had begun to feel completely unnatural, these sudden cold plunges into insecurity, anger, depression, and desire. And each month presents itself so uniquely that I find it difficult to track or fend off.

That it felt unnatural was the thread I followed. When is the natural ever even? When is it ever smooth? It is quiet when it is hiding, and it is quiet when it is lying in wait. It is savage and protective, even when it is still.

I've met a great many pagans who worship some theoretical forest, some imagined field. I cannot. I worship the land that my boots walk. It is a land of good trash and broken glass, streets that I know and streets I do not, of underground rails, of glass towers that threaten the sky, of alleys, and drains, and hidden places. People get hurt in my city. People die. This city does not fuel or fund my magic. This city is my magic. And when I leave this city, if I wish to move with magic still, I must learn to listen and to speak to other lands.

Why then, if I claim to worship here and to worship now, do I insist on suppressing these things simply because they feel irregular, extreme, and unpleasant?

Will my anger erupt less forcefully when my blood calls it to do so if I more regularly allowed myself my rage? Will sadness refrain from crushing me if I explore it more honestly whenever I find it? Rather than suppressing these things, ought I to be owning them? I am honestly not sure that this will work. I explore my desires honestly more frequently than may be productive, and they still overwhelm me in ways that hurt in the days before I bleed.

Still.

I completely forgot to buy food yesterday, so today I cleared out my pantry in constructing lunch. I made lentils, some red onion sautéed in butter and red wine, some purple potatoes, and I mixed in the seeds from a pomegranate that was brought here on midwinter but never eaten. Red things, dark things, underground things, bleeding things: it's good underworld food.

Sacrifice.

Dec. 27th, 2008 10:04 pm
jacktellslies: (rasputin)
I wrote this some time ago as a comment to a friend. She suggested then that I post it here as well, and I am doing so at last.




I often wonder: if there are gods, why would they require sacrifice, and what reason would they have to care for the things that we offer them?

In some cultures, sacrifice seems to serve to encourage contact where otherwise there would be no reason for any. In some places sacrifice is specifically the price of divination, or of a successful hunt. Sometimes it seems that the gods want to be fed, and, or, the gods want to be remembered.

I have questions about what it means to feed the gods in a post-industrial society. The cultures of which I know that interacted with their gods through sacrifice seemed to have specific formulae for doing so: the gods got the best portion of the hunt, the first harvest, or they got the last of the harvest, and the things humans couldn't eat. The gods in Greece, for example, got the bones. People don't eat bones, so it was convenient for earthly bellies, but they stood for the immortal part of the animal, the true part, and thus were thought to reflect and in ways actually create the immortality of the gods. At any rate, a sacrificial exchange seems historically to have occurred between a people who laboured directly for their food, and were willing to offer a portion of that food in the hopes that they would be able to find, raise, kill, and grow more of it.

My fishcarving might place me closer to such possibilities, but not close enough for my tastes. My labour is with bones and flesh and entrails, true, but it was not my wit nor was it my skill that brought these dead things to my table. Are they mine to offer in trade for divine attentions? Perhaps. The Grecian priests didn't raise cattle, after all. But they were sanctioned by the people. The system seemed more closed, the relationship more clear. The lives of the people, their desires, the hunger of the gods, and the form the gods took in the minds of the people all reflected one another quite directly. Lacking that symmetry, I do not understand what either side expects from the other.

Of course, sacrifice doesn't seem to have lasted as long as agriculture. People continued hunting and farming through the rise and spread of Christianity. I might consider this a sort of inversion: rather than offering the gods the smoke of things uneaten and burnt in exchange for more food, the priests of that god seem to have enforced a switch. The people now were to subsist on spiritual food, sometimes to the exclusion of something real and nourishing. That god wanted prayer, praise, and purity, and had little to do with the success of the harvest. That god did care for the starving destitute, but he had little to do with the richness of the soil, with the things that the people grew there. Food became incidental, fuel for a machine, and the purpose of that machine was to pray.

I wonder if this strange modernity in which our labours are so far removed from our desires and our needs could have happened without the creation of that separation. What does filing papers have to do with a warm house or good food? What does my fishmongering have to do with my internet connection, new shoes, or the meals that I cook? With my time, my work, and my needs so distant from one another, who are the gods on whom I ought to call, and what do I have that they would want?
jacktellslies: (geroges barbier mermaid)
I am a fishmonger, and my hands are wounded as often as they are not. I am kissed by knives, tricked by oysters, and made swollen and sore by the spines of fish. I ought to tell you what I think of gods and of sacrifice, but for now let me tell you that I know precisely what the gods of the seas from which I pull my livelihood demand. Beings of liquid and of hunger and of salt, they want the oldest and the simplest and the most obvious of things: my sweat, my tears, and my blood. So with hands constantly besieged, it seems strange that I ever find meaning in it. I know little of palmistry, and my ignorance lends it an air of mystery and certainty that things that I understand better might lack. And so sometimes, very rarely, my hand bleeds, and I feel in the wound the sense that something is being overwritten. The lines carved anew, destiny yields as I make a choice.

Cassandra.

Apr. 3rd, 2008 09:44 am
jacktellslies: (seven sorrows)
An eternity of bliss would be a torture. Lucifer falls, a third of the angels follow. The remainder huddle to their god, to their assigned roles, smug in their success or frightened and grateful as children. I think this would suffice for almost an eternity. Abuse often does. But even the most strident defenders of the Kingdom would, at last, have their fill of ecstasy and certainty and praise, not because they've grown weary of it, but because endless love and light will be found to have edges and holes. The host embraced and endured their tightly bound, fluxing millennia of heaven but at last will admit to one another that they long with a holy desperation for their lost comrades in hell.

We are told that one cannot hear the voice of god without going mad. Thus the Metatron. But the Metatron, I think, succumbed long ago. She was crushed between the horror of the perfect and the absolute on one side and the overwhelming writhing beauty of the multiple, the incomplete, the endlessly divergent and varying validity held in every particle of creation. The poor Metatron is a pair of twin sphinxes, raving and lying, choking without dying on the ineffable. Or she is silent as the grave, refusing to pollute any truth further.

I don't want to start any blasphemous rumours, but I think that god's got a sick sense of humour and when I die I expect to find him laughing.
jacktellslies: (Default)
I'm dressed like a stage magician, and my pupils are the size of moons. There's a crow's wing feather in the brim of my top hat, and I'm about to make myself disappear.

Something in the back of my head is terrified right now, a petulant little thing that doesn't want to surrender control. It gets in my way when I swallow poisons, but I'm beginning to suspect it's been more of a problem than that. Have I had one foot firmly planted in reality this whole time? How embarrassing. I'll soon fix that. Watch: a perfectly ordinary hat, correct? And empty? Completely. Wait 'til you see what I pull out of it.

Ta da.
jacktellslies: (this machine)
Beth and I dissected owl pellets. Owls swallow rodents whole and vomit up the things they don't need and can't digest, leaving hard little packages of fur and bone. We picked into them, drinking tea and endeavouring to keep the music otherworldly enough, taking an underworld journey on our coffee table. The bones are such tiny things, and the hair sometimes was barely digested at all, leaving fuzzy patches that we thought adorable. We named our skulls. Mine are Mister Bones, Mister Bones being the smallest of the three, Ms. Dirt, and Miss Dust. They, along with the other tiny bones and teeth, are residing in a porcelain box given to me by Tom and Erica with a butterfly on the lid, and the whole lot is inside of my curios cabinet. Poor mice. Twice, now, bits of them have been deemed irrelevant and discarded. The owl took what he wanted, as did Beth and I, and no one ever asked them. Perhaps there's a spider in my house I don't know about, an old Jewish tin and rag man-spider, who'll sell the fur to an ant who'll make of it a coat for a bee.

Equinox.

Mar. 21st, 2007 10:07 am
jacktellslies: (ladies)
Yesterday I went walking. I found snow melting. I found a sigil I'd drawn carved in stone. I found churches made half of stone and half of light. I found bulbs fighting up and petals opening.

Because there's heat beneath your winter: let me in.
Because it's silent in your stone field: let me in.
jacktellslies: (circusfolk)
It is Monday, and, at last! the Winter Moon.

I found my favourite book, Myths and Legends of Flowers, Trees, Fruits, and Plants, by Charles M. Skinner, in the used book shop in the Italian Market. I know it to be my favourite book, despite the fact that I'm not yet past the ash tree in a mostly alphabetical volume. Proof:

We who eat and wear and smoke the plants and drink their sap and juices find in them not only sustenance and shelter, but dreams, medicine, and death; the sharpening and dulling of our nerves; support for the weak and refreshment for the fainting. We find, moreover, oblivion and inspiration... Few, if any, races have escaped the influence of narcotics and stimulants, and inconsistent though it seem, those who do with the least of them are not the most progressive peoples. The Chinese smoke opium, it is true, and the Indians tobacco, but civilized man has accustomed himself to opium, tobacco, wine, tea, coffee, and cocaine.

Does anyone else play with del.icio.us? I am quite new.
jacktellslies: (execution)
The city has been covered in snowflakes since mid fall. They are sprayed on the windows of every coffee chain. Big electric ones poke out from behind the leaves that still cover the trees around City Hall. The leaves aren't even the brown, defeated ones that simply lack the energy to loosen their grip. They're the golden and red sort, glorious and dying but not dead. I don't mind discussing Christmas early, but forcing the association with winter before it is in any way relevant seems almost schizophrenic.

But it's December now, apparently. I've been walking the city in summer clothes. I've seen bulbs coming up, new grass of the colour one only sees on the first days of spring. I'm not exactly the sort to insist too strongly upon any particular theory on shifts in climate, but I can tell when something isn't right.

Flowers out of season mean trouble without reason: my mother hasn't a great many aphorisms, but she does have a few favourite superstitions. And, when my mother believes something, I'm inclined to trust her, even if a good deal of her wisdom finds its origin in rock songs.

Where is the cold, and the dark? Where is the sleeping?
jacktellslies: (sebastian)
Alligator teeth line my mouth, my throat, my stomach. The crow and the shaman in me want to sit down somewhere by myself and tear them out, one at a time.

Once or twice I've opened a fish that was torn up on the inside. It wasn't the mush of belly rot, a thing that surprises me more with its lacking than with its presence. It had swallowed something bad, something sharp. I understand that fish are little more than mouths and instinct and tubes, but I can't help feeling that they should have known better.

What does one do with the bits that don't work? Everything I help to ruin, I ruin in the same way. (This is not nehilism, I swear I'm only being pragmatic.) So how can I fail to change that? And how can I change that? I'm not sure any one of us could recognize ourselves without our myriad lies. So what do we do? Is the trick to tell ourselves new and better ones, honourable, desirable lies, until they become true? Or is it only too much whiskey and too much blood and falling asleep wondering if we'll wake up, and if we do, what we'll be? I'm not sad, but it is winter, and it is dark, and I need to understand. Honestly, honestly, what am I?
jacktellslies: (geroges barbier mermaid)
Recently, while sitting by the river where my cousin drowned, Meredith wished for a boat she could row. I wished her one powered by doom like that of the Lady of Shallot. Not immediate doom, of course. It would take her wherever she needed to go without rowing, with the understanding that, as everyone eventually dies, everything you do is carrying you to your unavoidable death. She had only wanted exercise, and was displeased. But I realized the extent to which I need to read good books and have interesting jobs and spend time with friends and learn. A good life is the only thing that will carry me to my death, to my proper death, to the things that even the best, most adventurous and giving life necessarily excludes.

After my father died, my mother believed that he was trying to tell her something in her dreams. She'd dream of doing the dishes, of seeing his reflection looking at her in the window above the sink. But she'd know that he was dead and wake up afraid and concerned. She had the dreams often, and felt them to be urgent, but could not piece together any message, until my sister told her that she was pregnant, and the dreams stopped coming.

I've been having recurring dreams. Always my family is there. Once we all followed my grandfather, a former naval captain, all of us part of a fleet of something like small fishing vessels or rusted boats for tourists. Sometimes it is my father, back from the dead. I tell him I've missed him, or I fight with him, or try to speak with him of things that have happened since he died. Usually he is mute, or passive, but smiling, as if embarrassed that I don't understand the rules of visitation. And in the dreams there is a theft, or I am afraid of being made to pay for something, or someone, usually my three year old niece, turns to piracy. We move through converging places, land and sea. We wade through flooded tunnels under the boardwalk and the ocean. We cross bridges, crumbling wooden ones, land bridges flat and thin made of ancient orange brick in buildings built over and containing bits of the sea. And there is always a guardian of a passage or of some sort of riddle I never hear but seem to answer correctly. And the guardian is always two things at once. It was a weasel that was also a duck, three dimensional at one angle and two dimensional at another, flat so that it could slip between bricks. It told us that we had been flat and we had been silent, so we could pass and we could live. There was a man who was both my friend Bernie and my amazing geology professor, taking me into his office at a dig site and teaching me to dissect a human heart, smaller than it should have been and wrapped in an inch of gauze like a silver spider web. And in the dreams themselves I know that the dream is important, that I must remember it when I wake, that I must make sense of all of it. But I do not understand.

They are underworld myths. I've gotten that far. I'm crossing the water, I'm afraid of paying the ferryman, or we're stealing the boat. I am following my family into a place I always wake before finding. But why?

It occurs to me that my mother's dream contained some of the same elements. There was the presence of the dead, of course, and the dishes provided the water. The mirror that was not a mirror was a convergence, an otherworld of sorts. The realization in the dream of my father's being present despite his death was a riddle in its own right at the same time that it precipitated her knowledge of the dream while dreaming it.

I do three card tarot spreads. They are as simple as I want them to be, a single metaphor in three pictures. And I sometimes test my cards and my reading. I cast asking to be told about the coming day, so I can interpret and then return, correcting my own assumptions, seeing where prediction and interpretation line up with fact. Asking the cards to explain the Day of the Dead, I was given the Wheel of Fortune reversed; the Six of Swords, the ferryman rescuer, reversed; and the Three of Cups, family and friendship and celebration, reversed. Besides all of the other things that they can mean, reversed cards for me often simply mean an alternate realm of consciousness: it means that you are dreaming, it means that they are dead. So, yes. All of that is exactly what the Day of the Dead means. It couldn't have been explained better in words.

And, later, Meredith read for me. I asked to be told about me as I am now, and was given the Knight of Pentacles reversed, the Seven of Rods, and the Three of Swords reversed. Reading for me (with clarity and insight I never would have found reading for myself) she told me that I was meant to go on a quest, a physical one or a spiritual one or one through the other. The three of swords is what confused us. It is, of course, the heartbreak card, a red and bleeding heart pierced by three swords. She asked if there was any reason that the dead might be upset with me. This was interesting: I'd written almost all of this before that time, but I'd not yet posted it.

I realize now, though, a second option. The card was in the dream. I was taught to dissect a human heart. Bernie/my teacher cut twice. I cut once. But was the card showing the dream, or was the dream showing the card?

Weeks ago, Meredith suggested asking for a key to my dreams before going to bed. I tried. I even asked a fountain, which promised success, but lied. (Of course, I didn't pay the fountain.) I'm thinking of taking the key in with me: an old key under my pillow, and two coins for the toll, and the cards of the day and the dreams, and the cards of the quest.
jacktellslies: (edison hate)
Time and objects may be stolen and borrowed. Also, I've been told to do this.

Meredith got her first tattoo today: a twisted ouroboros.

There was ritual: we smelled crayons and ate the first candy corn of the season, standing at a crossroads (it happened to be there) under a huge and orange full moon. Unadulterated glee was successfully invoked. We walked to a bench and sat down to find broken eggshells and talk about sex. Ritual complete.

Meta. )
jacktellslies: (execution)
"...magic allows us to take control of our own development as human beings. Magic allows us to see the world entire in a fresh and endlessly significant light and demands of us a vital and dynamic collaboration with our environment. Magic brings coherence and structure to psychological 'breakdowns,' psychedelic experiences or transpersonal encounters. Magic allows us to personify our fears and failures as demons and outlines time-honored methods of bargaining with these feelings or banishing them. Magic is the sane response to a world filled with corporate ghost-gods, roaming, mindless laws and peering surveillance lenses. Above all, magic is about achieving results. It's about manipulating real-time events, dealing with devious 'spirits' and other autonomous energy sources. It's about conjuring dead pop icons to do your bidding and writing it all down so that it reads like an exciting adventure story and changes the world around it. Magic is glamorous, dark, and charismatic. 'Magic' is the hopelessly inadequate Standard English word for a long-established technology which permits access to the 'operating codes' underlying the current physical universe. Becoming a 'magician' is a developmental skill, like learning to talk, to reason, to empathize or to see perspective.

"Magic, in short, is Life as it is meant to be Lived by adults."

-Grant Morrison for Disinformation's Book of Lies, Preface, page 9.
jacktellslies: (sebastian)
My questions are about anger. I never was an angry person when I was young. I still don't take these things personally, exactly. It is an issue, though, when the personal is political, as it so often is. Lately all I can do is ignore it. Ignore the larger structures and patterns. Don't read about it. Don't think of it, because there is so very little that I can do about most of it.

So far, this time around, my experiments have been about verbs, not nouns. I am wondering about how one works with certain energies, how one accomplishes certain goals. The gods have become partners more than friends. (It is interesting. I am unused to it, but not uncomfortable with it, for the time being.) But when I think of this anger, I think of Saint Joan, and I think of Saint Sebastian.

I've been too much the martyr, in the past. I've allowed terrible and inconvenient things to happen to me for the perceived good of others. I've been ever so polite. But I grew tired of it. And instead there is this anger.

Why are both of my martyrs soldiers? Rather, how? How does one know when to fight, and when to yield? How does one accomplish anything? How does one know how to do so? I want to protect what is ours and mine. I want to be kind and fair. I want to create change, but I want to feel at peace. I know the stories, but I do not understand how one can hold both.

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