Polyplatonic, but Open

{Oh, the frustrations of having internet connectivity issues in the summer. Yeah, I accidentally posted a double comment on the Call for Submissions, but we’re just ignoring that. Afaik, all tumblr redirects in the links have been fixed.

This is a crosspost that’s been backdated to the original posting date, 29 Aug 2019, and the roundup includes a link to the tumblr post here.}

Carnival of Aros – Aug 2019 – “Relationships” from The Aro Anarchist on WP [Link to Call for Submissions].

What does an ideal relationship look like to you?

What a coincidence that I posted something back in April in response to the implication that I have one ideal relationship [link to the untitled post]. By this point, I can’t pinpoint an exact year where I first heard about polyamory, but I’ve been using poly-flexible long enough that I struggle with trying put all of my potentially conflicting needs onto the shoulders of one partner.

This doesn’t mean I have to have a minimum of a certain number of partners, and I honestly may find that spoons drastically affect the point where I get polysaturated after trying polyamory out. It’s rather noticeable in trying to explain the conflicting people of that hypothetical group, but whether there’s a sexual drive or romance drive involved, those two typically aren’t combined and directed at one person. Or to put it another way, I don’t default to wanting to have a romantic and sexual relationship with the same individual. (Unless the planets and stars align just so? But I can’t really predict if or when that might happen; so, it’s safer to err on the side of it probably not happening.)

In hindsight, I think knowing about appromour [link] and wavership [link] would’ve changed how I approached hypothetical Person E (QPP) when I first wrote that post. But the gist still stands that I’m open to doing activities a partner feels is romantic and/or others may read as romantic, even if I’m not sure I can differentiate romantic and platonic.

Do you consider yourself polyamorous or a relationship anarchist? What do those words mean to you as an aromantic person?

In my response to June’s CoA prompt (Imagine A World Without Amatonormativity [Link]), I mentioned that I first encountered amatonormativity from polyam discussions. I don’t quite feel confident in saying that I’m definitely polyamorous when I haven’t had actual experience with more than one relationship, so I’ve stuck with poly-flexible. Honestly, the realization that I’m somewhere in the aro spectrum/umbrella is still new enough that I’m more likely to consider myself a polyam person approaching the aro community.

While I can understand some of the foundational theory where relationship anarchists operate from, I actually haven’t really sought out solely RA (and not overlapping with polyamory) circles. It doesn’t come down to some sort of difference of ideas, opinions, or whatever that might sound reasonable. I just got the shitty luck of the first relationship anarchist I interacted with being someone I didn’t want to interact with any further so I avoided their circles, which extended to RA at the time.

These days, particularly on tumblr, it’s a bit of a coin toss in that I’ve typically found those who overlap polyam and RA in some way. Sometimes, it’s as simple as personally following an RA structure but interacting and tagging polyam because it is/was a larger community or had more frequented tags. For me, leaning into RA doesn’t seem to have room for allo friends who don’t want to fall into amatonormativity but aren’t really committed to RA themselves. RA doesn’t seem like a one-way endeavor, y’know?

How do you feel about various models that a-spec communities have come up with to talk about non-traditional relationships?

I suspect I tried so hard to poke at whether I might want a queerplatonic partner as Person E had to do with QPRs being the most commonly referenced non-traditional relationship model I’ve run into. It’s quite likely they still serve a need, or we probably would’ve abandoned this terminology, but sometimes, I have the distinct feeling that the vague, open spaces for what “queering a platonic relationship” looks like is a tad too vague and open for some people.

Honestly, I feel like I’m treading water with keeping up on friendship maintenance (particularly as it’s moved from in-person daily interaction from school environments to solely LDR/online spaces), and I haven’t really had the spoons for poking at non-traditional relationships. I have friends who I consider Important People, but that doesn’t mean it’s any easier keeping in touch, let alone asking allo friends about whether they’re comfortable doing xyz that’s different from what they’re used to doing in friendships.

Not to mention that bridging the allo to a-spec gap in a friendship isn’t exactly the same as trying to ask about non-traditional relationships. It’s one thing to be like ‘hey friend, do you mind if I do x or say z?’, but once things start to stray too non-traditional, it gets into educational territory and explaining that I’m not trying to date them. (Or force polyam on them, break up their relationship, encourage cheating, etc. Have you had an allo explain what an emotional affair was to you? 10/10 don’t recommend.)

tl;dr While I can understand some of the foundations of relationship anarchy, I’m more likely to describe myself as poly-flexible due to longer exposure to polyamory circles. In theory, being able to split different attraction drives between a group of people works better than putting everything on one person’s shoulders, but realistically, I’m not sure if I’ll have the spoons for that in the near future, particularly when you take into account friendship maintenance spoons.

Unrecorded Pantheon Round Table #1

@unrecorded-pantheon-roundtable’s Call for Submissions post [link]. (This will be crossposted on tumblr.)

#1: Who is your pantheon, and how did you come to them?

I don’t really have a pantheon so much as I have a loose amalgamation of People. The short version is that I’ve got a habit of peppering in P/pagan references into fiction, even if it’s slightly tweaking a deity or practice into a fictionalized version, and sometimes, They interact like They’re not so fictional. (Yes, even if it’s “just a fanfic”.)

My WIP “Kai” led to a particular alliance (SWA) [“Writing (or discovering) New Faces“] that’s much more noticeably based on deities the readers may have heard about. The universe of the fic allows for deities outside of the alliance to be referenced, which is how a particular Face of Loki wound up showing up [“Horsehair Lace“].

Several of my WIPs have deities that pagans would quite likely recognize as fictionalized versions. The Ancients in “Darkling” include Holly and Oak as a reference to the Holly King and Oak King and neopagan holiday references, and “Kintsugi” has a particular flavor of the Lord and Lady archetype that’s been tailored to that universe with references to other deities (honoring the land-spirit also forms part of the home and hearth centered practice). “BSL” and “Coven” share a universe with tree based titles for the fictionally tweaked deities, but they touch more on community recognized mourning rituals and edge into sacred endarkenment rather than getting into the specifics of deities per se (at least, in the current drafts).

I address it more directly in “Belief and Laity in (my) Fiction“, but there’s a noticeable component across these fics that the community level or individual level of cathartic rituals can be more relevant than whether the character actually believes in the deities in question. It really depends on the universe and what the main plot is, but in some of the fics, this is because there are outside temple/hof/grove structures with priests and priestesses, the character is an outsider being introduced to the system, and/or the cultural element is more important so deities have been synchronized or can be approached as conceptualizations of magical forces.

Quite frankly, the hodge-podge feel of these inter-pantheon collectives and allowances for other (potentially interfaith) religious beliefs with cultural interaction with these deities makes for a buffet of potential interaction. Karnon and Zisa have dropped by (“Kintsugi”), a Tawch holiday has sometimes been relevant (“Darkling”), and there’s been occasional interest in the details of who gets which tree title for what reason (that may one day turn into a pantheon or collective from “BSL”/”Coven”).

I’ve been more caught up in Death & Co (referenced previously on this blog), Who are not connected to any fictional stories, so I don’t really have a cohesive practice featuring any of these other potential People. I’m a bit resistant at times because of past misinterpretation issues, in which a previous foray into a highly individual path was later declared null and void, but I would like to note that one of The Ancients who’s currently seen more screen time in the story – Ouroboros (aka The Time-Keeper) – apparently made it into a reader’s dream [thread link]. While I’m aware this doesn’t make Ouroboros “more legitimate”, I definitely saw it as a nudge that I may not be repeating a miscommunication issue again.

Belief and Laity in (my) Fiction

As much as I’d like to think there isn’t some similarity in how I’ve included peripheral P/pagan elements in fanfic lately, I think there’s the possibility.

“Kai” is an example of where I very clearly look like I rifled through the pockets of some pagan spaces and Wiki pages to form deities because it’s currently the only one where known names are used and there’s a clear priest(ess) and laity divide. Quite literally, there are temples, groves, hofs, etc. where religious people handle the communal shrine keeping, organizing rites, offering xyz services as part of their sacred duties, and offering a variety of divination related services, and then there are people who are semi-agnostic but fulfill the basic requirements for the deity’s patronage. (The details vary, but even when someone’s getting divination and a particular cathartic rite done, it’s very ‘live and let live’ on what they believe as long as they’re respectful.)

“Darkling” is a few steps removed from that because the clergy and religious components aren’t as widespread. The Dark community has experienced peaceful co-religious blending, being forced to new areas where assimilating into that place’s majority religion was inevitable after centuries, and in some instances, forced or faux conversions (as Christianization has been interpreted as one component of some Light communities).

This means that ‘the Ancients’ and the residual pagan flavors in certain holidays feel more like folkloric customs (an expression of culture rather than religious belief), and this allows for different levels of interfaith Dark communities from one country to another. The characters who are the main points of reference for the Dark community in the story take a stance where the Ancients are conceptualizations of magical forces more so than deities they ought to hold certain beliefs about.

“BSL” and “Coven” more or less share a Universe where the differences lie in when and how Harry is introduced to this toned down iteration of the Dark/Grey/Light divide (hard of hearing!Sirius post-PoA vs ‘curse damage as chronic pain’ post-war). Honestly, I wanted to make magical equivalents to wheelchairs based on clouds, and this whole disability, chronic illness, and chronic pain element showed up (magical accessibility aids, spell-signing, we don’t have space for my spell stuff). The coven structure that includes inter-pantheon religious stuff actually isn’t quite as prominent (in the plot and what I’ve worked out in the notes).

In “Coven”, Harry’s exposure has more to do with seeking out a means of mourning and catharsis that’s lacking in the Light community. Like, religion is kind of there, fictionalized titles are used instead of deity names, and some people believe, but it’s mostly a coping mechanism during grief (in part, because Dark folks have a community-wide recognized rite, support roles, and reintegration timeline that recognizes mourning while supporting the mourner).

“Kintsugi” is a little different in that the plot and Universe have to accommodate this underground, international, consensual D/s system. While I was thinking about how some people combine Pagan beliefs and BDSM, I didn’t really want to get into the particulars that might lead to ‘but why did you use my deity?’ conversations where the point of having divine support for D/s roles and rituals could get lost. So, I made a specific point of fictional tweaking to the two main deities for this system, so that readers hopefully wouldn’t focus too much on who the deities were and would pay attention to how they help a new power dynamic pair.

The inter-pantheon home practices are dependent more on familial lineages, change from one generation to another, and can have a variety of other deities (who may be more recognizable), but this winds up being very ‘home and hearth’ focused rather than the community element from other fics shining through. (It may feel familiar to people used to being solitaries with home focused practices.)

Ultimately, between all of these fics, there’s not really a sense that someone ought to hold a certain belief system or that it’s better for them to personally believe in these pagan-ish deities. It’s more that engaging in certain rituals, which may be communal or solitary, can be cathartic or otherwise beneficial to the individual. If we really delve into whether a deity exists, there’s some sort of transactional and/or reciprocal element (human does A and deity does B because it’s an arrangement). In more than one, the community aspect comes through because of grieving and mourning processes (seeing as how I’m writing HP fic, this isn’t just because I’ve got opinions on how people do or do not turn to religious communities while grieving something).

It doesn’t feel unrealistic, but it also does have moments where I worry it’s a touch impersonal. Even in scenes where there’s near death experiences and interaction with a deity in some way (rites, divination, etc.), the deities sort of just exist. The main characters whose points of view are telling the story aren’t the ones who necessarily have to believe in the deities, often don’t have solitary rites or devotional activities, and often don’t have personal connections with the deities. Other people are the ones doing the divination, starting and maintaining the shrines, planning the rites, and so on.

Writing (or discovering) New Faces

I’ve tried writing more than one draft for explaining how I’ve gotten myself into this situation, but it basically boils down to using some element of a deity in a fictional story [a fanfic in this case] and accidentally having Them show up.

It was more along the lines of asking myself what would happen if the Wizarding World kept some elements of P/pagan practices because there were particular elements of magic that couldn’t be separated from them. This means that making an Oath to Someone in “Kai” comes with access to certain magic, benefits from Their temple/grove/hof/etc. (involves priests and priestesses), and a certain amount of protection from the patron deity. F’ex, a certain Vanic Goddess provides patronage around setting prices and enforcing payments, and Her hof also offers food assistance (similar to a food bank).

Keeping in mind that this was originally developed for a story including sex work, I came up with an amount of inter-pantheon cooperation and drawing very specific lines in the sand on what each deity was associated with to make that work. I did not set out to claim historical accuracy on sacred prostitution that may or may not have actually happened in the past, and some of the terminology in the notes may not be accurate to how they were actually used (a hetaira in this story doesn’t provide full service sex work and may have a variety of ‘companionate’ services, f’ex).

Some of the notes are plot specific and/or have very little page-to-life extrapolation because of the fictional magic element. However, needless to say, I got the attention of some of the deities who are included in this, more Faces had thoughts on how an alliance would feature sex work adjacent areas, and Someone decided this was ‘real enough’ to push me in the direction of a messenger for the collective.

Initially, I really thought I had fucked up on my divination/interpretation skills because I’m a civilian, and I just wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do with this alliance of Faces. Then I found myself digging into Pose (*), following general sex work info blogs on tumblr, and starting to get exposure to advocacy groups (decriminalization efforts here in the US and international efforts).

(The “no one should breathe about this in your vicinity until you’re 18” tactic doesn’t mean you instantly get a download of all the knowledge you’re supposed to know once you’re “old enough”. But it’s not about being perfect right out of the gate. Sometimes, you read a resource, realize ‘oh, I shouldn’t have been phrasing X like that’, and you change. It’s called growth.gif)

I tend to reblog sex work related content (research, activism, news stories) on one of my tumblr blogs, so I don’t think it’ll suddenly take over here. It’s more that I can’t really deny the Sex Worker Alliance (SWA) is sort of doing Their thing in the background, and I sometimes get poked to support via signal boosting.

(*) Pose isn’t the only piece of media to feature sex workers, but it is a currently well-known example of a tv show produced by a former sex worker showing a variety of characters engaging in multiple types of sex work, which allows for diversity in how characters feel about leaving/doing another type and differences in safety/outcomes.

Horsehair Lace

My WIP (working title) “Kai” started off with an element of expanding the Wizarding World that featured tying in the Old Ways to some magic and areas where a patron could provide access to particular magic, and then I kinda-sorta accidentally tapped into some Faces of Deities. (The full details are a little bit beyond this individual post right now, but it gets a bit inter-pantheon if you will with fictional tweaking for possible modern stuff.)

During one of the ‘future’ sections that’s a good three years after the start of the fic (it’s aiming for a second chance arc), I’ve got a riff on one of those Advent prompt memes where the focus is the 12 Days of Yule (gets slightly interrupted in the last few days). The basic idea of “Xmas-y sex toys/games/experimentation” of the usual Advent style turned into “guess we can’t avoid talking about that when this was behind the door” and working out some baggage. Most nights will either get a mythological or direct deity reference attributed to the item behind the door.

Example: [Plot spoilery events providing context for why a blindfolded activity is here. Even a summary is too long for this #long fic.] Day 3 will involve an evening activity, in which I lift an actual acting class exercise I’ve done [walking someone with their eyes closed around a town] and have Percy walk Oliver around a local outdoor area while he’s basically blindfolded. The barebones look heavy-handed, but I think it’ll feel a little less on the nose with the spacing in the story (literally, years have passed between the initial events and this).

Alright, so the title of this post and how “Kai” relates to all this. My first set of notes about a different night in this section included what might happen if there were a pair of ‘lacey knickers’ (and a redo for what’s probably going to happen instead). Then, the thought process went something like –  lacey >> horsehair lace >> mare!Loki >> I’ve got the attention of Lady Loki. Hence reblogging Silence’s Virtual Temple vids.

Death On Hold

I’m not entirely sure what to say about Death & Co. They’re still here and mostly in the background. Different Company members can’t agree on tags, so They don’t necessarily have much intentional tumblr content (outside of Hela’s tags). I mostly know Them by titles that are ‘big enough’ for different deities to be under a title – Death, Psychopomp, Afterlife Guardian, etc. – like a manager and supervisor chain of command. In this comparison, Death would be the manager, and Hela would be the supervisor.

I’m still working on debt from People Who have Left, so Death & Co are relatively quiet. There’s been some back and forth on whether it’s an assignment, lowercase-w work, or some sort of volunteering instead of a Job / Work, but honestly, some of these differences are very dependent on the People involved and Who’s answering via divination. They feel like They’re playing the long game, as it were, and whatever it is that Death & Co want me to do, They’re willing to wait. (It’s not a negative perception. Death & Co just feel inevitable.)

I’m not entirely sure to what extent The Company is an inter-pantheon collective on the ‘supervisor level’, but I have been recently getting some Hades pings. I mean, I’m not really going to race out and try to find all the Hellenic stuff from years past [~4 years ago] when some Hellenic People were around, but I’m making a note of the ping. Either it’s not applicable, a misinterpretation (because of other people posting about Hades), or Someone will actually answer if it’s applicable.

Echoes of Faith

I read Sat’s post Loss of Faith: Polytheism Edition [link] in the cross-post on tumblr, thought ‘Mood’, and reblogged it over there under #shadow work. And then, it wormed its way into the mental category of ‘do not ignore’.

Because, well, some of what I wrote about The Burning and all of the [multiple, overlapping] Leaving(s) sound like it didn’t really have much of an effect on me. Some of it started somewhere in 2015, some of it didn’t kick into high gear until 2016 (Senior year/Graduation), and it wasn’t until the past few years that some components of the Leaving actually sunk in emotionally.

I suspect it might’ve been easier to talk about if I had gotten angry – a proper swearing and venting entry in a Gdoc that I could pour out of my system, even if no one else saw it – but I didn’t. I went numb, I shuffled the updates into a mental queue and left them there, and I was hit with a nostalgic sadness sometimes, way after midnight. I was incredibly embarrassed, and it was an anger-tinged shame more so than a good anger to clean out the emotional system. (Who exactly wants to admit to feeling gullible once the trick is revealed in the end?)

It was the diversity of intensity of interaction and different types of devotional relationships that kept me from feeling like I “qualified” to talk about feeling abandoned. Person 1 had been around casually for years, while Person 2 had just barely dropped by and been put into lockdown so I never built a relationship, f’ex. Neither really felt like They were ‘here’ enough to have actually abandoned me, but the sheer collective weight of all these less intense examples were a noticeable loss.

What did I do? Threw some content into some of Their tags over on tumblr, transferred sideblog content before officially deleting them, completely abandoned some tags, scheduled out final posts for Some, felt awkwardly alone struggling to interact with the devotees of Others (who appeared far happier and much closer with Them), felt stifled by a few of Their gag orders (until a recent anonymous spectrosexuality survey allowed a brief loosening, which led to sadness, regret, shame, and crying). I mostly just ignored certain feelings until enough time passed that I probably wasn’t going to ‘act irrationally’ while interacting with anyone else.

This isn’t exactly new news, but there’s a bit of a bias towards introductions and 101 material on some parts of pagan/polytheist tumblr. New people come in with – to borrow from polyam phrasing – NRE, or new relationship energy. Some people (as they’re allowed to do on their own blogs) focus on the happy parts: I think So-and-so helped me with this, here’s a picture of my altar and/or shrine for when I did my Oathing to Whoever, a heartfelt prayer overflowing with gratitude, and so much love whether spirit consorts, godspouses, etc or not. (It’s just so overwhelmingly positive.)

It felt like I was somehow doing something wrong because I needed to say goodbye to People instead of hello. It felt uncomfortable (like I was a killjoy) to interact with devotees who expressed a deep sense of loving-care with some of the People Who had hurt me. It felt like I had somehow fucked up the basics of interacting with a Deity when so many were Leaving. It felt a bit lonely when I was being given instructions to dismantle shrines, rehome objects, get rid of prayers, etc. when other people were trying to set them up.

I had heard vague rumors about some people experiencing abusive behavior from a Deity, but I was honestly blindsided by the boundary-crossing I experienced. (It didn’t look like an Earth-to-Astral crossover that was easily recognizable, and it manifested in ways that I wasn’t prepared for due to my lack of a ‘godradio’). If I hadn’t had other People Who were willing to step in, enforce changed wards, and do the heavy lifting of keeping the People involved away initially, I might’ve been SOL entirely on my own.

That this was in the midst of The Burning and Leaving didn’t exactly help because I lost some of the more intensive, closer devotional relationships I had been hoping would survive all the Leaving. But, once you feel like you can’t trust Someone or the divination They’re using to communicate with, it’s also surprisingly easy to let go. (And yet, we circle back around to Their other [current] devotees, and there’s not an easy way to handle the weird post-relationship feelings. Because Deities aren’t like human exes and ending a devotional relationship isn’t quite like a breakup.)

While importing sideblogs to WP before the 2018 Tumblr Purge went into effect, I made a note in one of my ‘personal venting docs’ in Dec 2018 while going through old sideblogs and old WP content:

In trying to find a silver lining: Rather than rushing to post about something, I did learn to wait and make sure it was still applicable, even if it does mean there were gaps in activity [on WP] and information that I don’t know what to do with after Someone had Left. I feel foolish for letting outside influence bleed into what I was doing, but I’ve learned how to double check that something actually applies to me with better accuracy.

Condensed venting: The thing that almost hurts is that I got a lot out of what now looks murky in hindsight – either Someone struggled with correcting my perception of Their Face, or for Reasons, They wanted to encourage me along a certain path for a while but had no intentions of delivering on that path in this lifetime.

It’s one thing for a pantheon to not be interested, or for me to not have the devotional clearance to interact with Someone, but it’s another thing to feel like I uselessly poured my time, attention, and devotion (some may say, love) into interaction and a relationship.

Honestly, I don’t have a nice and tidy conclusion for this. Instead of ‘once bitten, twice shy’, I feel like I’m several times bitten and now commitment avoidant. At one point in time, I very much wanted to feel like there was something coming from my People (affection, love, something more than bare tolerance???), but I’m a bit afraid I’ve lost the ability to recognize that.

Like, They wanted a Tool with few emotional connections, and now They’ve made one. What a coincidence that this aligns with some of Them wanting me to not rely on ‘the fickleness of love’ for being the initiation for offerings, service, devotion, what have you. Duty, honor, and a sense of wanting to keep your word have all made appearances while trying to interpret divination about this. (Since there are multiple People still around, it’s not an across the board thing. Some aren’t quite in the ‘love is fickle, let’s nix that’ camp.)

I don’t particularly have a grand solution for the community and ‘I can’t avoid interacting with fellow human devotees’ aspect either. I was always much more of an observer, who occasionally liked posts, than an active member of any online space. The main thing was that I just felt more of a drive to share original content and actually talk about myself, I guess. I suppose I can ease back into that, as a starting point.

Good Enough.

I had a very distinct moment of starting to reblog the cross-post on tumblr before I realized it’d be more appropriate over here. (Granted, I haven’t intersected with the Kemetic community in well over three years, but the basic idea fits with my recent lack of activity in the vaguely Norse flavored something-or-other where I am.)

Mystical Bewilderment

Alternative Title: The Kemetic Community needs to up its content game.

This past week, I attended a leadership conference through my job. This is the second year that I’ve gone and as a result, there will be a few posts based on things I learned about at the conference. As always, as I listened to the various leaders from various countries and background present, I took studious notes, not necessarily for myself, but because I wanted to take what I was learning and use that to help the wider community.

TTR is right – the community does need to do better. And if that means I can impart, perhaps, some form of wisdom to one person at the very right time because I spent two days wearing uncomfortable clothes watching people talk about leadership? Then, I’m fine with that. I’ll go next year and the year after until I finally…

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Loki’s Virtual Temple – August

While I am aware that this post is several years old by the time I’m reblogging it, it’s easier to listen to Someone’s prodding.

The Road, the Walker, and What Comes Next

Filming Loki’s temple video was delayed a bit while I prepped for Many Gods West. I’ve returned and resumed filming. I brought back many very valuable ideas from Yeshe Rabbit’s session on building temples and will soon be integrating these ideas into Loki’s Virtual Temple and probably into the Virtual Temple Project as a whole.

In the meantime, please enjoy this month’s visit to Loki’s virtual temple.

Financial report for August:

Flowers: $6

Incense: $5

Beverage offering (tea) $2

Donations $0

Thank you for continuing to view these temple videos; I sincerely hope that they provide spiritual comfort and connection with Loki, and an opportunity for reflection, prayer, and contemplation. As always, if you would like your name or a concern added to the monthly prayer roll, simple email virtualtempleproject at gmail dot com. This is a free service offered to the community. If you find this project valuable, a…

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