Women and Sumbel


I was a devout polytheist Pagan for 20 years before I became a heathen.  Practitioner of Asatru.  Devotee of the Old Gods of Europe.  I had a 15+ year devotional relationship to Kali, Hindu goddess of death, sex and magic, prior to Freyja and Frigga reading me the riot act and telling me where to go (and where I belonged).

Heathenry IS the religion with homework (TM) after all, so as a new practitioner I did what any responsible devotee would do and set about reading.  I was already a voracious reader so it was merely a matter of changing my reading material from anthropological and archeological reading material to adding in the Eddas, some of the sagas, Tacitus and Saxo Grammaticus, other foundational books, and of course The Culture of the Teutons by Gronbech.

I have been a history buff, particularly pre-Christian and early medieval buff, for many years.  It has been enlightening to me to go back and re-read articles, research papers, and archeological journals looking for evidence of indigenous practices that continued in post-conversion times.

I actually recognized many cultural practices including frith in my own upbringing during my first reading of The Culture of the Teutons.  So much so that I nearly turned away from the path I had been set on.  Having been a victim of frith when justice should have prevailed I was exceptionally sensitive to the idea of protecting wrong doers simply because they are family members.  I have experienced the dark side of that.  Ultimately my piety and devotion to the Gods of this path kept me on it, helped me to see both my failings and the failings of my family in keeping the traditions alive, and I won through my crisis of confidence.  I came to a new understanding of frith and its potential pitfalls, and the importance of strong tribe in order to counteract frith gone awry.

The idea of women being holy in and of themselves, carrying within them the luck of the family and the holiness of the home, was a piece of the puzzle for me that, when it slipped into place, made many matters, both spiritual and mundane, very clear for me.  The knowledge of a deeper sort of holiness (not to be confused with spiritual purity) (and definitely not to be confused with modern day feminism) was a powerful revelation.  And, as with many things that are perceived through a womanly perspective, completely different than power in a manly context.  The power that I hold as a woman is a power WITH.  Not a power OVER.  Oh, surely, when you piss off a woman enough she may use it over you, and naturally some women have always been warrior types – but in general, a woman has the capability for comfort and calm that just doesn’t exist in most males.

Women were acknowledged to have a closer relationship to “the powers” as they are called than men.  She also has a closer contact with the luck of the family.  She was acknowledged to be the keeper of the frith of the home, the keeper of the luck of the home.  The long hair of women was a token of recognition of their sacred holiness.

Bryan Wilton is not the first to recognize the role that female beauty plays in the human psyche, he is only the most recent.  He is also one of those who acknowledges how beauty, twisted and degraded, distorts the holiness of the feminine and prevents proper viewing of the Divine Feminine.

Feminine beauty as acknowledged by men is a recognition of their holiness, their place in the cosmos as divine bearers of the positive aspects of frith, grith, their natural place as weavers of peace.  Beauty emotionally disarms men, if it is properly displayed and perceived.  It is meant to.  Ideally, it physically disarms them as well so they are able to become holy in their own right and to open themselves to the divine.

In Gronbech we have documentation on the importance of men drinking together.  What may not be evident to the modern viewer is that women did not generally participate in this drinking together.  Women generally did not drink with men except on special particular occasions such as at a wedding feast.  Women served men drink.  They smoothed over quarrels as they developed.  They plied their beauty in the service of their families to weave frith, to weave peace, to create comradeship and brotherhood.  “…the spiritual service performed as part of a Germanic wife’s duty was indeed her essential work as a weaver of frith.”  (Gronbech, p 287)

In Grimm’s Teutonic Mythology Vol 1 he speaks at length on wise women, demi-goddesses, and their relationship to womanhood in general as well as their significance to men.  Germanic law doubled the weregild for injury to a woman compared to the same offense done to a man.  He notes that greater sacredness was ascribed to the prophesies of women.  He also notes that even after the Christian conversion, men placed the good will of women on a par with God in importance to the success of their war efforts.  A man could simply speak the name of his beloved and this would call her holiness to him for protection and victory, giving him courage.  But on the opposite hand, a woman forfeits her protection and holiness “the moment she takes up weapons” (p 397)

Why am I going on about this??  What in all that’s holy does this have to do with today??  What’s it got to do with heathenry or Asatru??  

Because Sumbel.

I was recently at a Midsummer event during which high sumbel took place.  It began at 9 and continued until after midnight.  It was a co-ed event, and there were approximately 1/3 more men than women participating.  It was not organized by rank, other than the high gothi of course drank first, then it went in a clockwise spiral around the rings of participants.   The first round consisted of toasts and invocations to the God of the drinker’s choice.  The second round consisted of boasts of living ancestors, the next round to dead ancestors, and then finally any oaths that were to be made.

I did not participate though I sat through it all.  My reasoning for non participation was simply that I don’t think women should participate in sumbel with men.  Why?  Well, because I’ve done a lot of research regarding it and my lone documentation for women participating is post – conversion where a minne is drank to St. John in a church and the priest passes the cup to the congregation to drink after blessing it.  What I’ve found regarding women’s participation in sumbel, other than passing the cup, is vanishingly small.

Women did drink together, a sharing of the cup, but they did so with each other, separately from the men though generally at the same event.  There is a short paragraph in Gronbech relating that “those vessels wherein women drink to one another across the floor shall go to the daughters.” (Gronbech p 287)  I would assume that, generally, this means that the woman of the house would serve the men first, and as the formality of the sumbel reached its peak and general conviviality took over, that women would retire to their own gathering.  Did they have their own sumbel?  We don’t know.  That they likely made oaths, remembered the ancestors, and drank to the Gods would only make logical sense.  But to call that a sumbel?  I think probably not.

This, to me, relates back to the preceding paragraphs regarding the essential sacredness of women, their essential holiness that was signified by their long hair.  Sumbel was a way for men to regain holiness via sacred drink together, to drink to the Gods and reaffirm their relationship both to their lord and to their Gods, and to make oaths that would further bind them to both.

I know feminism has done much to return to women the status they had in pre-Christian times.  I myself have benefitted from the advances of feminism – at least first wave feminism.  I am grateful for those advances, for the acceptance that women should have equal status in humanity as men.  I don’t think we are interchangeable however.  I was a good firefighter and a good paramedic, but let’s face it – there are some things I’m never going to be able to do, no matter how strong I am, because I’m not a man.  I’m a woman.  Because I’m a woman, I have different priorities and different views on things.

Men gain holiness by their acts, women have holiness by their sex.  And they lose it by their acts, if those acts include taking up weapons.  Not to say that women couldn’t or didn’t.  There are so many tales of women taking up weapons in defense of their homes, of becoming warriors in their own right, that to try to imply that they were just wilting flowers would be ludicrous.  BUT.  They did so knowing, understanding, that they were sacrificing something very important by doing so.  One thing we do not have documentation for is how they regained their essential holiness.  This is something I will have to explore at greater length some time in the future.

I simply don’t think women should participate in sumbel, even if equal rights is a thing.  This is based on my research into these interrelated things.  If women have sumbel, it should be a separate thing, honoring their own personal patron Gods/esses.

The only women who should participate in sumbel are the women passing the cup (who are not drinking) and the women who have taken up weapons (who are drinking, because they need to regain their holiness the same as men).  Yes, our Gods evolve, yes, our religion evolves, but if we are to revive this thing we call Asatru, heathenry, the heathen mindset, then we need to do it in this area as well.

 

 

 

 

I need a strong man.


For many years I felt like I was an exhausted swimmer, thrashing about in a choppy ocean, trying to get to – somewhere – I wasn’t sure where.

I was, frankly, not a good wife to my first husband.  This is both my fault and his.  I was too young to really understand my role and importance; he was disappointed that I was too young (once he realized it was an issue) and punished everyone in the house for that.

I overcompensated drastically for that once I was divorced; I did everything I could to make sure I would NEVER have to depend on a man for ANYTHING again.  I worked two jobs, sometimes three, to make sure I pulled my full weight (and that of my children) in any household budget where there were two adults.  I sacrificed my children’s childhoods in doing so, but I did at least teach them a strong work ethic.

When I remarried I continued this pattern.  And I began to really feel as though I was at sea with no life jacket.

When I came (back) to heathenry I began to feel that there was a place for a strong woman – but it wasn’t the one I was occupying.  This made me very dissatisfied and made things worse, in a way, as I watched my partner unravel.  I FINALLY knew what I wanted but I didn’t know how to get there.

I was wrong to coddle my man by always taking the brunt of things, by trying to do the job of two, by allowing him to isolate himself.  I was wrong to think I *could* do the job of two without suffering consequences both in myself and in terms of my relationships.

I need a strong man that can hold me up when I’m weak, that can take up the slack, that can allow me to do my duties without doing his too.  One that is strong enough to put up with a strong woman.

Maybe someday I can have that.  And if not…well I guess it’s not in the cards.  But I at least have a direction with my faith.  And a hope that it can someday happen.

So maybe I don’t actually need one, but the ideal situation would be to have one.  Marriage in the lore was an amazing partnership.

The end of an era.


My husband is … away.  Whether it’s temporary or permanent, I don’t know.  I suppose it depends on things that may or may not be in either of our control.  It feels a little weird.

The house is very quiet.  I’ve been doing some cleaning projects that I simply haven’t had the energy to get to until now.  It’s shocking how much chronic resentment and anger can sap one’s energy.  Today I feel tired, but it’s because I’ve been working on and off all day, scrubbing dishes, cleaning the stove, the outside of the fridge and dishwasher, getting on my hands an knees and scrubbing in the corners before mopping, moving things and scrubbing counter tops.  Vacuuming in corners that haven’t been touched in a year.  Dusting.  Organizing.  The sad thing is it still looks like crap.

When one works 6 days a week (and at least 3 of these days are 13-14 hour days) these are the things that get left undone. When one spends free time avoiding confrontation, and letting resentment/anger/horror at the situation build, these are the things that get left undone.

When one watches one’s life partner slowly lose their sense of self and purpose, and slip into a nether region, with no independent identity, it’s frightening and stressful.   When one watches them crawl into a deep pit, and they refuse to come out even when you throw them a ladder, it’s horrifying.

These are the things that make one lose sleep in the middle of the night.

 

Busy days, or Good Fences Make Good Neighbors


It’s harvest season, which means that in addition to working 6 days a week (3 for my business, 3 for someone else) I have harvesting and preserving on top of work.  Thankfully, my day is light today.  I have an excision biopsy to perform this afternoon but other than that I’m free.  Which is good because I’m going to need the time.

When I finish my coffee and this blog post, I will be girding up my loins (so to speak) and wading into the tomato forest to harvest another probably 6 or 7 gallon sized bags of tomatoes.  Which doesn’t sound like much until you factor in that most of my tomato plants are cherry tomatoes – they fit a lot more into a bag than Romas.  I planted Cherokee purples, Romas, some sort of Italian plant that give fruit that are Roma-esque but smaller, yellow pear, and orange cherries.  I figured at least one variety would produce.  WRONG.  They all have produced FAR more than I ever anticipated.  This year has been AMAZING for tomatoes!

Then, after I finish in the tomato forest it will be time to venture into the prickly pumpkin jungle.  I bought 6 pack flats of honey dew melons and pie pumpkins – one of each.  Except that the honey dew flat apparently was mostly also pie pumpkin, so I have three honey dew plants which have not produced very well, and 9 pie pumpkin plants which HAVE.  I believe I will have at least 25-30 pumpkins by the time the season is done, not including the ones I’ve already given to the chickens.  Good thing my family likes pumpkin bread, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin pie, pumpkin beer, pumpkin soup … you get the idea.

Now keep in mind that I do raised bed intensive gardening.  So my tomato plants, all 12 of them, are in a total of 64 square feet of space (2 4×8 beds) and share some of that space with cabbage and eggplant.  Though I haven’t seen the cabbages in 2 months…   And the pumpkins and melon plants are in a 32 square foot bed (1 4 x 8).  We have all our beds set up with soaker hoses and an automatic timer as well as deep mulch to keep the moisture in.  We fertilize with manure from cattle and our chickens.  That’s really it.  I don’t weed very much once the plants get established, the deep mulch helps with that and mostly they suffer from benign neglect.  I don’t pinch off suckers either, I just let the plants do their thing and other than some tying up that’s really the extent of my care.

Then I need to prep a bed for garlic.  I got organic Italian soft neck garlic to plant later next month.  Supposedly we should plant in November for harvest in July but I’ve found that just doesn’t work well here.  So I want to try planting it earlier to allow it to get a better hold before the frost hits, so the bulbs may be bigger next summer.

Then there are still the harvest of figs to deal with…I let go to waste probably twice as many as I was able to harvest and get into the freezer, and there’s likely 30 pounds or more in the freezer.

Then we have to finish putting up the bamboo 6 foot fencing around the back yard.  I have 4 foot garden fence but I am tired of the skunks, dogs, and cats trying to dig under it to get into our yard – just going to wire the bamboo fencing to what’s already there and put rocks along the base on either side.  We’ll have a little bit of shade in the summer for the more tender plants as well as somewhat of a wind break plus maybe a little more privacy.  Our county code requires a permit for anything over 4 feet but since this is in no way a permanent thing I do not plan to get one.  I’m pretty sure biodegradable fencing wired to an existing fence is not cognate to putting up a 6 foot block wall or to putting up prefab 6 foot wooden panels.  So I’m just not going there.

The one main reason for the fencing in the first place is this:  our money hungry county workers have decided to go to the poorest areas of the county looking for obscure violations of codes that no one knows about and start fining people for these violations. One of my patients, a disabled elderly woman, got a citation for “weeds.”  That’s what it said.  Well duh, it just rained every day for 3 weeks straight and you are going to fine her because she has an overgrowth of weeds????  So the county is saying that if it can be seen from the road, they will fine people.  People who have building supplies in their back yards are getting citations because it can be seen from across the alley on the street behind them.  People who have piles of wood are getting fined because it’s an eyesore.  Yes, I’m serious.  We got a citation for ‘trash.’  Yep, all those nested planting pots, piled bags of mulch, manure, unused raised beds, sliding glass doors and windows for the greenhouse neatly leaned against the house next to the greenhouse, neat stacks of walkway bricks, are all trash… stupid jackasses.  Money hungry bastards.  If I had planned on living in an area with rules like this I wouldn’t have moved where I did.  Hence the fencing.  Keep your damned nose out of my yard.  And out of my neighbors’ yards too.  I know one guy that wants to build a garage but the county won’t give him a permit.  But they were sure happy to give him a citation for the building supplies in his yard!

And, we need to get rid of our van with the blown transmission.  6 years of it sitting is plenty long enough.  Then we need to move our travel trailer over about a foot so we can install fencing along our side border down to the street.  Our neighbor has a pit bull they don’t keep in their yard, they let him wander, and he attacks our cats and us.

Then we need to look into getting a permit for wood so we can replenish our wood supply for the winter.  $20 for a permit for up to 4 cords versus $180 for 1/2 cord delivered…that’s an easy choice.

No, all of this is not going to be accomplished today!  But it has to be done soon….winter is coming and the harvest won’t wait.

Next post will be regarding seasonal harvest feast traditions and localizing one’s traditions to one’s climate zone.

 

 

 

 

Hospitality violation


My neighbor, whom I’ve written about before Here.  Came over today to buy some eggs.  Three dozen eggs.  She paid cash for them.

Now, I’m never really happy to see her, she wore out her welcome a while ago by constantly begging for food when she was here.  That finally stopped when we started telling her “No, we need that for lunch at work.”  Well mostly stopped.

Let me give you some more history and background.

She was discharged from her own medical practitioner last year because of drug shopping.  She came to me to gripe about it, and I told her they have that right.  She is the one who agreed to the terms when she began going there, she has no one to blame but herself.  She then tried to say she has the right to get a second opinion and I agreed with her, but told her she is the one who signed the contract, she maybe should have read it a little more closely before deciding to get a second opinion AND filling a narcotic script from the other practitioner.

She has no job, no visible means of support, yet she gets tattoos regularly – she is covered from neck to feet.  She says people just give them to her, my husband says she is trading sex for them (which might actually be true).  She worked for many years as a stripper.

She has tried to tell me for a year that there is something wrong with her thyroid (there’s not, I saw the tests myself), that there’s something wrong with her sinuses (she saw a specialist who told her there’s nothing wrong), that there’s something wrong with her heart (there’s not, she had an angiogram but before that for months her excuse for lying in bed all day was chest pain), that she has anxiety and insomnia (but when asked how much she sleeps she says about 12-15 hours per day), that she can’t lose weight and feels tired all the time (yes you probably do, you sleep too much and you don’t exercise – and you’re nearly 50!).  There’s a word for this:  malingerer.

She says she can’t get a job (well probably not, your top lip is pierced twice and your bottom lip once, your head is partially shaved and neon red where the hair is actually growing, and your tatted from neck to toes).  This is rural Arizona.  That crap is seriously frowned on.

Today was the final straw.   Nearly every time she comes over here she tries to use me as a free second opinion.  Today she asked me about doxepin.  And tried to tell me she’s going to try to get on Adderall.  Which is legal meth.  I lost it.  I told her flat out that I’ve known her for a year and she does NOT have ADD.  Or ADHD.  She said that yes she does, she took a test and it said she probably does (one of these on line self tests mind you).  Now seriously.  Think about the previous two paragraphs, what I’ve said about her, and tell me if that looks like ADD/ADHD to you.  She’s spent the last year bitching about her heart, her metabolism, her fatigue, her sinuses and NOT ONCE about anything remotely compatible with ADD.  Other than the changing focus on different body parts when they are proven to be just fine, mind you.

I actually began yelling at her.  “Bull $h!T!!  Bull $h!T!!  No you do not! You F*ing do not!  I’ve known you for a year, you do NOT have ADD!  You took a F*ing self test, they’re very easily manipulated to get the results you want!  You just want F*ing legal meth!”  I basically threw her out of the house.  I actually told her right before I shut the door in her face that she just wants it to sell it.  Which is probably a huge hospitality violation.  But really.  Does coming over and bouncing a bogus diagnosis of ADD/ADHD off your practitioner neighbor when you’re purportedly there to buy eggs really count as visiting?

I seriously think she wants the meth so she can sell it – there are several people here in the community who were getting it from the previous physician (who has since gone on to more lucrative pastures) and were selling it as well as using it.  I know there’s a market.  And I know who was selling it.  And she can’t get a job, so the logical thing would be to fake an illness in order to get a controlled substance for sales purposes.

Man I get sick of the people who are bleeding the system dry.  I work 6 days per week, and I have insurance that I can’t use because the deductible is $6500.  My husband doesn’t even have insurance, we can’t afford it.  I’ve been to the doctor maybe once for an actual physical since we’ve been together (nearly 20 years) and twice for employment related physicals, and maybe 3 times for urgent care type issues.  He’s been to the doctor three times  for a physical (all employment related) and once to the emergency room for an allergic reaction.

Our neighbor goes to the doctor, courtesy of the taxpayer, at least once a month!  And gets very expensive medications prescribed, for which she pays nothing, courtesy of the taxpayer!  And then proceeds to refuse to take them.  And there’s no reason she can’t work other than the fact that she deliberately makes herself unemployable!  These are the people who are breaking the system, not the hard working poor people who really do need a little help.  And believe me, I live in a very low income community.  I know which of my neighbors work and which are milking the system.  For all the good it does.

I actually do not have words for the amount of anger I am feeling right now.  And a little shame that I let her get to me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tough call.


Probably going to sound like a really stupid thing.
I called the police on the couple next door. I heard their little girl screaming a high piercing shriek over and over like she was witnessing a murder, then I heard the mom screaming, and heard her saying “Get off me! Stop it! I can’t believe you did that, stop it, get off!” Over and over. And more that I don’t remember.
I walked over to the house and banged on the door (well first I knocked but there was so much going on they didn’t hear me). When the dad opened the door I said “Getting a little loud in there. Getting a little physical. I advise you to knock it off.” He said OK and basically slammed the door in my face.
Turns out a cousin died of a drug overdose and everyone was pretty over wrought.
I don’t feel good about calling the police, but I also don’t feel good about leaving a woman and two small children in possible danger if they were being physically threatened or abused in any way.
It was a tough call.

Gene splitting. Or something.


So.  Have been in a sort of an argument with the writer of a Folkish Asatru blog.  I think I quite upset him by saying that I don’t think you have to be white to worship the N. European Gods.  And that I would rather raise a horn with an honorable Black Man ™ than with a white guy without honor and full of hypocrisy.  Which was not aimed at him, but at the Fearless Leader of HUAR.

I also said that in America, given our history, it’s quite likely that said Black Man ™ has more than a dollop of N. European ancestry in him.  So if he wants to worship Odin, or Freyja, or whoever, I’m not going to question him on it.  Because I am an actual polytheist.  I believe the Gods have agency.  And agendas.  And they choose who they choose.  They call who they call.  I’m sure many have been called, but few answer. ETA  I do think the call is a LOT easier to hear if you share the same ancestry with the Gods, and a LOT easier to answer.  Those who do, though, have been bestowed a GREAT gift, in my opinion, by those Gods.

Said writer said I am right, that he and other folkish heathens have no desire to limit people from worshipping the N. European Gods, that said folkish heathens simply have no desire to worship with said Black Man(tm) – mind, he did not say those exact words.  But that was the gist of it.  He also said he would not worship with me (gist again).  Because of what I said. But I find it interesting that he never said he wouldn’t worship with a white guy without honor, which was the point of my response in the first place.

Which leads me to ask:  is the color of one’s skin more important than their deeds?  How white do you have to be to be in his tribe?  Is looking white enough, or do you have to produce a pedigree?  How about a cheek swab?  What if you have a wop in the wood pile, as my father in law likes to say?  Does that exclude you?

ETA after reading Stormwise’s comment.  I think I should clarify: I DO think many of those who *appear* to be without Scandinavian/Germanic heritage do in fact have it. I DO think those of those who “look” of another race are hearing the call inherent in their genes, especially here in America. And I DO think an understanding of the history, lore, culture, and values are an important part of the religion. You can’t have orthopraxy without some understanding and “buy-in.”  You certainly can’t have orthodoxy without it! Dogma….another thing entirely.

And what if you’re 100% lily white, Swedish and German in heritage, with grandparents who emigrated and homesteaded here, but you are also a narrow minded jackass who can’t be trusted not to beat his woman and his children, and cheats on his wife?  (I know this person personally)  What if this guy is a straight up racist jackass who calls Mexicans ‘beaners’ and African Americans ‘niggers’  and tries to teach his kids to do the same?  Is this guy OK because of his heritage, even though he behaves without honor?  And if I say that I care more about the deeds of someone, about how they treat themselves and their families and their neighbors and their bodies, and how well they keep their word, than I do about the color of their skin, that makes me not OK to worship with?

Puttin’ it out right here:  I am NOT universalist.  I do NOT believe Asatru is for everyone, any more than Druidism is for everyone.  Or Zoroastrianism is for everyone.  Or Yoruba.  I think we all can agree what universalist religions have gotten us….a couple thousand years of massacres of native peoples because their God is so greedy for ALL the worshippers he orders his followers to kill those who don’t want to worship Him.

Do I think there are cultural differences that sometimes simply cannot be surmounted?  Oh, of course, without a doubt!  And that’s an important factor in a religion like Asatru, where ancestry – and culture, and values, and mores – play such a huge role.  For instance:  Voudun.  I respect the hell out of it.  Believe in the reality of the Gods they worship as much as I believe in my own.  But that religion is not mine, I don’t understand much of the culture, those Gods don’t speak to me, because it’s not for me, I’m not from those people and I know it.

I DO believe in the science that supports genetic expression and epigenetics, and I believe in spiritual inheritance from our ancestors.   Hel, I even believe in genetic memory, I’ve experienced enough times of knowing something I just really shouldn’t know to prevent me from dismissing that out of hand.  I DO believe in the importance of honor.  And honoring one’s ancestors.  And doing what you say you will do.  And being a responsible member of one’s community.  But apparently just saying that I place so much value on the values of our ancestors, means I am not welcome in some Asatru circles, because I would not exclude someone who met the standards of those values, based on the color of his skin.  And I certainly don’t want to go back to the times, not that long ago, when someone had to “pass” as white in order to gain acceptance in society at large.

When I was a child we moved 18 times in 11 years.  I always felt different, uncomfortable, like I didn’t quite belong.  Every time I would finally feel like I understood what my place was, or could be, we moved again.  I was a quiet kid who felt more comfortable in the woods, making a camp, or being in a tree with a book, than with other kids my own age.  I spent my childhood soaked in the fairy tales of Europe in every iteration I could find.  Between the moves and the family, I spent a lot of time watching tribalistic behavior, watching cliques develop and break down, figuring out who would stand by their word and who would not.  I learned to see the true value of people based on their deeds, not their status. And I sure as hell learned to read their bodies and their eyes!  So perhaps I place a lot more value on quietly DOING the right thing than being the LOOK of the right thing as a result.  I don’t make friends easily.  I have a lot of friendly acquaintances, very few friends.  I don’t give friendship lightly.  The ideas of Inner and Outer yard are innate to me.  I grew up with them.

It’s funny but the older I get, the more value those same sorts of people who would have never considered me as friend when I was young, now find that appearances can be deceiving and that deeds actually do matter.  I find myself part of a tribe of people who all happen to value those same virtues.

Ironically, it is my understanding that some of the most vociferous opponents of Americans worshipping the Old Gods come from …. Norway.  And Denmark.  Because American peoples’ ancestors left the Old Country and left their rights to worship the Old Gods there when they left.  And BTW we’re not Norse enough 🙂

 

 

 

Not such a lost art


Spinning in Donegal, 1978

My grandparents on my father’s side come from Mayo and Cork.  I see the ruddy complexion in my boys (and me) is a ‘thing’ for those of us with Irish ancestry 🙂

When I first sat down at an antique wheel it was as though something ‘clicked’ in my hands.  My hands knew what to do before my brain caught up.  I suspect something like spinning, a skill with such a long history, is carried in genetic memory.

While I can’t speak for my ancestors, who may very well have hated the task, I can say that spinning gives me comfort, a time to meditate, a peaceful space in which to contemplate everything and nothing.

Working for Hel


abbiThis is Abbi.  Or was.  We got her for my youngest son many years ago after his pet rabbit died.  He said he didn’t want another rabbit because they die too easily.  So we went to a rescue place and she won our hearts.  Her full name was Abigarrada, which in Spanish means ‘varigated’ and as a calico she certainly was that!

Her other name was usually “Pissy Girl” which should give a clue as to her personality…we often joked that she was Liz Taylor reincarnated (though Liz lives still).  Attitude was present in elephant size for this little body!

She was very very smart, too.  We used to have our extra dining room chairs next to the front door and the master bedroom door.  Well we had to move them because she figured out how to stand on the chairs and use both paws to open them.  Since this was before we had a screen door, she would get out – and if we didn’t know it, we would (of course) close the door and she would be stuck out there til we let her back in.  She, of course, would be quite miffed that the door didn’t magically open for her at her desire to come back in and would cop QUITE the attitude when she did get back in.

She learned English, which probably isn’t so surprising; I suspect most pets do if they’re at all bonded with their owners.  What was surprising was that she ALSO learned to spell.  For nearly 17 years we would give her a little half and half every morning when we got it out to put it in our coffee.  Naturally she came to expect it, and to ask for it by name:  milk.  (she actually said mawk, or maak)  She became such a pest about milk that we had to start spelling it when we were talking about it for any reason.  THEN she put two and two together and realized that M-I-L-K was the same thing!  So we had to start spelling it backwards.  For some reason she never did figure that one out, though it’s most likely because once we realized she knew when we were spelling it we got a lot more circumspect about discussing her “drug of choice” when she was around.  She knew other words too and could say them with varying degrees of clarity:  out, mom or mama (she literally called me this), up, treat (every treat was maak), and night-night (some weird ngy ngy sort of word).

She was heartbroken when youngest son moved away and would stand in front of his door yowling for him for hours.  It was very sad and we learned not to say his name so as not to provoke another outburst.  She eventually seemed to get over it and I became her number one human.

About 8 months ago Mr. TF said to me that she is getting to be quite geriatric.  I hadn’t noticed, to be honest.  She was just my little pest, my little minion, always nearby or behind my shoulders if I’m on the couch, behind my head if I’m in the easy chair, next to my head or on my chest if I’m in bed.  So I watched.  And he was right.  Some time after that she quit jumping to the top of the refrigerator, and a few months after that she started having trouble jumping on the kitchen island directly – she could jump to the chair then to the table then to the island, but straight there seemed to be out of her capability.

Last month she started vomiting every time she ate, and she was losing a lot of weight – and she was never a heavy cat to begin with.  Mr. TF did some research and began treating her for a hairball.  She puked up two huge ones and then she really seemed to rebound to her old self.  She even became as sociable as she had been when she was young and came out to greet visitors.

We went camping over Halloween weekend and when we came home she was alert, happy to see us, and gave her usual coo of affection when I scratched her ears.  She really seemed happy and healthy, like we had underestimated her.

Then, Monday at 1130pm, she woke me out of a sound sleep.  “MAMAMAMAMAMAAAAA!”  Over and over again.  I knew there was something wrong, I could hear it in her voice.  I finally found her, on the floor practically under my dresser.  She quit crying out as soon as I touched her but I could tell there was something wrong.  I picked her up and I knew she was dying as soon as I did.  She was struggling for air, she had dried poop on her bottom, and she was wheezing and limp.  I turned on the light and called for Mr. TF to wake up.  We had a tense discussion over what to do and he stayed with her while I spent FAR too much time trying to find a vet office we could take her to at this late hour in our rural area.

It was the longest ride to the vet’s office I think I’ve ever had.  Mr. TF drove, I had Abbi in the cat carrier in my lap with it open so I could stroke her head and try to reassure her.  A sheriff’s deputy made a U turn and followed us for a couple of miles – I prayed to who ever might be listening for him not to pull us over.  We weren’t speeding but a car out that late on a weeknight is definitely grounds for investigation, I can see his point, but not now, please not now.  Thankfully he didn’t.

She began seizing right after we got to the vet’s office, I had already called them to alert them and told them we just want to euthanize her, she’s old and we know it’s beyond hope, we just can’t bear to see her suffering.  They scooped and ran with her, and gave her oxygen to stop the seizures while they started an IV.  I know she was beyond hurting at that point but I am so glad they did that.  When they gave her the medicine I was there, stroking her head and scratching her ears the whole time.  It was a true relief to see her take her last breath and relax at last.  And so very sad.  I honestly had not realized how very much I cared for her.  I’ve never been much on pets as family members.  Now I wish I had paid more attention to her in her final months.

They were also kind enough to keep her in their cooler until we could dig her grave.  Mr. TF and I may disagree on many things but this was definitely not one of them.  She was coming home, she was not being cremated, and we were going to make a place for her.

I dug her grave Tuesday night after I got off work, in the front yard in view of the window she used to sit in and watch for birds, under our mulberry tree.  It seemed fitting that it was raining; I was grateful for it since the ground was softer and easier to dig – we have clay and calechi (look it up) so it wasn’t as hard as it might have been though I did have to use the pick and mattock.

Wednesday we buried her; the next door neighbor was kind enough to take her out of the plastic they had her wrapped in and wrapped her in a towel.  We buried her with a toy and a bowl of milk.  We didn’t say anything.  It’s too new, too raw.

abbigraveWe plan to paint her name on the center stone later this year or after it warms up again next.  I’m glad she’s home.  And I’m glad she’s not suffering any more.  The vet said her kidneys were probably failing and that’s why the loss of weight, the vomiting, and, in the end, the fluid filling her lungs.

So what does the title of this post have to do with working for Hel?  Well, I have spent most of the last quarter century dealing with people’s last days in some fashion or another; my husband is a hospice nurse and also spent most of the last quarter century dealing with the same.  We have spent a lot of time in the company of death.  So this blog post by Darksarkasm really hit home for me. I hadn’t thought of my intense desire to end Abbi’s suffering as work for Hel, but I suppose in its way it was. As was digging her grave.

Goodbye Abbi. Welcome home. You will nourish the tree and live in our hearts.

Questions


I truly believe in the rites of hospitality.  It’s not something that is new or as a result of my spiritual leanings.  It’s something I grew up with.

I need some help here though.

We have a neighbor who has a mouth like a sailor.  I don’t think I exaggerate when I say that she cannot speak a single sentence without using the F bomb at least once.  Usually more than once.  Now, I used to be a firefighter and I can assure you my potty mouth occasionally asserts itself, so it’s not as though I’m too sensitive for foul language.  But this is far and away more than I’ve ever heard out of one person’s mouth in a sitting.

And it isn’t even just that she uses so much foul language.  It’s that she TALKS. NON. STOP.  Like if there’s a natural break in the conversation she has to fill the perceived void.  With anything.  It’s exhausting.  I’m a quiet person by nature and while I can talk up a storm and be as irrelevant as the next person, this is more than I’m used to dealing with.

She keeps hinting that she wants to move in.  She is room mates with the person next door and doesn’t get along with her room mate.  Yes, we have a guest room but I’m not willing to let her move in.  Not for any price.  No, I don’t want you to do my laundry.  No, I don’t want you to weed my yard.  No, I don’t want you to do *fillintheblank* you can’t move in.  It’s a guest room.  For guests.  And family.  Not a spare room we’re dying to rent out.

She comes over when we’re eating and asks if she can have some.  Not just sometimes, but pretty regularly.  Now, I’m happy to share but having people show up unannounced and ask to share our food just seems kind of pushing the bounds to me, especially since we’re financially strapped right now.

She doesn’t seem to understand the concept of boundaries.  She just marches into the bathroom when I’m in there doing my makeup.  She came into our house once when we were in the shower (we have a big master bathroom and we usually shower together on days we have the same schedule) and CAME INTO THE BATHROOM TO ASK WHAT WE WERE DOING.  Seriously.

We are having company this weekend and I really don’t want her over.  I want to be able to enjoy our time with our other friends without having to deal with this.

I like her, I do, really.  But I”m kind of at my wits end and I’m starting to get a little rude because I feel so stressed.  Any ideas on how to handle this?????