After a great deal of consideration, I’ve decided to close MistSeeking. Posts that I found to still be useful and/or thought provoking have migrated to my primary blog, The Little Sea Witch. I hope to see you there!
I’m thinking about closing MistSeeking and transferring the more useful posts over to my main blog, TLSW. I’ve not had a whole lot to say over here, and nothing that I couldn’t say over there. I go through phases of compartmentalizing and merging, and I think right now I’m in a merging one. I don’t see any harm in having a separate blog for specifically religious stuff, but I’m not sure it’s doing me any good either, and I always have trouble when I give myself too many projects to juggle at a time.
I guess we’ll see how motivated I am in the next few weeks!
On my current calendar, Thanksgiving sits with Opet and Grinchmas as community holidays, but I’ve never had that strong of a connection to it. If I want to incorporate it into my life in any meaningful way, then- as opposed to going through the ‘traditional’ motions because everyone else does- I’m going to have to do some work.
My family has never been huge about Thanksgiving. There was an assumption on both my mother and stepfather’s sides that we would get together, but that was mostly because that is what’s always been done; neither side has ever been particularly sentimental. My mother’s side isn’t very sentimental about any holidays, really. My uncle with the kids is religious-ish- they’re Episcopalian, and seem to be fairly active in their church community, but they don’t talk about it with the rest of the family. We get together on birthdays and traditional holiday weekends because it’s what people do. My stepfather’s family is much closer and more involved in each other’s lives, and they’ll take any excuse to get together. But their family is Polish and Ukrainian- Grinchmas is the Big Deal for them, not Thanksgiving. (Particularly Grinchmas Eve, a never-ending bone of contention between my mother and her mother-in-law.) Thanksgiving for them usually consists of celebrating the kids’ birthdays, turkey, and football; it’s a prelude to the Big Deal. And, of course, I never saw my dad, who was usually working (and also lived several hundred miles away), nor any of his family, who lived another few hundred from him. I don’t know any of their Thanksgiving traditions (aside from the fact that Papa volunteered at a soup kitchen for years before he died) or their traditional foods (though I think one of the typical desserts is pecan pie, possibly) or how important it is to them.
There wasn’t much emphasis on Thanksgiving outside my family either. At school, it was all but ignored in my older years- it was simply a day off, periodically with a large homework assignment from the less pleasant teachers. In the younger years, it consisted of making construction paper hand turkeys, and talking about the First Thanksgiving with the Brave Pilgrims and the Noble Indians. We made construction paper Pilgrim hats and genero-Indian headbands with brightly colored feathers sticking up at the back. It was fairly typical for the US public school system, I think, and did not instill any particular love of the holiday for me. In fact, as I got into my high school years, I turned my cynicism on the holiday (like most everything else, I’ll note) and did a lot of grumping about the treatment of Native Americans versus their role as noble savages in our mythology, and compared Thanksgiving to Columbus Day as another token “Indian” holiday where we pretended that we hadn’t slaughtered them.
…okay, so my cynicism hasn’t entirely worn off. But it leaves me in a weird position. There’s the history of the civic holiday, which is Judeo-Christian thanks-to-god along with some nationalism. There’s the history of the actual practice, which is rooted in New England Calvinism, since days of thanksgiving were fairly common. There’s the history involving the actual First Thanksgiving at Plymouth, which was a three day feast after the colony’s first successful harvest, which only happened because of the help of Squanto and Massasoit. There’s my family’s “do it because it’s what’s done” approach. And then there’s the overall US communal stuff, parades and turkeys and football, with varying emphasis on religion and charity, and the ever-increasing encroachment of Black Friday and Grinchmas. Honestly, just looking at this, I have a bit of a headache.
One of my first thoughts is how in a lot of cases, the Thanksgiving “season” begins the day after Halloween. In fact, autumn into winter is a set of seasons- Opet, from the end of September into early October; Halloween, which for me is roughly mid October until the 31st; Thanksgiving, most of November; Grinchmas, the remainder of November through most of December. They are all also giving or sharing holidays- Opet celebrates and reinforces community bonds, Halloween is basically giving candy to children and could be argued as giving fun and escapism to adults, Thanksgiving has a lot of giving to the homeless and less fortunate, and Grinchmas continues that along with giving to family and friends. And I forgot Samhain, which overlaps with Halloween and the beginning of Thanksgiving, for giving to the Dead. Looking at it this way, it also seems to be a progression from larger community to smallest. My Opet celebration involves giving to people around the world through Kiva.org; Halloween and Samhain have a lot of local or specified community aspects; Thanksgiving continues the local theme but starts to narrow down to family; Grinchmas is primarily family oriented.
I’m still not sure where this leaves me. I’m not in a position to be doing much in the way of donating money, and I didn’t do volunteer work growing up, so the idea of getting into it as an adult, by myself, kind of terrifies me socially awkward introvert kind of way. The school essay of Nykti’s I proofread comes to mind- she did a Medicine Walk with an Aboriginal group, giving the medicines of laughter, compassion, and peace to people that the group came across; those are important gifts, ones that I myself would like to give, but I don’t know how. I don’t know how to integrate myself into community. It’s not even that I feel unwelcomed, exactly, I just feel nonexistent. (“Go to the UU in Raleigh” pops into my mind, but I am reluctant, and I don’t know whether it’s the social anxiety or something else.)
All of this said, I still don’t know what, if anything, I’ll be doing for Thanksgiving next week. I do have some things to work on, though: taking a good look at myself and seeing what I have to give, and figuring out how to make those first steps toward community and away from being an isolated shut-in. This might take me til next Thanksgiving!
The months of the Carnival Dionysia have begun- almost a week ago, now. I’ve been poking intermittently at it, but I’m still not sure what my work is, here. I’ve also been distracted with my new classes and preparing for NaNo, so I haven’t done as much thinking on it as I’d like. I do know that I want to work on my divination skills, and do more work on my WIP deck(s). I also want to step up my writing; I don’t think of Dionysos as a patron of writers specifically, but his ancient connections to theater make me feel like it’s still an appropriate association. I may also try another batch of mead, specifically for him, when I get back from my trip to Florida. (Possibly to be opened at Anthesteria? I’m not sure if it’s enough time. Hmm.)
Speaking of NaNo. In a recent thread on TC, Jack mentioned NaNo in a religious sense, a longstanding tradition of his, and very appropriate for his work as a fictional recon. I read it shortly after he posted and thought to myself “that is awesome” but as I am not a fictional recon, or really a pop culture pagan in any particular sense, I didn’t think about it much beyond that. It’s been poking at me ever since, though, and then came to the dawning realization that I’m an idiot. I honor several authors among my dead as patrons; I honor the Muses; I honor several deities involved with creativity, inspiration, writing, skill, and work. It is entirely appropriate for me to treat NaNo as a religious tradition, potentially even a religious obligation. So I’m poking at making some kind of offering at the start and end, and maybe at the end of each week. Seeing as the madness starts in just over six hours, I should probably poke a little faster!
Yes, I am talking about calendars again. Blame Kiya for lobbing a lightbulb.
I have a certain fondness for the Wheel of the Year, though in practice it never worked for me. I think it’s because it is a unified, coherent cycle, unlike most of what I have been exposed to in terms of calendars, either before or after it. It has a strong agricultural theme, but one that maps metaphorically onto personal action, internal or external, with relative ease. And though the seasonal cycle never matched up precisely with my location, it was close enough to work.
Except that as a whole, it didn’t. I think that is in large part because I’m not Wiccan; I have no idea which god is doing the death and rebirth bit, I don’t have the religious context that makes the Wheel of the Year more than a generic British Isles agricultural cycle. It’s like recognizing most things Lord of the Rings without being a Tolkien fan- I have neither the breadth of knowledge, experience, or intimacy to really internalize the depth of meaning that many aspects of the story or world have to actual fans. Someone can explain it to me, and I will probably remember, but there’s still a big gap.
My interests in things wax and wane. I am a creature of phases, I always have been. This applies to my eating habits, my focus on hobbies, my reading material, my energy and enthusiasm levels, everything. I am almost paradoxical in that I have a short attention span and a tendency to hyperfocus- I do or eat or think about predominantly one thing for a period of time, and then it suddenly ceases to maintain my interest, and I move on to something else. I almost always cycle back, but depending on how many different things I have sitting around to capture my attention, it can take a while.
Anyway. I am beginning to stray, but my point here was that my life is not one big cycle. I do not sow at one time of the year and reap at the other; I am always starting and ending. My life is not centered around one major theme- the gods I work for do not have any one thing in common. I, like most people, am a bundle of different qualities and interests and skills, that manifest in different combinations at different times. What I wonder is: are those manifestations cyclical, in a predictable and trackable manner? It’s not something I’ve noticed before, but then I wouldn’t; I am not good at patterns. It’s something I’ll have to look for.
I do want my calendar to be a cohesive whole- but if it’s a reflection of me, if it’s my calendar, then it will never comprise of one smoothly working part. It will likely not even comprise of several pieces that fit seamlessly together; it will have a variety of odd shapes that cannot run all at once, but fit together in a number of combinations, with different bits waiting on the sidelines to come back into play.
Which brings me around to holiday seasons. I think anyone from the US is familiar with them; some people call 1 October the first of Halloween, (US) Thanksgiving lasts most of November, and Grinchmas starts as soon as the turkey leftovers have made it to the fridge. The Grinchmas season at least has some theological precedent, what with Advent and all, but slowly these single-day holidays have grown and grown. Some people complain. I know that working in retail, I did not enjoy a month of Grinchmas music on the radios, especially in those places that used specific recordings of selected tracks instead of the actual radio. And the fact that these holiday seasons are increasingly commercialized- Grinchmas keeps creeping up on Thanksgiving for the sales- is not something I love. But the taking of the important, celebration-worthy aspects of a singular day and distilling them out over a longer period of time… I feel like it makes things more manageable, somehow? There’s a lot of pressure in the pagan community to get everything Right, to do everything Right. Accuracy and precision certainly have their value and their place. But in a world like today’s, without priests to handle the heavy lifting- there’s a lot more weight on our shoulders, a lot more decisions to make. Do we do a processional if it’s just us in our living room? Does it count as a processional if there’s only one person? How do we scale down a city-wide celebration into something a single person can mark on their own, when they’ve been at work all day, have to go back again tomorrow, and need to keep an eye on their offering budget because it’s almost winter and the heating bill is going to go up? Opet just ended, and I spent a good portion of it thinking about the fact that I am not a priest, I have no barque to carry. I did emboaten the boatless (only once, unfortunately, because money) but that was a single action of a very long festival. I spent most the rest of it feeling guilty for not knowing what else to do. I like the idea of putting a specific festival or ritual occurrence at the end of a longer period of mindful preparation, and I think if I had treated Opet this year in a similar fashion, and spent some lead-up time thinking about my commitments and my relationships with an idea to refocus them at the end, I would have felt better about the whole thing. (Maybe not- retrospect is funny that way.)
As I’ve said before, my calendar is seriously stripped down at the moment; I’m putting bits back in a little at a time, seeing what I think will work, what I think is important. With the ideas of themes and cycles in mind, I made a chart of with each month of the year, and placed my current and soon-to-be-added holydays on it, and they arranged themselves into a few different categories. The days for my dead (not individual birth and death days, but the group observances) cluster at the end of the year- two in mid/late August, two in November, and one in December. The holydays focused on creative skill and competition are summer-ish: one in July, one in August, and one in October. My new year’s celebrations are also mostly summer-ish, in May, June, and August, with the January outlier; the three holdays focused on community bonds start in September and stretch through December. And in working on this chart, I was able to pinpoint why “Carnival” is something I want to work on- because not only does the traditional Carnival season incorporate the revelry and inversion of norms associated with Dionysos, and correspond almost exactly to his time at Delphi (whilst Apollon is elsewhere), but it also overlaps with my dark days, when my seasonal-affective disorder is at its worst. I don’t know yet what the work is, but I know there is work to be done there.
Not everything fits neatly into one of these categories, and I’m not going to force it; I’ll keep this chart around, and use it to see how things evolve, and maybe to see where I have too many gears in play, or not enough. (March and April are totally empty at the moment, and while I don’t find it surprising, exactly, I didn’t notice it before.) Some things will always remain singular days, brief markings, like my Beloved Dead’s birth and death days that are scattered all over the year. But I do like the idea of having these cyclical phases where I focus on my dead, or my connection to my community, or on my creative endeavors, and not try to force myself to do All The Things All The Time. I could put something down without feeling like a failure, because I’d know that I would come back to it.
As always, it’s a work in progress. But I’m feeling like I’ve got a little more direction, now.