A Situation

 

I got around to reading “Here, There, and Anywhere” by Jonathan Z. Smith, an essayist and scholar who contributed this very essay to Prayer, Magic, and the Stars in the Ancient and Late Antique World.

Smith’s essay made an interesting distinction between what he classified as Here, There, and Anywhere religions, the precedent set by the character of Sam I Am from Dr. Seuss’ children’s picture book, Green Eggs and Ham.

The Religions of Here are characterized by a sanctification of domestic space rather than a recognition of sacred space as a thing to which someone travels to as with pilgrimage, and “immediate and symmetrical reciprocities.” The family essentially becomes a religion, with mythology of generational saga, and observing rites of passage, births, funerals, and marriages. There would also be “complex codes of hospitality” such as sit-down dinners that gauge levels of initiation or expulsion.

The Religions of There are characterized by essentially being the State religion. They relate to power and hierarchy, whether that be through a deified royal whose sovereignty is associated with the land, or specialized information reserved for the clergy. The mythology would usually be characterized by a transition from one world order to another.

The Religions of Anywhere are, Smith repeatedly emphasizes, never to be named Religions of Everywhere. The “Here” Faiths meet the challenge of not having a location anymore by transforming into an Anywhere Faith. The “There” Faiths similarly adapt to their particular challenges by becoming performative, communal, cosmological categories become systems (or spherical rather than layered, whatever that means), ranks become more anarchic, and essentially the sacred space becomes less grounded and more conceptual.

~

In reading about the adaptation of deities from essentially foreign cultures: How would a pagan religion that reflects an observation of temperate climates, for example, translate to members of that religion who live in a city out in a desert climate somewhere? The answer didn’t (or shouldn’t) lie in premeditated correspondents, but simply being open to the presence of the divine in the world that one knows firsthand.

I then realized that I actually don’t know the world firsthand, and even live in it as little as possible. I might be haunted and hassled by experiences, but when I consciously open myself to daily life with the vague idea of seeing the divine associated with the mundane, I only sense tatters.

What I feel is missing has been articulated quite well, however, so I feel that I can better enrich those philosophical and experiential voids over the next year. This might still be a lot in my head, because I haven’t gotten even a fraction of my psyche’s symbols sorted out and they keep moving, so of course I’ll keep exploring them…but I also want to be more grounded, now that I feel like I can be.

The Otter Fat Wishes, by Carl Jung

The major push for me to begin exploring this edge of imagination, that really demonstrated how imagination did have an edge and wasn’t just endless egoistic ideations to only be used as a tool for furniture shopping (or clothes shopping, if a fitting room isn’t available,) was Carl Jung’s Liber Novus, also known as The Red Book.

It chronicles his own experiments with a psychological treatment that he called Active Imagination, that I call questing, and as he analyzes his own quests as they happen this Red Book is a great insight into his personal philosophy.

A couple of passages did cause me discomfort, such as his assertion to one of his imaginary friends that the ideological conquest by Christianity and the cultural death that it left in its wake was right to have happened, that it should be embraced, and that anybody in the world who was not Christian was either Asian or lying to themselves…such as Jews. Jung’s imaginary friend did call him out on his anti-Semitism.

Later, Jung related to his more Biblically-formed imaginary friends the realization that his own subconscious landscape was also influenced by the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Nibelunglied, and Greek mythology, and therefore polytheism was the more psychologically-fulfilling path, which I still disagreed with because it’s still universalizing his personal experience.

Another feature that bothered me, but does explain Jung’s standpoint, was this spectacularly self-abusive tirade. Jung basically threatened torture and murder upon himself because he loves personal development that much, except that the way he puts it is that he loathes himself for ever depending on people, and for the fact that whenever he feels hurt or misunderstood that his first instinct isn’t to navel-gaze and figure out why he should even care about what somebody else ever does.

I think that’s rather harsh, considering that it’s a scientific qualifier for life that a specimen would react to outside stimuli. Maybe that doesn’t apply to the level of psychology and society, but the passageway to that paradigm shift would be the notion that on that level, we are always completely isolated and only think that we’re not because, by some paradoxical nature, we can’t understand or process that fact.

In any case, that tirade came in somewhere between the folktale-structured story that Jung received by a serpent-shaped imaginary friend of his, and Philemon’s seven sermons to the dead.

Once upon a time, there was a king who couldn’t have a baby. The king visited a witch, who told him to get some otter fat and bury it for nine months before digging it up again.

The kind did so, and the otter fat grew in the ground so that when it was dug up the king found a baby, and the baby became heir to the throne. The heir grew up and asked for the throne.

The king, upset at this new development, went to the witch and asked how to get rid of his son.

The witch told him to get some otter fat and bury it for nine months before digging it up again.

The otter fat drained the life force from the son, and within nine months the heir sickened and died.

The king went back to the witch to ask how to heal his remorse. The witch told him to get some otter fat and bury it for nine months before digging it up again

Seriously, is that her solution to everything?? Excuse me, I mean…carrying on…

This action produced a baby again, which the King raised up to be the exact same heir. But this time, when the son asked his father to abdicate, the King embraced him and gave him the crown because he knew it would happen and was prepared for it, and so was willing to allow his son to do this.

It reminded me a lot of the deconstruction of three wishes in Terry Pratchett’s A Hat Full of Sky. In any story about three wishes that successfully communicates the human condition, the third wish is special and always the same. “I wish that all the harm caused by the previous two wishes would be undone.”

Jung definitely approached all this more from a psychological standpoint rather than one where the Otherworld was a real world and people went to and fro with their imaginations, or through hallucinogenic drugs, or sensory deprivation, and brought back otherworldly wisdom. I think one of Jung’s imaginary friends in his imaginary world, Salome I think it was, made the request that Jung quit calling her a “symbol” because she was real, but then again she also tried to convince Jung that he was the second coming of Jesus Christ so it was probably well and good that Jung continued to consider it all symbolic anyway.

Still, the cadence of this particular story stands on its own in stark contrast to its source that usually lacks rhyme and reason except through the filter of Jung’s express interpretation.

Makala’s Crystal Ball

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This was my favorite story from a compilation of folktales from the Southeast Asian archipelago (reaching all the way over to New Zealand): Water in the Ring of Fire, edited by Carla M. Pacis and beautifully illustrated by Felix Mago Miguel, except that I can’t show you those beautiful illustrations because I can’t find them anywhere online right now and I don’t know why. Just the cover would be lovely.

Oh, and the problem with being a custodian of The Wandering Library (lending to and borrowing paperback books from friends) is that, while I do my best to get the books back to their original owners, I never know where anything is anymore. So, I can’t show you an actual photograph of this book or the illustrations in it.

I do remember that this particular story originates in Thailand. An online search for different versions turn up spelling variations of the main characters’ names.

I’ve never been to Thailand and know nothing of its culture or history except that it has the distinction of being the only nation in Southeast Asia that has never been colonized by a foreign power.

Unfortunately, then, I can’t quite contextualize this story in a way that would do it justice.

The main message that I took from this story personally is how needed and helpful mischief really is. Suffering is real, anticipation of suffering to come is inevitable, and often to turn the responsibility onto the victims for something done to them is appallingly unhelpful. Nevertheless, there are times where laughter can transform fear.

~

Once upon a time, there was an ocean spirit named Makala who was given to marriage to one of the sky spirits. While this sky spirit loved Makala enough to propose, obviously, there were also duties that a sky spirit had to attend to that left Makala alone in a palace and terribly bored for long stretches of time.

Makala’s father had given her the present of a crystal ball, which she would play with to abate her boredom, letting it catch the sunlight and split it into different colors. She would handle and polish this crystal ball so much that the colors mixed into blinding white light.

One day, Makala had enough and slipped out of the palace to explore the rest of the sky.

She had more fun that morning than the entirety of her married life thus far: making shapes out of clouds, bird-watching, and just seeing new things and running free.

Unknown to her, the dreaded Ramasoon with his long cape of heavy rains often enjoyed terrorizing wayward lady-spirits with his hammer. The dark cloud fell over the sea spirit and, in horror, she witnessed this terrifying figure rush towards her with his weapon.

She leapt out of the way of his strike and bolted back for her palace, but Ramasoon recovered quickly and gained on her in his chase.

To slow him down, Makala got her crystal ball out of her pocket and flashed the light into Ramasoon’s eyes. Ramasoon gave a shout of surprise and pain, dropping his hammer into the clouds, where it rumbled with thunder.

Makala thought that it was hilarious enough to wait until Ramasoon had recovered, then lead him around for a little bit before pulling the crystal ball out again. After a dozen or so rounds of that, elated by her new game, Malaka finally became exhausted. She blinded Ramasoon one last time before fleeing back to her palace.

Every time she gets bored, she escapes her palace again, always careful to bring her crystal ball with her in case Ramasoon tries to attack.

The flash of white light from Makala’s crystal is what produces lightning, and the thunder that follows is Ramasoon dropping his hammer.

~

What this unfortunately also carries is the message that it’s Makala’s own responsibility not to come to harm, conveyed by her continued habit of pursuing vulnerable situations, and the care she takes in bringing her crystal ball with her. While both Makala and Ramasoon are personifications (of lightning and thunder, respectively) Makala is more personified: she has a family, she feels loneliness and boredom, and she performs actions out of motivation.

Why does Ramasoon attack other spirits? It’s a mystery.

That he does so, however, as a person or personified being with a name, and not as some non-personified event, tells me this story incompletely conveys the accountability that Ramasoon could have for the harmful actions that he takes. Makala might have reclaimed some empowerment and freedom, but remains subject to a greater palatial trap: here, the violation of rights is taken as default, as something more real somehow than the notion of individual rights and personal sovereignty, when both respect for and violation of rights are performed within societal constructs and conditions. To take a matter-of-course attitude towards negotiating and navigating acts of harm perpetrated by other individuals (to treat one person’s desire to murder and another person’s desire to live as a tragically irreconcilable, mere difference of opinion rather than the false equivalency that it is) is to construct conditions that support violence, violation, and oppression; to make such awful things more acceptable and expected than freedom and safety and rights that a person can enjoy without harming others.

Glamour Gate

The following entry may contain triggering material.
 

I began to learn about systemic imbalances of power in society when I was browsing the TV Tropes website for The Legend of Aang, which led to an episode-by-episode review through a feminist lens over at the Shakesville advanced feminism website.

Allow me to introduce Cecilia: one of Miasma’s dormitory roommates back when my mother was between jobs and had to resort to throwing me in with them, a fan of the show, and a fan of TV Tropes. Naturally, I suggested she look it up in hopes that the very humane paradigm and commentary that intersectional feminism provided would articulate for Cecilia as much that had been bothering her about life and the world as it articulated for me.

Apparently it did, because the next time we met, there was a definite spike in the specialized vocabulary that comes with entering this paradigm, which of course makes many of the integral concepts easier to talk about. Allow me to introduce Anjie was well: Cecilia’s childhood friend, and another one of Miasma’s dormitory roommates. Anjie admits that she just doesn’t do other people’s negative emotions, so I shift from Craven’s to Maven’s mode when I’m around her: recent events and immediate emotional reactions that leave off the extensive societal and philosophical analysis, entertainment media that’s actually entertaining, and together we sustain what I’ve come to call the Wandering Library which is paperback books that we’ve read and liked enough to lend to one another.

I met up with both of them (and Cecilia’s boyfriend, who’s been psychic since his near-death experience—his first near-death experience; he’s had two) for brunch.

So, I came to them in a situation that has changed in many ways: my mother got a job and then a side job, Miasma graduated and moved out of the dorm, but I just didn’t have the stamina or clarity to continue my education or else I didn’t have the funds. Depression is a drain on stamina and a cloud on clarity. From the outside, of course, it looks more like a very quiet tantrum that I could immediately get over if people stopped enabling my “depression”. From the inside, to “stop enabling ‘depression'” feels more like somebody chopped off my feet and lips and imprisoned me at the bottom of a well…and then promised me freedom if I could run a full circle while playing the tuba.

At one of my jobs, I’d had the good fortune to listen in on a history of feminism as applies to Stateside legalities, and, being excited about it, I brought up what I’d learned.

But first I’d asked if any of them had already covered this in university, because I didn’t want to bore accomplished scholars with the epiphany of a drop-out.

“Not unless you actually take up Women’s Studies,” Anjie replied.

I was surprised. Not only was this an excellent model for unpacking personal baggage and bettering relationships, I considered it an excellent way to relate to the world. Besides, one major change that I saw from Miasma returning from university was that she seemed to have a better grasp of the imbalance of powers in society as applies to nationalism versus cultural imperialism. Same system, same game, different focus being ethnicity rather than gender.

“Well,” Anjie said, “I wasn’t taking Literature.” She’d pursued a degree in a social science.

“Besides,” Cecilia added, and Cecilia had taken Literature, “In Literature, it was more about celebrating local artists.”

So, I presented my notes on the feminism in juris prudence lecture as well as my thoughts and feelings about it.

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Compass Rose (tarot spread and reading)

EDIT 2017-02-11: Oy, stop reading and re-reading this years-old entry! I write other way more interesting stuff too now that I’m not so fucking emo. And literally ANY other spread in my cartomancy tag worked better, which is why I use those other spreads way more often instead of this one. Go look those up instead, go on, shoo! Or go to Aeclectic!

Seriously the amount of traffic I get to this specific post is bizarre, and even kind of hurts my feelings. Because I blog way more articulately about so many other topics, too, you know! 😦 Look, Jungian psychology! Look, Arthurian Alchemy from a postcolonial standpoint! Do you like mudkipz? GET OUTTA HERE.

 

Lavender (the personification associated with my Shadowscapes tarot deck,) eloped with Eddy (who’d been a sort of dream guardian.) This was a long time ago, but I haven’t really felt like adjusting my reading style since then. This is the first deck that I’ve truly connected with, had truly intuitive readings with, and it was probably because of that first time I opened it up for a reading…I lowered the inhibitions of my imagination and thought of some consolidated space of all calculated information, and I saw a floating island like a cluster of amethyst crystals, floating over an ocean at sunset. Lavender coalesced later, but I think that she’s from there.

When I’ve taken this deck up again, though, it seems that something got in there, because the deck just feels heavy and grouchy most of the time. When I was feeling particularly anxious last night over professional duties that I’ve been failing, I dusted my deck off, shuffled, and drew The Devil.

Tonight, I thought that I’d give myself a proper reading, like I used to but with my uninspired but reliable beginner deck (Rider-Waite Smith.)

I think that something else came into my Shadowscapes one, and I’ve gotten a feel and method for which cards I should pick, but I didn’t have a spread in my foggy mind until this new one came to…from what I would like to believe were the Otherfaith deities because there was such a strong “compass rose” vibe from it.

As a reading, though, it came off to me quite all over the place.

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Clockwise from topmost card, then center:

1. Clarene : 9 of Swords, reversed
2. Darren : 3 of Pentacles
3. Dierne  : 9 of Wands
4. Laetha-Dierne? : 3 of Swords
5. Laetha  : Temperance
6. Laethelia : 10 of Wands
7. Ophelia : Judgment
8. Ophelene : 2 of Swords
9. Center : The Devil
10. Cross : 4 of Wands

(Apologies to the Other People if I got the elemental-directional correspondents wrong. My mind has ingrains of quarter-calling.)

My long interpretation and oversharing rambles (about addictions, disorders, and supernatural suspicions) under the cut.

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