Faerie Life

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who believed in faeries. (Spoilers: she’s now a grownup who believes in faeries.)

From my earliest memories, faeries have been at the center of my mythological world. I’m an only child, and my main entertainment growing up was playing pretend. The first thing I can recall pretending to be was a faerie named Theresa.

There was a broken tree in the woods behind my house, just after you crossed over the edge of our yard, a short, safe-but-still-thrilling distance into the forest. Around the back of the tree was an empty space in the crook of where a now-broken branch once met the trunk. It was a shadowy, spider-webby hole, and one day, I wrote a note and placed it carefully in this hole. It was an invitation to a tea party, addressed to “a fairy.” I know I was in elementary school, because I included my hours of availability (weekends and after 3 p.m.). Some days later, I found a reply written on the back—in my father’s handwriting—from one Theresa the Fairy.

More than anything else, I wanted to really see faeries. I have fleeting, uncertain recollections: Did I really see a faerie, tinged a glowing blue the way Tinkerbell glows yellow, behind my television set? Or is that clear image just what I imagined I might see if I saw one? Did I see a faerie down by the post office near my grandparents’ house, or was it, again, a memory of a daydream? My grandmother told me, one day when we were walking in the woodlot—a piece of land my grandparents owned out on a little island on the Maine coast—that she’d seen leaves standing upright on the forest floor, dancing in a circle, and she knew it was faeries.

Early in the summer after my sixth grade year, my mother and I went into an independent toy shop in Portsmouth, NH called Treetop Toys. It’s a charming place on a street that overlooks the Piscataqua River. You have to step up quite a ways through the door, and inside, there are wooden floors, mobiles hanging from the ceiling, and toys everywhere. I remember the day perfectly: I was wandering out from the back of the shop when, on a shelf and propped against the wall…there it was.

Faeries by Brian Froud and Alan Lee.

$40 was a lot for a book back then, but my mother agreed to buy it for me as my “graduation present.” I took it home and I poured over it, treasuring every handwritten word, every wild, scribbly pencil drawing, every exquisite watercolor.

It changed how I looked at the world of faeries. It changed my understanding of folklore. It changed how I drew and how I wrote. It changed my life.

I hungered for more. Countless hours were spent at the Portsmouth Public Library, an old, dim brick building that the city has since abandoned for a newly built, modern facility. Up on the third floor were the nonfiction stacks, and I’d climb up the shelves to sit in a window where the sill was not really wide enough and read from Katharine Briggs’ Encyclopedia of Fairies. Everything I wrote and drew, from my own stories to the text RPGs I took part in on the nascent internet, was infused with and informed by faerie folklore.

But the years passed, and other interests took over. My later high school years and my college years were consumed by anime. After college, there was the void of post-grad school exhaustion, then Victorian England and paganism. It was paganism that finally led me back to Faerie.

I met some of the most amazing people in my life through paganism. Our dear friends Bridget and Jenn had raved, ever since we knew them, about a magical, perfect place in Glen Rock, Pennsylvania called the Spoutwood Farm May Day Fairie Festival. They told us over and over how safe, how happy, how utterly soul-filling this weekend of faerie revelry was. There, children and adults dressed in faerie costumes and danced to heart-stirring music. Delicious food and handmade treasures were everywhere. And everyone was filled with joy and love and kindness, for each other and for the earth. You will LOVE IT THERE, they told us. Finally, Rachel and I planned and saved up, and we attended our first Fairie Festival with Bridget and Jenn in 2013.

It was everything they said it would be.

The years since 2013 have been pretty hard—and at the same time, they’ve been full of such love and wonder. The promise of the Fairie Festival every year has gotten me through some really rotten times, and the natural high of being in a place so suffused with love, acceptance, and whimsy stays with me long after I’ve gone home.

Last night, when we were in bed, Rachel turned to me and said, in an excited whisper: “Nine more sleeps until we sleep at Spoutwood!” Of course, we’re not literally staying at Spoutwood Farm, but the entire area—the rolling fields, verdant tangled woods, and winding rock-edged roads of southern Pennsylvania—is synonymous, in our minds, with the spiritual fulfillment that is the Fairie Festival.

Only eight more sleeps, now.

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Rachel and I at the Fairie Festival last year – photo by Jenn ❤

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I wrote a tarot deck review

I’m putting some of my tarot content in my tarot and knitting blog, so I had to take a minute to squee that I wrote a review of one of my favorite tarot decks over at The Wooly Witch.  Take a look if you like!

In other news, Katie and I are getting REALLY excited, the annual May Day Faerie Festival is SOON!  End of the month!  We have so much that we want to get ready before then and we’ll probably be scrambling to do everything at the last minute like we always do, but that’s fine.  Everything is okay at Spoutwood.  I CAN’T WAIT TO BE THERE!!

We’ve started subscribing to this meal delivery thing called Blue Apron.  Every week they send us a box of fresh ingredients enough to make 3 meals and we chop and prep veggies and cook ourselves a vegetable laden meal.  It’s been lovely, and it’s definitely getting us to eat more fresh vegetable.  It’s not cheap, but we also aren’t wasting any food.  So far we’ve loved all but one of the meals (it was just okay, not bad) and it’s been fun to get the boxes in the mail and cook new exciting things!

Also I dyed my hair blue again!  It matches the yarn I got in my yarn club this month!

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I love love love the color.

That’s it for now!  See you at Spoutwood!

Being Gay

It’s not actually something I talk very personally about and in talking with Katie a while ago about her fears around her queer experience not being valid because of reasons, I felt like it’s something I really needed to share.

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There is a ton of lesbian, gay, queer, trans narrative out there and a lot of it used to begin with the phrase “I always knew I was different.” And there’s nothing wrong with that, there are tons of people out there who always did know something, and their experiences are just as valid as anyone else’s.

But it isn’t my narrative. And something that I’ve learned as I’ve read more and more people’s accounts of their coming out stories, their self realization stories, is that we need more stories. There is no one single queer narrative, even if people grow up in very similar circumstances, everyone views the word a little differently. And that is a wonderful thing.  I think we need to welcome the diversity of experiences as part of our queer narratives.

I remember reading this book when I was in graduate school, it was called On My Honor: Lesbians reflect on their Scouting Experience. In that book I FINALLY found a narrative that resonated with me. I said, for the first time, “Oh my God, ME TOO!”. And it was a shocking and profound moment. That light bulb moment where you finally truly know that you are not alone in your experiences.

I blogged about that book back in 2006, when it was a light bulb moment for me.

Firstly, I didn’t really even realize that ‘liking girls’ was a THING you could do. I mean I’d heard about gay and lesbian people, but only in that passing “Geraldo show, I kissed my best guy friend” kind of way. I was raised in a very loving and supportive household, my family always valued diversity and we definitely talked about other cultures and pluralism, but sexual orientation just wasn’t really something that was even on the radar as something you could be.

Looking back, I think the first time I was really ever exposed to anything queer at all was when I was living in Hawaii, and they were talking about same sex marriage, this would have been back in… somewhere in the late 90s I guess. And it was just something that adults talked about somewhere off on the fringes of my attention. I can’t even really recall an actual conversation, just a general feeling of ‘weird’. I remember Ellen coming out on a magazine cover, something about arguing about trim on a blazer.

The first gay person that I knew about (because statistics tell me that I almost certainly knew other gay people, I just didn’t know it, and maybe if they were anything like me, they didn’t either) was this guy I knew in high school. There was this odd conversation about how we were all having “Girl Talk” even though my friend, who was a guy, was there.  I was a little confused and then a different friend pulled me aside and, in a hushed whisper, told me that he was gay. I can remember thinking of him kind of like some kind of rare unicorn that I’d heard about but never actually seen. Please be kind to me, I was fifteen I think.

Another person, who was a friend of a friend, told me that she was bisexual. And she told me by having me play a gang of hangman. It was a strange and bizarre moment. Because of the hangman thing, not because of the bi thing.  I can only guess that she wasn’t sure how to talk about it and so she made it this game.

I came out to my friends through a blog post mostly.  I’m pretty sure I got nothing but positive support, although a couple of people were sort of dismissive and said that they had known for ages and were just waiting for me to tell them.  Which was, and still is, kind of hurtful.  Not in a terrible way, but in that slight microaggression kind of way.  I know that they didn’t mean it to be, and would probably feel bad if they realized how it might feel to me.  Also, you don’t KNOW that someone is queer before they do.  You might wonder if they are, or not be surprised if they later tell you.  But you don’t know it before they do.  I also had a response where someone insisted that I needed to immediately tell some other people who I was really NOT ready to.

Tip: If a friend comes out to you and you’ve suspected forever, please don’t be all like “DUH, I knew.”  A better response might be “Cool, I’m honored that you trust me enough that you’re telling me.”  Just saying.

So that was a little difficult, in a very non dangerous way.  I often feel a little bit guilty about some of the emotions I have around my coming out when so many of my queer friends and allies have had MUCH worse experiences.  I was never in physical danger, I didn’t risk losing my job, my family, or my friends.

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I’ve been very blessed to have a lot of safety around being gay.  No one throws things at me or screams at my wife and me when we walk down the street.  No one defaces our house or threatens us.  We actually had this one bizarre experience where we were buying groceries and the bagger, an older gentleman, asked if we were sisters (we get that A LOT, because two ladies together obviously must be sisters, there’s no possible other configuration).  To which I smiled patiently and said no, we’re married.  He paused, and you could almost see the wheels in his brain scrambling to catch up and process what I’d just said.  This is fairly normal, most times I just smile and we leave whoever’s mind we’ve just blown and go on our way.  But this time we were still paying for our groceries and he seemed to recover his faculties pretty quickly.  He walked around the grocery counter and SHOOK MY HAND and offered me congratulations.  And he shook Katie’s too.  It was a truly bizarre, but oddly sweet moment.  We thanked him, and took our groceries outside.  To our credit, we waited until we were safely outside before we BURST into laughter and congratulated each other on being married.  You know, more than 8 years ago!

We are very blessed.  Even though there is a LONG way to go for queer folks, I’ve seen a lot of things I never ever would have expected to happen.  Idiotic microagressions aside, like never seeing ourselves represented in media (try finding lesbians in non-lesbian targeted media sometime), and being assumed to be sisters, we’re doing well.

The Magic of Spinning

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I have been trying to get Katie into some kind of fiber craft for ages and ages, and so when she recently said that she might like to try drop spindle spinning with me, I was over the moon!  I think I may have actually jumped up and down with excitement.  She has always been game to try out any craft I’m into, she’s made some beautiful granny squares, and even contributed one to the blanket several friends got together to make for our dear friend, Bethany, when she went away to a university in far away Michigan.  But none of the fiber arts that I am completely crazy about seemed to check the boxes for her.  Although she does have a beautiful loom and has woven some truly gorgeous projects on that.

But spinning!!!  I practically SHOVED fiber and my simple Ashford drop spindle into her hands.  And then I went online and ordered her a whole bundle more so she would have variety :3

And we’ve been spinning together.  And it gives me such JOY.  When we went to the Common Ground Fair last year we both brought our spindles along and while we sat waiting to watch Sheep Dog demonstrations, we spun together.  Sitting side by side on a little red wooden bench spinning wool on a beautiful sunny afternoon.

Seeing her discover that she likes spinning rekindled my love of drop spinning too.  So portable, so magical, so… perfect!

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I’ve said before that knitting is magic.  And I’m going to do that thing again.  Spinning is MAGIC.  Seriously.  And it’s science.  It’s this blow your mind cool fusion of old magic and modern science.  When you spin, you’re literally expending physical energy when you put twist into your yarn.  This is kinetic energy.  If you’ve studied physics then you know that energy can never be destroyed.  It only changes shape.  The energy from your body, your movements, goes out from yourself and into the yarn.  You are both physically and metaphysically sending your energy into that craft!

This idea isn’t really mine though, I got this Mind Blown moment from reading the book Respect the Spindle by Abby Franquemont.  She talks about the physics and the moving energy.  My brain exploded into the witchy magical side of it all

And right now I’m getting ready to add a new spinning wheel to our house.  I’m saving my pennies (and you need a whole heck of a lot of pennies to get one of these beauties!) for an Ashford Joy.  It’s this beautiful folding wheel and I should have enough saved in about two weeks!  I can’t wait to tell you all about her when she arrives.

If I’ve piqued your interest in spinning, and I hope that I have, I absolutely recommend that book I mentioned, Respect the Spindle, and I recommend that you hop over to YouTube.  Short of having someone teach you in person, Youtube is the second best way to learn to drop spindle spin.  It’s this ancient and simple process that connects you with generations of people who went before you.  Taking your energy, a spindle, and a little wool, you can create something from practically nothing.  And that is just SO COOL.

-R

And it all burns down

In my last post, I said I’d only gotten halfway through the third season of Vikings. Well, I saw the second half.

So much for anything in this show ever being okay again. *flings self to the ground*

Spoilers below.

You see, Rachel jokingly calls me heartless because I don’t cry at sad or touching moments in movies and TV shows. And it’s true, I usually don’t. But I cried through the entire last episode of Vikings, for hours afterwards, and off and on all the next day.

Why did it do this to me? I know it’s just a show. These people aren’t real. But it tore me apart.

And I do know why. It’s because of Floki.

I identify with him so strongly that the torment he went through, and will likely go through in the future, was gutting to me. I see him as a person with a mental illness, like me. We’re different in many ways, specifically in how mental illness manifests externally, but there are a lot of things I see in him that I recognize in myself. Obsessive, intrusive thoughts. Fear of how my mental illness might cause me to act, who it might cause me to hurt, how it might mess up my life. Losing the people I love, or the way of life I love, because of my mental illness. Watching Floki go through these things made me sick with sorrow.

Rachel and I spent a lot of time talking about it, and I came to this conclusion: I’m angry that the writers created this turn of events. The moment Floki killed Athelstan, nothing could be made right again. Writing Athelstan’s death into the story like that gained nothing—the audience lost a wonderful character, Ragnar will never be happy without him, and Floki has little chance of anyone loving or standing by him ever again.

I’m so furious and heartsick at how Floki was dealt with by the writers. In the earlier episodes, he was a genuinely complicated person and his mental illness was portrayed with humanity, and sometimes even with sympathy…even when we were supposed to believe he’d betrayed Ragnar (which of course he hadn’t). But having Floki actually go through with killing Athelstan changed all that.

It’s not that I think it was out of character for him. It was, in fact, one of the few things that happened in the last five episodes that had been building for ages. I’m just hurt and resentful that the writers decided to make “the crazy one” do something irreparable, something that can never be fixed or forgiven.

In Floki’s jumbled, mis-firing mind, he killed Athelstan out of love for Ragnar, out of jealousy over Ragnar’s love for Athelstan, and out of fear that Athelstan’s faith would change everything he held dear. Ragnar will never forgive him. He may well kill him; he’s already set out to destroy Floki’s faith in the gods. Helga is frightened of him (rightfully so) and may never forgive him. If Bjorn finds out, he’ll never forgive him either. Floki has no one else.

And even though all of these things make sense based on each character’s motivations, their personalities, their actions up until now…it shouldn’t have happened this way. I’ve felt like this when queer characters are written as doing terrible things too. Sure, it might be in character for them…but that doesn’t mean they should’ve been portrayed like that when there are so few complex, humanized, positive queer characters out there. Floki is the first character I’ve come across with a mental illness I identify with, and the writers made him do something terrible that would systematically take away everything he has. I feel like he’s being punished for his illness.

I can’t see what narrative sense the death of Athelstan makes anyway. The only thing it really accomplished, aside from bringing a great deal of torment on the characters I love, is that it fueled Ragnar’s conversion to Christianity. And couldn’t that be accomplished any other way?

It could have played out so differently and still have remained a strong, compelling story. Floki could have tried to kill Athelstan and failed, or stopped himself after realizing that going through with it would lose him Ragnar’s love forever. Athelstan could have died some other way, if he had to die (though I don’t see why he did). I’m so upset that they made Floki the perpetrator of such a meaningless tragedy, the repercussions of which seem to have no more purpose than sending Ragnar into despair and destroying the few things Floki has to cling to.

I’m working hard on just acknowledging and working through these feelings, rather than berating myself for getting so upset over fictional characters. So if you’ve read all the way through this, thanks for listening ❤

Wicingum eall forheawen*

*For at least ten years, Rachel and I have quoted this as meaning “all chopped to bits by Vikings” from the Old English poem “The Battle of Maldon.” A quick Google has revealed that this line, while (I believe) grammatically sound, never actually appears in the poem. Our minds are blown.

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve found myself very interested (one might say obsessed XD) with pre-medieval Norse culture and other Viking goings-on. I’ve read up on all the online sources I can find and I re-read Njal’s Saga, one of the great Icelandic family sagas. I’ve got a post in the works about it :3 Rachel also gave me several more sagas for Christmas, and right now I’m reading (and loving) Laxdaela Saga.

In my current pursuit of consuming All Things Norse, Rachel and I have been watching the television series Vikings. And I LOVE IT. I’ll try to avoid major spoilers, but I do talk about plot developments in general, so if you haven’t watched this series and want to keep yourself completely unspoiled, turn back now 🙂

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(I drew that! :D)

Vikings follows the journey of the semi-legendary Scandinavian Ragnar Lothbrok (literally Hairy-Britches! Love those nicknames) from farmer to earl to king. The revolves around his relationship with his people and with his sometime-enemies/sometime-allies in the English kingdoms. There’s a lot of exploration of the dichotomy between Norse paganism and Christianity, which I feel is handled pretty respectfully on both sides. I find the characters to be delightfully complex—much more so than other period series I’ve seen. I’m going to talk about a few of my favorites :3

I’ve been a supporting character kind of girl all my life: I latch onto one of the side characters and perk up anytime they come onscreen. It’s always been that way. But in Vikings, I find myself equally charmed by Ragnar. Each season deals with one stage of his career, and it’s remarkable how he both changes and stays true to his younger self. Ragnar is by turns goofy, fierce, reasonable, stupid, and absolutely adorable. He loves his children more than anything in the world and he wants to do right by his people. He’s a charismatic, forward-thinking leader and he’s very accepting of—even fascinated by—other cultures. At the same time, he’s a complete idiot when it comes to the women in his life. His casual, teasing manner and (justifiably) huge ego tend to piss off people who might not otherwise be his enemies. That same manner, though, makes him SO FREAKING ENDEARING. He loves and honors his gods but is interested in Christianity, and he wants his gods and the Christian God to be friends (!!! The cuteness, I can’t stand it).

Ragnar also has this majorly adorable soft spot for Athelstan, the Christian priest who he brought back from Lindisfarne as a slave. Athelstan is wonderfully complex—he has to navigate feeling torn between two religions, both of which give him comfort. Ragnar empathizes with him in that he’s drawn to Christianity as well, just as Athelstan is drawn to paganism, though for Ragnar there is little tension between the two in his mind. Ragnar comes to see Athelstan as kin, and they’re very devoted to one another. He consults Athelstan constantly in matters both political and spiritual. As someone who’s tied to him by love and loyalty but not culture, Athelstan gives him a unique perspective and Ragnar is very possessive of him.

But even more than Ragnar, I adore Lagertha. I MEAN, COME ON. LAGERTHA. SWOON.

She is possibly my favorite female character in any TV series I’ve ever seen. Even as a farmer in the first season, she’s already famous and respected as a shieldmaiden. She’s just as dangerous a warrior as Ragnar, but Lagertha is more controlled, less likely than Ragnar to be consumed by battle-rage. She has a calmer head than most everyone else, but she takes no shit; even though Norse society afforded far more rights to women than other Western cultures at the time, women were still expected to keep to affairs of the household and defer to their husbands (especially if those husbands were powerful). Lagertha is both a loving, responsible mother and a wise arbitrator, but if you disrespect her past all bearing, she’ll stab you in the eye and take control of your holdings.

The progression of her character is just as delightful to watch as Ragnar’s and Athelstan’s (and unlike them, she’s yet to make any incredibly stupid decisions). As she moves through different positions in society, you can watch her gain sureness in herself and her place in the world. She always puts first the interests and safety of those she’s responsible for, whether they be her children or the people she leads. When Lagertha goes to war, she brings more women than men to fight with her. Women take care of each other in this series, and I LOVE that. There are some honest, deep friendships between women that exist outside of, and sometimes in spite of, the influence of their husbands. The women in Vikings have complex relationships with the men, but they’re not defined by those relationships. And I appreciate that SO much.

So I said I was a side character kind of girl, that my heart starts going doki-doki whenever I see my favorite supporting character in the background of a shot. It happens practically without my realizing it; I’m all “Hey, I sorta like that one” and then the next thing I know, I’m looking for them in every scene. Well, in this series, that’s Floki: carpenter, shipbuilder, healer, and strange, strange individual.

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this here, but I have a depression and anxiety disorder. My mental illness is very different from Floki’s, but still, I feel for him. It would’ve been easy for the writers and his actor to portray him as just “crazy”—giggly-weird and violent for no reason—the way “crazy” characters are usually played in similar epic, battle-driven stories. Floki is certainly giggly, and certainly weird, and certainly violent (though not more so than any of his fellow warriors), but his actor plays him in a way that’s very genuine. He’s not a caricature; he seems like a real person with issues that I, at least, find understandable. He acknowledges his own mental illness and he fears it, because he knows how mean he can sometimes be to the people he cares about. And he regrets his lack of a verbal filter when he doesn’t feel justified in feeling the way he does, but when he does trust his feelings, he can be brutally honest.

While Ragnar is open to and interested in Christianity, Floki is threatened by it. From the very beginning of the series he’s been extremely devoted to his faith, and anyone who incurs his ire usually does so by not taking his religion, or their own, seriously. He doesn’t want anything to do with the Christian English; he resents the help Ragnar gives Wessex in attacking their neighboring kingdom and the lives inevitably lost in a war he doesn’t see as their own. He’s also afraid that paganism and Christianity can’t coexist, and that his gods will be wiped out if Christianity prevails. Although little in the series so far would fortell that, from our vantage point a thousand-plus years later, we know his fears to be justified.

He’s particularly suspicious of Athelstan—and I’m convinced that a large part of Floki’s contempt for him comes from jealousy. Floki was portrayed as a bit of a recluse in the first season, with Ragnar as one of his few close friends, but Athelstan soon became Ragnar’s most valued confidant. Added to that, Athelstan adheres to both paganism and Christianity, and he’s introduced the Christian God to Ragnar. That’s more than enough to cause Floki to resent him.

I freaking LOVE his relationship with Helga. They’re such good friends, and I don’t get that impression from any of the other couples. Helga is adorable and perfect, and she knows just how to handle Floki. Her expanded role in the early episodes of the third season delighted me. The two of them are, strangely, the least dysfunctional couple in the entire series.

I’m partway through the third season and Floki and Ragnar are on somewhat tenuous terms right now, and all I’ve got to say is that the writers better fix that before the end. I hold out hope, but for all that I absolutely adore this series, I can’t say I entirely trust it to do well by the characters. The only downside to Vikings is that it has some serious storytelling flaws.

I’ve become convinced, after seeing so many episodes, that the writers and production crew value the aesthetics of the series over the coherence of its story. The visuals are flat-out breathtaking: the landscapes are incredible; the costuming, hairstyling, and sets portray their vision of Norse life in stunning detail; and there are countless shots, lighting, and visual sequences that give me chills. The opening sequence is stirring—utterly perfect. I never fast-forward through it.

But sometimes I have no freaking clue what’s going on. People’s motivations bounce wildly around at a moment’s notice. Scenes that appear to signify something go nowhere. The audience is manipulated for the sake of plot twists: scenes that lead the audience to believe what the writers want them to believe make no sense once the truth is revealed. There’s an attempted murder where we get no explanation as to why the victim is TOTALLY FINE a few scenes later.

I can live with all of that because I love the characters and the visuals so freaking much (though characterization does unfortunately suffer sometimes because of the bad storytelling). The battles are numerous, intense, and well-choreographed, and I find them easy to follow. I’ve never been one to be grossed out by pre-automatic-weapon battles in movies, so maybe it’s easy for me to say, but as brutal as they can be, I enjoy Vikings’ action sequences. One of the things I like most about them is that all of the characters have their own fighting style: most of the warriors use a hand-axe or spear and a shield, which was typical, but Ragnar and Lagertha use swords (indicating their status), Ragnar’s brother Rollo uses a two-handed battle axe because he’s ginormous, and Floki fights with just a hand-axe and a knife—no shield at all.

Honestly the violent scenes that aren’t battles are the more disturbing. The blood eagle—an ultimate punishment—may have been one of the most violent things I’ve ever seen; still, it was so artistically filmed that it was almost beautiful, in a horrifying way. The same goes for the instances of sacrifice and other Norse pagan rituals involving blood. Weirdly, in comparison to the blood eagle, scenes of graphic punishment meted out by the Christian characters are cast in a much less artful light.

We’ll see how I feel after I see the end of season three but as of right now, there hasn’t been a show recently that I’ve loved for so many reasons as I love this one. And at $10 a season, I’m definitely buying the DVDs :3

Strands of Music: The Garden of Everything

I was listening to my old, limping iPod the other day and I felt compelled to share this song with you. It’s called “The Garden of Everything” and it’s sung by Steve Conte and Maaya Sakamoto. The lyrics are by Maaya Sakamoto and Chris Mosdell, and the music was composed by Yoko Kanno and Alexandr Borodin.

A few words about the team that put this together: Yoko Kanno is one of my favorite composers of all time. She’s out of this world — a phenomenally talented person. I was introduced to her through her work composing anime soundtracks (her amazing range is evident in the fact that she composed the scores for such disparate series as Vision of Escaflowne and Cowboy Bebop). Maaya Sakamoto is a Japanese singer/songwriter and actress; she’s one of my favorite musical artists, and as someone who only kind-of-sort-of understands Japanese, I’m forever grateful to her for singing with such perfect, graceful, elegant pronunciation. Her songs are alternately beautiful, haunting, and upbeat, and they have some of the most complex, interesting lyrics of all the Japanese music I’ve heard. She and Steve Conte both have histories of collaborating with Yoko Kanno on anime soundtracks (Maaya Sakamoto was the voice of Hitomi in Escaflowne and Steve Conte provided vocals for some of my favorite Cowboy Bebop songs). The three of them come together for “The Garden of Everything” to make a song that I consider pretty damn perfect.

Listen here:
The Garden of Everything

The lyrics are pure magic, and that’s what drew me to the song in the first place (someone in an icon-creation LiveJournal community back in the day pointed me to it because it reminded them of my all-time favorite anime, Revolutionary Girl Utena).

~

Here you are
Daylight’s star
Made out of miracles

Perfection
Of your own
You alone
Oh so incredible

Each atom
Sings to me
“Set me free
From chains of the physical.”

Oh free me, Oh free me

The mirror melts
I’m somewhere else
Inside eternity

Where you on
Outstretched wings
Sing within
The Garden of Everything

Where memories
Call to me
Backward dreams?
Or phantom reality?

Call to me, they call to me

And so here we are
Lovers of Lost Dimensions
Burning supernovas of all sound and sight
Every touch, a temptation
And for every sense, a sensation

(Uta ha ima kaze ni notte
Haruka tooi anata no moto he
Itsuka sora ha hitotsu ni tsunagaru
Watatte yukeru anata no moto he)

(Translation: My song will now ride the wind
Back to you, so far, far away
One day, the skies will connect as one
And I’ll be able to cross them, back to you)

Eyes of pure
Deep azure
Quite unbelievable

The sun’s daughter
You’ve been made
Not to fade
Quite inconceivable

Each atom sings to me
“Set me free
From chains of the physical.”

Oh free me, Oh free me

A love like ours
A starry flower
Through seasons and centuries

As rivers reach the sea
You’ll reach me
With songs of your symmetry

A small boat
There will float
To far off coasts
The Isle of Infinity

Come with me, Oh come with me

Here we’ll see
Love’s lost tree
Made out of miracles

Emotions, crystal leaves
To cover me
And you in eternity

Each atom sings to us
Through the blood
“Love is a miracle”

Sings softly, it sings softly

And so here we are
Lovers of Lost Dimensions
Burning supernovas of all sound and sight
Every touch, a temptation
And for every sense, a sensation

(Uta ha ima kaze ni notte
Haruka tooi anata no moto he
Itsuka sora ha hitotsu ni tsunagaru
Watatte yukeru anata no moto he)

(Translation: My song will now ride the wind
Back to you, so far, far away
One day, the skies will connect as one
And I’ll be able to cross them, back to you)

And so here we are
Twin stars of brilliant brightness
Lanterns lit by life
for all the depths of night
And every day will return us
To arms of the ever eternal

(Uta ha ima kaze ni notte
Haruka tooi anata no moto he
Itsuka sora ha hitotsu ni tsunagaru
Watatte yukeru anata no moto he)

And so here we are
Twin stars of brilliant brightness
Lanterns lit by life
for all the depths of night
And every day will return us
To arms of the ever eternal

Facets: Bright Pieces of a Glorious Week Spent Away

Rachel and I were away on vacation last week, visiting our dear friends Sarah and Jenn, and while I didn’t immediately write down the numerous bright moments we shared, I remember them vividly. Here are a select few ❤

Driving through Vermont in the morning sunshine, we passed through little villages garlanded with vibrant orange, yellow, and red leaves. The mountains were a patchwork quilt of fall colors.

On the winding roads of Vermont, we stopped at a bizarre roadside attraction — the outside was crowded with fiberglass statues of superheroes and rock legends, and the inside was a bewildering maze of floor-to-ceiling shelves and corridors only one person at a time could fit through.

Sarah and Jenn welcomed us with so many hugs and so much good food. We were nourished body and soul. Almost every night, we sat around their wooden dining room table with treasures of crystals scattered all around us and learned to make crystal grids. We had so many important, heart-filling talks. We wrote words with them, and nothing could make me happier.

A walk late at night led Sarah and I to Our Lady of Spiders. She’s breathtaking; I felt so much reverence.

The four of us spent a magical few hours at a glass domed palace-greenhouse, surrounded by the breath of growing things.

I adopted sparkling, glorious crystals: a Herkimer diamond glittering with rainbows and an amethyst tower with suspended purple flecks like a frozen explosion.

We walked together through faerie woodlands that made my heart soar. A Little Free Library nestled in the forest was followed by rocks and tree trunks with faces on them, fields of tall flowing grasses sprinkled with asters, and showers of yellow leaves that glinted in the sun like flakes of gold. Acorns fell around us, pattering out the heartbeat of the forest.

With Sarah, Jenn, and Rachel’s encouragement, I held in my hand and took home a piece of history: a Viking ring forged in the 11th or 12th century. It’s carved with tiny parallel lines on either side of a flat top where a jewel was once fixed. Someone with delicate fingers wore this a thousand years ago. My heart still leaps to think of it.

As Rachel and I drove together toward Rhinebeck and the New York Sheep and Wool Festival, the brightest rainbows I’ve ever seen filled the sky, mile after mile. We could see the hills behind each rainbow showing through the colors. We drove under the biggest, and we were so enveloped in it that we could see the arc extending down around us onto the road. We arrived at our hotel just as a sliver of moon was rising over the Catskills.

Waiting in line to get into the festival, we made friends with a woman wearing a magenta shawl that she spun and knitted herself. We met her again the last day we were there, and she’d just bought a new spinning wheel.

Hours were spent in the cool autumn sunshine, walking through barns full of excited fiber artists wrapped in their most beloved creations, touching and smelling the softest wool. We took home a rainbow spectrum of fleece waiting to be spun into yarn.

Rachel and I shared steaming hot pierogies while the wind blew around us. Tiny flakes of snow caused a swelling of dismay and disbelieving laughter in the crowds.

I waited in line for twenty minutes to taste a long selection of cheeses, smooth and creamy to snappy and earthy. Rachel stood beside me, eating the best pretzel we’ve ever had.

Searching for dinner one night when the restaurant we planned to visit was too full to take us, we found a vegan restaurant close by on Yelp. We drove there, marveling at the beautiful houses, the charming shops filled with crystals and faerie lights and peace signs in the windows. We wondered what earth-reverent place we’d stumbled upon… until we realized we were in Woodstock, NY. The candle shop with its melted-candle mountain, built with decades of wax drippings, was a paradise. We ate dinner in the tiny vegan restaurant on a table of white filagree iron, sharing corn chowder and the best seared tofu I’ve ever eaten. Sautéed kale served on the side won over both of us who have never liked kale before.

At the end of our weekend, we stood together on the hill at the crux of the festival as golden leaves from the monumental maples fell in flurries thicker than snow. A band of Andean flute and guitar players made soul-stirring, vein-thrumming music behind us.

Tarot: A jumbled beginning

As I was thinking of starting this post, I was thinking of a line something like “I’ve been interested in tarot since…”. But then I thought about it and I can’t remember exactly when I ‘got into’ tarot. In a way, it’s like a queer coming out story: they always used to start with ‘I always knew I was different ever since I was a child’. And, honestly, mine just doesn’t. Mine was more like ‘I never even realized that I could possibly be gay until I fell madly in love with this awesome girl’ :3.
Daily drawing -The Lovers

It was sorta like that with Tarot.  When I was a freshman, there was this girl a few rooms down who had tarot decks.  She once offered to give me and a few of my friends readings.  At that point I didn’t know pretty much anything about tarot and I was more interested in looking through the cards.  She said that she didn’t like to let other people handle her cards, which at the time I thought was weird as heck, but now I kind of understand.  Although, I think now, when I get ready to read for people, if they’ve never seen tarot, I’d like to have a deck on hand that they could page through and ask questions about.  There are definitely decks that I have now that I wouldn’t let most people handle, maybe a select few.  Those are decks that I use only for myself.

Daily draw #emperor #Athena :) :)

After this, my first encounter with tarot, I got interested, and like the data loving librarian that I am, I went straight to the internet and READ EVERYTHING I COULD FIND.  I bought my first tarot deck, and I can’t remember if I bought it on Amazon or if I found it at the mall, maybe Barnes and Noble.  I wish I could remember, and I wish I still had it.  I’m pretty sure that I sold it somewhere along the way after that first blush of interest had faded.

My first deck was a Lord of the Rings themed deck.  I must have tried reading those cards, but I have almost no memory of them.  They weren’t all that pretty (and I’ve found that I really need my decks to be pleasing to the eye or else I haven’t connected with them) and I was kind of in over my head.  I hadn’t read Lord of the Rings, and the movies didn’t even exist yet (I’m dating myself a bit here 😉 ) so I don’t know why I even picked them.  I was into fantasy things; that might have been why.  And funnily enough, this is how I spoiled myself for the movies and books.  The death card is Gandalf, and now, looking back at that, he is SUCH an appropriate figure for that card.
Magic candle crafted for my #tarot work #candles #magic #tarotreading #tarotreadersofinstagram

I’m rambling about all of this now because I’m in an upswing of tarot interest again.  My interest in the cards has waxed and waned over the years, I’ve collected a lot of decks and only recently started to use them again.  It was Katie that I have to thank for reigniting my passion for them.  She found an article on Autostraddle about tarot, and that article linked to some others, and was part of a series, and I HAD TO READ THEM ALL.  RIGHT NOW.  The article, The Fools Journey, was written by an awesome person named Beth who runs a site called Little Red Tarot.  I went to her site and discovered that she offers something called the Alternative Tarot Course.  She calls it “An eight-week course to develop your personal approach to tarot”.  And she’s queer so it’s STUFFED full of inclusive queer tarot insights and it was absolutely exactly what I needed. Katie and I decided to work on this together, and while we’re definitely taking a LOT more than 8 weeks to do it, it’s been incredibly helpful and useful, and I love it.  I recommend it to ANYONE interested in tarot even a little bit.  It’s really helping me get comfortable with my decks and I’m learning to trust my intuition about them a lot more.

Snapshot #tarot spread this morning. TWO ACES! Very exciting. #tarotreading #tarotreadersofinstagram

I’ve learned that I love love love to buy Tarot decks, and I especially love decks that aren’t relentlessly heteronormative.  Beth at Little Red Tarot has had some good recommendations.  At the moment here are some of my favorites:  The Universal Goddess Tarot, The Wild Unknown Tarot, The Happy Tarot, and the Joie de Vivre Tarot.

Others that I have but haven’t really worked with:  Tarot of the Silicone Dawn (which is QUEER as heck, but for me it’s a bit hard to read), Wildwood Tarot, Manga Tarot, Robin Wood Tarot (which used to be my go to, but over the years it’s just too white-washed and hetero for me), and the Universal Fantasy Tarot.

The only deck I’ve gotten that I REALLY don’t like is the Tarot Art Nouveau (by Antonella Castelli).  I thought I’d love it because Art Nouveau usually means lots of pretty ladies and beautiful art.  But it has some deeply creepy power dynamics with all of the Kings, and the Lovers card was so upsetting that I actually removed it and burned the card (it isn’t the one picture above that’s in Art Nouveau style, that one is actually the Tarot Mucha, which is okay).  I felt like I needed to do it to get that energy out.  I did contemplate selling the deck, but instead I opted to remove the offending cards and use the rest for art 🙂  You can see the lovely ladies of The Star up above on my tarot candle.

So here I am, halfway through the course (court cards is week four).  Katie and I worked together assigning the court cards to people we knew and characters we write.  I’m feeling like doing readings.  I fell out of practice with my daily draws, because that’s what I’m really really good at, starting things and then not finishing them.

I hope this time around it sticks.  I’m trying to make it stick!