I am over the moon to announce the new release in the Seven Sisters of Avalon series. This is book 7 of 8 with Violet (book #8) publishing soon. I completed Violet a few weeks back and that book is now with the editors. The completion of this series fulfills a dream I never thought I would manage, and yet, there they are, waiting to tell their stories to those who love the seven sisters and their tales.
Jasmine’s story drives the series toward the dynamic conclusion that culminates in Violet of Avalon, weaving elements of Mary Shelley’s classic tale of Frankenstein. Ethical considerations come into play with the question not only of can we sustain life, but should we.
Another consideration Jasmine explores is the idea of what it would be like to be a neurodivergent or “on the spectrum” person in Dark Ages. Lily of Avalon explored this concept as well and now Jasmine of Avalon approaches the process from an observer’s standpoint.
I read a review that stated Lily of Avalon was too dark and yes, I am sure it was a difficult story to read. It was certainly a troubling one to write. Like Aster and Iris before her, anytime I attempted to soften the narrative to make it more palatable, I heard that sister say in my head, “Do you want to tell your story or my story?”
From the beginning, when I wrote The Daughters of Avalon thinking it would be a one off, stand alone tale with zero intention of writing a series, I knew the stories did not come from me. They felt channeled, as though someone told me the story and I merely transcribed it. When I got lost along the way, especially with Jasmine, it was always because I did not listen well enough and tried to impose some sort of common sense adjustment onto the information I received.
I wrote almost half of Jasmine before she stopped talking to me and I could not figure out why. With all eight of the books, I literally had no idea whatsoever where they were headed. Contrary to intelligent novel writing, I had no story board, no outline, no plan other than “I think they will end up here,” which is very un-Virgo of me.
I did not know all the horrible things that would happen to Lily until they happened. I felt certain Dahlia of Avalon was book eight until my son and sounding board, Joe Humphrey, suggested that maybe Violet was last, not Dahlia. That was stunning for me. The Cinderella story of course should culminate the series because Cinderella is the encore story. Cinderella is “Stairway to Heaven” that plays after the band pretended they had finished their set. As it turned out, Dahlia became the set up for both Jasmine and Violet and contained important plot points I had no idea existed.
Once I wrote Dahlia’s story, the other two fell into place quickly, so in essence, I wrote the final two and a half books in less than a year. More than anyone, Joe understand the girls and the intricate trajectory of their stories. He knew the ending of the series before I did and I am so grateful for his time and energy investment in helping me hammer out all of the details. Lots of handholding and brainstorming happened over Facebook calls between California and Canada.
Now, I am thrilled to rollout the final two books, starting with Jasmine and moving along to Violet very soon. I sincerely hope you enjoy them as much as I do. Honestly, I wrote them for me because I love the stories and could not wait to see what would happen next. If other people also enjoy their saga, all the better.
Evoking the mystique and intensity of the circus atmosphere, the Cirque du Tarot takes us on a whimsical journey through the artistic side of the Tarot. The cards are borderless, which is a preferences of mine since it allows greater freedom for the cards to interact with one another. The cards are colorful and expressive, although at first glance, it is difficult to follow what the illustations have to do with the interpretation of the cards.
The book is full color with large illustrations of each card, but it does little to explain the thought process the artist used when marrying the images with the interpretations. One downfall of the deck is that the court cards are almost identical within each set (i.e. the Queens all look almost the same, Pages all look almost the same) and I understand that this is an artistic choice, one which Ellen Cannon Reed famously made for the iconic Witches Tarot (now out of print). I didn’t love it then and I don’t love it now.
The images themselves are pleasing and lovely. I just have trouble relating them to the traditional meanings of the cards.
Taken as its own system, this deck would work beautifully for readings, but I do not recommend it for the novice who wants to learn the traditional Tarot system or for those who are wedded to the Pamela Coleman Smith system of Tarot images.
Cirque du Tarot is pretty, it is artistic, and it produces a great read. Taken on its own merits, it is a fine addition to the Tarot library.
Well, they are new to me at least and they were new when Llewellyn’s best publicist sent them to me a couple of months ago before my house burned down and everything went sideways. Tonight, I finally got a chance to give these works their due with an honest, focused review.
To be fair, I wrote a book on the Tarot and I love it, so anything I review has to impress me more than my own book, Tarot for Real People. My book is more of “Get to know your deck!” and “Here are some groovy ways to use your cards!” These books all go a step further and bring a new aspect to the Tarot conversation. So let’s dive in!
When an author sends a book proposal to a publisher, what we are told the publisher wants to know, “How is your book different from other similar books on the market?” With (approximately) thousands of Tarot books going through publication in the past four decades or so, it can be difficult to find something new under the sun to say about the subject. This book is the first of four in this blog post that encourage the reader to open their eyes and their minds to what is happening with the imagery on their cards, but they each do so in a different way.
Experience the Mystery of the Tarot by Katalin Jett Koda
I have an unfortunate bias that whenever I pick up a Tarot book by a self-identified “mystic,” I roll my eyes and think, “Here we go.” Too often, the goal of the mystic Tarot reader in my experience is to go as far away from the classic beauty of the Tarot and bend it to fit into the fanciful acrobatics of becoming something else.
Being a concise method of self-evaluation, prognostication, and reflection for hundreds of years is not enough. Instead, we have to incorprate every divinatatory system humans ever encountered into the Tarot (“Tarot and Runes!” “Tarot and i-Ching!” “Tarot and the astrology!”) and turn it into a work horse to support our every esoteric whim. In my opinion, The Tarot loses its dignity when you make it dance to tunes it was never meant to know just to satisify some correlation the author discovered the same night they discovered mushrooms.
The Tarot is beautiful and magical and delicious all on its own, doing exactly what it does. When I saw the author identified as, a “queer mystic,” I braced myself. Fortunately, Experience the Mystery of the Tarot deftly avoids that pitfall and takes the Tarot deeper into what it actually is. There is truth in advertising with the subtitle of “Ceremonies, Spreads, and Meditations to Deepen Your Connection to the Cards.”
Koda uses the Smith-Waite deck and the Crowley deck for reference, which is an excellent choice since any reader who fully understands those two decks can basically unlock most decks currently on the market. The observations and excercises presented in this book are well-thought out and insightful. Nothing is extraneous or feels fluffy. The book is solid and distinguishes itself through its unique perspective on the individual cards. When you have looked at the cards enough times and spent sufficient hours in the study of them, you begin to feel like you have seen it all. This author tells you, “No, look again. Consider this… and this… and this…” As a seasoned Tarot reader, I can tell you that I will be savoring this book and spending time with Koda’s explanation of each of the cards.
It was an absolute delight to experience this book. I teach a Tarot series and one of the sections is called “Difficult Cards” and it addresses those cards that tend to freak people out as soon as they see them.
This book goes a step further and covers every card from a positive perspective, just in case the Six of Pentacles gives someone pause. Fearless Tarot offers seventy-eight silver linings and allows readers to find the spin to make any seeker grateful they pulled the card that came to them.
Aside from that obvious win, the author gives reasonable, thoughtful interpretations that flesh out each card from a psychologically healthy perspective. Adam takes the reader on a journey into the motivations and mindset of each character in every scene depicted in the classic Pamela Coleman Smith artwork. The story of each card unfolds brilliantly in the careful hands of this author, giving the traditional deck new levels of intimacy and insight.
Adam explains the “why” and the “how” so that the reader and the seeker have a profound and relatable understanding for why they encountered this card at this time. I predict that anyone who buys the hard copy of this book will fill it with dogears, highlighter markings, and notes in the margins.
Where the previous two books offer gentle thoughts of, “Have you seen this?” and “Have you thought of this?” with the ease of two youngsters watching the clouds slip by in the sky overhead, Tarot by the Moon takes you on an evocative journay through the year.
Intensive rituals, Tarot spreads, and spells work into each of the thirteen moons, along with practical Tarot reading guidance and moon lore. This is not a collection of interpretations, but instead focuses on the use of the cards as a framework for self-awareness and inner knowledge.
Like the moon itself that enlightens when full and slips into the shadows when new, this book stealthily navigates the light and dark aspects of the human psyche, exploring love, house clearing, connections to the Divine, and attracting good fortune.
The spreads are especially interesting and aptly support the intuitive framework set up by the theme of each of the moons. While this cannot be your only Tarot book, it should absolutely be one of your Tarot books.
Tarot Deciphered by T. Susan Chang and M. M. Meleen
You could kill someone with this book. It is huge. No wonder it took forever for Llewellyn to edit my last book. They were likely still working on editing this one. My last book Uncrossing, has 240 pages and weighs 10.6 oz. It’s a nice sized little book. This monster has 672 pages, so you think, “Wow! Around 3 times as big!” Oh no no no no, Child. The book is also bigger. My book is 5×8″ ish and this one is 7×9″ ish, which doesn’t sound like much, but this book could totally kick my books ass and likely the ass of my book’s entire family, given the chance. As an author, I’m curious about a word count.
There is nothing (nothing) about the Tarot you could ever want to know that is not in this book. I imagine it has two authors because no one person could possibly ever know this much about the Tarot. It does the stretches I identified in the opening of this post of equating the Tarot cards to different iChing hexagons, bringing in the astrological influences, the mythology, the time of year, the Thoth symbolism used, relative mythology, Qabalistic influences, elemental associations, and all related cards in the deck. I should say this previous list is of the “including, but not limited to” variety because wow, there is a lot here.
The sheer volume of exhaustive work represented here is mind-boggling. Just reading it makes me want to put a cool cloth on my head and poor out a stiff drink and I don’t drink! If Aleister Crowley clawed his way up out of the grave, shook off the pall of death and decomposition and wrote a(nother) book on the Tarot, it would be this book. If not, he would look at this book and think, “Shit, I might just as well die again because Chang and Meleen already wrote a better book on the Tarot than I ever could.”
Tarot Deciphered is the consummate book of Tarot exploration and leaves no stone unturned and no dark corner unexplored. It lives well up to his promise of deciphering every millimeter of symbolism ever associated with the Tarot and does so without falling into the trap of becoming dry and unreadable.
We moved there in very early 2004. Delena was going into middle school and the ones where we lived in the Foothill Farms area of Sacramento where not excellent choices. We prayed for another option and as is so often the case with The Universe, our answer came in an unexpected way. Suddenly our landlord of 3 1/2 years was selling our house and we had to be out within 30 days. Eric had just been laid off from his most recent job and was starting his own business with some partners who – as first business partners often will – turned out to be shady. Not a great year.
Delena was 12, Dylan was 7, and Nathan was 5. I did not see the house until after we signed papers on it. Real estate brokers managed to get us a “NINJA” loan (No Income No Job or Assets). In retrospect, there was so much about that loan that was hinky that I wouldn’t know where to start listing. It was during the housing sweep where they were throwing mortgages at anyone who could sign a paper and we were first time buyers with no clue how the process should go.
The U-Haul with most of our possessions in it drove onto the property and I was behind it in our Jeep Cherokee seeing it for the first time. It took two loads to get everything from the old property and when we got back to the house for the second load, most of what we left had been stolen by the neighbors. The property managers illegally kept our security deposit (they waited far longer than the stated time to give us any kind of reconillation of the process) and we didn’t even fight for it. We were just proud to own our own home.
It was lovely. Far up in the mountains, remote, rural to the extreme. The only buildings that were not houses were the school, the fire station, the church, the post office, the rangers’ station and the water company. Not a store, gas station, or restaurant in sight for 25 minutes of swervy driving. For the first year, Dylan and I vomited every time we went up and down the mountain. We had to take him out of traditional school and home school him because he threw up every day on the bus, the poor sweetheart.
We raised our little ones in that house, charting their growing heights on the door frame by the kitchen with a sharpie pen. One by one, they moved out on their own. Nathan, our youngest, moved out in July of this year (2021).
A month later, the house burned down.
We know where we live. It’s naive to the point of insane to live in our part of California and not imagine that a wildfire is coming for you at some point. I’m a Virgo. I had lists. I had a plan. We had in the past gone so far as to have snowflake sized ash raining down on us for days as other places burned. We had been on standby for evacuation before. It always passed us by.
We watched the Caldor fire for a couple of days. It was mostly moving through vegetation and it was reassuring that the wind was blowing it away from us. It seemed likely that the Forest Service could manage it. What we didn’t know at the time was that there was a huge discussion going on about whether the jurisdiction was with the Fire Department or the Forestry Department and meanwhile, an undermanned staff tried unsuccessfully to manage the fire.
The area where the fire started was rough, so we figure either someone was trying to hide a body or someone’s cook fire got out of control. I don’t think there is yet a determination as to what caused it.
As we got through the day of August 16, Eric and I were off work because the shop was closed. We were staying vigilent, but did not go to any extreme measures. Eric even hired a local guy and paid him a grip of money to cut down five trees near the house at the bark beetles had killed. He was glad we would have extra firewood for the winter.
I repotted two legacy plants. One was an ancient pothos that I had for around 22 years and one was an umbrella plant that was around 20-years-old. They excitedly stretched their little root legs into new soil with more room. You could hear them sigh in ecstatic comfort.
I put off my chores until the next day: laundry, organize the laundry room, and clean the office. I was tired. It had been a demanding week at the shop.
People started to leave out, you know, “just in case.” We waited, staying focused on reports of what the fire was doing. As it started to get dark, Eric suggested that we start getting some things together to take to the shop. You know, “just in case.” We leisurely began assembling a pile of things in the living room floor for him to take in the first trip, then he would come back and get more if necessary. We didn’t want to overload the shop’s back room where we would store the items because the risk did not feel that substantial, but you know, “Just in case.”
He started loading up the car later into the night and seemingly out of the blue, we were alerted that there was an evacuation warning. To my understanding, that meant, “Get your shit together, there is a chance we are going to evacuate you until it is safe to come back again.”
So we worked faster.
I moved through my belongings in a bit of a mental haze. What would I need for a couple of weeks away from the house? This necklace. This one too. My medications. Photo albums. Artwork my kids (who are literally artists) did. I have gone back over those couple of hours a million times in my head. Why did I not pick up this... or that? The Virgo list and Virgo plan was gone, out the window in ashes long before the house was.
Eric was halfway through putting the first load in the car when he came back inside, his face ashen. “We have to go now.”
“No sweetie,” I said. “It’s just warning. They will tell us when we have to go.”
“No,” he said, more urgently. “We have to go RIGHT NOW.”
I grabbed a final few things and started helping him take the belongings we had gathered outside. Everything was silent and motionless. The wind was still blowing against the fire, so there was no smoke where we were. But there was the sound… like a jet engine.
Back inside, I started madly tossing a few more things in the bin. I grabbed by load of semi-wet clothing from the dryer and left the clothes in the washer, still agitating. I picked up my purse from my desk and mindlessly left my passport atop my brand new, used twice, 10″ Kindle Fire right there on the desk. I picked up the dog and he grabbed the cat. I wished the tropical fish well and hoped they made it through however long we had to be away.
I left my Santa Muerte altar on the altar in my office, but first, I went to her and said, “I’ve done all you’ve asked. I built a store and a community in your honor. I have made a place where people can venerate you. Don’t let me down. Save my house, save the beloved things in it. I’m begging you.”
She said in my head, “It’s time to go, child.”
As I went out the front door, I tucked a St Jude prayer card behind the corner of the lightswitch. “We go way back,” I said to him. “I haven’t asked you for anything years, maybe a decade or more. Please save my house, save the beloved things in it.”
In my head, he said, “It’s time to go, child.”
I didn’t look back.
Driving away was eerie. The streets were abandoned. The air barely stirred. We turned right. To the left, we could see an orange curtain coming our way. There was only one reasonable way out of town.
Once we were off the highest part of the moutain, which is approximately 1000 feet covered in a mile or so, we could no longer hear the sound of the fire. We were around ten minutes away from the house when the manditory evacuation order came over the phone. No shit, dude. Thanks.
As we drove further, we saw people pulled over on the side of the road chatting as if waiting for a parade. We kept driving. We got to the shop and realized there was no going back for a second load. We knew it intellectually when we left, but knowing it and understanding it were two different things.
Now, all we could do was hope that it passed us by. Later, my son and his girlfriend came to the shop to stay as well. They lived not even a quarter mile from us in Grizzly Flats.
I tried to sleep in my office while Eric spent time with Josh on the front deck. There wasn’t much sleep going on for anyone. The next day, new began to filter in. Reporters were driving around Grizzly Flats, showing every property except ours. They talked about how some houses were untouched. That it was as though the fire came right up to the driveway and just stopped…like magic.
“Thank you Santa Muerte and Saint Jude!” I thought. “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”
On one of the reports, they focused on a burned out car.
“Honey?” I asked. “Is that our Maverick?”
“Yep,” he said.
Two deer walked in front of the car and the camera focused on them while we begged for it to “look at the house! look at the house!”
The news LOVED that shot of the deer and the car and kept showing it over and over, across many platforms.
Two tweakers drove quickly through the town on a YouTube video, talking about harvesting the copper in the structures. Then they drove past our house with a quick glance that told us it was not there anymore.
One of my students is a cop and was assigned for patrols in Grizzly Flats. He drove by to check out the house for us and confirmed that it was completely gone.
I would post photos for you here, but I really don’t even want to look at it again.
The house is ash to the foundation. The three out buildings are ash to the foundation. Eric’s boat, Eric’s Goldwing, two classic cars that were his project cars and two Volvos that needed repair are gone. The RV is to the ground. All of the manzanita surrounding our house is completely gone. The chimney and the foundation still stand but the mortar in the chimney is powdered and you can push it over without trying. Eric found that his toolbox in the shed survived, albeit warped, and when he got it open, thousands of dollars of Craftsman tools were completely melted inside. The cast iron woodstove is warped around itself. There is ash almost to Eric’s thighs. Two stories of house worth of ash.
Odd things survived.
Eric was finally allowed to go up last week. I had no interest in going. It was hard for him. He found those few things.
We lived in the shop for just over a week, then moved to a camping resort where a dear friend works. We stayed in two cabins there over the next two weeks, then we managed to find a house to rent only ten minutes from the shop. It’s small, only 1200 square feet, but it meets our needs. It isn’t like we had much to put into the house.
People immediately were aggressive about helping out. We appreciated it, but it was hard when they were almost demanding to know what we needed when we were so shellshocked that we had no idea what what we needed. “…everything?”
We had not once piece of furniture. No clothing to speak of. No pots, pans, silverware, plates, not even a pillow between us. We had a lot of stupid stuff that was only secondarily important because we thought we had multiple trips coming up. I had a half-load of laundry and there was not a single pair of panties to be found in it. I left all of my earrings except for what I had in my ears at the time, all of my favorite clothing, most of our magical tools and statuary.
One entire shed was almost filled with books, many first editions, many out of prints. Most irreplaceable.
Waves of grief hit when you least expect it. You go to grab soy sauce from the fridge which you always have and realize your chicken stirfry you are making is now fubar’d because that was at the other house that you always have soy sauce and you didn’t think to but it here. Then the quicktears come over soy sauce.
You remember yet another precious item you forgot to grab. The favorite little clothes my babies wore, the samples of their handwriting through the years, all the cards they made for me, their baby books, the turkeys carefully traced around a little hand, the crochet hook my late grandfather whittled, my mother’s class ring, photographs from actual 35 mm cameras that were not in the albums, the Amulets of the Goddess that are so hard to find, the green dishes my father bought my mother in Holland in 1958, years of handmade Christmas decorations, so… much… precious… stuff.
And yes, it’s “stuff,” as people are quick to remind me. “You got out safely, that’s all that matters.” “It’s only stuff.” Yes. Yes, I know. The night we had the full scope of the loss confirmed, Eric was on the front deck of the shop looking sad and I said, “Hey! Guess what? I’m not a hoarder anymore!” He had always tolerated but made his frustration known over the stuff I kept from the past. At least it made him smile for a minute.
Sixty years of memories, items from my childhood, things that keep me tethered to the past when my memory is already starting to get sketchy as hell. I do not have any people around me who knew me before my first child was born. Those items reminded me that I was once a little girl and a young woman. That I existed before I was a mother and a wife.
I recently posted on Facebook that this was my first Halloween in sixty years without decorations and I grieved it. Well-meaning people were bubbling that I could start over! I could rebuild! The task of rebuilding a collection of items to use twice a year (Halloween and Christmas) feels extraneous and odious. It’s just gone. “We’ll make new memories.” I’m sixty… how many more memories can there reasonably be to make?
My father died at 51. My mother died at 60. By this coming February, I will have outlived them both.
Eric and I worked hard to embrace the excitement of, for our first time, building a home together for just the two of us. When Eric married me, I already had children and a full house of furniture and memories. He brought his few boxes of belongings and fit them in around us.
People stepped up in an unreasonable and humbling fashion. Within a week, we had every piece of furniture we needed to the point that we had to gratefully and lovingly refuse some because we could only fit so many beds and recliners into such a small house. We had dishes, pots, pans, appliances, silverware, clothing, ritual ware, jewelry, and personal items, all we needed.
Other than the picture we saved going on the wall, the house is all set up now.
I love the house. It has a locked gate at the end of a driveway that is maybe an eighth of a mile long. No one can get in unless I know they are coming or they are family and have the gate code. The gate has a Texas star on it that looks like a pentacle (it even lights up!) and large pieces of quartz in the brick columns that support the gate. In front of my front yard are acres of horses. I am not a horse person, but they are great neighbors. The house has a full raised-bed garden that is in complete harvest flourish. There is a deck in back for Eric’s mancave time. I have a guest room for the first time in my life.
The air conditioning works. The house is one story and my poor knee is grateful. The shower is amazing. The only sounds I ever hear are this symphony of wild animal sounds that remind me of this scene in “PeeWee’s Big Adventure”: (skip ahead to 4:24)
Being this close to the shop is such a blessing. I can get there in 10 minutes instead of 50.
Literally everything in my life is better now that I am off the mountain. And yet, I still feel broken. I am intellectually thankful to everyone who helped us – so many people – but I have trouble feeling anything. I am numb inside. I smile and clean myself energetically and do my work taking care of other people and then I come home and collapse. Right now, I sit at someone else’s desk wearing someone else’s clothes in someone else’s house.
There are no cues to help me to feel like me. Yes, I am evolllllllved and can look into my spirit and see me there. But home is home and the feeling that comes with home is not here anymore than we can really feel at home in a nice motel.
We were very well insured. That is not an issue. Due to Eric’s careful financial acumen, we were over insured. Eventually, he will have his dream of owning many acres with a nice house on it. One thing I can feel is to be so happy for him and so grateful that he took such good care of us. We have a year’s lease on the rental property and there is little doubt that the buyer’s side of the housing market will look much different in a year, so I am sure his dream will be a reality.
I am grateful this didn’t happen when I had to wrangle kids or other pets. I am beyond thankful for the people who showed their love and helped us know what we needed when even we couldn’t think straight about what we needed. I am grateful for the patience of our customers when we had to close the shop on Wednesday and Thursday of each week in September while we did endless paperwork for allowing FEMA to take care of the property and to manage the insurance claim and things like that. This included listing every. thing. in. the. house, assigning it a monetary value, and also showing photographs of the house through the years with all that stuff in it. I thought that would kill me going through those old photos over the past seventeen years. It was a multi-hour, brutal process.
I have lots of trauma responses now that I didn’t have before. Hearing helicopters overhead triggers me. Smoke in the air freaks me right now. For some weird reason, I am also now clautrophobic. Don’t know where that came from. I have trouble caring about anything or attaching anything because there is no longer any kind of sense of permanence. I feel in a daze much of the time. I have racing, intrusive thoughts that are hard to shut down. It only happens at night when I am home. My loved ones are diligent about giving me frequent spiritual cleansing and keeping my energy flowing right so I have the best chance of effectively processing all of this.
Someone I trust recently told me that there are people in the community who are taking credit for my house burning down. All I could do was shake my head. I truly hope they got what they wanted out of that, whether they caused it or not. I cannot imagine being that kind of a person and thankfully, never have to. If anyone indeed ever thought such a thing, much less said it out loud to others, I pray with all I have and all I am that God blesses them to such fulfillment and joy that they are never again so miserable as to have to formulate such a thought. May the heartbreak of another person never again be what brings them comfort, status, and satisfaction.
I confess to a temporary crisis of faith. I went to the large Santa Muerte statue after we confirmed that the house was a loss. I put my arms on her shoulders and looked into her glowing eyes. “You Cabrona,” I said. “I asked you to take care of me. Why? Why didn’t you take care of me?”
In my head, she said, softly and firmly, “Daughter, why in the world do you believe I am not taking care of you?”
I am no longer chained to an unmanageable amount of stuff I would have to move to leave the mountain.
I no longer have to worry about all the things the house needed done to it.
I will not have to go through another freezing, snowy winter in Grizzly Flats.
I no longer spend almost two hours a day driving.
I no longer have to make getting a gallong of milk a day trip.
I am closer to most of my kids.
I was able to see first hand the appreciation of people for the time, effort, love, and spirit we have invested in the last twenty-five years of service to the local Pagan community.
I no longer have to go upstairs to go to bed.
Many things that were wrong in my life were fixed in one awful night’s time.
I had a home that looked like a beautiful Pagan temple or museum. I had a home that was an homage to my children and to sixty years of love in my life. I had a home that felt safe and like a refuge from any harm that could come. Everyone who came into the home felt it and often fell asleep in its embrace just because it was so welcoming and comfortable.
Now I just have to wrap my head around the knowledge that all of that is gone. It isn’t just “lost” or “taken.” It no longer exists… at all… anywhere. I have a perfectly lovely little house to live in, but if I am honest here – and why not be? – I don’t know that I will ever feel safe again or at home again. I hope so. I truly do.
Today is not that day.
Tomorrow isn’t lookin’ great either.
People keep asking, “Are you going to rebuild???” No. In fact, I am never going back to Grizzly Flats again. It’s been done. Frogs can only jump forward. I am like Lot’s wife now. If I look back, I will surely get lost in there and be doomed. I will be a pillar of salt, frozen forever looking backward.
I am going to metaphorically wander the earth like Cain and do my best to find something to fill up this empty space where some part of my heart and spirit used to be.
Also, because of who I am, there is a decent chance I will shake my snakes at anyone who tries to subdue me, perchance with my titties out.
This is the equivilent of “I’ve come here to kick ass and chew gum and I’m all out of gum” since I do not have any snakes and will never have any snakes. Snakes and I have an agreement that whensoever we encounter one another, we will run screaming like mad in opposite directions from one another. I have fulfilled my end of that agreement well and presume they have been doing the same. I did not stay to find out.
From Llewellyn: Anyone can be the target of a psychic attack, whether it’s an intentional curse or an incidental crossing. This book shares effective techniques and practices for recovering from psychic attacks and protecting yourself in the future.
Katrina Rasbold shares how to identify the different types of attacks by their symptoms and provides tips for managing an attack with IOB techniques, which stands for Identify, Objectify, and Banish. Discover step-by-step instructions for setting up a healing space, ritual baths and showers, egg cleansing, and working with sacred sprays and smudging bundles. Learn how to do a chakra check and work with spiritual tools such candles, stones, and incense. You will also find advice for cleansing the home, an important step for recovering from many types of intentional crossings.
Negative energies initiated by others can have a strong influence on vitality, relationships, and prosperity. With Katrina’s guidance, you can uncross yourself from intentional psychic attacks and incidental entity infiltrations, past and current traumas, hooks to unhealthy relationships, and destructive habits that create obstacles to your success. Whether you are suffering from a curse, hex, haunting, possession, the evil eye, or even an accidental self-crossing, this book is a powerful guide to healing and recovery.
Advanced Praise For Uncrossing by Katrina Rasbold
“When people know you are a Witch, they will come to you for protection and to break curses and attacks, real and imagined. I’ve been fortunate to see Katrina Rasbold work her cleansing and uncrossing magic firsthand and I am grateful to have her teachings, tips and methods hard won from years of experience in one place where we can benefit from her wisdom. Let her guide you in helping yourself and helping others if you are called to do the work of uncrossing.”—Christopher Penczak, co-founder of the Temple of Witchcraft and author of The Witch’s Shield
“If you’ve been crossed, jinxed, or hexed, you need to clean up that mess! Katrina lovingly guides you through all the means and methods from various magical paths on removing negativity from yourself, your loved ones, and your environment. I consider this book to be a ‘must have’ on any magical bookshelf and am confident that it is one that you will turn to again and again to change your bad luck to good.”—Madame Pamita, author of The Book of Candle Magic and Madame Pamita’s Magical Tarot
“Just as you wouldn’t head out on a multi-day hike without a first-aid kit, so, too, you wouldn’t practice magic without having the tools to treat a psychic attack. Life happens, and whether because you have enemies or you’re your own worst enemy, recovery from malicious magic is of paramount importance. With Katrina Rasbold’s experienced step-by-step advice on how to heal from everything from curses and hexes to psychosomatic self-sabotage, Uncrossing is your indispensable magical first-aid handbook for not if you fall victim to psychic attacks, but when you fall victim to them.”— Tomás Prower, author of Queer Magic, Morbid Magic, and La Santisima Muerte
“Uncrossing is an important work in today’s uncertain times. Katrina Rasbold’s clear, concise style is refreshingly to the point and ultimately practical. Uncrossing approaches energetic involvements from the receiving end and the delivery point and carefully considers the issues involved in working one’s will or blocking another’s. Their review of healing and after-the-fact are so important not only to this topic, but for life in general. I highly recommend this work to practitioners across the board.”—Rev. Jean (Drum) Pagano, Archdruid ADF
“Uncrossing by Katrina Rasbold is a must have for any magickal practitioner—novice or experienced. As a professional witch myself, I talk with clients on a daily basis that are worried about being cursed, hexed, or crossed. This book answers all the questions you could ever have about hexes and curses; from how to diagnose them, to how to clean them up and keep them gone. Rasbold shares what she has been teaching her students and clients for years all in one handy book. When it comes to curses, never fear, just have this book handy! I will be recommending this book to all my clients and customers.”—Phoenix LeFae, author of What Is Remembered Lives and Walking in Beauty
“I had the distinct pleasure of diving into this book in the early days of this chaotic year. Uncrossing by Katrina Rasbold is a detailed exploration that reflects the author’s experience as well as practice. The chapter on determining whether an attack is actually happening or not—’Is This An Attack?’—is worth the price of admission. This book will be valuable for the newcomer, as well as the professional.”—Byron Ballard, witch, priestess, author Roots, Branches, and Spirits
Featuring hands-on exercises, simple techniques, and how-to instruction from a professional bruja, this beginner-friendly guide is the best choice for understanding and practicing Brujeria―the healing witchcraft of Mexico and the American Southwest. The Sacred Art of Brujeria is adapted from a twelve-month series of classes and presents a wide variety of topics, including magical tools, the body’s energetic systems, and effective spellcasting.
This remarkable how-to book is unlike any other, covering everything from the history and divine figures of brujería to the healing, protection, and money magic that you can utilize in daily life. Explore power words and breath work, treat spiritual maladies, perform different types of limpia (cleansing and clearing), and learn about brujería as a business. Professional bruja Katrina Rasbold gives you an insider’s look at this sacred practice and how it helps others as well as yourself.
Thank you to all of you who love the Seven Sisters of Avalon as much as I do! The plan has been to have a total of eight books in this series. Last Valentine’s Day, we released Lily of Avalon, volume 5.
My muse and I have been hard at work and have drafted out the next three books and they should be released starting this year. I was contracted with Llewellyn to write a few non-fiction books and I just turned in the first draft on the third one this week. This leaves me available to start working on book #6.
The girls are chomping at the bit to tell you the rest of their story, so I am sure you will hear from them soon. My goal is to have the next three books completed and the series finalized within 15 months’ time.
It has been a while, oh yes, it has! I have not updated this blog as much as I should or as much as I would like to. Life has changed a great deal for me and then changed again, so I have been trying to keep up and mostly failing, feeling overwhelmed and awe-stricken in equal turns. Regardless, life is good and adjustments, even painful ones, are usually for the better, whether we see that at the time or not.
Where the heck were you?
To be honest, I can’t remember what I last wrote about and I am too lazy this week to go back and read and find out. I am going to arrogantly presume that most of you who read this blog know a bit about me or at least have the energy (if not the interest) to look back over some past posts and see what went on from A-Z.
I closed my shop at Denio’s Farmer’s Market after just over three wonderful years there. The book contract with Llewellyn meant I would need a lot of focus for writing and would likely travel a good bit for book signings and such, so I wanted my weekends free again. The venue had raised parking prices from $2 to $4, which had a huge impact on our customer flow and increased our online sales (www.twosistersbotanica.com) since people could pay a bit more than parking and not even leave their houses to shop. After we closed down at Samhain (Oct) 2017, the other vendors who stayed said we left at the right time because traffic in the venue dropped off even more.
OK, then what?
I wasn’t sure where we would go from there and I contemplated the many life changes that hit during that year. Not going into detail, but it was staggering with people who I thought were life-long friends turning out to only be there for what I could do for them, not out of any sort of affection for me. It was clarifying, to say the least, but it was also wonderful to identify the black holes where my energy was going. When you work as a spiritual leader, often people have no interest in the “real” person, but only in what you can do for them. Your own needs have no part of the equation. I never saw this more clearly than in 2017 and truthfully, I am grateful for that lesson because it taught me to be very careful about where my energy goes. The whole “cast not your pearls before swine,” thing. I realized that I want people in my life who interested in a mutually supportive dynamic rather than one that is one way and in the months since then, I have worked aggressively to refine my relationships so that they better reflect and support that lesson.
I was blessed in March of 2018 to find a place to share my products from www.twosistersbotanica.com and that led to a place to teach, which was my greatest dream, and later to a place to heal, which has been a profound blessing in my life.
At LightWeavers Academy in Citrus Heights, California, the owner generously opened up an entire segment of her shop for our products and Eric and I began teaching free classes on a variety of subjects every other Friday. I then started renting a room there where I could perform intense cleansings and energy realignments for people called “limpias” in the Brujeria tradition. My apprentices assist me and our team does good work that makes us all proud and excited.
Who the hell is Marla?
I had the honor and privilege of meeting a woman named Shannon Del Fiorentino-McLeran who owns Sacramento Healing Tree. She also works out of LightWeavers and we became friends. She asked me if she could try out a new energy technique she was pioneering that focuses on energetic weight loss. Well hell, I’m definitely down with anything that helps with that, so YEAH, let’s play!
She told me some pretty profound things in the treatments I have had with her. One was that I was barely in my body, which I would scoff at normally except that I had previously scoffed at a wonderful healer a few years back who told me the exact same thing. One wonderful healer I can scoff at no problem when I know they are off base, but two wonderful healers who do not know each other telling me exactly the same thing? Yikes, Mama needs to listen. …and so I did. She helped me with a soul retrieval process and worked with me to build up my aura, which was slackalackin.
I won’t go into much detail because her techniques are new, cutting edge energy stuff and proprietary info that she deserves to keep between herself and her clients, but I will say that part of the work involved two really major processes. One was the eye-rolling, unicorns farting glitter and rainbows chore of “healing Little Katrina.” When we started working with Little Katrina, she was a little thing of maybe 5-6 years old, curled up in a ball and crying.
Shannon asked me, “Why do you keep making yourself smaller so people will be more comfortable with you?”
Well, holy shit. Yep, I did that. I thought about my tag line for all those years, the quote from Storm Large, “People tell me I’m too much, well maybe it’s just you’re not enough.” Yep, needed that reminder. Of course, just like when you buy a particular model of car and start seeing it on every road you drive, once I had that in my head, I kept noticing all the ways I make myself smaller for the comfort of others. It was a LOT.
Of course, this came up in an energetic exploration about obesity, so the obvious correlation is that I make myself big on the outside to compensate for making myself so small on the inside.
What happened next?
I spent the time since January 1, 2019, working on my nutrition. I also finished a book, Lily of Avalon, that was two years in the making and is about guess what? The Alice in Wonderland story where the protagonist is bigger than the should be and smaller than she should be and ultimately, actualizes to exactly where she is supposed to be.
Nope, no metaphor going on there and no mystery as to why I couldn’t finish the book for so long.
Week 1, I dialed in the eating between meals and reduced the carb intake a bit. Nothing specific, but just tightening things up.
Week 2, I used Intermittent Fasting to get rid of the cravings, limiting my eating to a 6 hour window each day.
Week 3 (last week), I used Dr. Eric Berg’s more intensive version of healthy Keto eating and went to only salad (7 cups minimum a day), meat, and eggs with occasional cheese included. This week is a continuation of that process, refining and perfecting.
At the beginning of Week 3, I went looking for Little Katrina to do some work with her and I found she had moved out. (?) To date, I have been unable to find her anywhere. I will have Shannon check when I work with her again, but nope, she has left the premises. Instead, I found Marla and it was a complete surprise to find Marla where Little Katrina had been. I opened the door inside me where Little Katrina lives and saw a woman standing with her back to me.
She turned around and said, “What do you want?”
At first, I was a bit mortified since Marla is one of the most clearly broken fictional characters in the history of ever, but then I came around. Marla owns her flaws. Marla takes no crap. Most of all, Marla is a grown up with the damage that comes from what a lot of us experience in the process of growing up. Within the movie, Marla herself grows.
Bottom line, I’ll take it.
The other side is that eating this way brought on a wave of depression that ate up a couple weeks of my life. When you have exactly one coping strategy for stress and that coping strategy goes away, there is only stress, sadness, shades of gray, and a suggestion of hopelessness. I think I am coming out of that now and the good news is that my skin and nails are healthier, my insides feel better, my sleep is on a healthier cycle, and my cravings are gone. I lost five pounds and a half a percent of body fat, but more inches than those numbers would reflect. I’m calling it a win and moving forward.
I have always quit when it got too hard to bear and that was often. Sometimes, the quitting was abrupt and dramatic and sometimes, it was a slow and subtle return. This time, I am going to do my best to hang in and see what is on the other side. For now, I’m still in the Wizard of Oz “pre-door opening” gray, but at least I am awake and the cyclone is over.
Ego is such a bitch; an insidious little bugger that sneaks up on you when you least expect it. I have battled this monster repeatedly over the years and by now, almost fifty-seven years into this life, I thought I had it beaten. I know the difference in ego and self-esteem. I know what is healthy and what is not. I know humility is important but can be just as destructive as an inflated ego. After all that time polishing the ego lesson stone, I really thought I was in the homestretch. Apparently not. Ego waited, then struck hard.
Ego in early 2018
This year has beaten the crap out of me and I have complained and whined about it incessantly on social media and in this blog and will likely continue to do so. Verbosity and petulance are NOT the vices I was called on to improve in these raucous months, thank you very much, so verbose and petulant for the win and ego for the challenge.
This was the year I found out that people I dearly loved were not at all who I thought they were and instead were the people everyone else insisted they were. I didn’t listen; I defended. I waited to be proven wrong. Spoiler: I was proven wrong. My ego about being a good judge of people took some hits, let me tell you.
I found out I have a pain-in-the-ass disease that jacks with my balance and makes my ears ring nonstop. It saps my energy and it limits my mobility due to vertigo that happens if I move outside of a certain range. My ego over being robustly healthy took a beating.
My husband’s business folded and our income was cut down by around 75% and I had to seriously pick up the pace on the products and services I offer well before my own business was prepared to carry that kind of weight. My ego over never having money problems again hit the ground.
I had to face the fact that I could not do a quality job on the Llewellyn book on which I had a hard deadline and also get the next Seven Sisters of Avalon book out on time, or even six months late, so Lily of Avalon got back-burnered. My ego over being a “prolific writer” was pummeled.
A very promising and potentially lucrative business I was starting with a friend fizzled and has apparently died a quiet death without even a whimper or a moan… just a silent death. My ego over being able to market what I do died just as quietly.
My friend George found a ton of errors, typos, etc, in the Seven Sisters of Avalon books already in publication, so I had to stop everything and fix those. That was after the books had been through no fewer than three editors/proofreaders. When I get the books back from my proofreaders, I do not check them because I have long since stopped actually seeing any of the words by the time I finish writing the books. My ego over my fantastic series of novels took a temporary dive.
Those are just the highlights. So… much… more… agh… But c’mon, I’m still standing!
Ego and the July midterm
I looked forward to the General Hospital Fan Club Weekend (GHFCW) all year long. Last year, I went with Eric for the first time (I have always gone alone or with Delena in the past) and we had a great time. I knew that this would be my last year to attend and I was sad about that but happy to get to go at all. Letting go of this part of my life was a hard choice to make, but we cannot hold onto the past forever or we rob ourselves of opportunities. This page has needed to turn for a while and with the 55th anniversary of General Hospital promising a wonderful array of events, I felt I could work this year and then step away. It has been a long haul, longer for some of us on the staff, but for me, it has been since 2001.
I work the actors’ lines to make sure every fan gets their photos and autographs, which also means I make sure whatever actor I have gets their booze or food or whatever they want and that their line closes out and they are free to leave when they choose. I am the Fan Club’s webmaster and I also work as a kind of guest liaison throughout the year fielding email questions about the GHFCW, among other virtual assisting jobs I do for the president. I also work with other staff members to set up the events and to check fans into the individual events. Each August, I publish the General Hospital Fan Club Yearbook with photos and stories from the GHFCW.
This event is a four day weekend where General Hospital fans can mingle with their favorite actors and enjoy the company of other fans. We all have friends that we only see once a year at the GHFCW and now I go more for the people than for the actors. I never get starstruck. Never. Ever. The actors are just people to me and truthfully, a good many of them are not very kind people.
The last time I got really starstruck was a few years ago when Jonathan Frakes (Commander William Riker from Star Trek: The Next Generation) showed up to pick up his wife, Genie Francis (Laura Spencer on General Hospital). It was a colliding of the worlds and of the fandoms for me and even though he was only there for a short time and technically, not even at our event, I did get my photo (right or above, depending on your device). That is a story on its own and one that I have told way too many times.
This year, I had it bad. I was nearly breathless and – true confessions time – actually lost some sleep over information that came my way about a week before the event. I learned that Nathan Fillion was confirmed for the One Life to Live Past Cast event we were hosting on Friday night.
Ohhhhhhh Lordy. My gootness. My. Oh. My.
I emailed our volunteer coordinator and the subject line of the email was “Begging Time.” I usually do not care what actor I am assigned to and will work wherever I am needed. This time I cared. A lot. I would have given our volunteer coordinator anything she wanted to assign his line to me.
My husband and kids watched “Firefly” together in its entirety… twice. Aiden, my grandson, and I watch “Lemony Snickets: A Series of Unfortunate Events.” I watched “Dr. Horrible’s Singalong Blog.” Delena and I watched “Buffy, the Vampire Slayer” together. People, brace yourselves. I own “Slither” on DVD. I have posted internet memes of this guy. I have a shirt with his image on it that says “Captain Tightpants.”
I sat on this valuable information for a week, sworn to secrecy and knowing he was going to be there, confident that if I could not be assigned to his line, I could at least take a quick break, flash my All Access Pass, and step in for a quick photo. I would at least get the photo.
Ego and Friday night
Friday night arrived, as did the actors and… no Nathan Fillion. It was disappointing, but life moves on. It was too much to hope for anyway because he is a pretty big star now in several fandoms and as they say, the show must go on. Lots of people paid a ton of money for a good night with former One Life to Live stars and I was determined to shore up my heartbreak and make it happen. I was assigned to James and Kassie DePaiva. She is from very close to my hometown in Kentucky and I told her this when I introduced myself. She was not particularly interested in this fact and they were both what I would call Typical Overall Ostentatiously Soap Actor Distant. I kind of hoped the hometown thing might warm her up a bit, but hey, that’s how it goes. Very occasionally, an actor is warm, kind, and loving to us as staff and we get to see the mask drop. More often, they treat us as a functional and unfortunate necessity to the event. The DePaivas were not unpleasant at all, but yeah, I was furniture and I am used to that.
Past Cast events are my favorite and they have a very different vibe than the events we have with the actors currently on the show. Current cast members are not required to attend the Fan Club events, but they are strongly encouraged by the studio to do so. I have watched characters and careers made and broken based solely on how the actors interact with the fans. Most actors are VERY affectionate and loving and gracious to the fans. The fans believe it is because the actors loooooovvvvve them, but it is because actors are trained to pretend they feel something they do not feel. They are likely acting more at these events than they ever do in front of a camera. There are those few, sure, who are genuinely cool… but only a handful. Most are predictably Typical Overall Ostentatiously Soap Actor Distant (TOO SAD).
The Past Cast actors, however, are there because they actively choose to be and usually they come to reunite with former cast members they never see, so they are mostly there for their own interests, but in a different way from the current cast. Since most soap actors do not go on to be crazy famous, they get really excited when people remember and cheer for them… and everyone does.
The DePaivas are very popular and the line was long the entire night with people waiting an hour or two to meet them and get an autograph and photo. They are very interactive, so each person took maybe 2-3 minutes and when you have 50-60 people in line, that adds up fast. It is up to us, the line managers, to make sure the line moves so the actor does not have to be the hardass. Ultimately, whatever the actor wants, the actor gets. My back was barking from standing for so long and I was eating Motrin like Pez.
About a third of the way through the event, a huge cheer went up and son-of-a-gun! Nathan Fillion was there… and I was trapped in a line. Hope did not spring eternal. It leaped like a happy little Jack Russell terrier. I kept trying to see where he was stationed and lost sight of him in the crowds. I texted Eric, “He’s here.” I have a professional photographer who works the events for me and she was also on high alert. “Come here now, please,” I texted her between taking photos for guests.
Then, Lord have mercy, the man walked directly to my table to see the DePaivas and knelt down right in front of me, talking to them for probably 10 minutes of the 20 minutes or so total that he was at the event. During that time, I had Eric on one side of him waiting and my photographer right beside me while I made the guests in my line wait as the three actors had their conversation. Ten minutes is a lifetime in one of these lines, but I kept things stable, assuaging the guests with comments like, “But you get to look at Nathan Fillion. Look, everyone, it’s Nathan Fillion!”
I got the attention of the security guard escorting him and mouthed to him all intense-like, “Ron, please, I have to get this photo. Please…please.”
Nathan Fillion turned to go and I said directly to him, “Excuse me, can I please have a photo? Please?” The DePaivas motioned me forward and he just turned and left. “Mr. Fillion,” I called after him, loudly and strong, “One photo, please.” He walked away from me and my broken heart.
I watched him go and took a breath. Then two. My eyes stung. Gone. That close and just…gone. After all the photos over seventeen years that I made sure our guests got, mine got away. He was on two lists for me (“was” being the operative word): my bucket list, right between “go back to England” (done) and “publish a book with a mainstream publisher” (done) and The List of freebies within my monogamous relationship. For the bucket list, it was just a photo.
I pulled myself together and started the line moving again. Kassie said she had been taping all day and was exhausted and needed to leave at a particular time. The long line finished three minutes before her deadline and our event staff descended to get their photos with the DePaivas. My eyes stung again as they got their photos that they wanted. The DePaivas turned and left. I am used to actors not smiling, not saying, “Thank you,” but just walking away with the security staff that will take them to their cars in the parking garage …and that is what they did.
Bing, bing, bing… my Facebook lit up with guests and staff members posting their photos with Nathan Fillion… including the staff members who had not one clue who he was when I mentioned him earlier in the night. “OMG!!!!!!! NATHAN FILLION IS HERE!!!” …yeah… he sure was.
This is my photo of Nathan Fillion and represents the full extent of my interaction with him (you can click to enlarge if you want), along with Eric’s message to me afterward when I was still stuck in line and unable to follow Nathan Fillion, grab onto his legs, and let him drag me weeping across the hotel carpet as he sic’d security on me:
Poor Eric knew I was devastated and had no idea how to comfort me. To him, Nathan Fillion is just a guy, but like the good husband he is, he hurt on my behalf. I got the look that told me he would gladly kick some Fillion ass if I said the word (or would at least give it some heroic effort). My champion. Bruised and defeated, I limped my dying ego back to the hotel room and pouted fiercely.
Ego and Saturday
Saturday was our Main Cast Luncheon and the primary event of the weekend. I did not really care whose line I got because there are around forty stars and for the most part, one is the same as another.
I forgot about William deVry.
The Main Cast Luncheon is so important that we have a huge meeting of all the line managers and escorts just before the event so we do not inadvertently screw up something vital. That is where we get our actor assignments.
I got William deVry.
Why does it matter? Because in 2003, I was two years into running Eye on Soaps, one of the top four websites covering ABC soaps. William deVry was just getting started on All My Children as Michael Cambias and he was unreasonably and viciously mean to me over a photo I posted of him that I had full permission from ABC studios to use. There was no, “Hey, I really don’t care for that picture, can you use this one instead?” Oh no. He went OFF on me.
After he aggressively chewed my ass, I assured him that I would remove the offending post and photo and that he would never have another SYLLABLE of coverage on my website. Eye on Soaps thrived until the cancellation of All My Children in 2013 and for those ten years, we never once mentioned William deVry. My writers did not even refer to his character by name. They called him, “the rapist” or “Bianca’s rapist.”
In all the years he has been on General Hospital as Julian, he was a bullet I managed to dodge at the GHFCW for so long I forgot about him. For that matter, I am sure does not likely even remember his interaction with me. Hell, he likely did not remember it after he hit “send” on the email all those years ago.
When the actor assignments were read and I got William deVry, I was stunned and I am ashamed to say I was expressive in my dismay, still stinging from the previous night’s overt dogging by my former favorite actor. Our volunteer coordinator was mortified that I was upset. I was mortified that I caused her any moment of distress because this woman works herself crazy even before the stress of dealing with my neuroses, which are insignificant in the big picture. The fact does not escape me that my neuroses are insignificant in the little picture.
I turned it around quickly and took back my empowerment, stating aloud some affirmations that I will not repeat here but the escorts and line managers will probably recall for quite some time. Basically, it was a “suck it up, buttercup” approach and I did.
The day went well and William deVry was pleasant enough in that TOO SAD way. He left early, so I got off work at 2:30 pm instead of 3:00 pm. Mostly, the day passed without incident and I learned the lesson that it is stupid and petty to stay angry with someone because they were awful to you fifteen years before when they do not (likely) even remember being awful to you.
OK, Universe… I hear you.
Ego and the curtain call
Throughout 2018, I have had quite a curtain call of people who have hurt my feelings deeply in the past, who hurt me to the point that it changed who I am, come back into my life, usually just long enough that I am forced by circumstance to spend time with them and find an accord. I’m OK with that, especially when that lesson is juxtaposed against a situation where someone (Nathan Fillion) who I adored from afar, who I had always heard was great with fans, and who I held in tremendous esteem as an actor and a human, fell so far from grace in the matter of a moment.
Encountering undeniable evidence that I really do not know people who I really think I know has been an ongoing theme for me this year and, as hard and painful as it is, I am grateful for it. The ego factor that tells me that I am right about my impressions of people is up against the evidence that says I have more to learn.
The Nathan Fillion thing, of course, was not really about the actor. It triggered feelings I thought were long dead. Those feelings are about not belonging, not being important, not being a real part of anyone’s team, and of being pushed aside. It is about not being cool enough to be in the cool kids club. It is every time I was overlooked and disqualified because I am fat. It is every time people thought I was stupid because I have a Southern accent.
Ego came calling and triggered all of this. So what if I was not important enough to a man (who had no clue who I was) that he would stop what he was doing and take thirty seconds of his time to cross himself off my bucket list? Why did it matter? Because it really was about every time I was not chosen for dodgeball in middle school.
I hate that stupid “wounded child” story, but it definitely came out for me this time.
I am over it now and far enough away from it that I can see it all objectively and work with it to learn more and become more and know more and blah blah blah. It was a rough month and July is pretty much is the icon of the folder on my mental desktop for 2018. I am still standing tall in that “thank you, sir, and may I have another?” kind of way. It builds character! It makes us better people!! Meanwhile, it stings and it sucks.
Thankfully, on Sunday, the Universe decided I could rest from all of the lesson-learning and I got to spend it taking care of Gregory Zarian and Dylan Cash, my buddies. I reconnected with my friend, Blake Gibbons, and visited with Graham Shiels who I took care of years ago when he was on Night Shift. He even remembered my name. (Hey, I was important enough!) Eric and I ended the LA experiences with a wonderful dinner at our favorite steakhouse, Damon’s, then headed home…thankfully, blessedly home.
When my grandson came over for his weekly Wednesday visit, his first words were, “Did you get that photo with Jacques Snicket?”
Now, I have to burn my Captain Tightpants shirt. I can also hook you up with a copy of “Slither.”
I touch the fire and it freezes me, I look into it and it’s black Why can’t I feel? My skin should crack and peel. I want the fire back.
Now, through the smoke, she calls to me to make my way across the flame To save the day or maybe melt away. I guess it’s all the same…
So, I will walk through the fire cause where else can I turn? I will walk through the fire and let it… burn. Let it burn.
–Joss Whedon, Buffy the Vampire Slayer “Once More With Feeling” – condensed slightly
2018 has been a hell of a year, hasn’t it?
As a Bruja, I hear the stories people bring to me, looking for ways out of their difficulties. Sure, most people do not consult with a Bruja for answers during their highest highs, but often do during their lowest lows when there is no other recourse. Brujas tend to be everyone’s dirty little secret.
For that reason, I hear less about people’s successes and joyful moments and more about their times of pain and outrage and fear and disappointment. This also puts me in a unique position to see the panoramic overview and mark some trends of challenges people experience at certain times. It is fascinating how much they all tend to parallel one another.
The trend for 2018 is that it pretty much sucks.
There are some wonderful parts of 2018, don’t get me wrong, and truly, the outcomes will be even greater. But for the most part, the challenges we face, while quite necessary, are not what we would likely choose to endure.
We are becoming more of who we truly are than we ever dreamed of being
What I see for 2018 are people who are being forced into the fire. They are good people for the most part; sometimes, too good. They are people were given signs that they should change their lives in some vital way: end a friendship, leave a job, change a habit, leave a toxic relationship, or in some way, take a step that for whatever reason they did not want to take. They could be afraid to leave the familiar. They could be worried about hurting someone else. They could be hesitant to give up a comforting crutch.
In 2018, the Universe took hold. The Divine got tired of waiting and said, “OK, Dears… I tried to be nice about this, but you are picking and picking and picking at the edge of this bandaid and I am running out of time.” Rrrriiiipppppp
I see people forced into taking action they did not want to take. I see people forced into confronting parts of themselves they never wanted to meet. I see little birds shoved from the family nest and furiously flapping their wings to try and fly despite stark terror.
Get into that fire!
The Universe has said, “Put up or shut up. It is time for the rubber to meet the road and we no longer have time for your whining, your resisting, your excuses, or your stalling tactics. F**king MOVE.”
Did you know you needed to eat healthier and exercise more and only piddled around about it? Here, have a big ol’ heart attack.
Did you know it was time to downsize, simplify your life, and purge your hoarded treasures? Here, have an unexpected foreclosure.
Did you know it was time to leave your job and you refused because you are this|close to retirement? Here, you’re fired.
Did you know that in order to grow and to embrace your manifest destiny that you had to leave a relationship and you refused because you would miss that person? Because you were afraid you would hurt their feelings? Here, they are going to take what they know about you and use it to hurt you in the one way that is completely unforgivable.
This is a year when all the cards are going onto the table. We see people for who they truly are, including ourselves. Never have we seen this more clearly than in our national condition right now where people are showing their asses, their ignorance, their prejudices, and their fears in a more public and undeniable way. In the past three years, people have paraded the ugliest, most despicable sides of themselves out for the whole world to see and STILL good people dodge by saying things like “I will not let politics destroy my relationships.” I got news, Lovey. It’s not the politics… It’s not the politics at all. Politics is only the microscope.
Man, stripping away what holds you back hurts
I have been let down more times than I can count this year by people who I truly thought had my back. By people who I defended with all my heart right up until the moment that I was looking at the underside of a big ol’ bus, still feeling the warmth of their hands on my back.
I am not a person who lets people into my heart easily. I have a big heart and there is a lot of room in there. I have many friends who mean a great deal to me. But when it comes to those special friends who you really let into your world, I rarely have any at all. There’s a lot of damage going on in there and when your house isn’t clean, so to speak, you tend to not give people the grand tour. I did, and now I fight an ongoing battle to not have the words “this is what happens when you let people get close to you” burned into the walls of that “house.” I was forever changed by that situation and I have to make sure the change is a good one.
No more excuses
That really is the crux of it, isn’t it? When we go through the fire, when we are forced to do it and when there is nowhere to go but through, we have to stride through it like a Queen, not crawl through it like a baby.
Like I was telling a friend (one of those “real” ones) last night, “if you have to go through the fire and there is no way through but through, make sure when you get out the other side, there is some serious Dark Phoenix shit going on.”
We can be consumed by the fire or we can be forged by it, but Goddess help us, if we sit down in the middle of it and pout, if we stand in the middle and try to fight the fire, we are going to be ashes and nothing more.
My most recent turn around happened today
What I have been fighting for thirty years now is my weight. I have written exhaustively about it. I have tried so many different eating plans and workout regimens. Fat loss has consumed a huge percentage of my thoughts and energy for three decades. It is my shame. It is literally the burden I carry every day. I am in good health. My healthcare providers tell me that. I am happy in every way but that. I feel pretty in every way but that. It haunts me. It is my Achilles heel. If anyone truly wants to hurt me, there’s your cheat sheet on how to do it.
Today, I prayed to my patrona, Santa Muerte, and asked her to take away whatever is wrong about how I am proceeding with this journey. For 2018, I have worked hard on this. I have embraced the Keto lifestyle and worked out regularly. I have walked and walked and walked these hills. I do strength training every other day, several times in that day. I drink lots of water. I feel healthy inside. I have not lost any weight. My clothes all fit me the same.
I went to an acupuncturist and he worked on me for 90 minutes. He gave me some good insight. But nothing changed, at least outwardly.
So it came down to praying. It came down to saying, “Please Mami, whatever I am doing wrong, whatever is blocking this progress, whatever is in the way, please, I beg you, remove it. Here. Here is a dead, dried up lizard. I know you love those. Please take away whatever I need to release in order to make this right.”
With Santa Muerte, because she is the saint of Death, you do not ask her to give, you ask her to remove. I literally stayed up all night last night praying and went to sleep around 5:30 this morning. My skin, my blood, my spirit, all felt “enflamed with prayer.” I felt on fire.
I woke up around 10:00 am. I had my usual breakfast, bacon, and eggs, and it was delicious. I felt full and satisfied. I went to get my usual lunch: a broccoli and chicken alfredo steamer with under 200 calories and only 4 carbs. I heard her say, “Is this what you want?” No, what I wanted was salmon. I didn’t have any salmon in the freezer, but I had salmon in a can and I could have salmon croquettes. But salmon croquettes have crackers and cornmeal in them. Not Keto friendly. She said, “Eat the salmon croquettes and enjoy it.” So I had salmon croquettes and green beans and it was a delicious meal.
Then she took me to my supplement supply. I have prided myself that I do not take any medications, even at age 56, than what I need for managing my Meniere’s Disease. I do, however, take a shitload of over-the-counter supplement to try and adjust my metabolism, my insulin resistance, my adrenal responses, my leptin levels… you name it. Take garcinia cambogia! Take chromimum picolinate! Take saffron! Take Forskolin! Take kelp! Take fish oil!
This is what I took every day, some of them two or three times a day. I have an excellent phone camera, but the photo I ended up with was terrible. I kept this photo rather than taking another one because it best represents the situation. A blur of pills and pills and pills all piled up together.
I told my body I was sorry I stopped trusting it. I was sorry I battled with it for decades. I was sorry I had not loved it enough. I was sorry I had divorced myself from it and made it my enemy. This body carried and nurtured six beautiful children. This body stayed healthy despite all odds. This body took drastic measures to tell me it was out of balance by giving me a balance-related condition. It screamed at me for help by causing pain in my lower back and left knee, also affecting my balance. It begged me to pay attention to the fact that I was out of balance. This body protected me, even when I treated it like garbage and despised parts of it.
I trusted nothing it told me. I believed it betrayed me. I treated it like it was my enemy.
I asked my body what it wanted. I opened up to it to hear its wisdom. What do you want? What do you need from me?
Now, this area looks like this:
This is what my body told me it wants.
I will listen to what my body wants to eat, how it wants to move, when it needs to sleep, and when it is thirsty.
I will trust my body. I will love and honor my body. I promised my body I would hear it and give it what it needs without judgment. I promised I would love and protect it. I promised I would honor its phases and its moods.
I will listen to the Universe when it tells me to move, when it forces me to see what is right in front of my face, and when it demands action from me. I will not wait until I am on fire to take that action. I will trust my body. I will trust my connection to the Divine, and I will trust my own inner wisdom.
I will release the mourning for what I have lost this year and embrace the peace that comes in the aftermath. I will own my life and stand proudly in my sovereignty. I will be fully and completely… me.
I also realize now, just writing this, that reclaiming my natural hair color after many years of dying it was the first step to this authenticity and that happened way back in January. It was a harbinger of this change that I did not even recognize at the time, even though I could feel the empowerment of it and still do.
Today really does feel like the first day of the rest of my life.
This has been a challenging year and every time I get pushed into the fire, I am by God going to stand up and walk through it and out of it like a walking inferno.
Inside that fire, I will galvanize myself to my own power, which I have denied for a long time. I have been afraid to step into it for a number of reasons. No more. As I am so fond of saying, “Hold my beer. I’m going in.”
As an aside, if you want to see the full video, just for reference or for wonderful memories if you are a Buffy fan, here it is. It is a truly beautiful segment:
Also, for those who follow, I think Sophie makes a great Dark Phoenix:
I do not seek out traditional medical support often at all. My son, Dylan, who is my fifth of six children, is twenty-years-old and just a week or so ago went to the doctor for the first time since he was three-years-old. Maybe it is the Scotch-Irish side of me and the genetic disposition to take care of oneself and one’s own, but I never looked for much medical attention for my six children either. For half of the time I raised kids, we were an Air Force family, so free medical care at that time was available, I just did not use it. I even worked in the medical field for many years both in front office work and as a medical transcriptionist. I had no disparagement for traditional medicine, I just also had no use for it. If something major came up such as a broken bone or something requiring medication I could not get over the counter, sure, we went.
Now that my kids are grown, they carry the same attitude. If they need to go, they go, but they do not overburden their local medical facilities. I am well versed in home remedies and my daughter once laughed at me saying something about how my medical encyclopedia included things like: “Take a Tylenol,” “see if you can poop,” “put a cool cloth on it,” “get out the Neosporin,” “go lie down and rest for a bit,” and “walk it off, you’ll be OK.”
All that being said, it takes a great deal for me to determine that I have a problem I cannot self-manage. Anyone who knows me knows that 1) I hate to talk to the phone, 2) Don’t call me Kat, and 3) If I say I need to go to the hospital, I’m dying. Last week, I had my second life experience ever in which I seriously courted my mortality. Interestingly, the first was very much like this one, but that comes later.
The First Recent Event
On Monday morning of last week, February 12, I was asleep on my couch, which is not unusual. My dogs are around a thousand years old and it is difficult for them to make it through the night without going outside to pee. I sleep the lightest of anyone in the family, so I am usually the one that hears them and truth be told, I usually have to pee at around the same time they do since I am around a thousand years old in dog years. I get up, go to the bathroom, go downstairs and let the dogs do their business, then I stoke the fire back into life and collapse onto the couch to sleep by its warmth. I even have a blanket that lives at the bottom of the couch for that very purpose. I felt fine when I went back to sleep on the couch in the wee hours of that morning.
Eric woke me up a few hours later and as soon as I opened my eyes, I knew something was wrong. I felt odd. There was nothing specific I could identify, I just knew something was very wrong. As I tried to raise up, the whole world slid out from under me. I broke out in a fierce sweat and my heart started pounding in my ears. A wave of profound nausea washed over me. I took deep, slow breaths and tried to sit up. I could feel my blood pressure climbing.
I told Eric I thought I was in trouble. I felt on the verge of passing out every time I raised up. Sweat was pouring off of me. Nathan brought me a cold cloth for my head and I curled miserably into the corner of the couch. I remember telling Eric at some point that I needed to go to the hospital and I have no idea why that did not happen then. Maybe I only said it in my head. The next thing I remember, I was waking up several hours later. I felt weak and slightly disoriented, but clearly, the storm – whatever it had been – had passed. Eric made soup for me and I drank off the broth and ate some whole wheat toast.
The next morning, it happened again, but to a lesser degree. Ultimately, I spent three days on the couch, getting up only to go to the bathroom. I took aspirin in case it was my heart and began taking CoQ10 for my blood pressure. I drank water like mad. By Thursday, I felt somewhat normal again, but was still, for lack of a better term, off. Was it a cardiac issue, finally coming to get me after all these years? Was it a series of strokes? Was it a glucose level issue? I had recently introduced fruits and whole grain bread back into my diet after a very long low-carbohydrate time in my life.
Friday morning, we left for a conference in San Jose, California, that was very important to me on many levels. I lectured on Friday afternoon, still feeling askew. Off and on through the three day weekend, I felt alternately dizzy, nauseated, weak, and sometimes, disoriented.
On Saturday, I had the chance to speak with a friend of mine who recently suffered a heart attack. I asked her what it felt like and my stomach lurched as she described my symptoms, plus the pain between her shoulder blades. I had just that morning developed a sharp pain in my upper right shoulder blade. Damn. Of course, she encouraged me to seek medical advice, which I had already decided to do. I was going to by God make it through this conference. Besides, if I died at Pantheacon, there were no doubt necromancers in the hotel who could bring me back again.
Sunday, I felt great. Better than I had in ages. I was also very glad to be home again that night.
The Second Recent Incident
Monday morning, I woke up with another episode, similar to the week before. Very calmly, I contacted a Reiki worker and asked her to run energy for me by remote. I contacted a friend of mine and asked her to throw a few Tarot cards for me on my health, which I evaluated. As symptoms worsened, I sent my son, Nathan, a message by phone and asked him to go quietly wake up his dad and tell him I needed him downstairs. Eric came down and I told him very simply that I needed to go to the Emergency Room immediately. He asked if he had time to take a shower and I said, “Sure.” While he was in the shower, I phoned a friend of mine to tell her goodbye in case I was dying, which I felt strongly I was. I got her voicemail. I wrote out instructions to allow Eric to finish the Llewelyn book if I died.
The drive to the hospital was strange and other-worldly. For anyone who has experienced a labor and delivery, it was that same transitional feeling between laboring and pushing where you are just not there. A sense of doom overwhelmed me and I knew I was looking at the streets, the trees, the signs, the houses for the last time. I bargained with Santa Muerte all the way there, telling her I was not yet done and asking that she look the other way for a while longer and let me stay. The song “Comfortably Numb” by Pink Floyd came on the radio and I asked Eric to change it to something else. It hit too close to home. I am honestly not sure I could listen to it now. I realized I had forgotten to tell Nathan goodbye when I left the house.
I remember that I walked into the Emergency Room entrance on my own while Eric parked the car. I told the receptionist that I thought I might be having a cardiac incident and described my symptoms. She called a triage nurse and about an hour later, we were taken back for vitals. The triage nurse said, “But you have a history of high blood pressure, right?” “No, I do not. My blood pressure is usually a high normal.” “But you are on medication for high blood pressure, right?” “No… because I do not have a history of high blood pressure, I am not on any medications for high blood pressure.” She shook her head. “Well, you’re going to be now.”
She did an EKG and sent us out into the lobby to wait for another two hours. We watched people come and go. I took the lack of a crash cart and cardiac team to be encouraging. Perhaps if they didn’t believe I was dying, I wasn’t. Or maybe I was and other people here were just dying faster and needed help sooner.
Finally, three hours after our arrival, we were put into an exam room. The automatic blood pressure cuff activated regularly and every time, alarms went off. My blood pressure was hanging out around 195/105 and just was not budging. I was very dizzy, nauseated, and disoriented. The time crawled by. During that time, I had two other nurses say to me, “But you have a history of high blood pressure, right?” “No. I do not. Have. Any. History. Of. High. Blood. Pressure. Therein lies the concern over this spike…”
Eric was patient and kind. He was funny at all the right moments, supportive at all the right moments, and quiet at all the right moments. One of his biggest stated fears is that I will die. He has always been sure that my obesity would kill me at some point and I think he was pretty well resolved to this being that moment. He handled it well.
Finally, a doctor came in and asked all the right questions. He ordered blood work and thankfully decided I did not need an IV as the nurses suspected I would. Because I routinely drink a gallon or near to a gallon of fluids a day, I tend to be well hydrated, but I had been sweating buckets. I remembered what my Reiki worker had said. “Tell the doctor about the ringing in your ears. It is important.” I’d had ringing in my ears since our flight to England in November, but the ringing in my ears was the last thing on my mind.
As it turned out, it was the key that unlocked it all.
As soon as I mentioned that my ears had not stopped ringing since November, he had his diagnosis: Meniere’s Disease. I had never heard of it. My EKG was perfectly normal, showing no cardiac problems currently or in the recent past. My blood work was perfectly normal. My blood pressure was slowing starting to come down. His theory was that the blood pressure was secondary to the intense vertigo. I am grateful he is the doctor I got when I rolled the ER dice. Many people go for years suffering from Meniere’s Disease before they get the diagnosis. He gave me Antivert for the nausea and vertigo and a diuretic to keep down the fluid from my inner ear, which is where Meniere’s Disease does its work.
The next two days were fairly hazy. Despite the estimate that Meniere’s Disease affects only 0.2% of the population, I found out that two of my friends and the mother of a third friend have it. The Antivert makes me extremely sleepy, so I do not take it unless I have another strong episode. I take the diuretic every day.
Around two years ago, I had what I now believe is my first Meniere’s Disease event and it was very similar to my two recent major events. I told myself it was a panic attack from a nightmare I’d been having at the time since it woke me out of a sound sleep.
The New Normal
Since my diagnosis earlier this week, I have read extensively about this disease. Thank God for the internet, right? Symptoms can leave abruptly and come back in a week, a month, or many years or even not at all. A cause is unknown. It is incurable but manageable.
My new reality in coping with Meniere’s Disease is that sometimes, I’m OK and other times, I am distinctly not OK. Many mysteries of the past are explained by this diagnosis. Around three years ago, I found that when I exercise, if I do any floor work or lean backward and raise up, such as doing crunches on an exercise ball, I will keel right over. For years, I have had trouble going down steps or inclines, feeling unreasonably off balance when I do so. If I turn around in a moving vehicle, I immediately get violently ill. I frequently transpose letters and words when I am typing, which is particularly odd because I every job I have had in my adult life involved typing insane amounts of text with reasonable accuracy. In recent years, even a text I send looks like I am stroking out.
My ears still ring constantly. It sounds like the combination of white noise, sort of like you hear in a large seashell, combined with a high pitched whine. It is always there, but sometimes, it is more intense than others. It creates a feeling like a low-grade headache from time to time. I feel dizzy to varying degrees most of the time. Sometimes, it is like intense bed spins, just loop de loop de loop and the whole world going tilt. Other times, it’s just feeling “off,” like you are a degree or two off of true north.
Since the first (recent) major event last Monday, I have never again felt fully well. I believe that will come in time. There is a sort of brain fog. I do not feel like me and I am frequently between the worlds, which is occasionally nice if I want to do shaman work, but I miss clarity and feeling plugged in. This feeling is sort of drifty and disconnected. It’s often like being very drunk. The irony is that I do not drink alcohol.
Over time, each major Meniere’s Disease event will compromise my hearing to some degree and can eventually result in deafness. It usually affects one ear, but mine is in both. I noticed that compared to, say, five years ago, my hearing is already not as distinct as it once was.
Putting It Into Perspective
My training as a Bruja tells me that all we experience in terms of wellness and illness, that entire spectrum, has a metaphysical basis. Rarely are we a physical body experiencing a physical illness or condition, but are instead a physical body experiencing a manifestation of a spiritual/emotional/mental imbalance. Our physical body speaks for the other components because we will listen to the physical body and ignore the others.
My walks between the worlds have told me a great deal about why this condition chose me and what I am to learn from it. That is all personal and I am working on it to help me become a better human and stronger spirit. The imbalance is the key and I will sort that out.
Meanwhile, I have several promises to keep (and miles to go before I sleep) to a certain Beautiful Lady of Death who decided to let me stay on this plane a while longer and chose to tilt her reaping sickle in a different direction.
I had the delight this past weekend of attending yet another lecture by one of my favorite bloggers and authors, John Beckett. Every time I sit through one of his classes, I come away with some snippet that will find its way into my own teachings. This particular presentation was at the 2018 Pantheacon gathering in San Jose, California and his topic was alliances. I am paraphrasing and I hope that I capture his intention, if not his exact words. I mostly hope I catch his intention because my intention is to take it in a different direction than he did and I do not wish to misrepresent him here or anywhere. His message was:
Too many people expect a seat at the table when they bring little or nothing to the table.
Preach it, John.
The sense of entitlement in our Pagan community is incredible. I could blame a number of things for the inflated sense of self-worth that permeates our current Pagan culture and society in general. As a baby boomer, I could say that our generation promoted the idea of participation ribbons that made everyone a winner…even those who did not do the work that others did. I could say that just because you roll an impressive number on your character sheet does not mean that you are, in “real life,” a prominent mage. I could say that taking some community college classes on marketing and reading some books on Witchcraft does not make you elder in our community. Sadly, I could also say that desperately wanting to be an elder or leader in our Pagan community does not make you an elder or leader in our Pagan community.
There is much I could say. Some I will and some I will not.
Our Elders and Leaders
Am I an elder or leader in the community? Some would say yes, based on the thirty-five years that I have worked in Craft and the thirty years or so that I have led circles, covens, and other magical working groups. Some would say yes because I wrote several books on Paganism. Some would say yes because I have actively worked in the Sacramento Pagan community since 1998, assisting with festivals and other huge public gatherings. Some would look at me compared to, say, Morning Glory Zell or Selena Fox or Phaedra Bonewits and say “No, she is just getting started.” The status of elder or leader is subjective.
Regardless, the main point is that a leader and/or elder has done the time. A leader and/or elder must invest on some level beyond reading books and developing a fundamental and working knowledge of Paganism. A leader and/or elder has to give to their community in a noticeable way. A person, no matter how gifted or motivated, does not come in, work hard for a year or two in the community, and get to wear the global leadership crown. It takes time, integrity, and service.
Three Components of True Leadership
In the military, there are two terms pertinent to this conversation: “Time in grade” and “time in service.” “Time in grade” is how long you have served in your rank. “Time in service” is the total time you have served in your branch of the military.
What seems to be happening lately is that we have people with minimal time in grade, even if they have an impressive length of time in service, appearing on the scene expecting to revolutionize the Pagan community. Spending twenty years as a solitary practitioner and taking some marketing classes makes you a valuable asset to any Pagan community, but it does not make you a community leader.
Putting in the time with community service is what makes you a community leader. Proving yourself to be someone who treats others with dignity and respect consistently andoveryears of service is what makes you a community leader. Establishing trust and reliability over time earns you the status of being a community leader or elder.
Another consideration is that even the combination of time in grade and time in service does not guarantee the status of elder or community leader. It should… and it would… if people always conducted themselves with integrity, but often long-standing and prominent fixtures in our Pagan community are only begrudgingly and reluctantly considered leaders, if ever.
Why? Because as a leader, your dirty laundry is dried on a public clothesline. If you hold yourself out to be a leader, you have to make certain your side of the street is pristine. We all know community “leaders” who fall into dramatic screaming fits as soon as someone disagrees with them or fails to follow their exact orders. We know community “leaders” who sexual predators. We know community “leaders” who vehemently demand respect, their fingers flying furiously over the social media keyboard when the community does not see fit to genuflect to the levels they feel they deserve. These are not community leaders. These are tyrants. These are the playground bullies who found their niche to rule as adults.
People such as this have time in grade and time in service, but their service record is dishonorable and everyone in the community knows it. Those who go into Pagan leadership for reasons of ego are quickly revealed as such, regardless of how involved they may be in the community.
Good leaders and elders are the ones you go to when you want good advice. Good leaders and elders might no longer be able to do the work, but they can tell you the pitfalls to avoid and how to navigate the treacherous waters of public events. Good leaders do not demand the title and respect of leadership or even necessarily seek it out. They earn it.
So How Do You Get It Other Than to Demand It?
How does a leader earn respect and elderhood? Time in grade AND time in service coupled with an exemplary service record.
“But nobody’s perfect!” they cried. “Everyone makes mistakes!”
True words. The operative point to consider is that how a person responds when it is their turn to be confronted by their errors is just as telling as the fact that they made an error in the first place.
Of course, leaders are humans and make mistakes, but a true leader owns their mistakes and atones accordingly. They do not keep spinning and bending the story until they find a version that renders them blameless for whatever fallout is accumulating from their actions, then cling to it despite all evidence to the contrary. They do not cop to a shining splinter of accountability while ignoring the woodpile of evidence behind them (or to distract from it). In short, when it comes down to “Are you going to believe me or your lying eyes?” pay attention.
If you want to find your true community leaders, look for traits such as accountability, willingness to do the work, reliability and follow-through, accountability, humility, focus, truthfulness, dependability, accountability, integrity, and did I mention accountability?
What They *Think* They Bring to the Table
Truly, few if none of the people I am discussing here believe there is anything wrong with what they do. Many will read this and say, “Man, I’m sure glad I don’t act like that.” I am not saying these people are monsters. I’m just saying they need to slow their roll.
Every year, new people elbow their way to the grown-up table, demanding to be important, to be heard, and to be recognized as community leaders. In a place and time where there is nothing new under the sun, they push forward with NEW and INNOVATIVE ideas that will be the SALVATION of a struggling community. They cleverly identify the problems and imagine themselves and their ideas to be the magic band-aid that will heal all the wounds, even when existing leaders know of the issues and are actively working to resolve them.
They do not take the time to watch, to learn, to listen.
When someone appears out of nowhere and pushes their agendas and groups into the community as if they are the second coming of Pagandom, far from ignoring them, pay attention.
When a person insists that they abhor drama but always seem to have drama around them everywhere they go, pay attention.
When divisiveness and conflicting stories follow a person throughout the community as they leave a trail of bodies, damaged businesses, and broken relationships in their wake, pay attention.
When someone comes to you with a long list of stories about people who did them wrong, pay attention. You will likely be their next story on that ever-growing list.
When someone comes onto the community scene and attempts to create discord among the existing Pagan leaders in the community or tries to undermine those leaders, pay attention.
The Sweetest Fruit, Let Me Tell Ya
To a Pagan leader, someone who shows up with apparent motivation, experience, and talent is a balm to the jagged nerves. It is exciting and relieving at the same time to have someone actually want to help because those folks are few and far between. It is intoxicating and the urge to use that resource to its fullest is tempting beyond reason. When you see someone excited and eager to help, the inclination is to allow them to do so at any availability.
Unfortunately, this sometimes leaves the Pagan leader vulnerable if they give away too much power too soon. Pay attention.
So What Can We Do?
Pay attention and carry on until the person in question establishes time in grade, time in service, and an exemplary service record. Seriously, there is no rush. Use discernment. Give the newbies the time and the honor to create their legacy before deciding they are leaders. Time is the ally in this situation, not the enemy.
Do not be afraid to ask the important questions such as, “I’m sorry, who are you again?”
Ultimately, people reveal themselves to be exactly who they are. See a person for who they demonstrate themselves to be, not who theytell you they are.
Pay attention to and make note of any red flags that come up that you feel inclined to dismiss out of kindness (or desperation).
Invest your respect of and your devotion to any person very carefully.
When someone who is new to the scene speaks disparagingly about an established person in the community and that accusation seems out of character or unlike the person being discussed, pay attention. Unfortunately, people who wish to create discord in a community will often work from a tiny grain of truth and build a huge story around it, so that what they are saying does not seem completely impossible. This frequently causes others to believe contrived or exaggerated accusations. “Divide and conquer” is a strategy these kinds of people often use without even realizing they are doing it.
When someone attempts to malign others from the community to you, say, “You know, I am going to stop you right there” and graciously redirect the conversation.
Verify information that seems sketchy. Do not allow misperceptions to spread or linger.
Do not allow desperation, loneliness, or fatigue to cloud your better judgment.
Remember, “if they will do it with you, they will do it to you.”
Remember that if someone has a long line of “done me wrong” stories, you will very likely be the next story on the list.
Notice how often you see a person actively listening to others around them versus how often you see them talking.
Consider the notion of “methinks thoudostprotest too much” when people go public with verbose overexplaining of perceived slights. People tend to overexplain in order to convert, not to defend. If a person is unable to stand on their own integrity, it usually means they have established no integrity on which to stand.
When someone’s conversations feel “culty” or have an atmosphere of “us or them,” pay attention.
If YOU are the one frothing at the mouth for your seat at the table, relax. Chill. We still love you. The community needs competent, motivated, and eager participants just as much as it needs competent, experienced, and vetted leaders. You are the next generation and the life’s blood that will keep the community growing, improving, and developing. Find comfort in that until it is your turn at the table. Invest the time and hard work and the community will embrace you warmly. You will be at that grown-up table in no time.
Psst, besides, the kids’ table gets the best desserts.
I read Moira Greyland’s book The Last Closet: The Dark Side of Avalon (Castalia House, December 2017). Every. Painful. Word.
I also read countless blog posts and comments about the revelations contained therein. It is quite a time-consuming and heartbreaking rabbit hole to dive into, as anyone who makes even a cursory exploration will find.
I have quite a lot to say about the book from the perspective of a Pagan woman, a book publisher, and as a thinking, rational person. Some of my impressions and subsequent research appear in this review and more will come later in an article that relates both to this book and the elephant that strides intrusively into the room when we talk about this book.
For those few people who may not know, The Last Closet details the sexual, emotional, and physical abuse Greyland endured from her mother, author of The Mists of Avalon and other SciFi/Pagan/Fantasy fictional works, and her father, science fiction writer and rare coin expert, Walter Breen, as well as many of their friends.
In full disclosure, my roots in the Pagan community, particularly in the Sacramento, California area, run deep, beyond knowing a few people who know a few people. I am a founding member of North Western Circles Association and have played an integral role in the administrative side of multiple local festivals since 1999. I have worked as a Pagan teacher and lecturer for over thirty years. I am the author of a series of books called The Seven Sisters of Avalon that draws heavily from the canon created by Marion Zimmer Bradley, as well as a large number of Pagan-centric non-fiction books.
I am a cis female in a long-term – twenty years and counting – monogamous relationship.
I am also a child sexual abuse survivor.
Yes, you could say that I do have a dog or two in this fight, however, I deliberately came at this book with a blank slate to absorb it without filters as much as I possibly could. It became one of the hardest and ugliest tasks I have performed in quite some time and in this case, “taking one for the team” was quite a bitter pill to swallow.
Taking One For My Team
As I read through countless blog posts, comments, and discussions about the book, it became clear that almost no one addressing the issues actually read the book. Many said they did not wish to give any money to the publisher, who is an unapologetic alt-right, anti-gay, anti-anything-except-fundamentalist-Christian warrior. Some did not want to risk the trigger factor of reading explicit descriptions of child molestation. Some wanted to play armchair critic and wisdom keeper without doing the work of research. This article is for those who did not read the book, for whatever reason. I intend to present a critical analysis of the book itself, as well as some observations regarding the perspective of the author.
From a publishing standpoint, I cannot advocate for Castalia House. The book is a technical disaster and good editors could easily have shaped it up into a more presentable package, correcting the misspellings and smoothing the structural anomalies. As an example, Ms. Greyland often repeats key stories throughout the book, introducing them as though the reader did not just hear the same tale a few chapters or even pages back. It is like visiting with an elder on the edge of senility who tells you the same story two or three times in one conversation, anticipating wide-eyed fascination with each telling. At several points, the narrative does not flow well, such as when, without the benefit of a decent segue, the author abruptly launches into several pages of discussion about her experiences as a dominatrix in the BDSM (Bondage, Dominance, SadoMasochism) community after a lengthy discussion centered on her profound talent as a singer and a harpist. The shift was quite abrupt and I am still nursing literary whiplash from the lack of transition. In short, the book is just sloppy. Since the author states that her anti-gay perspective regarding the abuse her parent’s inflicted only dawned on her in November and the book released in December, it is likely that a “rush to print” approach is at fault for the poor technical condition of the book. And yet, the anti-gay perspective is a huge component of the book’s message. So why the rush to print?
Why Now? Does “When” Matter?
The author is clear that she wrote the book as a catharsis. She openly admits that she struggles with mental health issues because of complex post-traumatic stress syndrome and severe panic disorder resulting from her abuse. I do not doubt this at all. Her decades of silence ended four years ago with allegations against her mother, Marion Zimmer Bradley. It was already well-known and a matter of public record that Ms. Greyland’s father and Bradley’s husband, Walter Breen, was a convicted serial child molester and that MZB was at minimum complicit in his crimes, based on her testimonies in his court proceedings.
Many wondered why Greyland dropped this bomb now when the abuses occurred decades ago. Most of the people she accuses of molesting and abusing her are dead and unable to defend themselves, which may or not be a coincidence. This observation peppers discussion of the book and is held up by many who speak in defense of those she accuses as far too convenient to be accidental.
The author makes no secret of the fact that her mother, a multi-millionairess at the time of her death, financed many of her educational and personal ventures, bought her a house and an expensive concert harp, and paid for her education, as well as other considerations, much as any parent in that position might do. The fact that it would hardly serve Ms. Greyland well to criminally implicate or even bring bad press against the person who is underwriting key components to her adulthood does not go unnoticed by her critics. Her mother, however, died nearly twenty years ago, so that criticism does not hold up unless the author continued to receive benefits from her mother’s estate, which is not immediately apparent.
One person still living who Ms. Greyland aggressively disparages is Elisabeth (Lisa) Waters, author and long-time administrative assistant and lover of Marion Zimmer Bradley. Greyland refers Waters to as her “stepmother.” To my knowledge, Ms. Waters has not addressed the author’s assertions, but she did publicly counter accusations from the father of one of Walter Breen’s victims. (Note: This link includes both Ms. Waters’ statement as well as the father’s rebuttal to her statement) Elisabeth Waters held the golden key to MZB’s fortune both before and after her death in 1999. Although many posters bring up that Greyland was disinherited, in The Last Closet, she states that she accepted the house her mother gave her in lieu of any claim on her mother’s estate.
The Blog Post Heard ‘Round the World
The initial accusations against Marion Zimmer Bradley surfaced in 2014 when blogger Deirdre Saoirse Moen reached out to Moira Greyland to oppose Tor.com’s article praising Bradley. The reply to this email became what Greyland refers to as, “The Blog Post Heard Round the World.” In her email, Greyland claims MZB was not only complicit in her husband’s ongoing sexual abuse of children, but that she was herself a serial child molester.
At that time, regarding the question of why she waited to come forward with her claims, Greyland said, “The reason I have given, and stand by for not talking is this: I know many people found value in my mother’s books, and I did not want to harm them or disturb their lives.” Apparently, some driving force won out over her stated concern for the fans of her mother’s work, who she blatantly criticizes and belittles in The Last Closet. I am not saying she should not have spoken out. I, for one, would prefer to know the truth. What I am saying, however, is that something shifted, motivating a tidal wave of revelation rather than the reason she gave at that time and no longer stands by.
Had the book served only as a cathartic release of emotions regarding the horrible abuse Greyland suffered at the hands of her monstrous parents, this review would read much differently than it does. Instead, The Last Closet is a devasting and heartbreaking declaration of the experiences the author endured wrapped up in a much larger denigration of Paganism and any kind non-cis, heterosexual lifestyle. In short, unless you are a cis straight Christian, you are part of the reason she was abused.
A Tiny Closet of Acceptable Social Norms
One problem with the book is that we have an adult attempting to impose a mature psychoanalysis of the actions of her parents from the traumatized memories she formed as a little girl. From a very early age, she experienced horrible sexual situations, both first and second-hand, that no child should have to endure. Within the writing, however, she presumes to understand them with something other than the child’s mind that experienced them, which is very nearly impossible. Her retroactive speculation is stated as fact, reaching far into what she believes her clearly disturbed mother thought and felt. Ms. Greyland grapples with presumed thoughts and motives, juggling them amongst her own memories from ages three, five, six, and older, to establish a basis of fact that may or may not be accurate, but is nonetheless presented as absolute. She is equally unyielding in her misinformed statements regarding Pagan and LGBT people.
The author is apparently unaware of the scientific premise that correlation does not equal causation as she directly and explicitly faults cultural correlations for her parents’ behavior. Again, make no mistake… her mother and father were horrible, deplorable people who committed atrocities against her, her brother, and countless other children. Non-parental adults in her childhood environment blithely looked the other way when she and her siblings were in desperate need of advocacy. Adults failed these children profoundly at every turn. Aside and apart from the direct sexual and other physical abuses, from the descriptions offered by Greyland anyone who took a moment to observe the family dynamic and living conditions would clearly see rampant neglect and emotional abuse. Innocent children suffered not only at the hands of these two co-dependent sociopathic parents but from the apathy and neglect of nearly every other grown person around them.
But also make no mistake that the author places panoramic blame for this abuse not only on her dysfunctional mother and father or the specific people in their social circle, but on 1) Gay people, 2) Paganism, and 3) the relaxed social norms of the 1960s counter-culture. She freely assigns the worldview and values of her abusive mother and father to all of Paganism, all of gaydom, and to everyone from the 1960s counter-culture. This perspective is quite overt and colors most of what she relates in the book. She seems compelled to revisit this conviction on a regular basis just in case we forgot from the previous page that she would never have been abused were it not for all those gay Pagans.
Conviction Does Not Mean You Are Right
Ms. Greyland’s views on the LGBT culture and people are profoundly limited and ill-informed. For instance, she has no concept or understanding of bisexuality, insisting that it does not actually exist because some “gay” people go on to enter a heterosexual marriage. When she speaks of marriage between two gay people, she uses quotation marks (“marriage”), presumably to distinguish it from “real” marriage of opposite gendered people.
The author redefines “pansexual” from the accepted “not limited in sexual choice with regard to biological sex, gender, or gender identity” to “preferring sex with EVERYONE of EVERY age and EVERY gender rather than wanting to be limited to one person” (emphasis is the author’s), espousing and quoting the views of aggressively anti-gay psychologist, Jeffrey Satinover. She qualifies this perspective by saying that “back in November,” it dawned on her that “maybe gayness WAS an issue [in her abuse]” and identifies her “research” on homosexuality as “a guilty secret” since she was raised in an environment of enforced tolerance. Polyamory also engages her derision and she refers to the practice as “a ‘game where men psychologize the women they want with stories of how humans are not biologically intended for monogamy.”
Interestingly, she cites “cognitive bias” as a reason why high-IQ people like her parents can be “stupid,” but she consistently ignores her own cognitive biases regarding Paganism or LGBT issues.
Also, Obesity is Offensive
Ms. Greyland frequently and uncomfortably engages in what I would qualify as “fat-shaming” language, with a strong focus on her mother’s obesity and how it disgusted her while making just as many references to how slim and fit she is herself.
Isaac in The Last Closet
Again, I have no doubt that the author experienced the horrors she described and likely much more… “more” because she seldom actually discusses the actual abusive horrors she experienced, turning away from specifics and relying on euphemisms indicating that what happened was far too horrible to describe. She alludes to what happened, but rarely actually states what happened. The one exception is the rape she experienced at age five by her father, an act she depicts in tremendous detail. While it is understandable that Ms. Greyland is under no obligation to regale the reader with graphic depictions of these acts, she does leave a great deal to the imagination and unwritten inference. Most of us, especially those readers who went through sexual abuse ourselves, will fill in the gaping blanks with the worst case scenarios. Whether this is incidental or by intentional design is up for speculation.
The Pagan and Sci-Fi/Fantasy community reeled when her 2014 accusations against her mother became public, but many were unprepared when implications against the late Pagan pioneer and ADF founder, Isaac Bonewits, appeared in her book. Again, with one exception, she deflects and infers rather than outright accusing in her discussion of Bonewits. She never actually says what he did to her. Although she talks about him for approximately two pages of the book, the summation of her contact with Bonewits when she was six-years-old is that she “smelled things [she] did not want to smell and tasted things [she] did not want to taste.” She goes on to describe the basement in author Diana Paxton’s house where she implies she was victimized by Bonewits, then states that she hated him with every fiber of her being. Her only direct indictment of him is when she writes that she and her friend, Jean, overheard Bonewits asking her mother if he could have sex with her.
Since the book’s release, Phaedra Bonewits, Isaac’s widow, and Deborah Lipp, Isaac’s ex-wife, as well as his son, Arthur, released statements expressing regret over what Ms. Greyland experienced but also saying that these accusations were not in keeping with what they knew of Isaac. There were others who knew Bonewits (I did not) who were not as surprised by the allegations. Ultimately, it appears that anyone other than Ms. Greyland who knows for certain what happened is dead.
An Unfortunate Spectrum
Our culture is currently polarized between a long-prevalent “blame the victim” mentality and a more socially aware pushback that believes the victim at all costs. Comments on blog posts about the author’s assertions clearly reflect this dichotomy. Ms. Greyland’s brother, Mark (formerly Patrick), corroborates her story, although the web page with his statement that does so is no longer online (the dreaded “404: File Not Found”). Public records of court testimony and many online sources confirm that both Marion Zimmer Bradley and Elisabeth Waters knew that Walter Breen was a serial child rapist, primarily of young boys. Breen died in prison, convicted of eight felony counts of child molestation with an additional civil suit pending against him. The assertion that Ms. Greyland, her brother, and an unknown number of other children were violated in horrible ways is beyond dispute and the tragedy of that is incomprehensible.
The idea of catharsis is fully understandable, however, using her experience to further an anti-gay, anti-Pagan agenda feels suspect. One gets the feeling she is lashing out, seeking some explanation beyond the multi-generational family legacy of child-rape and abuse to explain why her parents behaved as they did, In doing so, she settled on very nearly every cultural influence around them, looking for something or someone beyond them to blame. Or could it be something more sinister than that? Or both?
As one blog poster wrote, “It’s reprehensible. Moira Greyland, the daughter of fantasy author Marion Zimmer Bradley and science fiction fandom figure Walter Breen, was abused by her parents. Now, she is abused by Theodore ‘Vox Day’ Beale” (her publisher).
Still in a Closet
I will leave you with some direct quotes from the book that caught my attention and seem to speak to her overall worldview which, I feel, is as narrow and dark as I imagine the closet she speaks of in her book’s title to be.
Referencing the behavior of a dramatic and needy woman Ms. Greyland was involved with romantically: “How can men stand women? If that is what we do, then seriously, how has the species survived?”
“There is no room at all for promiscuous sex in an adult man or woman. It is irresponsible to the children who need their parents to not be idiots and to the grandchildren who need thier [sic] parents to not be destroyed by their grandparents.”
“Denying gender roles denies adulthood and adult responsiblities [sic]. It creates an extended adolescence and encourages ongoing stupid decisions.”
“When women reject femininity, they usually become a bad caricature of a man. Men who reject masculity [sic] end up as bad caricatures of women…the bottom line is that women end up hyper-responsible, and the men end up useless.”
“Worst of all, men lie to women that they do not take seriously as long-term partners. Why? Because telling women the truth usually results in screaming fights and ends sexual access.”
“…women who are ‘strong’ or ‘dominant’ are invariably angry that their men aren’t stronger while they emotionally pound them into the ground every time they show a hint of spine.”
“Pedophilia is the inevitable result of limitless sexual ‘freedom,’ and its defenders are hiding in plain sight in the gay community.”
“Modern paganism is not historical in the slightest but comes from speculation, wishful thinking, and outright falsification of history.”
Her description of SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism, which her mother and author Diana Paxton founded together): “…instead of sacrificing one other at Stonehenge, as the archaeology indicates was the case, the Druids were reimagined as happy, free feminists, skipping naked through the trees, practicing Western free love, open marriages, and magically avoiding all normal consequences.”
Describing her mother’s alledged rejection of the Christian god: “The results of this decision were tragic, as over time, it encouraged tens of thousands of her readers to follow in her footsteps, away from Christianity and into a spirituality that pretended to offer more.”
Lastly, she quoted a poem of her father’s that she said, “expresses the truth of the gay movement, and how it is hardly exclusive to one sex or age or even species”: “I am a dirty old man. I make love wherever I can. Little boys, little girls, little sheep, little squirrels… I am a dirty old man.”
I read every word and I cried over some of them. I cried because in our society, then and now, there are precious children who are brutalized by the very people who should keep them safe. As much as I cried over her pain, I cried because, in 2018, we are still having these unwinnable conversations where the misdirected blame for sociopathic behavior lands on good and innocent people for no reason other than fear and ignorance. I am ashamed that there are still people in this country who are not only cloaked in willful ignorance as Ms. Greyland is but who have an amplified voice to spread that ignorance throughout a culture that is already steeped in fear and desperation.