Notes Hanging in Midair

I am being published! My UPG on using the divine madness of the maenad to alleviate symptoms of my bipolar disorder will be appearing in Bibliotheca Alexandrina's upcoming anthology Crossing the River, on sacred journeys. It's entitled "I shall set free my hair and wear a fawn skin", and will be published under the name Rebecca Lynn Scott. I hope some of you will pick it up, and let me know what you think. I'll be sure to post when it's actually available for sale. I really must remember that taking even a few days off from spinning on the charkha badly affects how well I do. I've had some very bad sleep cycle problems lately, so I've been skipping it during morning rituals. I was getting quite good, getting a lot done, wasting less, and even starting to be able to do the magic trick of the long draw, evening out slubs just by gently pulling. And then I took four or five days off, and today was awful. Ah, well, it's the nature of the beast, and all I can do is pick it up again and keep going. Like any practice, like during a session of meditation itself. My brother is now a yoga instructor for Broga (yes, that's yoga for bros, or at least men). I've taken a couple of yoga before, and it's one of the few forms of exercise I really enjoy, that really makes my body feel the way fitness people always tell me exercise will make me feel. (The only other that that do that for me are swimming and horseback riding.) The last time, I started to take Yoga for Round Bodies at the Whole Life Yoga Center. Unfortunately, I had some physical problems that prevented me from finishing the class. But it was good. Really good. Now my brother is going to send me some videos that he likes that includes instructors of various body types, including a fat woman, and which stresses doing only what your body can do, and not pushing too hard. Taking up a yoga practice again sounds wonderful. The problem with it is cultural appropriation. Yoga is an Indian practice, spiritual as well as physical, and exists within a specific cultural context. White Westerners who wish to practice it usually either selectively adopt a whole slew of Indian cultural bits, like wearing saris and bindis, eating Indian food extensively, saying "Namaste" in inappropriate contexts, all kinds of things. But they take them out of their original context, and they do it from a position of privilege, never having to experience the discrimination against Indian people that exists in the Western world, and not having to deal with the continued weight of more than a hundred years of colonialism and oppression against them. The other thing we do is utterly divorce yoga from its original context, treating it as a purely physical practice, or perhaps adding a bit of meditation or chakra work, never learning anything about the original context or practices at all. Frankly, I'm not sure what to do so as to minimize cultural appropriation in my practice. I'm mostly interested in the physical aspects, as I have my own spiritual and magical practices, and just want a way to move my body and train my muscles that feels good and increases my consciousness of this part of me. I dunno. It's a question I'll have to study and consider carefully. I want to understand what it is as best I can as an outsider, even as I don't want to adopts all parts of it. I'm reading Decolonizing Yoga (which has videos on yoga for fat people) and South Asian American Perspectives on Yoga in America, and some other things. We shall see. Labyrinths continue to turn up here and there, and I continue to walk mine as part of my morning rituals. Come the new moon, when I will have been doing it for a full lunar cycle, I'll start to do some deeper work. Today I lit the last candle of Forty Days of Ritual for Reproductive Justice. I feel pretty good about it. Every bit of energy and work helps in these things....

Notes All the Way Down

Cotton boll breakthrough! I went back to what the person who had told me about spinning from cotton bolls said, which was that you just sort of held it loosely, and the fiber just spun off the seeds, leaving you with nothing but a handful of seeds. I thought that's what I had been doing, but I wasn't getting those results. Then I realized that what I was doing was fluffing it out and holding it more like a cloud of wool, with the seeds spread out, which made them greater obstacles (pronounce it like they do in "Oh Brother Where Art Thou"; it's more fun). So I tried bunching the boll back up, loosely, but all together, and tucking it into my palm, then letting the thread come out between my first two fingers. My fingers don't hold onto anything, but they keep the seeds from hanging up in the thread, and hold them back, like a wall. It works beautifully! Easier, better thread, and it's bringing me closer to getting the knack of the magic trick. Today I lit the tenth candle in my set for Forty Days of Ritual to Keep Abortion Legal. I've decided to do a full forty days -- if other people are doing it, keeping on doing so a couple of days after they stop can't exactly hurt -- and have a circle of stacks of votive around my little altar cauldron, ten stacks of four candles. But now it's ten stacks of three candles, which is good. Every day, after I lustrate and do my bit of tarot study, I add the burned-out little foil cup to the stack of them under the altar, grab the next candle off the stack, anoint it with oil, and call upon Athene as Giver and Keeper of the Laws, and Artemis as Protector of Pregnant Women, to help us keep abortion legal, and let no one be forced to give birth against their will. Then I put it in the cauldron and light it. Last night was the full moon, of course, which meant it was time for me to pour out my usual round of libations. I made offering to Hekate, Artemis, Okeanos and Tethys, Athene, Dionysos and Ariadne, Hermes, and Hestia. After sprinkling the barley and pouring out the wine, I added honey for Ariadne ("And for the Mistress of the Labyrinth, honey"). Then I pulled out the little copper tripod chafing dish I use as an indoor firebowl. I keep a bed of Epsom salts laid in it, and pour in jest enough rubbing alcohol to cover that, and light it. It produces very little smoke, making it quite safe to use indoors, and is hot enough to burn small light things, such as paper. This was the first time I attempted to burn cotton in it: the waste cotton and seeds from my spinning attempts. It worked ok, I guess. I didn't want to let the fire burn too long, and I put it out to soon and had alcohol-soaked blackened seeds left at the end, but offering made and lesson learned. Two days ago we had a truly horrible day. I can't even talk about most of it, but the worst bit was running out of gas in the middle of a long, uphill, high-speed bridge. I managed to coast over to the far right lane, and Kate got out and pushed, and some nice man who must have been sent by Hermes came along and stopped his car behind ours and got out and pushed, too. But we were still in a traffic lane. They got us something like 60ft, uphill, to the first turnoff, and I hauled the wheel around and got us into it… only to discover that it was even more sharply uphill, and there was a very high curb. So we were still stuck in the way of other people. But there was, at least, room enough for the people trying to actually make that turn to get around us. An awful lot of them honked and cussed at us, though. What the hell were we supposed to do? We literally could not move the car any further. We tried several times. Fortunately, I still have AAA, and I called them and they sent someone on an emergency rush, since we were blocking traffic, and he was there and gave us some gas in maybe fifteen minutes. But it was a really stressful fifteen minutes. As tired as I was when we got home after that, I had come to the conclusion that I really, really needed some ecstatic time with Dionysos. I'd been needing it for a long time, probably a couple of months. I really ought to do that ritual regularly, it's good...

40 Days for Reproductive Justice

Susan Harper of Third Wave Witch (which is not a blog I actually read, but I might start now) has declared 40 Days of Ritual to Keep Abortion Legal to parallel the 40 Days of Prayer to Keep Abortion Legal some liberal Christian groups are doing. I am all in favor of this. Reproductive justice is absolutely essential to human rights and social justice. In fact, integration with the latter is where the term comes from. To be pro-choice is a much more limited thing than to work for reproductive justice. Pro-choice means being in favor of a person's choice to bear or not bear a child. It's a fairly simple thing. But it doesn't take into account the immense complexity of the lives of people who are or might become pregnant. Things like having the resources to do either one, having the care available to do either, the social pressures involved, having the support to do either. If you want to have a child, but you don't have health insurance to get prenatal care, won't have childcare available once the child is born, don't have the money to pay for a (extremely expensive) hospital birth, or a safe place to have a home birth, are in danger from a partner or family member if they discover you're pregnant, and on and on, then people vaguely wanting you to have the choice to have the child doesn't mean much. If you want to have an abortion, but you don't have the money to pay for one, are hours from the nearest clinic, don't have transportation to get there, don't have someone who will care for you afterwards, can't get the time off to go, will be in danger from a partner or family member if they find out you want or have had an abortion, then people vaguely wanting you to have the choice to have the abortion doesn't mean much. Working for reproductive justice, on the other hand, means not just working to keep abortion and birth control legal and accessible, but supporting the general and reproductive health and choices of people who might become pregnant, acknowledging how race, gender (including that of trans and genderqueer people), sexuality, social and economic class, language, religion, incarceration, and many more issues and identities affect these questions. It means fighting the forced sterilization of incarcerated women, especially women of color, and also making sterilization available to anyone who wants it. For me, all of it goes back to two things, which I consider to be inextricably linked: basic human equality, and bodily autonomy. All human being are equal, and the law must protect that equality, serve to counteract historical injustice, and encourage future social equality; socially, we all have a responsibility to work for those same goals. Bodily autonomy is essential to equality: every human being absolutely must have final authority over their body. This means far more than reproductive choices, although is certainly includes it -- no one should be forced to remain pregnant, give birth, remain fertile, have an abortion, cease to be fertile, or any other damn thing -- and must include things like the right to donate organs or refuse to do so, get surgical ender reassignment without the interference of gatekeepers, eat the diet they choose, do the work they choose (such as sex work), and far more. Without absolute body autonomy, especially if it's just for certain classes of people, we are not equal. The legality of abortion is not the be-all, end-all of reproductive justice, but it is an essential component. Without legal and accessible abortion, without restrictions, people who are or may become pregnant are absolutely not equal, either de facto or de jure. Our bodies are not our own if we can be forced to be pregnant and give birth, or if we can be punished for living a certain way when we are pregnant, and if our bodies are not our own, then we are chattel to the government. Our bodies don't just belong to us, they are us, and our selves cannot belong to someone else. If we give ourselves to someone else, or to our gods, by our own choice, then that is our right, but it is also our right to take ourselves back when we choose. Period. This is a simple moral truth. For me, it is also a religious commandment: I am a dedicant of Hecate, and she commands me always to make my own choices. I choose to give myself to her and to my other gods, but I am free to take myself back, or to refuse their orders, if I choose. I also, incidentally, believe as a religious position that human life begins at birth, and a fetus is not morally, ethically or practically...