The Best Thing for a Guy to Own

Before I get into this next blog post, I’d like to remind you that my blog- is a Pagan blog, yes- but it is also a blog about my Pagan life. And since I am a cisgender man, I think it’s fair to say that my blog is synonymous with it being about a Pagan man’s life. Being a Pagan is defined for me not only by my practice and what’s on my altar but also by just being a man and living my mundane life; it’s in everything I do and who I am. In other words, DISCLAIMER: This blog post is about men’s underwear. So, if you’re quite happy with your current undergarment or you’d rather not read about this subject, or it doesn’t even pertain to you for whatever reason, then by all means…hit the back arrow. If, however, you’re genuinely curious about what I have to say about this subject and, more specifically, the love I have for the brand I use, then my friend, read on. I apologize in advance if I get a little graphic for you, I tend not to have a filter (or so many of my embarrassed friends remind me at certain times when I’m talking in public).

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Like most guys, I’ve tried various forms of underwear throughout my development, and NONE OF THEM worked for me. That is, until now.

 
It started as a child. Because my father wore them, my mother bought me briefs, or whitey tighties as they’re called. I soon noticed these showed too many stains and though I could get a colored one to hide that better, I also felt incredibly uncomfortable with how tight they were down there because I noticed it caused me shrinkage which would then catch and pull on hairs. Very, very uncomfortable. In fact, I think “uncomfortable” is an understatement. Briefs are oppressive (there we go). So, trying the day and finding it lacking in comfort and freedom, I naturally tested the night. Boxers. Mini man-shorts with open fly. Ultimate comfort and freedom, right? Wrong. You would think logistically this should be great, but god forbid I wear jeans or pants that are a little snugger than “baggy.” I have to fight them to keep the boxers down as I’m pulling the pants up in the morning. And once I finally am victorious over this early battle, I realize that outside my pants, you can still see the imprisoned bunched up boxers underneath because of the creases on my thighs that transfer through. But I try to ignore this and go about my day. However, after I walk for a bit, I can feel the boxers sloooowly riding up until it feels like I’m wearing a thong (um… no thank you). So, I enter a bathroom stall and recreate the morning battle of pushing them back down as I pull my pants back up and this continues to replay throughout my day. Frustrating, to say the least.

 
Then, I try boxer briefs and trunks. Best of both worlds. Longer like boxers, but more form-fitting like briefs. Plus, the fitness ones include mesh areas to help that warmer area to breath and are sometimes moisture wicking. For several years I wore this type of underwear every day, and every day they would compress the boys into me, causing me to frequently have to readjust myself or taking bathroom breaks so I could let them breathe and be loose for a bit before putting the underwear back on. Boxer briefs and trunks aren’t as bad as briefs, but the subtle irritation daily was starting to take a toll. Like a Chinese water torture, I’d had enough and was ready to move on. Next, I tried fashion underwear. A little pricier, but most of these included built-in bulges. Allowances for room. During this period, I also tried fashion jockstraps and soon realized both styles just weren’t for me. True, fashion underwear felt more comfortable so far, but neon colored plaid and bright, baby blue really isn’t my style. The jock straps…confused me ‘cause like I was bare but I wasn’t. However, they did give me an idea I had not yet considered: Commando. Free balling it saved cash, frustration, and discomfort (aside from that time when I accidentally zipped up my foreskin). I went commando for about a good three years of my life. Some pants and jeans this worked fine with; the fly and material are thick enough, no one can tell. However, a lot of my pants, especially my slacks and gym shorts, not so much. I tend to have little shame and a healthy dose of self-confidence, but no one else needs to see that shit; some may be okay with it, but not everyone is, and above all, I try to be respectful. Unlike some of my friends, I don’t wear Utilikilts, so I needed more versatility.

 
Ergo my current preferred underwear. After researching out the ass, I finally found a company that makes a unique style unto them (though since then, I’ve noticed other companies starting to replicate their version to follow suit). The company’s called MyPakage and is designed for (you’ll never guess) …your package. They’re form-fitting underwear with a separate pouch that the whole family goes into, twig and berries, through a smaller access opening they call, “the keyhole.” Think modern day codpiece. This clever design cradles my boys and keeps everything away from my thighs so I can move throughout my day, however I want to. The fact that I forget I’m even wearing anything down there proves to me this is the most freedom and comfort I have ever felt in any of the previous styles of underwear I’ve tried. When I put on a pair of their underwear in the morning, it’s like slipping on a tiny warm cloud, complete with harp-playing cherubs, that no one knows but me. They’re a little pricey for underwear but seriously guys, you get what you pay for. ALL of my underwear is made by MyPakage. As of this writing, I own 16 of their boxer briefs, 8 of their fitness boxer briefs, one pair of their briefs, and one pair of their long underwear. I also own three pairs of their compression leggings, one pair of their 2-in-1 gym shorts, and I even own two of their T-shirts (also, I’m on their loyalty program to earn points for every purchase)!

 
If that doesn’t say a happy customer, I don’t know what does. I’ve even gotten pairs for several of my guy friends who also now swear by them. So there you have it! My blogging recommendation, and a personal ode, to the first and last garment of clothing that touches my body and lets me concentrate on my Pagan life in all that time in between. Cheers.

“From the cradle to the coffin, underwear comes first”. -Bertolt Brecht

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A New Kind of Retreat

Imagine waking up at dawn every morning to hike up a mountain, nonstop, to pray to your god or goddess on an altar that you built out of stone and wood. Or running around a giant stone circle as a form of raising energy and then releasing for sacred ritual. Imagine competitive archery, knife throwing, martial arts, and sword fighting in the woods. Building bonfires with wood you chopped, identifying edible plants and practicing agriculture, climbing trees older than anyone you will ever meet, sleeping under the stars. Imagine hunting game with nothing but a bow and an arrow, and preparing its meat for food, fur for blankets, and bones for tools- giving gratitude for its sacrifice. Imagine tapping into the consciousness of plants, stones, trees and carrying full on conversations and relationships with them. Kayaking to the deepest of waters to swim below and retrieve that which the water spirit has hidden for you. Climbing the face of a cliff to see what the goats see and hear what the birds hear. Sacrificing your blood, your sweat, and your tears to the soil in your nails. Imagine a bonding brotherhood that learns how to treat women as equals, as humans, and with respect. Imagine a bonding sisterhood that learns how to push their limits beyond any they’ve ever known and overcome every obstacle.

Imagine a pagan retreat where you don’t just camp, sing songs, and cast Circle amidst all the creatures. You become the creature. You go to the call of the god, not the other way around. Sacrifice. Appreciation. Religion. Love. Trust. And the reality of Nature. Part boot camp, part spiritual retreat, part obstacle course, and part campsite. This is my dream for the Pagan community. This is what I feel the future of our religion needs to sustain itself in our modern world, with temporary reminders and rehabilitation. Today, sacred knowledge isn’t learned by listening to the trees; it’s found on the printed pages made from their wood waiting to be shipped from an Amazon distribution center. Sabbat rituals are held in the temperature controlled confinements of a carpeted living room with scented candles and gas fireplaces. We wear our beliefs by buying jewelry of our symbols made by countries we’re politically against trading with, so we can have an identity. The ironic marriage of indigenous capitalism. Herbs to be used for spellwork are delivered with already picked, cleaned, and labeled produce at your door. You bought a soapstone statue of Kali for your altar at the New Age shop that came from India in boxes of Styrofoam (that’ll end up in the ocean forever), but have you ever gone to India? Have you backpacked through the country and walked through the slums of Mumbai where her name is still whispered in devotion?

I am a practicing Neo-Pagan after all so obviously my modern religion can be very fulfilling at times, but there are times I am enveloped within my community with all that it has to offer and I still feel like it’s lacking, diluted, and anticlimactic. As though we emphasize our attention more on appearance, books, and historical accuracy, than we do on the relationships we have with our deities, ourselves, and our craft. We concentrate more on what’s behind us and at our feet than looking to where we’re going. So newsflash my community, our planet’s falling apart. Human habitual dependency on a lack of responsibility is destroying our oceans, our land, and all the balance found within. Global warming is rapidly the new fear of the Devil. Alternative energy is being ignored while finite fossil fuels are extracted in strengthening numbers. Organic farms are being forced to spray pesticides on their crops by companies that pay the counties to do it, and then charging the farms afterward. Our women are still drastically underpaid and disrespected in the workforce, and many of them expect it and take it because they’re taught to do so. We eat dramatically huge, unnecessary portions of food in this country like it’s your last meal on Earth. And many of that is pumped full of chemicals and artificial flavorings because the manufacturers can get more bang for their buck that way.

When was the last time you bit into the sweetest tomato you ever tasted right after you picked it from its vine? When was the last time you summited a mountain, in pain and exhausted, and watched the sunset with tears in your eyes? Have you ever carved the face of your god out of wood or clay, carefully and respectfully widdling away every shaving to reveal that face you see every day in your heart? In the song, Silvera by Gojira, Joe Duplantier sings, “When you change yourself, you change the world”. I am a big believer in this concept. I believe a pagan boot camp retreat could help change people in our community for themselves and for the planet. I hope someday I can make this dream come to fruition, because not only do I believe the future of our religion could benefit from it for its survival, but also for our democracy.

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The Wild Man of the Woods

Beltane always makes my mind dwell on one of my oldest obsessions; the Wild Man. The wodewose, meaning “woodland” or “of the wood,” was first mentioned as the character Enkidu in the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh. But it’s hard to pinpoint exactly when the first Wild Man popped up in writing, as several cultures convey hairy, leafy men existing in the forests. Without going into the mythos of the Green Man and all the fertility and vegetation gods and creatures that exist and have existed, I’m strictly speaking of Medieval Europe’s fear of the Wild Man and the woods he belongs to.

“…the Wild Man figure, considered an amoral beast, was a warning to Christians of what spiritual neglect could lead one into becoming. The drives, instincts, and passions were therefore viewed with suspicion by the church because it jeopardized the belief in man being ontologically distinct from animals. It followed that the primordial urges, a vestige of our animality, should be dominated lest one regress into a chaotic, insane, and ungodly existence” -Rory Alan MacLean

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Throughout the 15th and 16th century, there was this primal fear of a forest (okay, there’s always been a fear of a dark forest and horror films don’t help with that). The belief of evil and darkness and uncontrollable chaos of Nature exists within those groves. Home to the monsters of God. Several writings of old literature state that when a man loses his sanity, gone mad, he grows hair all over his body and runs from society; exiled to the woods. Merlin did this in Arthurian myth: “…a strange madness came upon him. He crept away and fled to the woods, unwilling that any should see his going. Into the forest he went, glad to lie hidden beneath the ash trees. He watched the wild creatures grazing on the pasture of the glades. Sometimes he would follow them, sometimes pass them in his course. He made use of the roots of plants and of grasses, of fruit from trees and of the blackberries in the thicket. He became a Man of the Woods, as if dedicated to the woods” –Vita Merlini by Geoffrey Monmouth (1150 AD). And speaking of Arthurian myth, the same happened to Lancelot of the Lake when Guinevere chose Arthur over him. Also, there was mention of hairy men in the woods who did not understand human language in Norway in 1250, recorded in the Speculum Regale. This concept of fleeing the sanity and controlled structures of healthy societal mind and entering the thick forest was familiar and almost expected.

 
“There is something inherently disturbing in these images of the Wildman who simultaneously displays both human and nonhuman qualities. Our species tends to marginalize what it fears, and during the Middle Ages and earlier the Wildman was treated as an object of fear. At the heart of this treatment of the archetype lies a tension between two distinct portraits of the Wildman- on the one hand, as a potentially friendly being, and, on the other, as a savage creature” –The Quest for the Green Man by John Matthews

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Why is this a thing? Before therapists who take off the month of August and benzodiazepines, people just ran to the nearest group of trees, arms flailing. A forest hides that which is within and keeps the sunlight out. What one cannot see, one fears. It is why so many of our fairy tales take place in the Black Forest of Germany (which btw, I explored during a foggy night a few years ago but did not meet any wolves that walked on their hind legs. Lame.) and why children fear the dark. It is where the beasts and supernatural beings live and dwell. So when everything in life turns its back on a man, even God, he knows this is the one place where he can belong. The mind is no longer structured and sensible; it has gone wild. And so, like attracts like, the woods comprise of wilderness and unsubdued Nature so ergo his retreat. Being such a widespread fear, the Wild Man popped up everywhere throughout the Renaissance in artwork, poetry, and architecture. Mummers and children dressed in leaves and cloth to mimic shaggy hair and danced and teased like a Fool. It’s possible this could be the origin of Sasquatch of the Pacific Northwest or even werewolves, J.R.R. Tolkien wrote about Wild Men (known as Dunlendings) as did other medieval warfare and sci-fi writers, and they were even included as circus attractions for a time.

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I love the idea of going mad, growing hair everywhere, and fleeing to the woodland to live with the beasts; forfeiting all rationality. It’s both horrific and beautiful; to just give it all up and go. I do not fear the Wild Man; I envy him. And why can’t forests be a source of mental healing? Maybe that’s why crazy people ran to the woods of medieval times. If forest therapy is practiced in Japan, and a rejuvenating hike resets my perspective and feels refreshing for me; then maybe the wodewose had it right all along. Maybe we’re not meant to be cultured and societal, living behind brick and mortar; but intended to live in the darkest, thickest, and wildest of woods. What society calls “the crazies,” exiled and ostracized. Maybe there’s something there that we can learn from the Wild Man.

Going Wodwo

By Neil Gaiman

Shedding my shirt, my book, my coat, my life

Leaving them, empty husks and fallen leaves

Going in search of food and for a spring

Of sweet water.

I’ll find a tree as wide as ten fat men

Clear water rilling over its gray roots

Berries I’ll find, and crab apples and nuts,

And call it home.

I’ll tell the wind my name, and no one else.

True madness takes or leaves us in the wood

halfway through all our lives. My skin will be

my face now.

I must be nuts. Sense left with shoes and house,

my guts are cramped. I’ll stumble through the green

back to my roots, and leaves and thorns and buds,

and shiver.

I’ll leave the way of words to walk the wood

I’ll be the forest’s man, and greet the sun,

And feel the silence blossom on my tongue

like language.

Discrimination found in Heavy Metal

I’m standing toward the back of the crowd on the bottom floor of Studio Seven in SoDo with my roommate, Danessa and my friend, Roxanne; trying to listen to a shitty opening band patiently. My feet are killing me. A small price to pay, however, for a great black metal band that was to come next! My roommate had bought us tickets for my birthday as soon as she had heard they were coming to town, knowing I’ve been dying to see them again since I went to their concert last summer in Europe; it was such a good show, I even wrote about it in my diary. And here I was, about to see them again for the second time in one year (pumped!).

Impatiently, Danessa left to check out the bands’ merch tables located just behind us. As she was scanning the shirts and hoodies that belong to the upcoming headliner we were there to see, she noticed something strange printed on one of them: 503. On the back, was an image of army tanks. The 503rd Heavy Panzer Battalion was Hitler’s most prized tank battalion used for Nazi Germany in WW2. Being a history buff, and having Jewish in her family, she brought it up to Roxanne between sets. I brushed it off as empty shock-rock that didn’t mean anything. Roxanne, however, knew of the band’s notorious racism. Apparently, they’re very open about it and were kicked out of several venues for their proclamations against Muslims and Jews. Being Polish herself, she just chooses to separate the music from the artist mentally. Danessa was visibly sickened from this information, but not because of their beliefs. But because she financially supported them expressing this to their fans, verbally and through their merchandise, supporting their cause by purchasing two tickets to their show. However, knowing it was my birthday, she pretended not to be bothered as they came on. The crowd cheered and hollered when they began their first song. I tried to be like Roxanne, and segregate my personal thoughts from the music, but I was having a hard time; my stomach was turning. As someone in front of me raised their arm forward with the sign of the horns, I thought, ‘That’s just a few fingers off from an entirely different gesture’. And that was it I was done. I hugged Roxanne goodbye as my roommate, and I left.

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for racism, homophobia, and misogyny to occur in the world of heavy metal. There have been several bands over the years who have shown up in the news, Rolling Stone, and social media for exclaiming their views on white supremacy and screaming discriminatory comments toward the crowd about gays and women. And there’s been a ton of articles and similar blog posts within our metal community discussing this subject. And I’m not trying to prove a point here or to place blame. I’m only sharing my views on this matter. If you haven’t noticed, I have chosen not to mention any band or artist’s names in this blog post because it’s not about finger pointing to anyone specific, but about an issue as a whole. Plus, I don’t feel the need to bring any more attention to these bands, even negative attention because I feel they don’t even deserve that.

I got to talking to my black metal-loving friend Gemma, who also saw that band with me last summer in Europe, about the subject of racism and Nazism found in black metal, and other subgenres. She had said to me, “…art – especially performance art like music – is a relationship between the artist and the audience. I guess in that sense, it’s not even a political statement to boycott hateful bands, it’s just relationship incompatibility. Because art is important to me, I continually fall prey to “beauty is truth” trope, and, finding “truth” in the art that appeals to me, I attribute some sort of wisdom to the people who create it. I can’t get how someone can create expressions of the highest human ideals while being a total dick in regular life (I guess I’m typically American in my distaste for complexity that way). Especially when it comes to black metal. That art actually is ugly, so we shouldn’t be surprised when it comes from an ugly place, like a heart filled with hatred. I mean, [that band] has been around since the early days, they used to hang with sick fuckers who killed each other and burned churches. And I think that’s why hate’s more common in black metal than other genres. Probably there’s an elevated level of stupid in any genre that sounds aggressive and celebrates ugly, but black metal was literally invented by psychopaths, so of course they’ll attract more of the same”.

 
Who has the time to research every….single…metal band to determine their political stance on minority ethnicities? Many of the lyrics are so hard to understand, being pronounced with screams, most of the time I have no idea what they’re saying. Maybe the black metal I blare into my headphones while I’m doing my school studies is some really hanus shit. Or maybe it’s about buttermilk biscuits; I don’t know! I just like how it makes me feel. And so the majority of progressively minded metalheads are a Polish Roxanne; choosing to look the other way and concentrate only on the way they feel when they hear this music. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t blame Roxanne, and I don’t blame metalheads who choose to do that; it’s hard to let that feeling go. But for me, if I learn this about them, I can’t not let that go. This “don’t ask, don’t tell” copout may work for some people, but not me. As a child, I was raised by discrimination at home and taught by prejudice in school. I’m done with it; I’m too old and too impatient for that anymore. I just don’t get the point of being racist, especially in today’s world of international business and social media. And how do you expect to do business out of your art when you act like that? Because it is an Art of Hate, and that’s the excusable point. As soon as they get offensive, their managers may shake their fingers at them when the reporters make it viral, but then they’re touring again and back on the charts.

Hate does not have to exist against each other. The reason I love metalheads is that of how loving and accepting they are toward each other. If this comes from a place of understanding what it is like to be ostracized as metalheads, then why can’t it be that way toward others who have felt the same? And what of the metalheads that are not Caucasian or heterosexual or male or all the above? Are they not equipped to be as metal as you? Why waste this on minorities and not direct it toward disagreements of your government? Be constructive and make a difference by calling out the politicians, the injustices of the privileged, and those that dress to the nines in corruption and genocide. What do you plan to accomplish with public degradation, because it ain’t gonna progress in this world; sorry to be a newsflash. It’s 2017, not 1939, move with the times or get off the stage.

(Good lord, two heavy posts in a row. Maybe my next one should be about tofu or underwear.)

Pagan Cultural Appropriation

The gong echoes across the land and immediately silences the anticipation of the public gathered in their seats. Only a distant songbird is heard somewhere in the low, morning fog. The hot breath of the nearby hounds is captured in the wet, cold air as they search the grounds for scent. No breath can be seen from the audience however, for they hold it to better focus on the voices that can now be heard. It begins low, barely audible and ubiquitous. And then they appear, as though from the Otherworld. They are clad in ambient white as they walk slowly to the center of the field, the center of the audience. Their chanting grows louder as the burning herbs and branches they clutch release great pillars of smoke and mix with the fog. The crowd, respectfully reticent, simply observe them walking in a circle, as a single row, and then exit the field from where they entered. The gong is heard again and the crowd pierces the silence with cheers, for the Tailteann games have begun.

This sporting event began as funeral games in ancient Ireland when Lugh’s mortal foster-mother, Tailtiu died. She was buried in a mound in an area that eventually became Teltown. The god, Lugh, started the Aonach to honor her and commemorate her life and people from all over Ireland would gather to watch or participate in this cultural and religious ceremony. The games would include boxing, spear throwing, horse racing, swimming, archery, sword fighting, chariot racing, arranged marriages, singing, and craft competitions, as well as many others. Eventually the games died out, with a temporary revival in the early 1920’s in a time when Ireland needed a reminder of who they are and where they came from. “It’s the elite of the free state of demonstrating that even if they’re not a republic, they are culturally independent. …With much more than a sporting event, it was part of this process of nation building of a certain Irish nationhood.” -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v5FKzyvzNco

I have always wanted to create my own Tailteann games for the pagans of Seattle. Held on Lughnasadh, it would be in a rented arena or soccer field where we would open and close with a small ceremony by the local Druids. The games would vary from mud wrestling and obstacle courses, to racing and children’s performances. Most of all, however, it would be a chance to reintroduce sports and exercise, as well as teamwork and camaraderie, to our ceremonies and rituals. So why haven’t I? Simply put: Because I’m not Irish. The Tailteann games were more than just honoring Lugh and the Irish-Celtic pantheon; it was a symbolic representation of culture, history, and the political obstacles of a people over ages that I have no blood ties or connections with whatsoever. It was the very essence of the free spirit of Ireland. So if I did this, it would feel to me as though I were appropriating them. And not just because there are full-blood Irish in Seattle today, but also because it’s not my place or my right.

Which brings me to cultural appropriation. Is the Wiccan Indo-European man who decides to host a public ritual in his basement to perform a Native American coming-of-age ceremony appropriating or simply honoring? What if it was strictly a Wiccan ritual instead, but casts his Circle by burning white sage and sweetgrass? It’s smaller, but does that make a difference?

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White Americans lack a cultural identity and history that we can call our own, and we thirst for it. So we have a tendency to take others’ and claim them as ours. This can be done with our hair styles, our clothes, food, conversation, make-up, and even our religions. I can’t help but be hesitant when I hear someone is performing a ritual the exact same way it was done in ancient Rome, and using the exact same language. Do they really have that right or are they simply honoring? And is it really all that important and effective if something so old was itself at one time, new? I struggle with this constantly. The problem I have with many Pagans is that they tend to “pick and choose” from various cultures and religions to better suit their needs. They want the prize, but not the sacrifice. Now, religion is the language of the soul. It is not skin or blood deep. If an Iranian wants to practice Santerian and go through all the devotions, prayers, and sacrifices to become this, then who am I to say they’re appropriating? If Kali tells a white woman to give everything up and devote themselves completely to her, why can’t she? If I want to get a tattoo of a Nordic rune on my shoulder, even though I’m not Norwegian or a Heathen, but because it symbolizes something very deeply personal to me, should I be able to? And when does cultural appropriation start to bleed into racism?

My friend attended a wonderful panel at Pantheacon 2015 about appropriation versus honoring. If you get the chance, I recommend hearing the podcast here:

I don’t know the answers to these questions I’m presenting and I may never. But I do know that I will constantly question everything I do in my practice to be sure I am not appropriating a culture or a deity or an idea by choosing something, stripping its identity, and making it mine. My own identity deserves better and so does theirs. So should I recreate the Tailteann games or should I create something alternative altogether? If we question our beliefs and practices and work toward honoring instead of appropriating, I believe we can grow as better individuals, as a better country, and as better Pagans. I challenge you to look at your own beings and dissect yourself. Start these conversations with your friends and get their opinions, and start talking about it. If we keep our mouths and our minds shut, we won’t grow and develop as humans.

 

 

 

A Questionable Love

I have a deep secret. One that which contradicts modern society’s social and legal ethics, and may cause you to question my mental stability. A hundred years ago, I would have been institutionalized or exiled. Three hundred, I might have been stoned. But I don’t care what you may think or your judgements; I need to get it off my chest.

I am infatuated and in love with my pocket knife. I don’t mean I think it’s kinda cool and handy. I mean cherry-blossoms-falling-on-a-warmly-lit-Spring-morning-with-a-visually-fuzzy-parameter-and-puppies-wrapped-in-fresh-white-linens kind of love. I fucking love my knife and everything about it. From the feel of it perfectly fitting in the grip of my hand, to the quick spring of the blade’s erection with just a slight pressure of my thumb. With a 3 1/2 inch blade, it can penetrate or slice anything. It is light as a feather, strong as a bull, and every centimeter of its long shaft and tip is black. (I told you.)

“There never was a good knife made of bad steel” -Benjamin Franklin

When I had decided that I would like to start carrying a pocket knife for little every day uses like slicing vegetables, trimming my nails, cutting string and cords, and helping me open Amazon boxes; I did a little online surfing to find a good, light, multi-purpose blade. Outside Magazine rated a Kershaw knife to be the best for the modern Jack-of-all-trades and so I furthered my research until I found the perfect one. Like chips with guac, the partially serrated Kershaw Black Blur Glassbreaker was a match made in heaven. It doesn’t matter if I’m wearing business slacks or jeans, it fits in every pocket so comfortably it’s as though it were stitched in. I love the SpeedSafe opening mechanism that pops open the blade so quickly it’s almost a switchblade! The handle is made of anodized aluminum to keep it lightweight, durable, and scratch resistant. The handle even has a carbide tip that can break a windshield in case of emergencies. And of course being all black, it matches every outfit of mine. Seriously, this guy is my other half. Like a tiny Ninja warrior in my pocket who always has my back.

Also, I noticed something changed when I began to wear my knife in public. It’s like I was suddenly placed into this social club of knife-carrying men. A deep understanding and unsaid acknowledgement toward me by other guys who would see my knife’s clip, point to theirs, and then telepathically say, “You are a Knife-bearer, Frodo. To bear a Knife of Power is to be alone”. Apparently a clip is a tiny metal, secret societal emblem. Motorcyclists belong to something similar. Every time they encounter another, they acknowledge each other with a slight hand gesture of their first two fingers together, as though they’re invoking Baphomet. But who doesn’t like to feel like they belong to something they share with other peers? Maybe it’s derived from our evolution when we realized it was easier to survive in a tribe than without. Regardless, it’s comforting to know there are others out there who understand the extremely questionable fondness we have for our pocket knives.

Now, some individuals equate carrying a pocket knife to carrying a gun. A small knife is very different than a firearm. You have to know how to throw a knife just right for it to land blade first into your enemy at the distance they are, as well as where to aim for it be lethal. A gun can kill by pointing and pulling a trigger. How many young children have accidentally died or killed others by playing with a gun versus playing with a knife? Knives are dangerous and can kill, yes. But so is a brick or a bat if you know how to aim just right. According to the FBI, more than 8,500 deaths in 2011 was caused by a firearm, whereas over 1,000 was from a knife (https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2011/crime-in-the-u.s.-2011/tables/expanded-homicide-data-table-8). Guns are made for one purpose, knives are made for many. “Someone once told me that religion is like a knife: You can stab someone with it, or you can slice bread with it.” -Vera Farmiga

It all has to do with intention and I have gone everywhere with this guy. I backpacked across Iceland with it. I’ve worn it to meetings, concerts, games, restaurants, you name it! One time I took it along on a road trip across the country, mailed it to myself, and flew back. When a bouncer at a nightclub asks to temporarily confiscate my knife, I refuse and leave because I’m the jealous kind. I remember when I once couldn’t find it for two days. TWO DAYS! All the happiness had left the world and I was a beast ready to rip out chunks of drywall and smash furniture to dust in order to find my precious! I felt so vulnerable and incomplete. Come to find out, it was simply misplaced within the dark abyss that is my closet. But that’s when I learned that it had become more than just a tool or a weapon, it was a security blanket. I’m not sure if I’m okay with this or not but I suppose we all have little security blankets in our lives. And what better form of one to be had then if it were to be a handy pocket knife.

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Know Thyself

What a winter. I haven’t posted here for three and a half months with lots of reasons for this, of course. Going to Christmas parties, Solstice parties, and hosting my own and first-ever Yule party. Work always gets busier this time of year and the class I was taking at the time was the hardest one for me yet (woe to the Algebra student). I drank and ate a ton and never went to the gym and so I developed my annual “winter belly”. And then of course the new president of the United States was elected and inaugurated, shocked the country and the world, and created a butterfly effect everywhere.

For some people, when life gets very real and very crazy like this, they lash out in anger and protests. Emphatically going through the motions. However, I tend to close up. I’m a rabbit after all, and so I burrow myself deep into the Earth until I feel it is time to emerge again. You could accuse me of hiding and retreating and not doing my part to fight or participate, sure. But that’s not true, either. I am fighting, everyday. See, I am in school not to better my education, my income, and change careers because I’m sick of the art community. Those are added bonuses, whipped cream on a mocha. I am getting my Bachelor’s in Environmental Science so that I can make a difference. So that I can be one of the many who will help to recover this planet from our destruction. Every single day I log onto my student website, I am fighting. Those who are marching for women’s rights and for the rights of every minority; they are fighting and representing their freedom of voice. And so am I.

My original plan when I graduated was to go onto grad school and earn my MBA or MS in Environmental Policy and Management. Very vague degrees that allows me to find a career in a multitude of options, which was kind of the point since I’m still very new to this field in a professional sense. Then the inauguration occurred. The impossible was just made possible and every small seed of hope I had for it to be annulled-due to Russia’s involvement, Jill Stein fixing everything with a recount, someone leaking vital and criminal information, or Ashton Kutcher telling us we’ve been Punk’d-dissolved. That shitty morning after feeling sank in with the world’s biggest hangover headache. And I suddenly remembered Obama’s challenge from his farewell speech: “If you’re tired of arguing with strangers on the Internet, try talking with one of them in real life. If something needs fixing, then lace up your shoes and do some organizing. If you’re disappointed by your elected officials, grab a clip board, get some signatures, and run for office yourself.”

Challenge accepted.

I changed my grad school plans and decided right then and there, that I was going to law school and earn my Juris Doctor in Environmental Law. With a shit ton of dedication, time and money, internships, and experience; I will shoot to work for the federal involvement of environmental quality and laws of protection. I will help oversee and care for the National Parks and reserves, recommend actions and decisions to the White House, remove or enact legal implications, and help to make a major international difference. And if this doesn’t end up becoming my career with this education, then worst case scenario I will work for a local courthouse with a job title of Nature’s Lawyer. Which is still pretty badass and effective in my book! If Trump is going to push for more finite resource industries like coal and oil and ignore climate change, then I need to step up my game so as to compensate. It is why I’m here and what my god asks of me.

It’s a high, let me tell you; finally knowing your purpose and what you want to be when you grow up. Your path laid right out with no other trails. I understand things can change and shift and I am open to allow this. But I know without a doubt, since I was 12 years old, that environmental advocacy is who I am. I encourage each of you, if you feel stuck or depressed with your career or with the current state of America, to ask yourself, ‘Is this me?’ And if it’s not, then it doesn’t matter how old you are or how much debt you have or will have if you changed, make it happen. We may have multiple lives, but this is the only one you get as this person in this body on this planet. You owe it to yourself to not waste a moment more of it not living it to your full potential of happiness and change.

“Most people in this world have no idea why they’re here or what they want to do. You do. You have a mission, a reason for being here. You’re not here by chance.” -Buffy Summers (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, season 7, episode 12)

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As Above, So Below.

Ok, I’m doin’ it. I’m gonna say my two cents on fat Pagans, skinny Pagans, and body shaming within our community.

I come from a pious, Born Again Christian community from a small town in Missouri. Potluck gatherings amongst my parents’ church congregation was a common occurrence for whatever occasion, because our fellow church members were a second family to us and we were all very close and supported each other. The food that you’d commonly find at these shin digs…well I just don’t think these people knew what quinoa was (let alone how to pronounce it!), and would reveal a very confused look if you suddenly added the word “tempeh” in between “grilled” and “burgers”. These were simple folk. What my father would call, “The backbone and bread basket of America”. They ate meat n’ taters and lots of butter! The only green vegetables I remember were in green bean casserole or broccoli smothered in Velveeta.

So to get to the point, I don’t think that on average, Pagans are more overweight than the members of other religions. I think that on average, Americans are more overweight. And unlike some other religions, Pagans tend to express acceptance and promote self love and self beauty. Thus like a moth to a flame, we attract those individuals who feel discrimination and loathing from their society. This isn’t just obesity however, it’s under-weight individuals as well. It’s social awkwardness, tendencies to a darker and morbid mindset, those who are into kink, sci fi fantasy and larping, gaming, body modification, polys, artists, radicals, and anyone who feels ostracized. It’s the idea that we may be a freak show to you, but we’re a loving freak show!

Getting back to the topic of body weight, however, we need to stop body shaming the Pagan community. I’m not talking about the prejudice coming from the Muggles; that’s a whole ‘nuther blog post on its own, full of it’s-none-of-your-goddamn-business statements and go-find-a-hate-group-that-believes-in-segregation suggestions. What I’m talking about is Pagan to Pagan body shaming. Internal discrimination from those we thought were loving and accepting. If you can’t cast skyclad by someone who you consider to be overweight, underweight, or not beautiful enough to your standards; then go find a hate group that believes in segregation, because it’s none of your goddamn business.

But there is a weight problem in the Pagan community. There is a weight problem in every community.

I could mention excusable factors, sure. Rare diseases that cause people to gain weight easily or medication that does the same. Genetic big-boned body structures and ethnicities that reveal more bodily curves. Or hell, I could say it’s American society’s fault. And these are completely valid excuses! But they are rare in comparison. So the real problem (here we go)… is the health. Or more true to my point, the lack thereof. A good friend of mine recently related an old saying to this issue to me. In The Emerald Tablet, supposedly written by Hermes Trismegistus (a kind of Greek god Hermes and Egyptian god Thoth combo), we find a well written out statement of a more commonly known condensed phrase: “That which is below is like that which is above & that which is above is like that which is below to do the miracles of one only thing” (translation by Sir Isaac Newton, 1680). As Above, So Below.

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We can apply this cryptic ambiguity to almost anything in terms of its meaning. So let’s look at it in terms of health for a moment, shall we? “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Genesis 1:27, King James Bible). Has anyone looked at our gods, I mean really looked at them?! Most of them have barrel chests and bubble butts (did you seeee the washboard abs on Hermes above this?! Totally jelly)! I’m not saying we need to look like Adonis, but holy shit…we have got to put the occult books down for a second and jump on a treadmill. The common contemporary mindset of the Pagan man or woman exists in the health of the mind or spirit, but not of the body (I’m not talkin’ bod mod, here). We neglect this very temple that the gods and Nature have gifted us that affects so much of our daily lives, including our practice. I have been both out of shape and in shape. I have lived on fast food and sugar, and I have lived on a lean/clean plant-based diet. I am far from being a saint of healthy living and from my own goals, but I am here to tell you that I feel so much closer to my gods and so much more affective in my magick when I eat healthier and exercise regularly and push myself beyond my physical limits, than I ever did without.

It is time we make a change in our habitual mindset. It is time that we add personal health and fitness to our religious sources. Summit a mountain and look for your goddess! She lives in the wilderness far from your roads, and she lives within the love you have for your life and your health. So push yourself. Challenge yourself. Sacrifice that which contradicts this for her, because gods have to be appeased. And everything will change, this I promise. Our bodies constantly strive to maintain a healthy balance and when this doesn’t happen, consequences can sometimes occur. This can be so great as chronic diseases and illnesses, and/or so little as sleep apnea, depression, job complications. You would be amazed at what dramatic health changes can do to your whole life. Now you could easily call me a hypocrite by saying it’s still none of my business to talk about others’ bodies, health, and livelihood. It is, after all, their bodies and their decisions on how to live their lives, and not mine. True. And not true. I will never tell someone how to live their lives no matter in what form, because I had enough of that in my upbringing and it’s not my place. But I do love my fellow Pagans and I want to selfishly see them live a happy and healthy life. So I’m not here to push it, I’m here to suggest it and let you take it or leave it.

Quick Post on EBC 2016

My friend, Jacqui, asked me last Friday if I could meet up with her for drinks on Saturday. “Sorry, working the Esoteric Book Conference all weekend”, I replied. To which she followed with, “Save me a Google trip, what’s an esoteric book?”

“Occult”.

It was the second time I volunteered to work for the Esoteric Book Conference (not counting when I once represented my friend John’s company, Waning Moon publications, 3 years ago), and goddammit, I love occultists. I mean I really love them. I want to have all of their black clad babies and then sacrifice them to Cthulhu, Baphomet, Dani Filth, or who ever (little disclaimer: no, occultists don’t really sacrifice babies and in fact, are sometimes very family friendly! But their babies are dressed in black onesies). In contrast to my ignorance of the most up to date information on the printing of the fourth volume of that one book, or just about two thirds of the other books and their authors, publishers, editors, special editions, and whether or not we have the leather bound version (unfortunately it’s way more involved than how great Johnny Depp was in The Ninth Gate); I still love all of the conversations. Even when I notice they get that realization of me not understanding half of what they’re saying about two sentences in, I feel utterly at home with my people. And all I want to do is support this event to keep it alive.

The scheduled speakers are always once in a lifetime outta townie (and sometimes outta country) infamous authors that give phenomenal lectures and sign their books. Not to mention the chance to have a one-on-one convo with them if you want! Plus, the booths after booths of both rare and contemporary books. And the ART! Holy shite. This year’s art was amazing! (and yes I’m using a lot of italics in this post) I couldn’t stop staring at the Kali Ma piece or the Lord and Lady Goat diptych, both by Laura Tempest Zakroff. Or any of Adam One’s geometric awesomeness. And I kept going back to look at Benjamin A. Vierling’s work.

As far as the presentations went, I saw most of them last year (my favorite one being about necromancy), but this year I saw only a couple lectures due to my shifts there and some homework I had to finish up at home. The one that especially stood out to me, however, was called, ‘Invoking the Other: Alterity, Abjection & Dread in the Initiatory Experience’ presented by Richard Gavin. He spoke of the emotion of absolute horror, dread, and complete madness and what spiritually occurs with our psyches in that connection to the gods and to their spirits. When he spoke up of the intense vino of Dionysus and how it did so much more than just “getting his followers drunk”, I thought of that scene in the second season of True Blood when the maenad, Maryann, explained to Tara about blacking out: “Why be embarrassed of pleasure and laughter, ashamed of letting go? Control is just a cage this stupid culture uses to block out who we are. We need to be out of control- we crave it…I have a little theory about blacking out. Maybe you rose to a higher state of consciousness. What about the saints of India? What about the mystics of every religion? They would black out; run and dance through the streets. Levitate. Act like monkeys, run around naked. Everybody thought they were crazy. They were ecstatic. All that fake civilization bullshit just fell away so they could dissolve into the infinite. So they could lose themselves and unite with their god.” It was a great presentation. If you ever get the opportunity to hear him speak, I recommend it.

Oddly, this year I didn’t run into too many people I know. Which was what I always loved about it, a sort of reunion among friends. But honestly, it was kind of a blessing. It gave me the opportunity to converse and meet new people! I found new friends- new buds, and had some great conversations. I definitely look forward to volunteering the next one!

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A Great Dragon

I watched the horses run freely together along the Atlantic coast in the setting sun as my ride takes me southbound toward Reykjavik two days ago. This is my last day in Iceland. The melodic black metal sounds of Zhrine play in the rental car’s CD player, a band the three of us had just seen perform in Iceland’s annual metal festival, Eistnaflug. A perfect soundtrack to the island’s desolate landscapes and dramatic cloud cover.

I was an idiot to think this trip was about a metal festival. I was an idiot to think this was a trip. It was a journey. A pilgrimage. A clearly undiluted, loud message from the gods that read: Get over it.

I backpacked along the southern route of the Ring Road in Iceland to get to a tiny ass fishing town on the eastern coast with a population of just over a thousand. Kinda like that quaint little Practical Magic town, only minus the pious locals and hot witches. And like Vikings coming ashore to take over the village, so do the Metalheads for four days every year in July. Two-thousand of them. And I walked/hitchhiked/camped 440 miles to be one of them. I was rained on, attacked by seagulls, constantly pestered by flies, and sunburned. I feared one of my rides was going to kill me, my pack weighed heavier each day, I got blisters on top of blisters, and the skin on my hipbones rubbed raw. But these were just surface annoyances. Toothpaste stains on a mirror. The real weight every pilgrim knows is the weight and the battle within. Here I am; surrounded by mountains, sunlit glaciers, the rolling sea, rivers, and fields upon fields of moss, lupine, and lava rock. Either the land of Faery or a supersized diorama for a little boy’s choo-choo train. And I’m bawling my fucking eyes out. I must be the only one in Iceland who does this. Pushing my physical self to its limits and surrendering to trust in the generosity of others, dished my demons out.

Get…over it.

No one can fix you but you. And sometimes it takes the absolute visual definition of natural beauty, the kind that cannot be explained by any language or camera, to make you see the absolute visual definition of darkness. Once I got to my destination, I set up my tent at the festival campground and met my neighbors. I was very fortunate for two reasons: 1.) These particular Icelanders were awesome. They’re very simple in life, utilize their resources, live for laughing, kinda backwoods, and don’t give two shits about differences because they have enough shits on their own plates to worry about yours and 2.) Metalheads are a family. Always. No matter where from, we are an ostracized niche and so we understand one another and will always be there for each other. I had an absolute blast with this group camping by me! Four days of canned Viking beer, black cloth and corpse paint, the most amazing live Icelandic metal music, laughing until I cried, and the ice-cold stillness of a mountainous fjord. What is there left to keep you from living when you’ve already ditched what remained of your identity hundreds of miles ago?

Like Americans to shopping malls, Icelanders are to swimming pools. For every morning hang over, we would zombie walk to the local swimming pool and wash the stench and headaches away from the previous night in showers, two pools, two different temperature hot tubs, a sauna, and a huge kick-ass water slide! One day whilst soaking in the shallow pool, I met a purple haired chick and a bearded man. Come to find out they were from Seattle, too! Furthermore, we shared the same flight back. So obviously I hit them up for a ride and for three days after the festival, we explored the mythical wonders of northern Iceland. We soaked in geothermal pools and explored the haunting lava towers of Dimmuborgir. We drooled in the Motorcycle Museum and laughed at the awful tour guide for the ruins of Erik the Red’s homestead. We sipped coffees in Akureyri, looked within the majestic falls of Godafoss where the gods fell, boarded a Viking long ship, and shared our interests and lives. Who knew something so serendipitous would have been pool soaking a foot away from me? All we have to do is say hello.

Clearly I was getting over it.

They took me all the way to the Keflavik airport where the huge art structure of Valhalla’s rainbow bridge stood erect. As I sat in seat 34D for 7 hours, listening to Gojira on my iPod, I thought of having to immediately jump back into school and work and all of my mundane routines. I thought of the stress, number crunching, and tasks waiting for me in Seattle. And then I smiled, knowing it was all a petty nothing in comparison of who I am and what I can do.

“…But I grow impatient
Cannot stand the wait
And I start to dig
Within me
This tunnel to I
In this region of me
A great dragon is lying
On the wealth of a mighty world
My own world inside
I saw- I saw monsters”
-Gojira
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