Wednesday, 23 July 2014

An Abstract on Abstraction

The focus on the abstract and the symbolic in many modern traditions is a bit odd in my opinion.  Not that the abstract and symbolic don't have a place or value, of course.  As a born mystic, these things have always intrigued and interested me.  It's the amount of focus and the importance placed that I think is a harmful thing for really growing and practicing.

As a specific example, my main objection to the Classic elements in folk magic is the lack of practical application to the real work.  I can't hold elemental Fire or Water or Earth or Air in my hands, I can't mix them and make something out of them.  But I can take the soil of the land and mix it with water from creek or pond or river or lake, to make mud, and form it into a figure of someone or something or a tablet or a disc for an amulet, and can sit it out for the wind and sun to dry.

You won't hear a farmer use a blessing like, "may you have water and air and earth."  That is too abstract to be meaningful.  You would hear something closer to, "may you have rain or irrigation water to water the crops, may you have fresh air to breathe and wind to blow away harmful insects, may your land be fertile and rich and produce."  Or something more along those more practical lines.

This holds true in many areas.  What good does a symbol do if it isn't applicable in a material or at least methodical way?  The Work is about doing the work, not about symbols that can be meditated on but have no pragmatic purpose.

The toad bone was not obtained by some because it symbolized all the things it can be seen to symbolize.  These symbols aren't of no importance, nor are they not real, but they aren't the point.  The toad bone was obtained for very specific purposes, to control animals, to have power over people, and others.  Read Andrew Chumbley's The Leaper Between, and you will see the application is the major focus, not the symbolism, though that exists as well.

I come from simple people, even if I work in an industry far from that, and move at times in higher society.  My ancestors on both sides were mostly farms, and when not farmers, still working class people.  Salt of the earth, honest folk.  This is why my grandpa lost everything twice, as to him, a handshake was a deal.  This is why my father always felt more comfortable out with his drilling team in the forest pulling up rock core samples than in the office with those who were more concerned with politics than the work.  My father tastes dirt to know what it is made of.  My grandpa on my mother’s side worked the ground most of his life, as his father did, and his, all the way back to Germany and Prussia.  I come from simple, working class, people, not academics or philosophers, not politicians or old money.  And when you live that life, or come from that seed, or do that work, you do what needs to be done, rather than worrying what it means.

Both my father and my mother’s father were water witchers, and could find whatever they were looking for beneath the ground with their skill. It didn’t mater what the meaning of anything was, it mattered that it worked and they could find what they needed.  My father used that skill with the drilling team, and they always hit the vein they were trying for when he told them where to drill.  There was no symbolism, no hidden meaning, just a skill others couldn’t use that was accurate and got the job done.

Except among philosophers and theologians, symbols and meanings are secondary to what you can use the thing for.  The Classical elements are great for discussion and even as symbols in ritual, but, as Bearwalker would say, you can you grow corn in them?  The abstraction from the physical things that we interact with when we get our hands dirty to the philosophers’ symbols and metaphors is often a distraction from the work, work that only truly gets done when we get our hands dirty and do the work.

FFF,
~Muninn’s Kiss

Monday, 21 July 2014

The Narrative of What is Taught

One thing I see a lot that I think is detrimental to the passing of what we know and learn, the lore the spirits have given us, and the lore our teachers, both formal and informal, have given us is entitlement.

I'm talking about the entitlement that because someone knows something or can teach you something, they should and that what they know should not be kept to themselves, that all information should be free and accessible.

This is kind of a general war cry in our time, from the call for all software to be open source and license free, to the idea that all government records should be available to the public, to the idea that if something is published on the Internet, it is automatically public domain and can be used without citing or credit, to the idea that copyrights on music and patents on things developed by corporations are automatically an attack on the people.  While there might be legitimacy in several, maybe all, of these in some cases, the general idea that all things should be free and available, when we want it and how we want it actually does us all a disservice.  We are all singing with Queen, "Here’s to the future, hear the cry of youth, I want it all, I want it all, I want it all, and I want it now.”  But if we’re going to live a Rock and Roll slogan, maybe we need to hear the Rolling Stones singing, “No, you don’t always get what you want, no, you don’t always get what you want, no, you don’t always get what you want, but if you try sometime, you might find, you get what you need."

I'd like to quote one of the tenets of Toteg Tribe in regard to this, as I think it expresses well what I'm referring to.
"We listen with consideration to those who choose to share their wisdom with us, and respect their rights to do so in their own way, in their own time." 
The thing is, the process of learning from someone, whether they are formally teaching you or not, whether they are human or not, is not a dump of information like you can get by using Google or Wikipedia to find answers fast. The narrative, the context, and the story that goes along with the teaching is just as important, and stories don't live in the "I want it all and I want it now" range. The story gets lost there, and the information loses its meaning.

It's in the narrative between teacher/master and student/apprentice that the craft is taught, not in the facts and information.  Facts and information might help you learn dogma, but the craft isn’t about dogma.  Facts and information might help you learn a liturgy of lore, but that liturgy is of no use in the craft if it’s just that, just words repeated like the catechism of the Catholic Church.  Facts and information might, maybe, point you in a direction where you might be able to apply them and make contact with spirits, and learn on your own, but why do you need a teacher if that is your course?  It’s the narrative between the teacher and student, master and apprentice, where any craft is taught, and our craft even more so.  You don’t learn enough to start a business in smithing after a weekend course.  You don’t learn enough to wire a house after a weekend course with an electrician.  You can’t build quality, beautiful cabinets or build a house after a weekend course in carpentry.  You can’t build a cathedral after a weekend course in masonry.  If you could do any of these, the requirements for a license would be to watch Youtube videos.  No, it takes time to learn these crafts, training with a master, and it’s the stories and tales of their experiences that you learn more from than lessons in the simple skills or a dump of information.  Why would our craft be different from that?

The teacher that can and will teach you will do so in their own way and their own time. You're job is to be receptive and live the story they share.

FFF,
~Muninn’s Kiss

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Hominidic Awareness

"I see people."

I'm not talking about the phrase from Sixth Sense, "I see dead people".  I won't confirm or deny that statement.  I'm talking living people here.

"I see people."  Do you?

Likely your answer is, of course I do.  Unless you're living as a hermit, or working a night shift alone, of course.

"Of course I do."  Do you?

Do you really see people, or do you just notice they are there?  Do you even always notice they are there, or do you only notice some people, with others blending into the background of humanity, human habitat, and wild places?

"I see people."  Do you?

If you live in a city, a large town, or even some small towns, or ever visit this places, you have likely passed someone standing on a corner with a cardboard sign with something written on it.  Think back to the last such person you passed.  What did their sign say?  Do you remember?  Were they obviously male?  Obviously female?  Of indeterminate gender just looking without talking to them?  Did you notice?  Do you remember?  How were they dressed?  Do you remember?  What did they look like?  Do you remember?  Did you notice their eyes?  What colour were they?  Did they smile at you or frown?  Or even notice you?  Did you see them?  Did they see you?

"I see people."  Do you?

Have you ever been that person with a sign on the corner?  If you have, are often still are, what do you notice about those who pass by?  Who meets your eyes and who looks away?  Who seems happy and who seems sad?  Could you recall someone that had passed by and giving you something ten minutes before?  Someone who didn't give you anything?  Those who took notice of you?  Those who didn't?

"I see people."  Do you?

Do you drive a lot?  If you do, do you notice the people in the cars around you?  People walking or riding a bike along the road?  A minute later, can you count how many people walking or riding their bike you passed?  What they were wearing?  If they looked happy or sad?  If their heads were down or they were looking forward without noticing anything to the sides or if they were taking in everything around them?  Do you notice the driver beside you as stop lights?  A minute later, do you recall what they looked like?  What they were wearing?  If they looked happy or sad?  Did you even notice any of these people?  Did they notice you?

"I see people."  Do you?

Do you walk a lot?  If you do, do you notice the people around you, not just other walkers but the people in the cars passing or stopped?  A minute later, could you recognize them if they were no longer in their car?  Or even if they are?  Do you notice if they are happy or sad?  What they are wearing?  What they look like?  How about the same for walkers you pass going the opposite direction?  Or the same direction, or passing you going the same direction?  What do you notice about them?  Anything?  Everything?  What can you recall a minute later?

"I see people."  Do you?

Do you work in an office building?  In an office position or a service position?

If you work in an office position, meaning the building is what you work in, not your job itself, do you notice those who keep the building clean, who restock things, who work in the cafeteria or coffee shop or gym or as security if you have this things?  Do you hold doors open for them?  Thank them?  Say good morning or good afternoon?  Or do they blend into the background for you to the point you only notice them when something goes wrong?  Can you count from memory how many people serve these roles where you work?  Or how many you see in a day?  Do you know any of them by name?  Do they know yours?

If you work in a service job like the ones described above, do you notice those that just use the building or facilities but aren't the ones who care for them?  Or do they blend in as obstacles to your job?  Do you talk to them?  Do you know their names?  Do they know yours?

"I see people."  Do you?

All people who live and work and play where you do are part of the place you live in, your home, your Land.  Every one of them are a part of that whole, as much as the animals and plants and rocks and streams are.  You share habitat with them, as readily as a vole might share habitat with a rabbit, or with another vole.  Being aware of where you live isn't just about noticing the non-human aspects but the humans as well.  With awareness comes consciousness, with consciousness comes caring, with caring comes community.  And community is an important and needed things for humans, who are inherently social, even if the degree of need and tolerance vary.

"I see people."  Do you?  Do you notice those around you?  Do you interact with them?  It is important to develop hominidic awareness, not just awareness of the non-human portions of your environment.  Start paying attention to those around you and build your awareness today, and see how that changes how you live.

FFF,
~Muninn's Kiss

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Approaching the Land

We live in a world, among people and animals and plants and streams and rocks and all manner of things.  So we know where we live, right?  We have a working knowledge of the place we live?  You would think so, but this is far from a certainty.  How we approach it, or don't, determines both out experience of it and our knowledge of it.  What do you truly know about the world around you?  How do you approach the world around you?  How do you approach the Land?

I would postulate that there are three main ways people approach the world around them.  These might be a bit oversimplification, or they might adequately describe the human approach.  My observation shows them to be fairly encompassing.

1) To Let the World Happen to You

In my observation, this is the most common.  It is an approach of not approaching.  Most people don't approach the world, they let the world approach them.  They go through life just trying to go through life, and learn of the world by how it collides with them, often in cross purposes to how they are trying to go through life.  Their experience of the world is that of opposition, that which is trying to stop them, delay them, irritate them, upset them.  As such, the world outside their skin becomes the enemy, something to fight against, the strive against.  Whole religious doctrines have been built off this view of the world, and are a result of choosing not to approach the world, to let the world happen to you.

2) To Seek What is Known to You

This approach is a very academic approach. You start with what you know, what you've learned, what you believe, what you think is true.  Your truth.  You take that idea, and look for the proof in the world around you.  If you find it not to be true, find proof that it isn't true, or don't find it where you expect to, you refine your idea, research a new idea, or come up with a new truth.  Rinse and repeat.  This is an abstract and symbolic way of approaching the world, because you start with something abstract or symbolic, something you believe to be Truth but don't have the experience yet to apply, then test it and find what it looks like, or doesn't look like, in the world around you.  Much of the application of scientific method uses this approach, where the theory starts in the abstract and in equations or calculations, and is then tested to see if it is true.  A lot of market research also takes this approach.

Unlike the first approach, this approach sees the world as a test bed, not as an enemy.  The world becomes that which will aid me in refining my Truth, distilling it down to its essence.  Truth becomes the driving force, and both that within my skin and without becomes the tools to obtain it.

3) To Observe the World and Find What It Teaches

The third approach is to assume nothing.  Presume you don't know anything and go out to see what the world will show you and tell you.  This doesn't mean dismissing what you know or not taking it into account, but observing the world and using it to understand what you already know.  Instead of, I know the he East means this, so what does that tell me about it, this approach is to say, if I knew nothing about the East, and I look to it and think about it and observe what is there, what would I see, and what would that tell me about what I already know or think I know?  Instead of, this is a green ash and I know these things about ash trees so how does that apply to what I'm seeing, this approach is to say, I know this is an ash, but if I did not and if I knew nothing about it, what would I see before me now, what would I learn, then, what does that say and show me about what I already knew?

In this approach, the world isn't the enemy nor the test bed, it's the teacher, showing us what is truly there.  Our Truth is refined and distilled as a byproduct rather than the goal, the goal it to know the world, the Land, around us, to understand our place in it, and to learn what it would teach whether that is relevant to what we already knew or thought we knew or isn't.

You can likely tell from my wording my thoughts on each approach, but I want to be clear, none of them are bad.  We each approach the world the way we know and can, though if aware of how we do, we have the option of changing it.  These three approaches are all acceptable approaches, and the results aren't necessarily better or worse than each other, just different.  It depends a lot where you want to go in life and what you are comfortable with.

That said, the third approach is the one I tend to recommend, the one I encourage when asked, and the one I try to take for myself.  The results of it are the results I want in my life and in the world around me, and results I'm biased for when encouraging others.

What is your heart, where do you want to go, what do you want out of life, the world, the Land?

FFF,
~Muninn's Kiss

Sunday, 27 April 2014

On the Paradigm of Opposition Between the Human World and the Natural World

The disconnect that is often propagated between the human world and the natural world, and the dichotomy created by it, has slowly lead to an understanding that pulls us away from some very important truths, creating a cycle of misunderstanding that pulls us further and further from a healthy and beneficial coexistence with the world we live in.

This can be described as the urbanization of the human mind, the movement away from a realization that we are part of the world around us to the idea of human habitat as an urban bastion of non-nature in a sea of natural world, and the growth of cities as the expanding of the walls and driving back that which is beyond.

While there is truth in this image, it tends to manifest in two different mental processes, both of which miss the true nature of both the reality and of the issues created.

The first mental process is that of the natural world as the aggressor.  This mental process grew in the transition from hunter/gatherer nomadic society to an agricultural fixed location society.  It is less present among nomadic cultures that aren't fixed in location.  The image is of humans behind walls or fences or hedges, with all of the natural world besieging.  This is a position of fear of the unknown beyond the boundaries.  There is truth in it, but it creates a us and them idea of the world.  It seals the humans within the walls, with limited ability to identify with what is beyond.  It also can and has lead to an image of the natural world as something to be conquered, manifest destiny if you will.  The idea that if humans don't subjugate or suppress the natural world, that the natural world will do so to humans.  Kill or be killed.

The second mental process is that of the human world as the aggressor.  This mental process grew out of the developments of the last century, of seeing the negative impact of human actions of the natural world and determining humans should thereby be seen as a virus or disease that threatens the natural world.  This leads, and has lead, to the idea that the only way to protect the natural world is to exterminate the human threat.  This is usually not taken to the full extreme, but the idea creates the idea that the goal is to limit human activities as much as possible, preserve the remaining wild areas by completely preventing human presence.  Quarantining the humans to prevent their spread.  Containment.

Both of these mental processes, while being rooted in concerns and truths that are very real, miss the truth that humans are part of the natural world, that human habitat damaging that of others is only different in scale from certain ants that consume everything in their path, of large amounts of predators decimating prey populations, of large populations of herbivores decimating plant populations.

The goal of subjugation of nature hurts not just what is perceived as the natural world, but the human world as well, as we depend on that which isn't human for food, for oxygen, for climate regulation, for clean water, housing, for many things we need for survival, to make human habitat possible.

And humans are a part of the environment as much as any other species.  The elimination of humans will have the same results as the elimination of a predator or grazing species.  This is well seen in changes between fire management policies.  A change from a policy to put out all fires to a let it burn approach results in danger not just to human habitat but to many other habitats, as the prevention of fire allows fuel to build up, and a sudden stop in prevention results in worse and wider spread fires that would naturally occur.  Likewise, fire prevention if too aggressive prevent the processes that would naturally occur.  For instance, fire reduces pine beetle populations, lowering the amount of dead pine timber, which are the cause of large spread fire, and stimulates the cones to replace what was burned.  Fire also stimulates root activity in aspens, causing growth in size and density of aspen groves which are habitat to many types of species.  Any change in policy, or in human behavior, if not gradual with a smooth transition, will have unexpected ramifications that might not be beneficial.

The solution to the problems that arise in human vs nature interactions is not to fight against nature or against humans, but to understand that there is no separation.  Human is part of nature, not a separate thing.  In this understanding, solutions arise that can facilitate human needs while taking into account the impact on the other parts of nature.  Only then can a better balance and better approach be possible.

This, however, isn't a matter of writing up a plan, or defining policy, law, or procedures.  The issue is one of mental process, of paradigm and world view.  Such changes can't be regulated into manifestation.  Mental process changes, paradigm shifts, and changes to world view aren't a matter of law but of practice, not a matter of top down enforcement and dictation, but of individual changes spreading.

A different type of disease than was discussed above, a fire of inspiration and passion igniting change from individual to group, from group to community, from community to region, and outward.

What is needed is not laws and regulations, restrictions and policy.  These things are not bad, especially as an intermediate step to treat the symptoms.  But they won't create change.

Change is a whirlwind, chaos, it is prophecy and inspiration, the meed of poetry, heady and potent.  Law is my its nature a thing of stasis and control, order, establishment.

Change begins not in law but in hearts and minds.  Change is spoken.  Change is acted.  Change is a thing done in the day to day life, impacting that spot you live in, that soil you are planted in.  Change is shared with those you are in contacted with, with community, with clan, with tribe.

Light the fire of inspiration and change in your own heart and mind, plant the seed in the fertile soil of yourself.  Let it spread.  Let the fire light in others by contact, let the root reach out and grow into trees in the soil of those around you.

Let those that are lit by your fire do the same, and those lit by theirs.  Change the world where you are, and the ripples and waves across the pond that is our world will be seen in all places.

Embody change, embody spirit, embody the unity of all things, the interconnected web that is all living things.  Look for what you can do where you are, and do it.  Don't hesitate, don't be afraid.

Be a flame burning bright.  Let your flame spread.

Consider this well, and think on it.

FFF,
~Muninn's Kiss

Monday, 21 April 2014

The Land Where I'm Planted

This is an interesting part of the year, with various holidays and special days all dancing through the days together.  The Jewish Passover began last week and will continue though tomorrow.  The Christian Easter was yesterday.  Living in Colorado, I must mention that yesterday was also 4/20.  And today is Earth Day.  We are between the Equinox and Beltaine still, in the second Moon of Spring, the Willow Moon, for which the Bright Moon, the High Tide, was last week.  Trees are budding, flowers blooming, grasses turning green.  A time of renewal and rebirth no matter which way you cut the seasons and days.

With the nature of this time, and with today being Earth Day, which many celebrate as a specific focus on helping the environment, and for many, the planting of a tree, it seems appropriate to look at what I do in relation to the Land here, sometimes successfully, sometimes not, sometimes proactively, sometimes just in an over all sense of what is important to keep in mind.

In this area, I focus more local that global, focused on the Land where I am at, including the human portion of that, not as opposed to it. I work for better practices and behaviors that allow humans to coexist with all other things in this space, animal, plant, fungus, mineral, spirit, and anything else that lives here, minimize the things that are harmful to the Land and all those that live in it, regardless of guise, and against those things that harm.

This includes:

  • fighting human trafficking (which is one of the things biggest on my heart)
  • how the homeless are treated
  • biases/prejudices and dangers based on those biases/prejudices to portions of the community (specifically trans* and the wider LGBT community)
  • mining/drilling/pumping techniques that are harmful (not shown by hype as harmful but truly harmful)
  • minimization of waste both to lower impact in consuming and to lower impact in disposal
  • supporting local businesses and producers (especially local farms and ranches) to improve the economy here and to minimize the impact of transporting from other parts of the country
  • limiting and clean up of litter and other things that can hurt the plants and animals around us
  • support for the Open Areas and encouragement of responsible development to both meet the human needs and minimize the impact on our neighbours be they animal, plant, fungus, or mineral, gardening and growing of your own food as much as possible

That type of thing.

Some of these I work more actively toward, some less so. Some I work primarily towards in my personal habits and behavior, others in outreach and education, others in more action based approaches. Some I use magical techniques toward, others it's very much physical and direct.

And many of these, I can't do much beyond my own actions without help, so I have plans to try to gather a group to work toward these aims.  If you live in Plains Edge, the Northern Frontrange Area of Colorado, or near this area, or have ideas or would like to talk, feel free to reach out to me at plainsedge@grimr.org.  I have no certain plans nor a sure direction, but I'd love to talk with anyone with a heart of the area, or who would like to connect for other reasons.

FFF,
~Muninn's Kiss

Sunday, 20 April 2014

The Good Folk

It's interesting so many people do so much to invoke the fae, but historically, the widespread charms were to keep them out of placate them rather than draw them.

There are examples in older surviving texts of people talking to them, but none I know of that imply invoking them or calling them to you by whatever means.  If there are, I'd love to hear about them.

Talking to them is not the same as inviting them into your home. As they say, good fences make good neighbours (1). And they are likely already there anyway. No need to invoke more, just need eyes to See what's already there.

I had a conversation related to this with a friend a few days ago and I'd like to share my thoughts here.

I'm not trying to disparage or say anything negative about authors, teachers, and practitioners who recommend seeking contact and invoking the fae, or do so themselves.  I just recommend caution and a good dose of self possession.  While I won't say their approach is wrong, I would say I don't see much evidence of such active seeking in the materials that have survived from earlier time, and I think the reason for that is valid.

The Victorian view of the fae did a lot to defang them in the eyes of the general populace, and this is both good and bad.  I'll leave the good for a different discussion.  The bad is the lack of caution that has resulted.

The fae were not called the Good Folk because they were benevolent, kind, or forces of good fighting evil in the world any more than calling mafia good fellas implies upright morals.  It was to avoid offending, because of the result if you do.

The thing to remember about the fae is that they don't see anything through human eyes.  Their ideas of ethics and morals, good and evil, right and wrong, and benevolence and malevolence are different from ours.  Even those that might wish us good aren't thinking what we are.  Accomplishing your goal but dying in the process might be seen as your own good, for example.

The thing to remember is you are in charge of your own life (this is much of what makes a witch), you are responsible for your decisions and actions, and you must not submit your life force to another (2).

Point being, make no deal you can't live with the consequences of, agree to no condition you aren't willing to meet, and don't assume you must do what they say.  While I'm against attempts to enslave them (which will end badly regardless), I also caution not to allow yourself to be enslaved to them.

FFF,
~Muninn's Kiss


(1) This is an old adage, now famous from Robert Frost's poem Mending Wall.
(2) As Victor Anderson put it.  Or, as Robert Cochrane put it:

"In fate, and the overcoming of fate is the true Graal, for from this inspiration comes, and death is defeated. There is no fate so terrible that it cannot be overcome - whether by a literal victory gained by action and in time, or the deeper victory of spirit in the lonely battle of the self, Fate is the trial, the Castle Perilous in which we all meet to win or to die" http://www.1734-witchcraft.org/lettertwo.html

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