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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:

Modes of Discourse

So, I recently read a marvelously concise summary of the academic categories put to stories. The first point being that context is the determiner of these categories, not content. My personification of Context has no determination, though. Context lounges on the sofa singing, “que sera sera” while accompanying eirself on a plastic ukelele, which Context has never studied. Seriously, though, I can understand this, context, being the unspoken guidelines and sensitivities of a group of people towards these stories.

Myths are believed in: we can infer this from how a body of stories (categorized as myths) can be cited as an authoritative explanation for how things are or how behavior should be. Folktales, on the other hand, are purely entertainment, perhaps I could say that some firewall is more of a given between reality and fiction.

Before I read this, my approach to stories was of a categorization between tales and lore. The tales, the way I use the word, were any ideas, philosophies, experiences or representations thereof that a recorder-writer-person makes explicit in a medium of recorded history or fiction. The lore would be the sense of self, sense of world, relationship, and perceptions inferred and adopted from the tales, and refers to the given circumstances from which the tales would be generated, and lore becomes a sort of tale if I even try to explain what lore is (so, when it gets fuzzy then these terms are interchangeable.)

And, personally, I think I’ll keep it that way. Because I do believe that even the myths survive by sustaining some veneer of coolness and entertainment, and that even the folktales and pop culture stories intended for entertainment in the first place become really popular when there’s some deeper resonance.

What I did consider interesting was the category of a legend, basically running the gamut of attitudes between “well yeah obviously course this is completely made up” to “this might have actually been a thing so keep it in mind” and having one other main distinction: that is, of referring to the earthly rather than the cosmic. Legends have more verisimilitude. Two stories for example:

Story One: Little Red Riding Hood skips through the woods and encounters a talking wolf, which whom she engages in conversation without any pre-establishment of her animal communication superpowers. Myself as a young reader would have some intuition that this story refers to mythic rather than literal truth, or that it’s a folktale. All the humans in this story can speak Wolf. Whatever.

Story Two: Some random villager takes a twilight walk through a familiar meadow, only to find a cave in a hill in that meadow. This familiar meadow had no such hill or cave yesterday. There’s a party in the cave. The random villager’s sweetheart is serving on the wait staff of this party. The random wandering villager is well aware that this sweetheart died of tuberculosis two years ago. What the—just what is going on? What is this??? WHAT. IS. THIS?????

Story Two is, academically, a legend. In my personal categories, I would have sorted Story One among the Tales and Story Two among the Lore before, but now they’re both Tales to me. I appreciate how the flabbergastedness echoes through the generations of telling and retelling of the second one. The firewall of this being fiction is thin, here, and to me it feels like it could be too real.

That’s inevitable, comfortable—and perilous.

I find a contemporary gamut of legend in celebrity gossip and Real Person Fanfiction (RPF). The democratization of any corporeal living person’s image into fictionalization just sat so wrong with me. I personally shouldn’t write about someone else’s life unless I know the canon, if it were an incident belonging in my own diaries, or a result of exhaustive research that I should hope hadn’t become stalking or harassment by the end. What I personally shouldn’t do, though, would itself never stop gossip columnists. I’m inclined to consider the entitlement to another’s existence and life as the same between the sloppy journalists of celebrity gossip magazines or tabloids, and those who write RPF. One important difference is that RPF makes no claims or call to social action for something that plainly isn’t true, and if that absorbs the collective sense of entitlement into a body of harmless fanworks, then I’ve got to not only tolerate that RPF exists but argue for people’s right to write it. Besides, I have no problem with the fictionalization of historical figures, even though, by all this logic, I should. (Respectable news reports are a whole other thing entirely.)

So, I continue to make a distinction between the facts of the Corporeal, the contested perceptions of the Sidereal (my word for a layer of cultural value, so I might write “my corporeal friend Cecilia” or “my corporeal friend Anjie” but the value of friendship is psychological and cultural and therefore sidereal), and the forays and quests into the Ethereal, Incorporeal and Surreal. These have earned their categories by their very different natures in my experience, for the most part, but the firewalls between them can become too thin. So, I’m still mulling over ifwhen a distinction is or isn’t made, versus ifwhen a distinction should and shouldn’t be made.

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.

Wishcraft: Truth Behold

I only put up with the bard at all because Emilie Autumn likes him. Sure, I’ve read about how he invented modern English (in any case, influenced more than all the Jutes ever could), that every story is just one of his stageplays rearranged, and that his works are absolutely the only way to remain human in a Huxleyan Dystopia.

Maybe I don’t like him because I was lucky enough to be tasked to comprehend his greatness in 10th grade English literature class. Mostly, though, I don’t like his stuff because I just don’t like his stuff. It’s rarely given me all of the feels to snuggle into. Relating to Sonnet 121 provided a bit of an ego boost? Appreciated it. Otherwise…

Okay, otherwise, it took some footnote rant in an academic-seeming paper about how there is no connection between Shakespeare’s King Lear and Manannan mac Lir to get me to read a Shakespeare play voluntarily. My immediate reaction was that I had better start reading King Lear to search for any connections between the Lear and the Lir. You know…to keep them properly apart.

I didn’t find Lir. I did find Cordelia. In a striking similarity to many surviving versions of the Beauty & the Beast (most not-Disney ones of that) and Cinderella fairy tales, Cordelia had two wicked sisters. Cordelia herself was supposed to be The Good One, but I felt the text itself welcomed the interpretation that Cordelia is initially kind of a jerk. “I cannot heave my heart into my mouth.” Integrity isn’t only about your personal feelings, Cordy! Communication maybe matters in a relationship? Heave your heart into your mouth, girl, and tell your dad you love him he is clearly the most insecure thing to breathe air and your country will collapse into an anarchist democracy or something if you don’t…oh, fine, be that way.

Really, though, I read this at the time that I sought refuge with my extended family, and my uncle was putting the pressure on for me to convert to Catholicism and forgive a self-righteously unrepentant Miasma for abusing me. On my life with a roof over my head, I couldn’t heave my heart into my mouth either.

What’s re-occurred to me lately has been this couplet:

Time shall unfold what plaited cunning hides
Who covers faults, at last shame them derides

The strict cadence is known as iambic pentameter, an iamb being any two syllables that pair unstressed to stressed. Compare the English words “desert” and “dessert”. The latter is an iamb. Pentameter refers to five (penta) such two-syllable iambic meters.

I could chant Cordelia’s couplet over and over like a curse, although it would only be a curse or a blessing in the contexts that it should be. If this spell works for the truth to out, then it should by nature rebound on the caster. Whether that risk is worthwhile is not the question: My god of Truth is a hungry warrioress.

I could take a representation of all the illusions and distractions that can be met in life…

…and draw a unicursal pentagram on it with my finger, two syllables per stroke like a metronome.

I feel that a similar spell could possibly be found in Edgar Allan Poe’s The Telltale Heart. To counter these, however, there’s Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s…most stuff I guess. There’s also the real-life story of then nine-year-old Maria de Sautuola who discovered the cave paintings of Altamira in the 1870s. Her father was ostracized for fraud, the authenticity of Maria’s discovery only vindicated after his death. It’s that last story gets me staring at the wall with the corners of my mouth turned down.

What if there is no magic spell to summon truth? Whether it’s science or crime investigation there could be only work, luck, more hard work, all too easy to override if enough people can lie loudly enough or even silently pass it on.

But back to Cordelia. She was apparently a historical figure originally mentioned in The History of the Kings of Britain by Geoffrey of Monmouth, without any corroboration outside of it. Shakespeare retold Cordelia’s invasion as an utter failure, probably for expedient tragedy’s sake, and Tate later gave everybody a happy ending and made Edgar a mustachio-twirling creeper. If it happened at all, it might be something in between. Monmouth’s King Leir sought asylum with Cordelia after Cordelia’s sisters usurped him. (Cordelia’s sisters usurped Leir after he disowned Cordelia and married her off without a dowry.) In response, Cordelia raised an army and battled to reclaim the throne. Of course, after Leir died of old age, he left the throne to the one daughter out of three that didn’t usurp him, even though Cordelia was the youngest. The throne that Cordelia essentially won in battle was lost mostly to politics: that her elder sisters made legitimate baby heirs with the dukes of neighboring countries, and that they probably begrudged her more than they did each other, sealed Cordelia’s fate.

That version would well serve as a lesson to talk less, smile more, and not let them know what you’re against or what you’re for. I’m more inclined to work with Cordelia in hopes of gaining some reinforcement so that I never make that mistake again.

Otherfic Meta: Spectrum Trilogy

The following entry contains personal details that may be triggering.

So, I reorganized some Otherfaith fanfics I wrote into a series, and thought to share more here about the process. (Edit to add: hey, this is a lot in line with Aine’s post on writing the myths.) Note that I’m all for the figurative Death of the Author, also less known as the Birth of the Reader, so this certainly is not to put out that I heard a voice, or had a dream, and therefore this bit or that bit is a truthier truth.

I.

Ironically, I’d say, it’s Princess Irene’s obscurity (wasn’t named in the Founding of the West, just in the Wikia) and liminality (roles usually being of a mediator and herald) in the existing body of Otherfaith canon that I considered so intriguing and was why I wanted to write more of her.

My thought process during Almost Heroes, a writing experiment not part of the trilogy, went sort of like this: “Ooh, I like her, so she gets a comity-shipping cameo with the Ophelia. Wait, am I mythologizing my real life history? Yeah. Irene’s got to be there when Mary Sue starts crushing on the science teacher lady, because I really wish that some guiding spiritual presence like Irene had been there then, as first loves of lady-loving ladies in a no homo world. Wait, and Irene can turn into a bird? The Laetha’s a bird, if they fought I wonder who would win?” And I thought, “Obvously, the god would win in a fight with a spirit, so what would make it as though there’s tension?” And I thought, “It can’t be a challenge on neutral grounds, then, it must be…a surprise attack on the god’s sacred personal space.”

And then I thought, “Ulp, now my headcanon Irene did a bad thing.” My headcanon Irene did possibly the worst thing, and I never even did get around to revisiting the elation and yearning of what I guess people in temperate climates euphemistically call a spring awakening. How one makes up for messing up was also a very interesting question, though. But I didn’t want to write an Irene whose turning point in character development was…a deliberate Mary Sue, who I’d originally stuck in there to explore the more established, more prominent personalities of the myths, and a way to write the gods and spirits enacting their scopes of responsibilities.

I picked up the story again after I’d read up more on Laetha shards, and figured Aletheia 003 to be the best character foil for this Irene, because of all the meta I caught around The Red Room.

Peace At Last was mostly a way to organize the elements of a complicated idea, not so much to resolve the question or announce the role or method of forgiveness in the Otherfaith.

I may have also caught a sort of disembodied voice shouting, “Libel!” at an earlier retelling of The Red Room that I’d posted, but the main idea that voice pushed for, of reversing William’s and A003’s roles, was still something I thought (and decided) would fit in neatly. So, as far as woo might go, I’d say that’s still par with my just deciding that the Firebird and Irenebird would fight instead of figure out, like a responsible plotter-writer, some avian way they could bond.


(The above painting gives me Irene feels, though Aine tagged it for the Laethan Firebird on the tumblog. They could have a lot in common.) (Also yay Irene has a tumblog tag!)

II.

Upping the woo, lowering the word count. Here are some excerpts from my noxary (dream diary or dream journal, and I write sideways on notebooks with dotted or plain paper, to double the size of a page uninterrupted by the spine.) These inspired the sequel, Songs of the Sunsets. Except for the third dream. That one was just weird.

18 Sept 2015. Princess seated between hourglass and clock stained glass circle before her like anathema device time was set but she still wanted to interfere.

19 Sept 2015. Queen-of-Years-but-not moved the telescope and hourglass. Kaleidoscope window on a balcony looked over indigo twilight.

20 Sept 2015. Wandered a bookstore, bestseller was a romance between an angler fish and a remora.

These records drew similarities to Anathema Device (a character from Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman) although not a correct one because that character was very much for doing what she’s been foretold, and also the Queen of Years from the new Doctor Who although in the dream the red cowl looked worn by somebody bigger than a wee child and I don’t remember more.

I actually shouted when the not-really-Queen-of-Years moved the stuff, and this woke up my corporeal friend and roommate Cecilia, who woke me up to say that I sounded like I was being tortured. It must have been important in the dream not to move the stuff.
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The Evil Enchantress of the East Coast


Image by Sophie. Sadly, the official promotional images are rarely as good as the fan-art.

Oh, Once Upon A Time. I have been vacillating between hatecrush and ragequit on this show since the middle of the second season. It’s become a show that personally offends me on so many levels, at too many moments. It’s also given me some of the most resonant poetic imagery I’ve seen in pop culture. The demonstrative power-play of ripping out somebody’s heart and whispering one’s commands to them is chilling because on some level that is sort of what truly happens when something figuratively like it happens…of course the magic of romantic love is fuchsia and gold, and of course the land of eternal youth will have one island full of death skulls and hourglasses.

Lately, I’ve been wondering about The Evil Queen from Snow White’s fairy tale. This show gave her a name (Regina), a redemption arc, and a long-lost sibling in the Wicked Witch of the West.

Shortly after her redemption arc (that is, Regina turning from apocalyptically wrathful to merely snarky) she began to show her care with such heartwarming lines as, “Nobody is allowed to kill you but ME!” While couched in terms of self-aggrandizement and…uh, threat of homicide…viewers who have gotten to know Regina over the episodes can easily take this as her way of saying that she considers you a friend and will protect you.

It’s difficult for me to understand or accept. To spin vitriol like that into something positive can be a trap. In too many ways have verbal abusers tried to dismiss a victim’s perspective with how the victim is just humorless, or should know the abuser well enough by now to somehow know what’s really meant and adjust their reaction accordingly.

And that’s too bad, because there does seem to be a process to it that I also found paralleled in some rituals of Ancient Rome (from Melissa Mohr’s A Brief History of Swearing):

Bullae, the necklaces containing phallus-shaped fascini, were thought to shield their wearers from the evil eye—they had what is called apotropaic (from the Greek meaning “to ward off”) power. Songs containing obscenities could, in the right context, also protect people from evil forces. They were sung when someone’s good fortune was likely to attract invidia, envy or ill will. They offered protection in two ways—the obscenities themselves contained the power to ward off evil, and the songs’ mockery took their subjects down a peg or two, to a level where they no longer invited individa. Victorious generals were serenaded with fescennine songs—their moment of triumph was also a moment of great weakness.

When Julius Caesar returned to Rome in 46 BC, for example, he was publicly celebrated for vanquishing the Gauls and publicly mocked for being the cinaedus of Nicomedes, king of Bithynia, many years earlier. The obscenity and mockery of these verses were thought to protect Caesar at this vulnerable moment when hundreds, even thousands of people might be watching him with envy.

Okay, I still don’t understand. Maybe ritual obscenities operate like some psychological or spiritual vaccine, but as the corporeal and everything else operate on an increasingly less one-to-one correspondence, I would just as easily say that cussing someone out in any context is spiritually unhygienic. (Maybe I still have a bad taste in my mouth from an argument against trigger warnings that went something like…people who get triggered by things will never learn to tolerate life or to function normally without getting actively triggered as often as possible. Or at least as often as the sort of world and life that got such individuals so traumatized in the first place.) (As far as I could figure out, this was an unironic argument.)

I should also note that the above quoted ritual wasn’t, evidently, very effective. Senators didn’t turn their dagger-like glares and glowers away from Julius Caesar. They just got their hands on actual daggers.

Still, this may have influenced a number of later superstitions about “signs to ward off evil” also being obscene gestures, or statements of forcefully false modesty. I have a feeling that there could be something to it.

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The Evil Queen, when originally recorded by the brothers Grimm, had been Snow White’s mother. This is interesting, as this character had started the story off with a wish for a child with “hair as black as night, skin as white as snow, and lips as red as blood” and she basically got the good-looking daughter that she wished for…and then proceeded to enact elaborate and impractical schemes to get rid of (or punish) her daughter for being so good-looking. Even though that was what the queen wished for in the first place.

That’s a definite lot of irony there, that I think is a shame to miss out on in almost all modern versions that turned Snow White’s awful mother into an awful stepmother instead. The implied inevitability of mixed families having more awkwardness settling-in then eclipses any other motivation.

The character of Regina isn’t exactly envious. Her vices are portrayed as some cover-up for grief or loneliness that she believed would be weakness to admit to. She’s been shown as possessive (a slight-but-present distinction) and wrathful…but never covetous.

Zelena—the given name of the Wicked Witch of the West—is the envious one instead. This is why the Wicked Witch of the West, in Once Upon A Time canon, is green. She’s green with envy.

Their respective characteristic vices might not have played off one another in the best way, (and I mean even just on the level of a thematic cohesion,) but when it comes to an examination of the thing and what to do with it, I wonder how it would play out.

It’s less about recognizing the “complex characterization” and more recognizing the “concept characterization” then.

Regina could easily embody the profanity that wards off the destructive properties of invidia.

The Mapmaker

I re-read a short story by Neil Gaiman called “The Mapmaker” about, it seemed to be, a Chinese Emperor who had developed an interest in creating maps. He almost emptied the royal treasury in the creation of an island that would imitate the geographic features of his country, that would be updated daily in response to earthquakes or wildfires, with every miniature house being as near-perfect an imitation as could be managed. When the same Emperor said to the advisor that the next map to be made would be a life-sized representation of his own country, with each house represented by a house, and each citizen represented by a citizen…the council decided that this had gone too far, and the story hints that they assassinated the Emperor in his sleep. The new sovereign, incidentally, had no interest in cartography at all.

I wondered what would have happened had they allowed the Emperor to wake up and behold his country, with advisors also telling him that the map he sought had already been constructed while he slept, and so all he need do was behold it and compare it to itself. Such a map would be one with the territory: completely accurate, and thus completely useless. It all depended on how well an advisor could mess with the Emperor’s mind, a mind so organized that it had become a mess.

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In the symbolism that I explore now, the spider’s web has grown in significance. I discovered some old notes from when the significant symbolisms were mists (perhaps in parallel with the experience of psi or subtle energy), masques and mirrors. Maps would have fit in with those just as well.

Those symbolisms didn’t exactly flow, even though I liked what they meant. It might be the difference between a gesture and true sign language, or a wordless sound and a true spoken language. Alone, a gesture or sound can convey meaning, but the underlying rules determine the language.

In his Red Book, Carl Jung wrote (translated by Sonu Shamdasani): “The ancients lived their symbols, since the world had not yet become real for them. Thus they went into the solitude of the desert to teach us that the place of the soul is a lonely desert. There they found the abundance of visions, the fruits of the desert, the wondrous flowers of the soul.”

I would have thought that the case would be the opposite, that ritual acts lived the symbols precisely because the world was real, even hyperreal, and the map would be the territory. To consider physical acts only having physical causes or consequences made a world map of the world, in the same way that the mapmaking Emperor could have if only he had thought differently.