Well that was an interesting dream

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(NOTE: my internet (and phone line!) have been down since Friday evening and my family has been borrowing a neighbor’s internet with permission, but my laptop haaaaaates it and will only connect occasionally for a short time. I will reply to comments after my internet is restored sometime on Monday, so I don’t run the risk of them being eaten by “Server can not be found”!)

For the first time I had a dream involving tumblr. While I don’t have a tumblr account I do spend quite a bit of time reading posts on there, especially because it has one of the most visible asexual communities on the internet outside of AVEN.

In the dream I was reading a conversation between two asexual people – one who is a actual person on tumblr and one who is not. They were discussing a post I did not read by someone who is not asexual, who used Athena’s mythology to attack certain kinds of aces. They held her up as an example of a “reasonable” asexual person, and while doing so said harsh things about aces involved in kink, those who have sex for any reason, and those who have romantic partners. (For the record, according to our last in-group census only ~16% of asexual people are aromantic – and even then that doesn’t eliminate the possibility of them having a romance-like primary relationship *coughpointstoself*.) To them, the above traits are incompatible with asexuality as an orientation while Athena is a perfect example of how a “real” asexual person would behave.

After briefly talking about how Not Cool it is for someone to dictate the behavior and feelings of a group they do not belong to, the two aces whose conversation I was reading moved on to an important point I am well antiquated with – moving goal posts. Being long-time members of the community who had weathered many storms, they were laughing at the concept of any type of asexuality being taken as “reasonable.” If a person criticizing the existence of asexuality finds an ace who fits within their standards, those standards almost always shift so that no one qualifies again. Sure there are those who bash mixed relationships (an ace with a non-ace partner) as being “abusive” to the non-ace partner if the ace does not consent to having as much sex with them as they want… but there are far more people who scoff at virgin aces, who tell them they can’t possible know if they’re ace or not unless they have had sex. And then turn around and tell those aces that since they’ve had sex, they can’t possible be asexual because a REAL asexual person would never have sex!

Specifically in the post they wound up talking about the myth where Hephaestus attempts to have sex with Athena, and how it can just as easily be used to bash sex-adverse and celibate aces as being “unreasonable” or “sex negative,” so holding it up as some kind of standard all aces must adhere to in order to be legitimate is funny in a sad way.

“Can you imagine if an ace responded to a sexual situation by running away?” one of them said, “The internet would attack them for being a mean slut-shaming prude!” The other one agreed and used italics to mimic/mock the response they’d get – “If you were a REAL asexual person you would be INDIFFERENT to an offer of sex; your repulsion is just evidence that you have a mental disorder!

I think it’s interesting that my very first dream involving tumblr wasn’t just be scrolling through random pictures, but reading an articulate and all-too-true discussion about goal posts involving asexuality and Greek mythology. It felt so real and, well, plausible that one of the first things I did when my laptop finally connected to the internet was to check the blog in question to see if it was a real conversation or not. It wasn’t, but I would not be surprised if such a conversation did come about some time in the future…

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Let the tears flow

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Although my fingers and heart have itched to spin endless words about Panprosdexia, I have been holding myself back. I had no myths, no iconography, no symbols to guild me. I only had a deep aching love and a frenzied desire to scream their name from the highest places – which while laudable is not elegant. So I have waited for the time that poor P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, who is currently sick, would be able to weave those things into existence. I could have waited a decade for those words, that is how perfect they are.

So many things hit home for me. You see, I am a very high-anxiety person. This is a bad thing, because it leads to crippling self-doubt and paranoia which is highly unconductive for living a life never mind trying to attain any semblance of Excellence for the gods. So when, while writing my prayer for Panprosdexia, I truly reached out to them and felt something reaching back… I was scared I was deluding myself. I thought maybe I was making it up. Maybe it was some other being who thought it would be fun to prey upon an emotionally vulnerable girl. And part of the reason I cried while reading Lupus’ poem was that I could see I was not deluded or mistaken – the one who clasped my hands in theirs, who said to me I am the keeper of memory really was the one I sought.

And the reflections! As I read that poem it was like falling through a tunnel of mirrors as I saw my own words reflected back at me!

“A libation to those powers I now offer,
pouring honey into darkness
so that its sweetness may fill the vacuum
with the substance of stickiness
from which all may maintain cohesion–
all of life on earth, in the heavens, and every realm
is held together by threads of libation,
by the fabric of oaths and offerings
freely given and gratefully received.”

“Crack open my chest and eat that heart
Which beats beats beats for you
Aching and burning in golden flames
A pain as sweet as honey slowly dripping
Into a well with inky black
Nothing at the bottom, a nothing being stirred
And crashing crashing crashing against
The sides, wanting to be unleashed.”

Damn that gave me chills. And it wasn’t the only time, but those other poems remain unpublished.

And you know what they said to me, when I told them how afraid I was to post my poem? I was so afraid those self-samed hateful people would find me and tear me apart. I was afraid it was not good enough to be graced with their name. I was afraid no one would understand. Panprosdexia whispered to me that my poem would be a light in the darkness leading others to them. And now I understand – they ARE the flame that leads the way. They ARE the guide from darkness to light. I am not surprised that Pandora was one of many their form was brought to as they were being forged, because to me…. they ARE hope.

Hail, Thanks, and Praise to the Sixth, Panprosdexia!

And also, thanks and praise to their tireless recorder, P. Sufenas Virius Lupus. May you be blessed evermore.

How To Be an Artist

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When you are choking on your own bile,
Drowning, dying, suffocating,
Spit it all out on paper in an unpretty pile,
Smear it until the paper is green,
And then it won’t be clogging your throat anymore.

Mix paint with your tears.
Sharpen all pencils with your love
So it doesn’t explode in your chest.
Use fingernails and hate to carve
And score the clay before
Burning it solid.

Just take your emotions and channel them,
Rip and shape and cover and scribble,
Until it is out of you – and no one has to see it but you.
Remove the pressure of the objective viewer
In your head by closing the window.
Don’t break your bones because you think
Someone else eventually will
And maybe it will hurt less if you do it first.

Put it all in a binder or under your bed
And pull it out years from now to see
What memories you embedded in the canvas,
And maybe, when it’s not so raw and personal
You might show it to someone else.

Or, if your shades are drawn and the music is
So loud you can’t hear the grumbling from
The cheap seats, hang your bleeding feelings on the wall
As soon as the pencil stops moving.

Ultimately good art is the objective;
Real art from the core of you,
As natural as a rose in bloom
And with the impact of a grenade of beauty
Thrown in a dull room.

Words can be used for violence

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Words can be used for violence,
Sticks and stone beating flesh into pulp
And then salt afterwards,
Stinging.

Words can kill you long before your hand does.
They can fracture your soul
And dislodge pieces,
Who wail in the void, never loosing the pain
But leaving you numb.

Not just big words either but small ones like
Pronouns,
“Just,”
and “Never.”

Slurs are fists against your face breaking your nose.
Those microaggressions and invalidations
Are paper cuts building up over years.
Your triggers are pencils being jabbed
Into scar tissue.

Even though some myths say gods
Spoke the world into being, many forget
Words’ true power, walking around with a
Loaded gun in their back pocket.
Sometimes it falls out and hits the floor –
BANG!
And then they’re confused and kind of angry
When you don’t get back up.

I Pray To You Panprosdexia

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I pray to you Panprosdexia because today someone said
Asexuality is a fake identity made up by straight people
Terrified of queer hatred so they wanted to pretend
They were queer too.

Because someone put asexuality and otherkin in the same category
Since to them there is no difference between
“I do not experience sexual attraction”
and
“I do not identify as human.”

Because someone once again called every asexual person “cisstr8”
Even those who are trans*, genderfluid, agender, or other.
Even those who are with same-gender partners.
Even those who are aromantic.

Because when an LGBT youth suicide prevention hotline announced
That they were training their personnel in how to deal with asexuality,
Some queer people screamed they were wasting resources
And that every ace should be grilled on if they are repressed or not,
….even though the training implied….
….enough suicidal asexual youth were calling in…
….that the training was needed.

Because I know aces who struggle with depression and anxiety
Who cannot seek help because the therapist said
Asexuality is a disease and suggested they take hormones
Instead of an anti-depressant.

Because our experiences with bullying, corrective rape,
Assault, and rejection are ignored; it’s not real oppression,
They say,
Until we are dying in the streets but since we’re so invisible
Who knows if we are or not?

I pray to you, Panprosdexia, because I know you understand why
I cried during LGBT pride week on campus in fear that
Someone would find out I’m asexual.
Because you felt how my blood ran cold and I couldn’t
Breathe when he turned to me and said “you’re just repressed”
And I couldn’t walk back the miles to my house in the dark
So I sat there and tried to argue my existence instead.

I know you understand and somedays I think about how
You exist, and it keeps me going through the dark wood,
And it gives me the strength to pull their arrows
Out of my heart as I try to stop the bleeding with tears instead,
And I am reminded that I am not a coward if I stay quiet
Because I’m too raw and sore to speak up again.

Oh Panprosdexia!
We need you we need you we need you.

I Think They Can Hear Our Thoughts

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Once upon a time
Hyacinths grew there,
Coming up in the early spring,
Sharing their blissful scent
For only a short while.

Sometime along the way
They stopped sprouting.

Later I buried my offerings
Near the fence in the back to the left
And as I was passing by,
With empty dish in hand,
I paused.

Didn’t there used to be hyacinths there?
Perhaps I should honor him,
Sweet youth, taken too soon
Through accident or jealously.
Now only his lingering scent
Remains.

Suddenly,
Overnight it seemed,
Green bullets pierced the ground,
Short stalks thrusted upward
Against death,
And they unfurled stars of
Purple teardrops
Breathing sweet sorrow.

Ever since,
Before the fresh rains and thunder,
In earliest spring,
The hyacinths have returned.

I have no idea what I’m doing

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I really don’t, seriously.

For example, about a week ago I planted seeds for the first time. (Acorns don’t count.) I bought these seeds from the amazing Alchemy Works for Christmas, and I’m planting them now because we are out of the frost danger zone. I was extremely intimidated by the instructions that came with the seeds, not only because they were all so different but because I had never heard of any of this stuff before. Wrap up in a damp paper towel and put in your ‘fridge for a month? Um?

So I asked my mother for help, since she has been growing things since before I was alive. She thought these instructions were a bunch of hogwash, and pretty much handed me a box of Jiffy pellets. (Her main advice – “don’t grow stuff from seed because it’s a pain.” Thanks Mom!) I followed the instructions on the box of Jiffy pellets as closely as I could, including measuring out the exact amount of water. The box says to keep them out of direct sunlight, so I kept them on a table indoors. Three days later, I noticed mold growing on the pellets and pretty much felt like a big failure. Since I’m allergic to mold, I put the pallet outside.

I checked on it today to see if it needed more water, about 3 – 4 days later. There is more mold than before, yet the yarrow have already sprouted and look pretty happy for baby pants. ??!?! Bwuh? And now I’m fretting because the seed packet says yarrow will have floppy stocks if planted in good soil, so can I just use the normal soil in my backyard or?

To further drive home this I-have-no-idea feeling, I went upstairs to make an offering and… my altar. I removed the remains of my dead oak sapling and as I looked at the small pile of dirt it left behind, I knew it was time to clean the whole thing. It wasn’t until I started that I realized I was lost. Would Windex eat my wood table? How do I get this small amount of red wax off? Would water corrode my lovely antique some-kind-of-golden-metal box? What about brass?

The fact that I was also trying to assemble an offering for a …. I don’t know if they’re a god or not. Which is putting me into a theological tailspin where I tear at my hair and shout WHAT IS A GOD ANYWAY as I dwell on the question. If they’re not a god, do they still get cultus? I mean, they came to me so it would be rude not to honor them but asdfghjkl;’

I have no idea what I’m doing, but I’m going to keep trying anyway.

I know this isn’t what I should be getting from my classes but

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The more cultures and places I am introduced to through my anthropology classes, the more I realize…

Pseudo Medieval Europe is such a BORING and OVERUSED setting for a fantasy novel!

Instead of making your protagonist a knight, why not make them a chaski? Quests for holy swords are boring; send them on a Kula expedition instead. Likewise, consider your setting. Trade in the forests and cities of Europe for high mountain ranges, jungles, or Pacific island rings instead. There are a lot of other forms of governance than a kingdom – think about city-states, direct democracy, and chiefdoms too.

Try removing some usually-assumed things from your setting and think about how different it would be. What’s a world like without the wheel? How would you send messages if there was no horses to carry messengers on? What if your people didn’t have system of writing? How would your people build dwellings if wood and stone were scarce? What if there was no metallurgy? Because let me tell you, many societies missing several of these things have rose and thrived.

And really, when you write a novel you should be doing research anyway so add some ethnographies to your reading list. It will give you a much broader perspective, and can give you a lot of inspiration for your setting, social organization, magic system, customs, and any other aspect of your world. It will also help you build a much more integrated society, by showing you examples of real functional societies out there in the world. It will especially show you how non-Christian/non-monotheistic religions and beliefs function.

(As a side note, if your setting is generally known to have a great deal of spirits in it… and it contains several state-level societies… yet the reader never sees a single household shrine, garland-wrapped tree or rock, roadside shrine or small temple, and your characters never so much as make an offering to the spirits of the land for safe passage? Especially if your characters are completely aware that these things exist and can cause major havoc? You are Doing It Wrong.)

Now, I’m not saying you should rip a culture off the page of a report and use it wholesale. I am saying that taking inspiration from and setting your story in a place that is not Pseudo Medieval Europe is a good thing. (And yes, this means making people who are not white your protagonists, instead of a story where their is only one person of color in it and they are evil. Because that is also boring and extremely common and let’s face it, racist.)

My father killed my oak tree

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Yesterday, my mother and I were discussing the weeds on the side yard, which seemed to pop up and grow to knee height overnight. My father apparently overheard us, and decided he was going to be “helpful” by mowing the lawn. At night. Without asking if there was anything in the side yard that needed to be moved first.

Not only did he demolish my mother’s oregano, but… my oak tree was in a smallish pot near the weeds. Mom put it there because she felt like it needed more sunlight, and the side yard gets more sunlight than any other place in the yard. I grew it myself, with an acorn taken from a special oak tree in the canyon. I had always planned on transplanting it back out there to help increase the number of oak trees in the area, but I was worried that my babying of it meant it wouldn’t be strong enough to survive.

Not I don’t have to wonder.

He smashed the pot with the lawnmower. It doesn’t look like he stopped when he hit it either; he ran right over it, showering the yard with tiny rocks, sherds, and dirt. My little oak tree is gone. All that is left is part of its stem and root structure, which I found in the pile of potting soil.

I’m numb.

Redefining

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(Note: I am reluctant to name this deck outright since the creator used to have an online presence and has replied to/commented on almost every review of this deck on the net and… I have less nice things to say about it than the other reviewers.)

I got a new oracle deck recently, bought with a giftcard. I wanted something vivid and symbolic to help inspire me to write more poetry, and this deck fits the bill. I had seen the cards online and knew it had a lot of female nudity in it, and that didn’t bother me. I knew the deck said it was a whole religious system centered on women’s experiences, dedicated to “all women on Earth,” but the art and the companion book was created by a British man with no input from actual women. I was expecting this deck to have its problematic parts and its moments of mansplainin’ but… I wasn’t expecting it to be binarist, cissexist, homophobic, and sexist to boot!

Yep, it’s supposed to be for “all women” but dismisses the experiences of “people with homosexual preferences” as “claims.” I don’t think the word gender is used once in the book – people are referred to as by their “sex” and over and over again it is stated that “we were created with opposite sexes, and we live in a dual world.” It asserts sexist stereotypes of women as facts more than once, and continually portrays men as being unthinking slaves of their libido who need to be taught control by women. (So gross.)

And for it to be a thealogy (its promotional material says it’s the first!) that “explains […] creation from an exclusively woman’s point of view in a logical, holistic, and scientifically correct manner,” (which they already failed massively on because – hello intersex people?!) well… there is one card representing a virgin, one card for a post-menopausal woman, zero for menstruation, and zero for childbirth. I’m pretty damn sure all of the above are parts of different women’s points of view. The only card in the whole deck that represents celibacy also represents slut-shaming, sex-negativity, and rape and I really hope I don’t have to explain how screwed up and offensive that is?!

As you can tell from my list, this deck is not for all women; it’s seems to be for childless sexually-active ciswomen between the ages of, say, 20 and 35. All other women don’t seem to exist in the artist’s world, especially when he defines the stages of a woman’s (ALL women’s) life by things like “first full sexual contact with a man” and “pregnancy and childbirth” (which deeply upset my friend who can’t have a baby without most likely dying). (This did result in me joking with her and since we can’t/won’t enter Stage Four, pregnancy and childbirth, and Stage Six is death, by that logic we can’t die!)

But the thing is… this deck can be inspirational. When I close myself off to all of its bullshit, I can lay out some cards and find the inspiration I was looking for. Its colors and visual richness speak to me in a way that makes me write poetry. Yet I cannot in good faith recommend this deck to anyone. That’s pretty sad you know?

As I was showing this deck to a dear friend of mine last night (she wanted me to show her and I let her know from the beginning it was beyond problematic), as she got angrier and angrier and I got angrier and angrier… she said she wished she could throw the companion book away and use the cards without it. I said for all its bullshit, the book does contain some important information about symbolism and has some moments of beauty in it. She said she wished I could just summarize this information in a text document for her. So then, I suddenly started redefining the cards. Card representing a “passive” woman who “enjoys being used” and participating in “rape games”? It’s now a card about going with the flow, letting things come to you, and being unconcerned by things you can’t change. The aforementioned sex-negative card is now about self-reliance. And when we got to what is hands down the worst card in the deck, I wound up changing it too.

This card is “The Bitch,” the male artist’s attempt to reclaim this word by… drawing a naked woman spreading her legs and showing the viewer her vulva. The companion book says this card means honoring your husband and sacred prostitution (which is just asdfghjkl;’ ). Nope it doesn’t mean that anymore – it means having no shame about your body, being assertive, aggressively pursuing your goals, and leadership. It’s the women who wears bitch as a badge of honor and offers help and support to all (legitimately all) women as best as she can.

Ultimately, my friend saw the exact same potential in the deck that I did. When the artist linked each of the four elements to a different form of art… the veiled dancers showing different types of self-expression… the three cards showing the three Fates… it is beautiful. And while one cannot scrub the binarism and cissexism from the deck completely, my desire to redefine the worst of these cards has been amplified. When I first got the deck and I disgusted by what I was reading, my partner asked me “can you salvage it?” I was unsure at the time, but now my answer is a YES. After our conversation my friend said she wants a copy herself for her own art (singing), and when she does she won’t have to give that companion book another glance; I’m going to have my own person stack of notes to share with her instead.