Letting In The Vampires

wood iron door

A recent conversation about Amazon’s new key function, whereby delivery services can be let into your house to leave a package when you are not there, prompted me to make a folklore analogy—in many ways, this is like inviting the vampire over the threshold. The USA Today article I linked to above even phrases it in a similar way:

“The new service could represent a shift in how consumers think of Amazon. Not just as the source of packages left on their porch, but as an entity they’re comfortable letting into their homes.”

an entity they’re comfortable letting into their homes

Indeed. It’s amazing how folklore and mythology often harbor truths that are applicable to modern life.

For many people, especially millennials, this service makes sense and will be met with open arms. No stolen or wet packages! The convenience! After all, a lot of families have already invited the entity over the threshold by installing Amazon Echo and Dot in their homes, and are used to calling on the genies Siri and Alexa to answer their questions, guide them somewhere, dim their lights, adjust the thermostat, etc. Those genies know everything about what you want..,

But again, folklore comes in handy because genies can be a fickle lot, no?

Many people have watched with growing unease the march of Amazon (and, in some people’s minds, the other 3 horsemen of the apocalypse, Google, Apple and Facebook) towards utterly ruling over everything in our lives. And how easy it has been, all in the name of “convenience”. People accept the soundbite refrains without a second thought. “I can’t keep in touch with people without Facebook.” “Google’s search engine is the best” “Amazon is the cheapest, the most convenient, and has everything”.

One shouldn’t be surprised when, after inviting the vampire over the doorstep, one is completely drained dry. I’m not talking about the individual delivery people who will put your package safely inside your door. I am talking about the entity that has convinced you this is a normal, safe thing. The entity that has collected reams of information about you, that manipulates your shopping habits, that categorizes you and stores all of that knowledge somewhere you don’t even know or have access to, and for use by people you don’t know or generally have access to.

To live in this modern world, one has to make concessions and drive bargains that seem ever more costly. It seems it’s no longer “Will I let the vampire in or not”, but “which vampires will I let in?”.

 

 

 

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Forest Runes—Wunjo

I’ve mentioned before that I look for naturally occurring symbols when I practice spiritual wandering. The latest was this path-fallen twig that forms the rune Wunjo:

 

rune

This rune is connected with happiness, joy, fulfillment, satisfaction. I’m not a rune mistress, so I have yet to get into the deeper meanings of the “bones”.  All I can say is, I am definitely happy that my favorite season, Autumn, is just about here, and that the hordes of neon and spandex-clad summer people will soon diminish. And once hunting season has passed, the woods will truly be more sparsely traveled, at least by the human kind.

One time, in very late Winter, I was hiking in a torrential downpour. I saw no one until near the end of my ramble when one lone woman passed me on the trail. She gave a knowing smile, a thumbs up, and said “Now we know who the hardcore people are”.  I am proud to count myself amongst those tenacious pluviophiles who are happiest when they have the rain and the woods mostly to themselves.

The Gods and Spirits on Your Holiday List

yes1

Time to revel in the onset of the Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere and pay our respects to Those who rule this time of year.

The “holidays” can often be difficult for pagans within the framework of the dominant culture,  and one way to ground yourself in your own traditions, whether you are practicing them alongside the dominant paradigm or not, is to put your Gods and Spirits on your holiday gift list.

During one of my forest wanderings I realized that in the stress of the outer Christmas season I had actually been ignoring one whole wing of important “family”—my spiritual family. So, after having received requests in the mail to donate for years, I went ahead and finally paid the money to become a member of the natural area that I often walk and worship in. I had to scrape the money together but I immediately felt the rightness of doing this. I often leave other offerings to my spiritual family, such as traditional gifts of food or wine—but to contribute to the fund that keeps the place they reside in protected is a very important addition to what I can offer. And, it adds me as officially one more person who cares. This will be very important in the future, I believe, as we face an uncertain political landscape that seems to be shaping up to be made up more and more of those who do not care.

It is time to really evaluate what is important and to prepare to honor it and hold on to it. For many pagans, this means a particular natural area or cause that is meaningful to them. Even if you find yourself never worshipping outside in the natural world, you can still hopefully appreciate that natural areas serve as buffers both physically and spiritually to the metro areas that many of us live in. And natural areas are, on many levels, truly the genesis of Those we honor.

So, make a new tradition of spending money, if you can, especially on a local level, to protect the natural areas you find your Gods and Spirits in. Is it a city park? There is probably an organization that serves the park. Donate to it. Is it a wilderness area? Donate to a group dedicated to stewardship of wilderness areas. Make it a yearly tradition. If other things move you, say animal shelters, or helping the unhoused, donate to those causes. The time is now. Prioritize it. The money you spend on this sort of thing will be so much more meaningful than buying useless crap during the commercialized holidays. And, it sends a message as you join your support with others who contribute, a message that says people find this cause worthy and important. Hey, if you can get away with giving a present to someone by donating to a natural area/local cause in their name, do it.

And of course, if you truly cannot afford to donate money, donate time and labor. Do you walk a certain stretch of woods? Dedicate some special time to pick up garbage. You can do this without spending money or having to be part of any group, and it most definitely honors the Gods and Spirits.

Make the holidays meaningful again.

 

 

Into Shadow

 

king-theoden

I love the moving speech King Theoden gives in The Two Towers. Unfortunately, I find it very timely. It is good to remember, however, that Théoden fought on. Sure, it’s a movie, a book, a story. But really—we are writing our own story now. How will it go?

Riders on the Storm

riders-on-the-storm

 

Catching a few hours of freedom, I chose, as usual, to go to the mountain. Dark clouds moved across the sky in waves and the lightest sprinkles of rain were swept in on the wind. I welcome the rainy weather—it usually means I have the place to myself. On this day I reached the top and sat down to enjoy my customary thermos of tea.  Suddenly I became aware of a great clamoring in the eastern section of the sky. At first I thought it was a murder of crows; then I thought I heard geese, then the sound seemed to merge into an undefinable howling. I strained to see where it was coming from, but the clouds obscured the source of the noise. Still, I could tell it was moving westward across the sky and for a brief, startling moment I felt that if I stood up and spread out my arms I could join them, those howlers on the wind.  A chill ran up my spine, despite the fact that I was clutching a hot thermos of tea, because whether or not the makers of the sound were crows, or geese, or both, they were also something else.  Part of me knew then that the Hunt was on the ride and for just a moment, it had called me. The wind blew, the rain prickled my face and then the moment was lost with the sound, receding into the western cloud banks.

I sat like stone, a long time, before drinking my tea.

When a God Appears

Free-Vintage-Christmas-Image-Deer-GraphicsFairy-957x1024

I have hiked a certain mountain consistently for an entire year now. During this time I have been longing to see a physical manifestation of a particular deity of mine. In the wider culture he is known more popularly as Cernunnos, or perhaps Pan. Almost a year to the day since I started traversing this particular landscape, I saw him. A rustling of leaves was the first clue. Oh, I thought, surely a squirrel. And then, at the side of the trail,  I came nearly face to face with the huge dark eyes and majestic antlers of a buck. We were close enough that I could see he had what looked like spider web filaments hanging from his horns, and that they were festooned with leaves. We regarded each other motionless and in silence for several minutes. Eventually I bowed to him and carefully continued on my way.

I felt lucky to have been granted this meeting. Because the gods don’t have to grant you anything. At all. Ever. It took an entire year for me to see him. It takes patience and alertness, a thing we lack in the modern world, where devices, instant gratification and empty surface culture constantly howl for our attention. For gods’ sakes, put down the smartphone, get off of Facebook and resist the temptation to take a selfie everywhere you go! Not having a picture of it does not make it any less real, any less valid.  Listen to the rustle of leaves, the wind in the treetops. See the shining kaleidoscope of a spider’s web in the sun. Track the curve of the moon across the sky. Cultivate the inner listening you have, the instinct, the intuition. And come face to face with that which moves you.