“Everything is part of everything.  Pass the soup.”Katie Waitman, The Merro Tree

I believe in connections, in the links between things – nouns, especially.  Take any person, place, or thing, and the connections to any other person, place, or thing can be discovered if one is inclined to look.  Of course, many of us are not, as is evidenced by events currently playing out all over the world.  We live on a small planet, really – an island home surrounded by the vastness of the universe – and yet we can’t see the forest for the trees.

Lest this sound too terribly depressing, it gets worse: how many times each day do you look at the people you interact with each day and think about your similarities as opposed to your differences?  Do you look at the person you sit next to at work and think about how they enjoy crème brûlée as much as you, or do you focus on the fact that they clear their throat every other sentence?  Do you notice that the people around you on the highway also have a crappy commute, or are you too busy noticing that they cut you off?  Do you remember that there are people just like you who cannot have the same things you do because they look differently, or have a different job, or went to a different school, or practice a different religion?

I don’t mean to scold most of you, because you realize that focusing on differences rather than similarities is alienating and yet it is what nearly every piece of society is organized to do.   You know something has to change for the bullshit that is our separation from one another to cease…but pinpointing it isn’t easy, and after all, you’re just one person, right?  Right?

And here I am, not wanting to be preachy but ending up there anyway because I’m pissed off.  I’m pissed off that there are people out there who are hungry, who don’t have shelter, who can’t get an education, who have to be afraid of law enforcement.  I’m pissed off that there are other people out there who justify these things when there is no justification.  I’m pissed off that I feel like I shouldn’t have a dog in this fight because of my privilege…but I can’t just sit and say nothing.  I’m pissed off that I feel like a bad ally because I don’t know what to do to fix things except beat my head against everyone around me until they get it.

My religious work is full of practices that honor connections, and I believe in them, and that we’re all Divine…and if we’re all Divine then there’s no fucking excuse for treating human beings as anything other than human beings.


End of story.


When need outstrips all other things,
And place and time become irrelevant,
It is the yarling that can bring us past those things that
anchor us in place, and set us

It isn’t an unknown thing; the weeping, the wailing, the gnashing of teeth.
It can come from a primal depth, from the bottom of the belly of the beast within us,
Or, it can spring upon us, all unknowing, until our jaws ache with the effort of keeping it locked in.
It is transcendent, the outpouring of sound and fury signifying

Let it out.

Let it out.

Let it out, among the trees, amidst the clouds and stars and running water.
Let it out, among the concrete and the glass and steel.
Let it out, for within you dwells a spark to set the world ablaze, and nothing will ever be the same again.
Let it out, in the Name of Yourself.

It is the yarling;
Hearken to it.


Whether you agree with the accuracy of the statement “you only live once” or not, the meaning behind it is clear: make the most of what you do, and live life to the fullest.  For me, as a FlameKeeper and a Kemetic, that means doing the following things:

  1. Living ma’at as best I can.
  2. Recognizing that we are all Divine* and acting accordingly.
  3. Taking responsibility for my mistakes (aka owning my shit).
  4. Trying, in future action, not to repeat the mistakes I’ve made.

Not very glamorous, I admit, and hardly the fodder to post on Twitter under a hashtag.  In fact, when I did a little exploring (something I think you should do, at least once) of the hashtag YOLO (#YOLO) on Twitter, few seemed to be using it the way I do.  People tag some amazing things with #YOLO – for every affirmation of friendship, or child’s first step, or road trip, there’s drunken Christmas caroling, and law-breaking, and -ist** comments.  All of this is…well, you know what?  It’s not my place to tell other humans not under my direct supervision what to do or how to do it unless they ask me for an opinion.  And, no one has.  So, I’ll give you a couple of cents on the topic and let you draw your own conclusions.

My religious path requires action in place of stagnancy, choice in place of passive-aggressiveness, and moving forward in place of looking back.  I am much less concerned with what happens after I die than I am what happens in life.  These things are piety in my practice – I am a pious person despite not doing the things that traditionalists would imagine because I adhere to the need to act, and choose, and move forward.  YOLO, for me, fits right into that – I make a choice and follow-through and, if it backfires or goes horribly askew, I acknowledge it, regroup, and move on.

Now my choices and backfires aren’t nearly as adrenaline pumping as, say, a civilian pulling over a police officer, but they’re still the result of action.  I’m not sitting back and watching things happen around me; I’m precipitating them.  And that, I think, is really the point of YOLO: take that leap and make something happen in this life rather than waiting for the next.  Life’s too short for regrets, even if you believe that we get more than one.

(Maybe the thrill seekers are on to something, after all.)


(I’m cheating, a little, because the title of this post refers to a specific person…and this post is actually about a culture.  Nevertheless, the person is a member of that culture, and I needed another X post.)

Admiral Daro’Xen (“Xen”) vas Moreh

I’m not as drawn to quarian culture as I am to specific individuals who happen to be quarian (anyone else have rage over the lack of fem!Shep/Tali in ME2 and 3???), but the central tenet of quarian religion is very present in my own practices – ancestor veneration.

From the Wiki:

“…The quarians used to practice a form of ancestor worship. This involved taking a personality imprint from the individual and developing it into an interface similar to a VI. The quarians began experimenting with making these imprints more and more sophisticated, hopefully leading to the wisdom of their ancestors being preserved in an imprint that could be truly intelligent. However, the geth destroyed the quarians’ ancestor databanks when they rebelled. Some quarians saw their subsequent exile as punishment for their hubris, but most accept that the geth rebellion was a mistake, not a punishment.

However, respect for their ancestors is still prevalent in quarian society…”

I venerate my ancestors; I don’t usually call it worship, but there are aspects of what I do for them that might deserve that appellation.  I take a moment to think of them when I pass the shrine I’ve set up in the living room.  I offer water and beer to them when I remember to do so (not regularly, but often enough that I think I can count it).  I remember, with intent, the ones I knew, and muse on the ones I didn’t, and pray for them, and once or twice I’ve asked for intervention from them.

I’ve also been known, on occasion, to meditate on the larger…conglomeration that is Ancestors with a capital A…which I think may be more in line with how modern (future?) quarians invoke their ancestors:

“Blessed are the ancestors who kept us alive, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this season.  Keelah se’lai.” – Mass Effect 2, Tali’s Loyalty Mission

Here, in this invocation, I can see gratitude to both individual ancestors (some known, some not) but also to Ancestors – the quarians who grew a culture and civilization on Rannoch; the quarians who were driven from their homeworld by the geth and thus formed a nomadic society to wander space; the quarians who kept the flotilla in repair and able to maintain and sustain life.  All of these groups had a hand in ensuring the survival of those who came after, and thus all of these groups can claim the gratitude that is offered.

The same is true for those that came before me; there are many groups of people that contributed something toward my existence today, and even if individuals can be condemned (and some are, believe me!) the larger community of Ancestors deserves my recognition and my thanks.  And so, in this, I find yet another religious practice from the video game realm that has useful real-world application…which seems to go against the pronouncements of many about the triviality of gaming.

(What usefulness will I find in Tamriel, I wonder?)


my body’s bending in the latest fashion
to this task i cannot name.
when done, i will no longer be myself,
or at least not one i recognize.
time gets funny in a cell, and with the Shift
i’m breaking out.

among the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune;
he may have said it best, but least is motion yielding.
sometimes nonsense is the better kind of sense,
especially when traveling the spaces in-between.
i am surprised at what i’ve done, and when i Wend
new doorways open.

don’t blink or you’ll have missed me;
amid the strands i’m flying low and far, tools in mind.
the sense is capturing the rhythm without undoing, but
knowing’s a forever changing thing.
when breaking builds unending walls, to turn to Blur
takes mortar from the stones.

Inknowing in these spaces is the key,
And wilding deep-set changes set you free.


I’ve made occasional reference to the fact that I have MDD*, and spoken about how it impacts my ability to care for myself.  I’ve also told you about self-care being an essential part of Dark Flame work…and so I thought I’d do something different this time around.  Instead of dealing with abstracts, I’m going to take you through a recent day of mine and give you an idea of how my woofits manifest.

Last Wednesday, I woke up not wanting to go to therapy.  There’s nothing really unusual about that, except for the fact that I’m not used to feeling it – my previous therapist, whom I stopped seeing in September, lasted almost five years, and for some reason I enjoyed going to see her even though I didn’t really like the work we were doing.  Anyway, I’ve got a new therapist and we’re working on what I like to call my last monster – my relationship with food – and I absolutely hate it.  With a capital H, HATE it.

So, I woke up hating things, went downstairs and fed cats, and ate breakfast.  Since my last monster has to do with food, and emotional eating for self-medication purposes, I obsess over what I eat and meals are a struggle.  I fought with myself briefly, then ate a lovely bowl of granola with unsweetened almond milk (tastes good and is filling, thereby leading me away from hunger.)  Of course, self-medication has little to do with hunger.

I worked all morning, going back and forth about whether I was going to go to therapy or call out with an excuse, but I ended up going.  On the way, I ran through a drive-through and got fast food french fries, which is my classic I need comfort; must eat the things food.  I was in a state that (I believed) could only be assuaged by salt and grease…and it was mighty tasty, despite the pangs of guilt and the shoulding all over myself that occurred later.  In the grand scheme of things, driving through occasionally isn’t going to kill me, but it plays right into my endless cycle of “I don’t like myself-I’m too fat-I’ll eat to feel better-YUM-oh gods, I ate food shame shame SHAME-rinse-repeat” thing I’ve got going on.

I went into therapy and lambasted new therapist for giving me eating tips when I know what I should be doing, but I allow the emotional need for comfort to overcome, and what I need is something I can do when the urge becomes overwhelming and and AND…and she listened.  New therapist listened, and asked questions, and then pointed out that my need to eat for comfort is (most likely) related to series of emotional things I’m carrying around in addition to a lifelong habit of “sneak” eating that I’m no longer active enough to do without physical consequences.

She then reminded me that eating for comfort is probably preferable to drinking for comfort, and I felt a little better, but my head was filled with self-loathing and guilt and I argued with myself all the way back home.  I didn’t go through another drive-through, nor did I buy and eat ALL THE POTATO CHIPS but instead sat with the fact that I am not taking care of myself in the way I think I should.

(There it goes again – shoulding all over myself.)

The rest of the week went without outward manifestation of my feelings about myself.  Internally, though, I was as much a wreck as I usually am.  This is actually where Baby Steps helps – even when I’m in super meltdown mode I can (usually) find something small to do for myself.  I did manage to bathe/shower when I needed to, and I did manage to get dressed, and I did brush my teeth every dayand all of these things, small though they are, count as self-care and nurture of my Dark Flame, so the week wasn’t totally lost.  Still, going back to Baby Steps time after time feels like a letdown; funnily enough, though, I encourage others to count their Baby Steps as real things (they are, after all!) but I don’t always remember to pat myself on the back for putting shoes on.

I consider myself a pretty good FlameKeeper as things go (although my guru might disagree!) but after three (four?) years as a practitioner I still have trouble remembering that the small things I do count as action, and that self-care is religious work, and that work on myself improves things around me…but it makes sense.  If we are all Divine, work on one of us is work on the Divine and, therefore, work on us all.  The things I do for myself help to strengthen community, and strengthening community improves the Universe, and so it goes.  Perhaps I need a Post-It to remind me.

We are all Divine, and as we grow and change the Universe grows and changes.  As we work on ourselves, we work on everything around us; as we know ourselves, we gain knowledge about our connections to others.  All parts of us, and of others, are parts of the Divine – our joys and sorrows, our selflessness and selfishness, our ins and outs.  This means our woofits are Divine as well and, as such, it behooves us to work with them.


I don’t know everything and I’m no longer shy about admitting it.

In my mind, admitting ignorance on a topic is a virtue because it allows clarity in discussion, and also means there’s an opportunity to learn something new.  From experience, though, I can tell you that not everyone agrees with me.  In fact, the self-professed expert without sourcing to back it up is actually quite common, even in pagan circles.

As my intro line indicates, I wasn’t always willing to admit my ignorance.  I’ve played the “I’ve heard of that” game once or twice, hoping that someone else would explain something without my having to come clean.  I’ve finagled my way through discussions of esoteric topics without (I hope!) revealing my shortcomings, and even held my own in discussions on topics where I had absolutely no clue what I was really discussing.  I could make a ton of excuses for this behavior, none of which would come close to the admission that I was afraid to admit that I didn’t know something…or I could just say it:

I was afraid to admit that I didn’t know something.

I don’t know if this same fear plagues others, but I tend to think it might – fear is a human condition, after all, and it is likely that one human’s fear might be the same as another human’s fear.  I know it was difficult for me to admit that I was afraid, and that I somehow thought revealing my own ignorance meant that no one would trust me on any topic at all…

(…and see how the intricacies of my brain work?  It’s exhausting sometimes.)

Part of my own problem with ignorance is knowing a ton of random things; I do really well at Trivial Pursuit, for example, because my brain is crammed with information I don’t use on a daily basis.  This also means that, in routine conversation, I’m likely to know something about any number of topics and while my knowledge isn’t exhaustive it often contains fairly obscure facts.  For example, did you know that trees should be planted so the root flare shows above the ground and shouldn’t be mulched with wood chips?  Did you know that monotremes are mammals that lay eggs, thereby making “all mammals give birth live” incorrect?  Or, how about the fact that coffee is tied to the Age of Enlightenment?

See?  Random knowledge.  I collect it like some people collect stamps, and I’ll trot it out from time to time as occasion allows…which also doesn’t help with the whole “I don’t know X” admission.  But, I’ve learned over the past ten years or so that it is better to admit when I don’t know something because (1) the person I’m speaking with can then tailor the conversation, and (2) I can learn new things to be dropped into other conversations.  It’s a win-win!

One thing I’ve noticed is that people who don’t want to admit ignorance will go to lengths to hide it.  They’ll chime in on topics they don’t understand, hoping to avoid being questioned directly by participating peripherally.  They’ll have an example for every situation that comes up, and the examples will have an element (direct or implied) of one-upmanship*.  They’ll talk a lot about what they know and how they apply it…in abstract.  They won’t give sources, and they’ll vociferously argue with anyone who asks for one.  And then…some of them will ask a question on a topic they don’t understand but frame it in such a way to imply that they’re just checking to see if others know the answer.

Quite frankly, behaving in this fashion is exhausting.  I know – I used to do it and sometimes even now I can feel myself pulled in the direction of “pretend to know, and you’ll eventually figure it out”.  I can usually snap myself out of the mindset with concentration, but it isn’t easy.  I didn’t really get good at it until I started having to teach other adults and realized that no one was going to smack me if I told them I didn’t know something, and that I’d have to get back to them.  Figuring out that the world wouldn’t end if I didn’t know something was a revelation.

On my religious path, self-knowledge is key, and part of knowing myself is recognizing that it is okay not to know.  There is a ton of knowledge out there, and no matter how I try I will never know everything.  It’s one of the things that makes me human and, as I’ve said on many other occasions, being human is not the end of the world.  The fact that I know some things that others might not and they know things I might not makes life all the more interesting, and the sharing of knowledge between humans builds community.  That give-and-take upholds ma’at, and strengthens the bonds we have with one another.

Isn’t that something worth doing?

*Note: some people do have a lot of experiences to share, and the fact that they share them does not mean that they’re trying to one-up someone else.


Sometimes, figuring out what counts as a choice is the tricky part.

When I learn something new that resonates with me, I find it difficult not to allow the NRE* to spill over into every aspect of my life regardless of where I initially plan to apply it.  Take the concept of Words Mean Things – I primarily chose to incorporate it into my religious practice because it fits with ma’at and heka…and from there it was easy enough to adhere to at work, and with my family, and in my leisure time.  It’s what I sometimes call a “slippery slope principle”; it’s more difficult to limit the application of Words Mean Things than to stand back while it infiltrates every nook and cranny, and there’s no doubt I’m benefiting from its incursion.  Yet, I didn’t choose to allow it out of its box in the first place.

Of course, I also didn’t choose to stop it.  Why would I, when it works so well?  In fact, I don’t think I ever stopped to think about whether I made an active choice on Words Mean Things until I started writing this post (and rewriting it, and rewriting it), and now I’m noticing some things:

  1. I didn’t actively choose to allow Words Mean Things to run amok all over my life, but I also didn’t choose to stop it.
  2. Not choosing to stop it means I did make a choice on the subject, albeit a passive one.
  3. Passive choices are still choices, and therefore still count as action.  (I think)

As I said before, it’s tricky.  There’s a line between not choosing and passive choosing, but I’m not exactly sure where it is.  I’m also not sure that one can’t be retconned into the other – refusing to make a choice about something that happens anyway can look like a passive choice after the fact.  Does this matter?  Well, in the grand scheme of things I think it must, if only because I tie such importance to action and to being required to make a choice in situations.  I know if I’ve made a choice, and I have to live with the consequences of my action (or inaction)…so I guess the only thing I can really do is be conscious of when I wale, and how I wale, and whether I’ve waled at all.

This is turning into one of those philosophical posts with more questions than answers.  Must be time to stop writing now.

*New Relationship Energy


I’m into vultures.

Well, actually, I’m into wildlife in general, but vultures are one of those groups of animals that stand out for me.  There’s something magnificent and majestic about them; I love to watch them roost, and eat, and fly, and I don’t find them ugly or despicable as so many people do.

Vultures are misunderstood by the masses, who often see them as disease carrying (not true!), evil (certainly not true – how can an animal be evil?), greedy (wouldn’t you eat quickly if someone else was likely to come along and steal your dinner?), and generally loathsome.  Vultures are actually beneficial to human society – without them, disease becomes more widespread because no one is eating the things that spread it.

In general, vultures are divided into two groups – the Old World vultures and the New World vultures.  The two groups are not directly related, but they exhibit similar behaviors due to convergent evolution which is the development of similar features, characteristics, or behaviors in creatures whose lineages are dissimilar. Flight in birds and bats is a classic example of this.  Both Old World and New World vultures have a wide wingspan for soaring and a specialized beak with a hooked end for eating carrion.  Most also have a head that is either bald or covered in very short feathers.

Around here, in Southeastern Pennsylvania, we have two species of New World vulture: the turkey vulture (Cathartes aura) and the black vulture (Coragyps atratus).  The turkey vulture used to be the more common of the two, but we’re seeing way more black vultures lately, due to whatever-you-want-to-call-it-that-is-making-things-warmer.  They’re quite simple to differentiate while roosting…

Turkey Vulture

Black Vulture

…and also in flight…

Turkey Vulture

Black Vulture

See?  Different wing shape, different tail shape, different head shape – it’s amazing that people mix them up!  Okay, I’m kidding, but you get the point.

Black vultures are gregarious in nature, while turkey vultures tend to be loners and, funnily enough, black vultures often find a meal by following turkey vultures – a turkey vulture’s sense of smell is so good it can detect carrion in as small as a few parts per trillion – and then chasing them off a carcass.

(I had a laugh in Google Hangouts yesterday about watch-vultures in a post-apocalyptic zombie-infested world – a turkey vulture could certainly smell zombies coming and then could most-likely neatly dispose of the body without getting infected.  Of course, turkey vultures are also known to regurgitate when frightened.)

My admiration for vultures was shared by the Ancient Egyptians – Nekhbet, the patron of Upper Egypt, was depicted as a vulture, and records show that her priestesses wore robes of Egyptian vulture feathers.  The goddess Mut was often shown with with the wings of a vulture, wearing the crown a united Egypt.  In addition, there are several distinct hieroglyphs containing a vulture symbol.

Two different types of vultures are used in these hieroglyphs…

Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus)

Eurasian griffon (Gyps fulvus)

…and there are three others native to Egypt:

Rüppell’s Vulture (Gyps rueppellii)

Cinereous Vulture (Aegypius monachus)


Lappet-faced Vulture (Torgos tracheliotos)

Vultures are amazingly wide-spread, which is one of the reasons they show up so often in mythology and folklore in general.  Outside of Ancient Egypt, I found mention of them in stories and myths from the Middle East, Ancient Greece, the Roman Empire, India, North and South America, and West Africa.  I’m sure there are others as well, and I’d love links if anyone has them!

While writing this, I started thinking of the vultures I see routinely (turkey and black) and thinking about their habits, and that got me thinking about comparing vultures to pagans.  There are the hermit pagans, who prefer to go it alone and will group up only when necessary, like the turkey vulture, and then there are the gregarious pagans who relish being in a group and working within that dynamic, like the black vulture.  I know both types – hell, I straddle both types.  I don’t think there’s anything to be demonstrated with this comparison, though, other than the fact that our differences are what make the world go round…and the same can be said in the raptor world.

It takes all kinds, you know?

Give Me Ubiety

I wish I knew exactly where I am, and where I’m going.

I’d love to feel that I were in a definitive place, a specific location, and that my religious, spiritual, and philosophical journey had mile markers, and rest areas, and scenic turnouts where I could admire the view before ending up at a planned destination with a soft bed, climate control, and room service.  I also have a sneaking suspicion that I am not alone in this wish, but I know I have trouble remembering that it is the journey that is supposed to matter when I’m hot, tired, and in need of some sort of spiritual shower?  I want a destination, goddamn it!

Yes, I’m whining, and I’m continually reminded that this doesn’t make me (or anyone else) less worthy, or less Divine, but gods does it make me feel boring and gods does it make me wonder why I haven’t thrown my hands up and called it a day when I see other people pay lip service to parts of my path that I cling to, tooth and nail.  Why do I keep putting one put in front of the other, sometimes at a run but more often at a crawl, when there is fulfillment in just pitching a tent where I am and half-assing the rest of the journey?  Why do I need so much from my religious and spiritual life when other people are happy to coast?  When the hell am I going to get where I’m going and feel that overwhelming sense of ubiety, of being in that definitive place?

(And now, I’m wondering why I have so many questions, and why the majority of my sentences are so much longer than other people’s sentences.  Gah.)

When I try to answer these questions, I often get stuck in one of several loops – I begin arguing with myself about judging my own actions based on what other people do, or I enter a cul-de-sac of my own making where I check and re-check that I’m actually on a real religious path (and go in circles in the process), or I freeze in place and close my mental doors to anything new out of the fear that I am getting it wrong.  I remember the heartbreak I felt when I realized that I would never find my place in Christianity, that the overwhelming love of God that the people around me had would never be mine, and I freeze in place, terrified that I am once again walking in a direction that will lead to despair.  I hate these loops, and I’m sure that at least part of why I get into them is related to Depression.

The other part?  Well…all humans have doubts, even if they don’t admit them, and it is perfectly natural for me to look at my path, and where I’ve been, and where I think I’m going, and say, “How do I know this is right?”  I don’t have anything to measure my experiences against – there is no mile marker, or sign post, or scenic turnout to show that I will end up at a specific point that is recognized as The Ultimate Destination.  And, for my path, I have to keep remembering that, well, that’s the point.  Walking the path of the FlameKeeping Kemetic (or Kemetic FlameKeeper, depending on the day), and the path of Words Mean Things, means that I won’t reach a definitive end in this lifetime because the journey is the point.  To move through my life, to learn new things and use them to grow myself and my connections, is my destination.  To bring things into being through words, which are action, is my goal.  There is no Xanadu in front of me; no mounting wave will roll me shoreward, and I will not lie, indolent, eating of lotus.  The Journey, the Road, is my destination, and I have ubiety as long as I keep going.

…The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet…
“Roads Go Ever On – J R R Tolkien