I crashed a wedding with my friend Jes last weekend.
Not–particularly precisely exactly crashed. More like hid amongst the ferns and jasmine and exotica of a conservatory, gawking (politely) at flowers with beards (“Why do they need beards?”) until someone wearing a suit demanded we leave.
“We’re having a wedding here?” he said, in that exquisitely middle-class white way I never learned to adopt.
“Oh!” I said, smiling. I’d rather hoped he’d challenge us. “We’re getting married, too! She proposed on the internet, you know.”
You may know this friend. She and I, a few years ago, had a fantastic internet spat during one of those polytheist vs. atheist Pagan circuses the internet itself seems to generate, and then she asked to marry me after something I wrote and now we’re fantastic friends but we didn’t get married. Turns out she was already married and I’m gay.
Interestingly, that same war seems to have come up again, and something she wrote got quoted and I’m finding this all rather humorous. She’s out in the woods somewhere, oblivious to all this currently, and I’m sure she’ll find it amusing when she returns to the cities and the internet (which is a sort of city, but without trees) and reads all this stuff about her and notices, like I’ve noticed, that it’s all the same fucking stuff again.
After being ejected from the wedding (we were just there for the flowers, anyway), we left and laid under a grove of trees.
We watched the dappled sunlight filter through leaves both green and gold, not part green and part gold, but all green and also all gold. We talked on all matter of things, how funny the circumstances of our meeting, how amusing the way many people wear their pathos for all but themselves to see, and boys. Because boys are really fun to talk about, and people were getting married all over the place in the park that day and I’m rather damn smitten with one myself.
Afraid of Certain Certainties
The sight of those leaves being both green and gold brings to mind the way we insist on purity within ideology and theology and relationships, the insistence that a thing cannot be fully two things at once unless they are mixed and become something completely different. That someone can be wrong and also right isn’t allowed, anymore than the notion that a god can be fully one thing and also fully another.
Mostly, though, I think this comes from our difficulty with certainty (which I’ll likely be writing about for The Wild Hunt next week). Uncertainty seems to be the very state of existence, and yet those who never make decisions tend to have those decisions made for them. That is, some, unable to know everything about a plan, or an idea, or a god, or a lover, avoid the paths before them until all can be known.
All can never be known, of course, but I think we tend to fear and even loathe other people’s choices (that is, apparent certainty) because we either think they can’t have thought the whole thing through, or that they are foolish, or stupid.
Consider the matter of a protest or other political action. When someone suggests a strike, or blockade, or a take-over, there’s often the reactionary voice muttering, “that won’t work.” After the fact, too, you hear those tauntings, like the general critique of Occupy or even the WTO protests.
It’s funny–on the outside, the rebels and instigators and reckless people who ‘rush in to action’ appear either idiots or possessed by something we can’t understand. When we say “radicalism,” we often mean just that someone seemed willing to make a decision that we ourselves wouldn’t make. We might agree on the problem they are attempting to address, but we wouldn’t have done the same thing. “Too far,” we might say, or “wrong tactics,” but I think often their actions function as a confrontation, a challenge, essentially forcing our decision.
Sabotaging the Saboteur
Do you know how Many Gods West got started? The same way Gods&Radicals got started. The same way my first pilgrimage got started, and also the same way every amazing love I’ve ever had got started. It’s also how I cross rivers.
So–you should know, I’m a bloody fucking coward. Really.
I’m terrified of heights particularly, and I’ve got no balance, and I actually visibly cringe when I see a narrow but sturdy log lying across a river. I always know I want to cross it, and I tell myself I’ll be incredibly brave and fine, and then I get to part where the fallen tree meets the river-edge and I freeze.
Like, I can’t do it. But I really want to. But I know I’m likely to fall. But I know the other side will be fucking awesome. But I can’t get my body to move.
You know what I do?
If the edge is close enough, I throw something really, really important to me on the other side. Oftentimes, my journal, or my rucksack if I’ve got it. And then I have no choice, because nothing will part me from a good notebook or a good rucksack.
And if the edge isn’t close enough, than I’m not crossing on that log. I’m taking the other route, the really dumb one. I climb down to the river’s edge and start walking, because I’m realistic and know I’ll fall but once I get wet I’ll be really pissed at myself if I got wet for nothing so I’ll keep going.
In essence, I just look in a direction, decide to go there, and then do something ridiculous to seal the decision. Not much different, I guess, from many kinds of modern ritual magic, where intention must be sealed with some irrevocable act of manifestation otherwise it was just wishful thinking.
A lot like environmentalism, too. Or social justice work. Or gods. Or revolution.
We can talk and fret and debate and argue and plot and plan, but until we do something irrevocable, that shows you actually mean what you want, nothing will happen. To Dare, yeah?
‘Cause if we’re waiting for the safe and the certain, we’re gonna be doing exactly what we’re always doing, because there’s nothing safer than doing nothing interesting.
A Full-Time Writer
I’m writing this to others, but I’m also writing this to myself. This is the public version of throwing my rucksack across an ocean, to make sure I actually dare to do what I want to do, rather than doing what’s safe.
My last day of full-time work is Monday. On September 1st, I become a full-time writer and a part-time worker, thanks to the extreme generosity and belief of my many Patreon donors.
Full time work is safe. It’s also impossible to be a non-profit publisher and a novelist and a poet while doing social work. The last few months have been brutal trying to juggle all that, and now that I hit my second goal on Patreon, I’ve one less thing to juggle.
Also, I’ve one more reason to do all this, as nothing will compel you do to what you want than strangers and friends being willing to give you money to make it happen.
The next few months are gonna be rather wild:
- I’m releasing a limited-edition poetry chapbook for Patreon Donors in September
- My next prose collection, probably called The Voice in the Brambles, will be out in October
- The Gods&Radicals Journal will be published on Samhain
- I’ll be visiting the UK soon thereafter to see someone incredibly meaningful, and to do a release party for the Journal
- And in December, I plan to have completed the editing on my fiction manuscript, as well as a rough draft of The Spectre & The Whore.
On top of that, I’ll be attending the Esoteric Book Conference in Seattle late September (going? let’s hang!!) and beginning to plan something even more wild than I normally dare.
Mari-Morgans and the Flooding Sea
We’ve yet to officially announce this, but I’ll be accompanying a few friends on a pilgrimage next year in France. There’s a strange collision of intentions amongst people who haven’t actually met yet, and I seem to have gotten myself in the middle of it with an oath to a goddess.
I’ve made scant reference to the apparent connection between several of the sea-witch-goddesses in Europe. Arianrhod’s one, Dahut another. Morgan le Fay is likely a stand-in for Arianrhod (Morgans are sea-witches), or for another one entirely. The ‘nine and one,’ as it were, and the matter of the Marys of the Sea and Stella Maris (‘Star of the Sea’).
“Mary” became a stand-in for all manners of ancient goddess/faerie figures throughout Europe as the Christians conquered. If you’re familiar with Latin or any of the romance languages, you’ll know the word Mary seems related to the word for sea (French: mer, Spanish: mar, Latin: mare), though the biblical Mary’s name isn’t actually etymologically related to the ocean.That mere fact is enough to point to earlier sea goddess cults before the coming of the Christians which got syncretized (actually, assimilated in a sort of Papish ‘evocatio’).
In fact, Arianrhod seems to be one of these; she lived on an island which sank, and had a child (‘Dylan’) who ‘returned to his father, the sea.’ The Breton sea-witch Dahut (or Maelgven, though some scholars think she was a later invention) another (and perhaps she’s the goddess cloaked in sea-foam I saw on Menez Hom, who was right pissed at me for ‘forgetting’ something I was supposed to already know).Anyway–we’ll be making a pilgrimage to one of these sites, then likely following the pre-Christian route of the Camino de Santiago. And if I’ve managed to sell enough writing, I won’t be coming back state-side.
Lots of writing to do, and a bit of plotting, and some research.
This will be a fascinating autumn.
Be well, all of you!
12 thoughts on “How To Cross A River”
It would be great to meet you / attend the UK journal launch. I’ll keep an eye out here for more on your timings / plans.
I like your way of crossing a river. I look at my tattoos like that, actually – they each are a wild commitment to that god, spirit, concept, vocation, etc., something that will live on my skin permanently, and pull me along with it even if I get cold feet.
I love that! 🙂
I also like the throwing a notebook or rucksack across idea- sealing the certainty something must happen. The last time I crossed a river was with a friend to get to a remnant of the Caledonian forest after the bridge had been completely swept away. Both of us fell in due to the current and slippery stones and he fractured a bone in his hand. Such endeavours are never entirely risk free. However without taking risks you get nowhere…
Congrats on leaving work and good luck with all your endeavours 🙂
That’s not typically the way I define coward; the way I learned to define the word, you’d be the opposite of one! And yes, very much yes to what you say about waiting for things to be “safe” or to feel “ready” – I have to just set myself a deadline, commit to it, throw myself at it, and somehow piece it together and make it work afterwards, or I would never do anything important. Congratulations!!
I have problems with heights, too; I’m going to keep your river-crossing technique in mind should I -have to- cross something like that.
And, er – the “nine and one” – what, or who, is that in reference to? (Sea goddesses obviously but more specifically?)
Both Morgan le Fay and Arianrhod were said to have nine sisters, and there are a few other references to nine morgan(e)s.
I’ve only once seen Arianrhod in dream/vision, but I’ve seen other sea-witch figures who seem to be related to her somehow, so it’s how I’ve been describing them. Also, Jason Pitzl described them as such one place, too.
My fear of heights seems to be enterwined with falling from them. I really don’t like falling, even though I seem to be so good at it (clumsy, bad for dancers).
I am reminded by your choice to toss something you don’t want to lose, and following it to reclaim it, with the old joke about the miser who has managed to drop a coin in the toilet. Can’t stand to lose the coin, can’t stand to get messy, so he throws in more money.
I haven’t a rabid hater’s chance of going to paradise, but I’d love to go on both “horns” of that pilgrimage. I think any medievalist would find that amazing. I seem to recall there are other spiritual or cultural reasons for following that path, but nothing springs into what passes for my memory these days. I do rather like the music of the era and area of the original pilgrims to Compostela.
Yes, I engage in protesting of one sort or another, no matter what anyone says to refute it, because I want to live with myself. I’m not in the “frequently arrested” camp, but…
Much as I’d hate to see you move so far away, I wish you all the best, should your writing take off, as it ought. Maybe you’ll be the rucksack I need to cross the pond.
Congratulations on leaving your job! All the best on your new adventures!
Coming in a little late to this, but are you also aware of AEgir and HIs nine daughters? And one of them, Blóðughadda, has a name which at least superficially seems more Welsh that Norse.
I AM NOW!!! Thank you!!!!
Ha! Your response made my night last night.