On Time Management, Metaphorical TVs, and Tattoos

I miss this blog. I have got to set aside time to post in it more frequently; 5 months is too long. What I find most important about this space is the fact that I can cathartically get all my thoughts out before me; an open highway on a long-distance road trip. Having followers, comments, and likes on it aren’t so much the point, as is having the platform to express my head. Kinda like a new diary, since my old one is collecting dust on a bookshelf anyway. Of course, it’s always nice to receive attention or opening individuals’ minds more, like creating a legacy in your child. Conversations can broaden our horizons; allowing us to learn more from others and become better individuals for it. Be it me or someone else, online or in person.

 

So, now that the Holidays and the calendar New Year are over, mostly my thoughts these days are on tattoos, personal goals, finding a new roommate in 3 weeks, and the ever-growing distance that I’m witnessing between myself and my loved ones- lackadaisical though, like watching it happen on TV and not caring where the remote is to pause it or rewind.

 

But I think that’s because of a few factors: First, I’m a bachelor and childless and thus, I don’t have that daily domestic attention on family every time I come home. Secondly, my nearest direct family member is over 1100 miles away, and so, again, I don’t share frequent visits with them. And thirdly, my schedule can get so hilariously packed, that finding time to communicate with them (especially with differing time zones) can be challenging. As time continues, the emotional distance begins to grow. The gap widens as our lives continue to change without each other and suddenly there’s this uncertainty that I don’t know what to do with other than waiting to see what’s next on that TV.

 

“And I’m sorry for us

The dinosaurs roamed the earth

The sky turns green

Where I end and you begin”.

-Radiohead, Where I End and You Begin

 

So, there’s that. But like I said, tattoos are also on my mind. Due to over a year-long hiatus from my full-body tattoo project (and due to my car finally getting paid off), I’ve decided to up my monthly ink sessions to twice a month so as to compensate. My abdomen is (FINALLY) finished and Saturday we begin the ass/hips phase, and then the rib cage from there. I can’t tell you how much I’m excited to be able to begin a new phase finally; the abdomen took too long with my frequent breaks! And on the Solstice, I found out that my artist has replaced his one-and-only employee with this dude that’s got really great energy and demeanor; I have super high hopes for him! And apparently, he’s a spokesman for a tattoo cream, as well as one for a high-quality tattoo ink, goes to tattoo conventions nation-wide and wins frequent awards there, was on a TV reality show about a tattoo shop in Hollywood, and was the lead singer of a decent-budget emo band that toured with Alice Cooper. Yeah. I have high hopes for him.

 

See, when you get tattooed by someone, you create a bond- no matter how small. You are in a close intimate space with that artist for a chunk of time and sacrificing your blood, pain, money, and your body to a design that they are putting into you to last forever. It also requires trust, vulnerability, and exposure. Ergo, bond! Now, when you get tattooed by someone every month for years, this bond becomes a relationship. You know their wife, you’ve played with their kids and watched them grow, you’ve met their friends and become friends with them yourself, you’ve laughed with them and cried with them and gotten utterly drunk with them. Their world becomes your world and so what changes occur, radical or not, involves you and affects you. (I mean, outside of their ex-employee from years ago that you no longer talk to, but that doesn’t keep him from getting wasted all the time and texting you to see if you’d be interested in boning later that night as if that’s the recipe for flattery.) *ahem*

 

Yesterday, while at work, I went to ACE Hardware for a work-related errand, and was rung up by a tall, blonde, spiky-haired guy who looked like he’d been in a few too many fights over the years. I looked down, however, and realized he was sporting a huge pentacle tattoo on his forearm, with lots of vibrant foliage around it. Today, I went to the café and while my regular barista handed me my shot-in-the-dark, I noticed on the side of her middle finger was a new tattoo; a tiny triple-moon symbol that has a full moon bookended by opposing crescents. On the other side of the finger, was a double-moon symbol; a full moon connected to only one crescent. Goddess and God.

 

Used to, I would publicly identify Pagans by the necklaces they’d wear; pentacles and Mjölnirs. And maybe that’s still a thing, but more and more these days it seems that people are tattooing their religious identities, instead. Perhaps I’m biased, but I think that’s awesome! Talk about a beautiful commitment and the ability to make it as unique and personal as you’d like. In many historical cultures, tattooing was sometimes a religious expression. Don’t get me wrong; I love that it has become so much more to people, artistically, across the globe! I just think it’s neat to mimic the customs of our ancestors in this art form. But…history nerd here.

 

It’s also great to see so many people, in this decade, are not only Pagans but are also proud of it. In the 90’s, it was more popular for Pagans to pop up, no thanks to Hollywood’s obsession with “rebellious witchcraft.” But these days, it seems to be more of a personal choice and less a popular one. Thus, it’s great to see so many sporting it. I, myself, have just one bumper sticker on my Honda Fit that simply reads ‘Pagan’. Yes, I’ve gotten some angry and concerned looks in my rear-view mirror at whatever stop light, but that’s not why I have it. It’s there because being a Pagan for more than half my life has helped me make so many decisions, answered so many questions, and shaped the very identity of who I am today. It’s a passion of mine, and I have to express it. And, like the barista, I too have a double-moon symbol tattooed on me, representing the God within everyone and the wildness of Nature; be it a literal god or a symbolic one.

 

So, that’s mostly what’s in my head at the moment. I’ll try to write on this blog more often. Oh, and if anyone knows of someone who needs a room in Seattle in the next few weeks, hit me up!

 

 

“Wear your heart on your skin in this life.” -Sylvia Plath

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Happy Lughnasadh!

I love Lughnasadh. I’ve written about it before, and I’m always the one who is the first to emphatically explain the mythological meaning behind this holiday at Lammas gatherings or amongst curious friends. And it’s not just because of the delicious traditional food served on this day (BREAD, glorious bread!!), but because of who Lugh was/is and what he represented as a namesake; the strength he saw in his people and so led them to victories. And yes, the funeral games as well.

lugh

Lugh (Lug, Lugus/Lugos (Gaulish), Lugh Lámhfhada (Irish), Lleu Llaw Gyffes (Welsh), Lugaid/Lugaidh, Lonnansclech) was the son of Cian from the Tuatha Dé Danann, and Ethniu, daughter of Balor of the Fomorians. Balor (of the Evil Eye) learned one day that a grandson of his would someday kill him. He tried to sequester his daughter away to prevent any man to impregnate her, except that Cian rescued her and so Ethniu gave birth to three children, of which Balor drowned two, and the third accidentally survived the attempt. His name was Lugh, and he was sent to be fostered by a mortal woman named Tailtiu, in protection from Balor.

Lugh is known as the modern Jack-of-All-Trades; master to every craft and every skill known to man. He is talented with magic, poetry, history, and music. Lugh is a scholar, a craftsman, a hero and a warrior, and a great champion. Having the combination of all these skills allowed him entry into the Tuatha Dé Danann, who he then led against the corruption of the Fomorians in the Second Battle of Mag Tuireadh and with the help of his enchanted tools, was able to defeat Balor. Prophecies are a bitch sometimes. Lugh was also the reason the Irish learned when to plough, sow, and reap.
Now I’m not a Jack-of-All-Trades like Lugh. But I love the story of this god, raised by a humble mortal woman, and who led a race of oppressed people against their enemies and won. And when his foster mother died, whom he loved dearly, he commemorated her by creating Lughnasadh, a type of Olympic funeral games so the Irish could use their skills and talents to become champions in their right. And when Ireland felt oppressed, once again in the 1920’s, the Tailteann Games were resurrected to overcome the darkness of the Irish Civil War.

Lugh understood the value of physically challenging yourself, exerting yourself. And the benefits of teamwork and camaraderie; the bonds you can create when you mutually jump through Hell’s hoops together, which is why I love Lughnasadh so much; it represents my dreams and goals for the Pagan community. It stands out so much from how we commonly practice and involve ourselves. I read that traditionally, the prayers of Lugh were only heard when spoken high on hilltops and mountains; you have to challenge yourself to speak to The Challenger (Duh). So an old friend of mine and I decided to summit Mount Si with homemade mead in our packs on Sunday the 30th. 3900 feet gained in 4 miles (and we thought we were in shape….fuck)! But after our knees almost gave out, our water almost was gone, our asses and calves throbbing, and I don’t even know how many gallons of sweat lost- we finally reached the very top. It was so beautiful, we were silent for a long time. But after cracking open the mead and some snacks, we were laughing again and totally high, drained of endorphins. After we poured some mead into the rocks in appreciation and readied ourselves for our descent, I realized we had become even closer friends than I thought possible.

And that right there symbolized my prayers to Lugh. To bring Pagans back outside and into the dangerous wilderness again, exerting ourselves completely. And through that, become even closer to each other.

 

View from the top of Mount Si: Mailbox peak (left), Mount Washin

(From the top of Mount Si)

The Horses of Epona

On the way to my buddy’s house near Rainier last week, I followed a long road through some country fields that were surrounded by fencing. Not caring of how long of a drive it was, I took advantage of the beautiful summer day and rolled down my windows. From there, I noticed two strong horses galloping together with their manes dancing up like fire, running parallel to me. The sun lit up their golden coats with sweat glistening, as their hooves moved in perfect unison with each other. I could see their sheer delight and contentment running in this green field shadowed by rugged foothills and dense trees. As I slowed my speed and innocently watched them through my open window, a broad smile stretched across my face. Every time I see these powerful and beautiful creatures, I am reminded of my childhood. My earliest nostalgic memories of my grandfather were on his Quarter Horse ranches in Oklahoma. My grandfather is one of the few remaining “original cowboys” left, and he never leaves the house without wearing his cowboy hat and boots. After growing up a cotton farmer, my grandfather decided to enlist in the military and go to war as many American men did at that age. After the horrors of battle, he came home and worked on the oil rigs and married his first wife; my late grandmother. He made enough from his job, and a strange pattern of luck from betting at the horse races, that he was able to buy some ranch property to raise Quarter Horses on. I was taught how to ride horses before my feet could even reach the stirrups. I fell in love with these beasts; they were large and powerful, yet gentle. They could also speak so many emotions through the pools of their eyes and can express more humanity than their riders. I dream of a day I can own some property of my own with a horse or two. I think if and when I do, I will build a small wooden stable and carve a prayer to Epona over its doorway.

blkstallion

(This photo, called ‘Black Stallion’, I have printed on metal with a satin finish, hanging in my bedroom. The photographer is J.R. Robinson)

 
Epona is a Gallic deity that was worshiped to and revered so much that she continued throughout the Roman Empire between the first and third centuries CE. She’s a goddess of horses, wheat and, in some depictions, the sun. A birth-and-death mother goddess, she’s believed to aid in fertility and carry the souls of the dead on the backs of her horses. And she is the patron deity and guardian of horsemen. With my interest in the myth of Lancelot of the Lake, I also like to imagine that because he was raised by the Lady of the Lake in Avalon and was well known for his horse whispering abilities, that Lancelot probably paid homage to Epona in his life or at least prayed to her in times of need. On a musical side of it, the Swiss folk metal band, Eluveitie, just released their first song and music video from their upcoming album, ‘Evocation II – Pantheon’ (said to be released August 18th), called Epona.

I love this song! Not only is it lyrically about the great goddess, Epona, sung in a modernized version of Gaulish, but the music itself is designed to simulate a horse running; dashing ahead with speed and power and slowing to a light gallop. “Benoulati epon ueidonti marcacon, gutus nertomaros tuos radit” (from the song, Epona, by Eluveitie). Or in English: “Mistress of horses, leader of horsemen, your strong voice speaks.” The video shows a battle in the woods, and when one of the men die, he sees Epona with her horses, ready to take his spirit home. It was filmed in the city of Avenches, Switzerland home to the Gallic king, Divico who once led his people back to Gaul, but whose passage was denied by Caesar because of the Roman relative of Caesar’s that Divico killed 49 years prior. Anyway, if you have the chance, check out that music video! I am also intrigued by this upcoming album of theirs, branching away from horses for a minute, its album cover has the Celtic pantheon’s initials on it, surrounding an indigenous-looking illustration of the Irish god, Lugh. Given the title of it as well, I’m lead to assume this album could be entirely about the Celtic gods or the belief of the Celtic gods. Kinda rad! Kinda intrigued.

 
Anyway, it’s probably my love for horses that favor the people of Rohan in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings over all the other groups of men or otherwise. Or my love for the song, ‘Two White Horses’ by Beck or ‘Four Rusted Horses’ by Marilyn Manson (huh. Never realized how similar those song titles are…weird). I think the last time I rode a horse was in the small mountain town of Ruidoso, New Mexico about five years ago with my brothers. Long ass time ago- I definitely need to change that! I always feel so sad for people when I hear they have a fear of horses. Riding a horse is so much of an experience all on its own, and so much so, they even use horse riding as a form of rehabilitation therapy and animal therapy for children with disabilities. Think about it; you’re on this large and powerful animal that doesn’t speak English (except Mr. Ed). It’s a state of vulnerability of having to trust that it won’t kick you off and hurt you, or even kill you. The animal, sensing your fear and agitation, has to trust you won’t hurt it or lead it into harm’s way. It’s a bond of faith and overcoming your fears of the unknown. Other than with environmental degradation, I think we lost so much opportunity to develop and learn as humans when we chose the car over the animal.

 
“I frequently dream of being on these horses’ backs and running across a field. And the horse and I are one”. -William Shatner

relief-of-Epona

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).

The-Loincloth-was-the-first-style-of-underwear-worn-by-man-900x720

 
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.

sunset