Spring Awakening, musical adaptation by Duncan Sheik | ASL production by Michael Arden

The following entry may contain triggering material and spoilers for the musical Spring Awakening.

Disclaimer: I never got around to reading the original stageplay. And I only started re-listening to the music from here because I was looking for “There Once Was A Pirate” song from the off-Broadway version, replaced by “The Guilty Ones” in the official show version that became the fan name so I’m probably not going to find the pirate song again.

On Spotify, I could only find the Stage Stars version of Duncan Sheik’s Spring Awakening, and the vocals are exactly whelming. The overall score of the show itself isn’t what I’d call life-alteringly sublime, no, it’s fairly pop-y: I could skip right over “The Bitch of Living” or “My Junk” or “Mirror Blue Night” or “And Then There Were None” or…but the songs I do love, I love.

One minor complaint of mine is that, at the time of this writing, this particular Spotify album mistitled the song “The Guilty Ones” that should actually be “Blue Wind / Don’t Do Sadness” (And that awesomely rocking duet mistitled as “The Guilty Ones”). Here’s a clip of “Blue Wind” from the American Sign Language revival known among Guilty Ones—fans of this show still are calling themselves that, right?—as Deaf Awakening.

The full song, both full songs being sung together in counterpoint, is so cathartic for me in a way that’s difficult to explain without spoilers. So I’m going to write so many spoilers. First, the major opinion I want to put out there about the Sign Language revival version is that the movements make sense now. (The original stage musical version had settled into this choreography motif of everyone circling their nipples and rubbing their bellies through their clothes, which I suppose was supposed to be artsy, but I couldn’t understand any deeper meaning than Interpretive Dance Looks Artsy. But they kept doing it. I continued to not get it.) Also, American Sign Language looks admirably efficient and concise. The Tony Awards performance of Deaf Awakening had some singers and some signing, and I noticed the signers moving so slowly when the vocalized part had so many syllables there was no worry at all that the vocals would outpace the signing.

The entire show is about teenagers growing into sexual maturity in a 19th century German town: a cozy, intensely repressive, community. The main character, Wendla, has an unplanned pregnancy because her parents only reluctantly informed her that to make babies, you get married (and nothing about the details, so she had no clue that consenting to sex with a guy she didn’t marry would still pose a pregnancy risk.) Her parents then force Wendla to abort. It gets worse for Wendla from then on.

Hanschen is another character. As I recall, he and his partners survive being gay in a storytelling medium, and even serve as the comic relief in an otherwise painfully tragic morose morass of tragedy and pain. He has no story arc, no real subplot, no personal or interpersonal conflict because he’s simply better than everybody else: he knows it, the show knows it, and his partners quickly come to agree. He’s practically perfect, like a gay German dude version of Mary Poppins.

My favorites are still these next two, not necessarily together sexually or romantically—the ships-passing-in-the-night aspect of whatever their relationship would have been is heartbreaking, though—but just…Moritz Stiefel is a suicidal school flunkee. I was a suicidal school flunkee. I would play Moritz’s elegy song, “Left Behind” on loop back when it was young Jonathan Groff singing, and it was as though I could still breathe through the emotional knifeblock that my rib cage had become because someone (fictional, but whatever) knew what it was like to live on. That was Melchior, but narratively I feel as though he is half of Moritz, or this Melchior-Moritz Wonder Twins combination of…really, processing suicidal grief and depression. They’re both players in this story, and at the time this story had (I would put it this way now, not at that time) bespelled me.

Moritz is the shadow, the part that gets it. Moritz died—killed himself—so that I wouldn’t have to. He gets it, what it’s like to be driven to that point when you’re only a shadow cast by real living people who did things to “you”, “you” with Quote Marks of Emphasized Technicality because the concept of being a person isn’t there anymore. Moritz gets it when so many condescending and unhelpful outside perspectives to depression and suicide…did not.

Moritz pulled the trigger because, “I don’t do sadness.” And that’s one way to stop it, that sadness, if it’s sadness…but…more important than not making death an option is owning that option as a choice. For me at least, having mustered up—well, borrowed, from this song—even that speck of personal sovereignty? Suicidal ideations become less inevitable. He’s the Lord of Shalott.

~

There’s a modern tradition of mysticism, I guess it can be called one, known as soulbonding. Sometimes it’s the way creators describe how alive their characters have become, as they immerse themselves in a creative process. Other times, characters from existing works are treated like spell correspondents, or gods with responsibilities over a sphere of influence that can be appealed to.

In that community, I find people asking for recommendations for fictional characters they could “summon” as soulbonds, to ease the challenges of coexistence. Which characters can redirect or reframe personal feelings of jealousy? Which characters encourage discipline and motivation towards a given goal? Which characters help someone to make friends if they’re shy, or hold them accountable to honesty if they’re too anxious not to say what they think other people want to hear?

When one recommendation request came on to help cope with anxiety and depression, I almost suggested Moritz or Elaine Ascalot. I think it’s good that I didn’t. I only know what worked for me. If it’s possible that Moritz’s portrayal of suicide glamourizes and encourages the act when most people would rather that never happen…well, I’m fortunate that I reacted to Moritz’s songs the way I did. I’m fortunate to have encountered this work with this character at the time that I did at all, but as I can’t even know anybody else’s internal world (I only understand a stakely situation) I wouldn’t want to risk someone else taking it as less helpful or even opposite helpful than I did.

Blue_Wind_Deaf_Awakening

Back to “Blue Wind” singer Ilse Neumann, first name pronounced like “EL-sa”, and…she’s a goddess. Lauren Pritchard plays Bohemian Ilse as free-spirited but with some grounded serenity. Krysta Rodriguez plays Bohemian Ilse as a manic pixie dream. There’s a German cast whose Ilse has a singing voice like a clear stream of the purest nectar (I heard her “Blue Wind / Don’t Do Sadness” on YouTube playing opposite a Moritz who delivers the line meaning ‘you startled me’ like it’s a death threat, unfortunately, but he hit the high notes in his half just fine.) (Or, I don’t speak German, so maybe they changed the script.)

(Comparisons of “The Dark I Know Well” Ilses would be so much more…something…method acting analysis…but…intense, so no? I’ll just keep myself to all the possible dozen infinite Bohemian flower bouquet unbraided hair “Blue Wind” crooning Ilses.)

However Ilse’s played, I feel as though there’s this mantle of magnificence this character gives people to carry throughout the show. She completes another duet, “The Dark I Know Well” with Martha, revealing both to be victims of incestuous rape. We don’t see much of Martha after—she establishes that it’s a horrifically common problem in their tiny, tight-knit town. “The Dark I Know Well” is a disjointed sort of call-and-response double soliloquy. Ilse suffered as much as Martha, but some aspect is bigger than that, even when the whole song is about how “there’s a part I can’t tell about the dark I know well…” and they can’t let on to anyone but themselves and the watching audience, it isn’t “suffering as much” but “suffering with” even when it’s not possible for them in that town, to bring it out or up and share it.

Ilse bears witness to Martha’s violation as well as her own. She does the same with Moritz when she sings “Blue Wind”, and her body language during the staging of “Left Behind” (Moritz’s funeral scene) is a scathing condemnation of the irresponsible adults who drove Moritz to suicide. No flighty, promiscuous teenager repressing trauma should have the power to scathe without a word…but, Ilse. Ilse Neumann, is all.

And, despite Melchior being positioned as the hero and protagonist, as Moritz’s only friend, as Wendla’s lover…it’s not him but Ilse who leads the final chorus. “The Song of Purple Summer” describes the passage of time through pain, and it catches at the voices of everyone; it’s a song of acknowledging pain and grief, for everything passes, and hope for everything passes, and it’s vast and complex, as though one song from one specific character, because of her story, because of her nature…opened this giant gate to life and the world itself. No barely-present side character should have that much p—Ilse, damn it all, Ilse Neumann. Goddess of summer and life and the universe and everything.

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I’m sad for two reasons I can write about. The first is very simple but takes me a lot of words, the second is massive but I only have a few insufficient words for it. The cause of both sadnesses are the same: I watched this lecture about baylan, which I describe as a liminalist practice indigenous to the Manobo people of Surigao del Norte, in the Philippines.

I live a few islands northwise. Having been born thereabouts, too, I have Philippine citizenship. I have laminated sheets of paper that say so. I have paper-pieces folded up into a miniature book that somewhat corroborates with the sheets. I have cards with numbers on them, that have to do with taxes or something. I forgot to register to vote, and would probably have decided that it was too much trouble if I had remembered, but if some paper or card came out of it then that might serve as some consolation for pretending that I live in a democracy. And I have a baptismal certificate from long before I could decide on Catholicism. (The baptismal ritual was a precaution against my transferring to an unpleasant otherworldly afterlife upon something like a cot death, although it has since served as a kind of social currency—ugh and eww, but true— and mainly gave me an initiate’s access to certain mysteries, customs, and a community that has grown toxic to me.)

That’s all culture, too, inasmuch as I’m classified as “of a people”: the modern, the colonized, the Christianized, the city-slickers. The availability of meaningful cards and papers wouldn’t even necessarily exclude or disrupt a community from which baylan could emerge. (Okay, maybe that last piece of paper comes with some unwritten fine print.)

But, like the lecturer, I wasn’t socialized in indigenous liminalist practices, but grew up in a “heavily colonized lowland area where rituals hardly took place.”

Professor Damiana Eugenio, who compiled this volume on Philippine myths (and other similar ones for legends, epics, folk tales, and proverbs) wrote in the introduction to the Myths:

Among the Christianized peoples of the lowlands, however, the myths have survived as “mythological stories,” rather than as pure myths or, to borrow Stith Thompson’s terminology, as “mythological legends” (…) Both kinds are included in the present collection—the “purer” myths from our mountain peoples and the mythological stories and legends from lowland Christianized Philippines.

So I had this awkward moment where I looked around for the sullied post-colonial trash, then realized I’m it.

One of the biggest challenges in my early life was a lack of understanding of the liminality that I lived, and it just comes off as this disembodied shame that living experts were almost right next door, and I never even heard of them until adulthood. Now that I have just slightly more access to that information, though? I only feel an emptiness between myself and a thing, not some spark of fulfillment, or inspiration, or belonging. Maybe it never would have been my calling, or the name for it. (Maybe even if I’d had access, these prospective spiritual mentors would just go, “This one’s not spiritual, just crazy.”) I feel more like it’s too late.

But my own whinging is actually just a really small, easily processable part of it.

European fairy lore still feels more resonant, even with my descants, even with nobody else using the same words and concepts to do the same things, and even with the constant possibility that a good enough argument would compel me to concede semantically (which would actually be a lot): I was as much a changeling as I was a babaylan, that is, not at all, because people whose opinions and feelings I care about say that I have no right. “It would be easy enough to locate the abiyan in a pantheon not their own, and in so doing, distort baylan experience.” Yeah, I got that. I still think this applies: Some tales go that fairies left all the in-between places of our world and theirs, at least wherever we could get to. And I can interpret that metaphorically. I believe that liminal reception is natural in children, just because they’re children, or just because I was such a child on and off; and most of us lose that (I’m tempted to call it pamino “listening”) when we reach adulthood, and the storybook explanation for why fairies don’t exist could be a way to grieve that. On a broader scale, it could be a metaphor for the industrial revolution and consequent environmental exploitation and pollution, and we keep this story going as a way of apprehending the cost of our accomplishments as a society.

As a mirror to the decline of baylan, it’s less metaphorical: I’m witnessing a tradition die.

Fewer people call the abiyan, so fewer abiyan answer those fewer calls. There’s a widening chasm between the elders who remember the way of things, and younger people with the potential to actualize. There’s simply no room for babaylan in a patriarchy, or supplementing medical sciences, or caught between Abrahamic empires, or in communities who would rather leave the embarrassing, insane, and possibly demon-worshipping singer to be eaten by crocodiles. Even the spirits describe themselves as lowly and diminished.

So, I feel sad.

*

It’s been mostly that, this weekend. Marigold’s back, and has something to do with the Elf Shot of Condemnation and Doom. I’ll remember to ask her why she’s white, this time. I realized that the Ogdoad wasn’t going to work the way I expected it to, so I started doing another thing with it. I pondered the structures suggested by the practice of baylan: the possibility that my “abiyan” and the “abiyan” of others had interacted without our knowledge or belief and intervened in relationship quality suddenly became much less abstract, although I’d come to suppose that something like it might maybe have come into play on some level. What I learned suggested to me poetics of songs and voices, possible functions, possible mechanics, that I hadn’t previously considered. Knowing more about the baylan let me become a lot more comfortable with the idea of possession, which had been an intense source of anxiety to me as a child. Finally, while what I’d call the big-w Work has been trying to discern a method out of the mystery…what am I meant to do with it? Who is it supposed to help? The baylan hone the hows of helping as a given: that doesn’t deserve to die out (especially not by crocodile—I’m not getting over that soon.)

But mostly I’ve been sad. Maybe more widespread knowledge, and a wiser relationship with interested parties, would help develop more contemporary forms of babaylan. (Or sad seekers like me can keep our mitts off and let it die with as much dignity as a pre-colonial tradition can manage.)

*

Next weekend (or so, if I’ve stopped crying by then): Don’t know about my mitts, but my mittens get on something, and something gets on my mittens. Well, one mitten. Because that’s what I do on the quests that I don’t blog about: knitting. Knittin’ a mitten. Actually, this is a glove.

And Marigold was more fun back when she was fictional. I got her face wrong in this portrait, but the expression is approximate. Something’s gone awry when Marigold and Foxglove agree enough to collaborate on something.

Or maybe this:

The Way of the Wizard, by Deepak Chopra

The following blog entry may contain triggering material.

It didn’t seem unusual to me that I knew all about mild, green Camelot even though I lived under a fierce tropical sun…or that Merlin’s crystal cave really existed, despite every author assuring me that wizards were mythical. I knew differently, because I was an Indian boy, and I had met them.

I’d consider bardic mysticism a method (the things that happen, the things to do, to produce a thing) that I incorporate or is the way I incorporate, whereas alchemy is a process or mode (that is, the mechanics behind why a method works) and have been trying to combine the two. Texts of bardic mysticism at least give the reader some credit: the cauldron of poesy is stirred with joy and sorrow. Once upon a time, I would have taken that as possible telekinesis instructions, but now I’m more inclined to take that as a clue that the cauldron itself is also metaphorical. Then I read up on modern resources on alchemy that keep reminding the reader that older texts were always coded metaphors that didn’t need to literally involve precious metals. Why wouldn’t they writers of older texts have just said so, in the first place?

Chopra’s The Way of the Wizard combines these well. In it, Chopra explains an Alchemical life philosophy through a series of short stories and accompanying meditations or writing exercises. The stories describe the mysterious apprenticeship that a young King Arthur served under Merlin in the crystal caves, and how Merlin’s lessons continued to follow Arthur into adulthood.

I very much liked the format. Even fairy tales with the notes at the end about what the moral of the story was could get annoying, so accompanying meditation and journaling exercises would (should) be difficult to foist on a reader who wouldn’t already agree with what’s taught every chapter-step of the way. The “sayings” in each chapter came off to me as trite enough to ignore, but the exercises felt open enough structurally that it wasn’t necessarily patronizing.

The thought behind each lesson or chapter could be interesting, but…mostly incompatible with where I am now.

My corporeal roommate Cecilia recognized the author’s name from a signal boost (or several) by an influential talk show host named Oprah Winfrey. My mother subscribed to O magazine, and I would read those, and I caught the occasional event (an offhand remark by the great Winfrey about going vegetarian correlated with an undeclared grassroots boycott that moved cattle farmers to sue, A Million Little Pieces was a fake memoir promoted by the great Winfrey who was eventually very angry that it had been fake, and “Look under your seats…Everyone gets a car! You get a car, and you get a car, and you…”) but Deepak Chopra was a new name to me.

I can understand why this expression of spirituality fit alongside the little I’ve heard of the Law of Attraction and the Secret. Chopra’s Merlin and Arthur speak in terms of ego and energy, which came off to me as anachronistic and specific to new age spirituality (rather that psychology or physics). In chapter eighteen, King Arthur gives terrible counsel—my opinion, not the book’s opinion—to an angel in the guise of a grieving father, and in that thought I found some echo of the Middle Way of Buddhist philosophy between the illusions of the material cosmos and the asceticism that would reject that suffering. Not itself a bad idea, but I felt the way that story in that chapter set it up kind of minimized human suffering and blamed the victim for not being enlightened enough. Apart from that aspect, I might have considered a introduction of an Eastern philosophy into a Western aesthetic, even in defiance of the Heaven/Hell dichotomy of a most Christian King Arthur, as…interesting, as well as the modernizations. (Two chapters after that, Chopra ends the book with how it’s a wizard’s or alchemist’s duty to alleviate suffering. I feel ambivalent about that.)

The book generally reads with a lot of bait-and-switch philosophical progression. It’s after the chapter that framed enmity as a kind of love, (because enmity was attention, and love as an enlightened wizard understands it is the very makeup of the cosmos that becomes evident with any and all flow of attention,) that comes the chapter on how to break down the objectification of another person in the first place. Most of all, I noticed a call to replace blame, dislike, and other negative value judgments with a cosmic trust, that is, to cultivate complacency as a spiritual tenet. Justice is portrayed as an illusion that’s far less useful than suffering, for pain can be recognized as an untruth that at least serves as a way to truth.

So, I want to say that a handful of the chapters at least delve a little further that the sort of victim-blaming, cosmos-trusting sort of spirituality that I can only take as a reflection of the spirituality of the privileged (despite the claims that a privileged life is a reflection of or developed from this spirituality). Maybe it does a bit?

I was at least entertained at some parts that portrayed Merlin being a dickweed.

Arthur pitched into his task, digging with all his might, but after an hour he was exhausted, and still Merlin had not told him to stop. “Is this long enough?” he asked. Merlin regarded the ditch, which was perhaps ten feet long and two feet deep.

“Yes, quite sufficient,” he said. “Now fill it up again.”

Accustomed as he was to obeying, Arthur did not like the order very much. Sweating and grim faced, the toiled under the blazing sun until the ditch was entirely filled again.

“Now sit beside me,” said Merlin. “What did you think of that work you did?”

“It was pointless,” Arthur blurted out.

“Exactly, and so is most human effort. But the pointlessness isn’t discovered until too late, after the work has been done. If you lived backward in time, you would have seen ditch digging as pointless and not begun in the first place.”

Merlin, you dickweed!

I did like the chapter that described Arthur introducing Guinevere to some of what he’d learned from Merlin. I thought it was sweet. For brevity, unfortunately, I don’t include the lead-in in the quote below, which had Guinevere and Arthur conversing as anachronistic equals and Guinevere’s medieval sass:

He asked the queen to leave their chamber and promise not to return until the stroke of midnight. Guinevere did as she was told, and when she returned she found that the room was pitch black, all the tapers extinguished and the velvet curtains drawn. “Don’t worry,” and voice said. “I’m here.”

“My lord, what do you want me to do?” Guinevere asked.

Arthur replied, “I want to find out how well you know this room. Walk toward me and describe what objects are around you, but don’t touch anything.” His wife thought this a very strange test, but she did as she was bidden.

“This is our bed, and over there the oak dowry chest I brought across the water. A tall candelabra of wrought Spanish iron stands there in the corner, and two tapestries hang on either side.” Walking cautiously so as not to bump into things, Guinevere was able to describe every detail of the room, which in truth had been furnished down to the last pillow by herself.

“Now look,” Arthur said. He lit a candle, then a second and a third. Gazing around, Guinevere was astonished to see that the room was entirely empty. “I don’t understand,” she murmured.

“Everything you described was an expectation of what this room contains, not what was really there. But expectation is powerful. Even without a light, you saw what you anticipated and reacted accordingly. Didn’t the room feel the same to you? Didn’t you tread cautiously where you feared you might stumble into things?” Guinevere nodded. “Even in the light of day,” Arthur said, “we walk around according to what we expect to see, hear, and touch. Every experience is based on continuity, which we nurture by remembering everything as it was the day before, the hour before, or the second before. Merlin told me that if I could see entirely without expectations, nothing I took for granted would be real. The world the wizard sees is the real world, after the light comes on. Ours is a shadow world we grope through in the dark.”

I enjoyed some aspects of a few other chapters: the ones that demonstrate that labels are meaningless, and the ones that demonstrate that words (and labels) mean things.

But when I read the one above to Cecilia, her reaction was basically:

“Arthur, you dickweed!”

The second part of the book has Merlin encounter Percival and Galahad in the woods and talking at them about the development of a spiritual self from the immature stage to the mature. I thought that was a bore, but maybe it was better-organized.

*

Here’s a checklist of the exercises from this book that I paraphrased.

1.) Meditate without like or dislike on existence alone.
2.) Notice, without anticipating, one’s responses to the list of words provided. (Lesson: words for things are bad because labels are awful.)
3.) Seek the light (levity) and love in all things. (In my notebook, this item has an arrow going to item 7.)
4.) Immersive meditation that voids thoughts and names.
5.) Complete the sentence “I am afraid of…” several times with a different ending each time.
6.) Remember someone you know well, and deconstruct the appearance of their memory.
7.) Allow moments of absent-mindedness to become gates to divine impulse.
8.) Develop a god complex by stargazing. (I did not like this chapter and exercise, must be why I phrased it this way.)
9.) Clear a path from intention to reality by developing cognitive bias. (This note is the same as item 8.)
10.) Access subpersonalities by revisiting traumatic memories and breathing through them.
11.) Imagine a scroll of your life to more to and fro in time; transcend this awareness of mortality.
12.) Imagine the scroll in exercise 11 is a film of Nemo Nobody. (Alternatively, The Butterfly Effect, starring Ashton Kutcher. These weren’t in the bok, I was just watching something that reminded me of the exercise for this chapter and thought, close enough to something like that yeah.)

13.) Taste tests w/ blindfolds are the power of uncertainty.
14.) Accept loss, admire devastation, replace blame and dislike with cosmic trust. (Ditto 8 and 9 for notes.)
15.) Age your beloved’s image with imagination, remember a time that ego turned love to hate.
16.) Ask what happened before a given point in time and after, up to an eternal infinity. Rewrite nowhere as now here.
17.) Seek signs, turn self-pitying Why Me into a question out of genuine curiosity.
18.) Supplementary: void meditations for spiritual pursuit.
19.) Recall past desires, live the desires now.

Some of these were helpful, some interesting, some I’m put off by, and some maybe I’ll get around to another time. This is a book I’d like to keep as a product of post-colonial relative personhood, as well as an example of dated bodies of mythology and how these become filtered through a contemporary perspective.

The Three Gates

 

The main reason I think up of why I’m a Faelatrist (of a sort) is that fairy tales provide the best language by which I can express my numinous experiences. At least, the fairy tales I’ve read.

Despite being the best symbolic-spiritual “language” though, I’ve still had to wrangle with the language as in…the words.

And I still have trouble anchoring some prominent concepts in available symbolic metaphors: metals, music, monarchy, and many other objects or practices that actually don’t begin with the letter M.

This one is the latest.

~

I cannot explain the architecture of the gates yet, because even just calling them gates makes an image out of them that they are not. It’s a shift into a new state of mind, and it opens up to a different space. There is no movement, and there is no space.

The first is Craven’s Gate, which is ironically named because it takes a lot of courage to approach it. It also takes honesty to enter, and love to survive a questant’s stay there. Within the gate is, mostly, suffering: the truths that hurt, but are no less true; the debts unpaid, the pains unhealed. The gate alone sets these notions apart, but there is never room to contain them, and yet it is never empty. You can keep this gate shut, if you must, and many do; but it is an injury to conscience and it will make itself manifest.

The second is Maven’s Gate, by which willpower aligns with effective action and is therefore aptly named. I’ve only just been edging into this, myself. Perhaps this gate represents the notion that we must own our biases, as nobody is an objective observer, and is a call to (borrowing from Joseph Campbell) follow our bliss. This is not only what we are, but what we make.

The third is Haven’s Gate, which is only theoretical to me. It opens upon the alignment of the other two gates, the inner world, the shared world, and the world beyond that. It is everything that exists and is “meant to” be, although I wonder if it’s exactly the same as Craven’s Gate reframed by the consideration that there is no inner world except that which we grant because it’s a natural concept to form in the mind, immutable, but still only a concept. Whether it’s the unknown and unknowable chaos of the inner or outer world, Haven’s is the gate of Fate, or it would be.

~

At first, I thought that Craven’s Gate had to be the first stop. Without confronting the contents of that, any approach to Maven’s Gate would be shallow delusion, self-defeating, repressive and oppressive. It might even be that Maven’s Gate is the philosophical enemy to Craven’s Gate because it’s for the sake of approaching Maven’s Gate that anything craven (that would make a craven out of us, anything unwanted but real and right in its place in our lives) is shed.

But the courage and compassion required to approach Craven’s Gate is a manufactured truth, not one discovered. Of the three gates, Maven’s is most purposeful a boundary-setter, and boundaries are healthy. But perhaps what grants people everything needed to approach Craven’s gate is Haven’s doing, as the provider of every notion and thing that is.

Or perhaps I’m wrong because I make of all this up.

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.

Another Sort of Faery Court

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Shadows, in the Jungian psychology sense of painful truths that we’d prefer to ignore but consume and corrupt our souls if we repress them, come in many forms. I guess they call for many different sorts of processes. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of making a safe space and safe time to get in a particular half-conscious state of mind where Shadow confrontation-processing can happen.

In addition to the example I linked, more recently on the 10th of September 2014, I achieved this again with confronting platitudes about my deceased abusive mother. Her voice seemed to come into my head from outside me, bypassing my ears, and echoing, “I sacrificed everything for you” “I’m not perfect” “I did the best that I knew how to do” and I wrote that down, as well as my direct responses to each of them, saying exactly why they were wrong. I seemed to get responses, so I continued this sort of conversation with whatever was generating a reply. It seemed to take form, too, at the edge of my thoughts, a dark and spiky-plated Western dragon in a cave with, I intuitively sensed, a tendency to hoard kidnapped maidens and turn them into her daughters. I named this dragon Rafflesia, to keep this floral and arboreal theme with naming my imaginary characters.

But returning to the actual notions being dealt with, when I hear the same from other people, I get similarly defensive. In what I call the blacksmything mindset, however, I could get to the heart of those harmful messages and dismantle them and dissipate them.

Other times, it’s more symbolic, such as witnessing the effect of the Shadow upon what I call the Fetch, or witnessing and interacting with a shadowy separate person (probably… I just don’t know about that last one, it’s just strange. Does it count as a Shadow of something like “my self-righteousness” when I have such a thorough conscious conviction that I’m right to have developed such an elementary thing as personal sovereignty?)

What I describe below is the most elaborate blacksmything experience I’ve had, if that’s what it even was. It did involve mulling over events that I’d prefer to forget about for their implications, but it took place in this surreal paracosm and involved characters that didn’t fit the classical image of the Jungian Shadow. This episode of manifestation of it simply dissolved, without conveying catharsis or epiphany, without even with some hint of how to progress with the process so that I can get to that point—another characteristic I attribute to blacksmything.

The hues of the “Shadows”, if that turn of phrase is even sensible, was rather different. Captain Marigold confronted me with the religious edicts utilized by my emotionally abusive family, but blacksmything would vet what part of me still believed in the feasibility and validity of such edicts that would condemn the rest of me, and I didn’t even have a single grain of that. Captain Foxglove confronted me with how my needs have violated other people’s boundaries, and that felt more like blacksmything because I believe it was wrong even as I couldn’t have done otherwise, knowing my character and the circumstances.

Neither of them brought up this one particularly sharp and many-hued shadow. No, not this one. Well, maybe something like that one. But it’s one I haven’t mentioned yet because I only have this nascent notion of it, which was why I would have thought someone below would have brought it up at some time. I mean, it’s kind of got to do with my sexuality, and as both Marigold and Foxglove showed up, who I consider my Anima and my Animus respectively, I thought that Shadow would have been their priority. But no, instead…

Well, first, I found myself in a mindscape that I’d visited before. It was a city of white marble pillars and white granite steps that lead into clear waters under clear skies. The rivers wrapped around every block of this city, like a road system.

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The tops of the stairs that led into the rivers didn’t have bollards, so I imagined some in there so Foxglove could tie his ship to it.

The plot that I imagined on that spot was that I would seek out a book in a library. Foxglove declined to come with me, so I went to explore the city on my own. I found an archway of a building and walked through it. That was in August.

In mid-September, the fantasy continued from whatever stasis had halted it, and I wanted into a courtroom. Well, it was more like a giant void with a giant statue of a giant blindfolded figure holding balancing scales. Foxglove stood on one. Marigold stood on the other. I walked through the archway onto a jut of stability that just sort of elbowed me into the void, and the double doors slammed behind me.

Except there hadn’t been doors there before, there had just been an archway leading into a void. In any case…
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The Animus Effect

 

So, I met Captain Foxglove on a quest that I didn’t even know was a quest, because it was more like an admirer’s romantic fantasy than a transcendental meditation or something where you sit in your meadow and find your spirit animal or whatever.

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Some time in late November, I think it was, I was taking a shower (in the corporeal world) when the Surreal pulled me into the poop cabin of Foxglove’s ship. The sun streamed in through the windows and Foxglove was loudly declaring that it was time to fight.

For a few nights after that (because waiting for sleep is usually the time that I do my quests rather than the Surreal interrupting my waking thought process while I’m in the shower) I would dream that he and I were on deck and he was training me in swordfighting, although he used a cutlass and I a broadsword and this was all imaginary which I didn’t consider entirely conducive to learning how to do anything. I’d wake up feeling slightly anxious, which, despite the relatively mild depression that I’d fallen into hadn’t factored in months.

As the lessons went on, however, my depression had cleared up enough that I was washing dishes with some regularity, which the extended family had requested I do when they first took me in. My uncle suggested to me that I not live in the past, which before then would have genuinely enraged me because by the nature of trauma and unresolved issues, the past would be the present; but under Foxglove’s unrelated imaginary lessons, somehow, my attitude had shifted closer to, “Can do.”