Seven Candles, Seven Souls

On a makeshift altar in the corner of my kitchen, seven taper candles stand, etched with seven names: Ahrens, Castile, Krol, Smith, Sterling, Thompson, and Zamarripa. The base of each is wreathed in deep red flowers, symbolic of the blood shed. I will visit that altar every hour today to pray that these seven souls cross peacefully to a place where there is no memory of these acts of violence.

For the living, my prayers are very different today.  I pray that we never forget the senselessness of these seven deaths, that we find a way to come together, to understand and value each other as fellow human beings. I pray that when faced with yet another example of the worst in people, we can reach out, not with guns drawn or fists clenched, but with open hands and hearts to each other.  I pray that we never forget that each of us has the potential for actions both heroic and horrific and that we find within ourselves the wisdom to choose the former if we face circumstances in which we must decide between the two.

I don’t have answers for the problems that face us. Like some many others, I have watched with feelings of helplessness and hopelessness as the events of this week have unfolded. I seek refuge in prayer and ritual, solace in the job that I know too well – tending to the dead and their memory. All the while my mind has been on the living – the survivors, the families, and the friends who are mourning these terrible losses.

There are those who would let these deaths further divide us. There are people who will use these deaths as an excuse to perpetuate further violence. I will not be moved to hatred. I will not be moved to violence. I will stand today in silence and prayer with a heart filled with love and compassion.  Today, I will remember.

Into the Deep End…

Today, I swam laps across the deep end of the pool until my muscles ached.  It seems like such a small thing, particularly as it only took about ten laps to leave me feeling like I’d crossed the English Channel.   There was no cheering squad, no medals, no fanfare. The lack of applause didn’t stop me from feeling a sense of accomplishment.

Why is this a big deal? Why, Aisling, are you telling us that you’ve done the same thing that a few thousand other people have done today?

I have been out of the deep end for the better part of the last two years- both in the context of the pool and my practice.  Physical incapacitation has kept me away from much of my normal routine, but today, I am declaring war on the pain and trepidation that was keeping me in shallow waters. I am, quiet officially, sick of being sick and of being held back.  I love playing in the water, just as I love the work I do on my path.

Today I swam laps across the deep end.  Tomorrow, I am doing a ritual for a friend who lost his grandfather this past week.  Forget treading water, I’m diving into the deep end again.. and I couldn’t be happier to be there.




Two days I sat down to write about a topic to find that either my browser or laptop would crash at every attempt to put the words down.  So I picked up a pen and paper… to find that the pen was out of ink.  While I was busy grabbing another pen, one of my lovely cats managed to shred the notebook.  I am taking all of this as a sign that now is not the time for that particular post.  Ironically, it was about the behavior of certain tricksters.  Go figure.

Since that post does not wish to be written, I’m turning my thoughts elsewhere and pondering the idea of writing mythologies.  I’ve touched on writing mythological tales in other places, including a novel that retold the story of Ragnarok from the prospective of a disenchanted Valkyrie. What I  have in mind isn’t a re-imagining of existing stories, however, but telling of stories that I’ve created for my own amusement as I’ve wandered down this path.

Thematically, the stories fit well with this blog, but I think it would be distracting to post them within the main blog.  My plan is to create a separate section on this site for those tales. This will allow me to keep the main blog focused on actual events, practices, paths, and people. I may sometimes give the backstory or further explanation of a myth here, but the stories themselves will have their own space. That’s the plan – if life and certain tricksters don’t interfere.

Spring Is Coming

Spring is coming.

Ok, so perhaps that proclamation does not quite carry the same dramatic weight as Ned Stark’s meteorological prophecies, but there’s still an important idea somewhere in those three words.  Winter has exited stage left, taking with it the deep introspection and pervasive darkness that marks the season.  The stasis and stagnation of the coldest months is giving way to growth and rebirth and color is returning to nature again. It is time for the shadows to recede and for light and life to come back to us.

A personal winter seems also to be winding down and yielding slowly to spring and life renewed.  In leaning into the pain during the last year, I have also leaned into shadowed and darkened places within myself. In the darkness of a long winter, there has been time to slowly take apart some things that have been troublesome and unapproachable by the light of day.  I’ve had the opportunity to ask a lot of questions about the whys and hows of those bothersome issues.

The sum result of all this introspection is this – I have, in some important ways, failed myself. While I could write a volume or two about it, it can be summed up in a  few salient points.  The first is that I have allowed myself to let fear and guilt keep me in a very destructive work environment under the thumb of someone who on their best of days is a bully and on the worst is a textbook example of sociopathic behavior.  The second is that I have failed to listen to my mind and  body’s many warning shots that something has been amiss because I have been so wrapped up in that work situation.  The third, and thankfully last, is that I have been I have failed to listen to those voices which warned me about the two previous points – both internal and external, human and other.

Recognizing failure is one thing. Do something about it is quite another. Action, growth, and change are necessary, however, and I have spent much of the new year working to rectify the failures. I have parted ways with the troublesome employer in favor of a workplace where there is a zero-tolerance policy for bullying.  I am attempting to not just listen to but actually understand what my body is telling me, although it is with the same slowness and misunderstandings of learning any new language.  Being more mindful of the words of my allies has been the easiest of the changes by far because the trust I have in those voices is still very much intact and I am painfully aware of what ignoring them can cost me. These are just first steps on a long journey, but they are steps in a much needed change of direction.

So, yes, springs is coming and with it, a promise of new growth and change. And it’s about time.

Out of My Head and Onto the Page

It is November and the annual madness has officially taken hold. It is five days into NaNoWriMo and my official word count is at just over 15,000. For the sake of expedience as I didn’t have the time or energy to world-build for a new novel this year, I have resorted to my last writing resort, fan fiction.

Spinning my own tales using existing characters and world is how I became interested in writing fiction.  This is the first time, however,  I’ve ever taken the time to write down one of those spin-off stories.  Usually the tales remain strictly in my head, the stuff of daydreams in idle moments.  I’ve decided that I would write a story about Hogwarts ten years after Voldemort’s final defeat.  At its core, it’s a story about characters who were marginalized, broken, and ruined by the Ministry in the years after the war.  As I said, it was a last resort, a desperate attempt to get something resembling a story on paper.

In the process of writing this draft, I spent an hour yesterday on a conversation about one character’s view of spell work. He differentiates it into two types – 1). spells that are effective because the person on whom it is used believes that magic has power and 2). spells whose power lies in the spell caster’s ability to shape the nature of reality (requiring no belief whatsoever).  An argument then ensues about whether the former is truly magic or simply form of psychological manipulation and whether or not someone who performs that kind of magic can truly call themselves a witch.

After I’d finished writing that section, I thought “Hmm, that’s interesting. Where in Hades did that come from?”  I haven’t given a lot of thought to the nature of what makes spells stick, because I rarely do spell work aimed at anyone else (the liminal work that constitutes much of  what I do is very different beast than conventional spell work). I realize that the theory above has loopholes that a truck could drive through and simplifies the issue too much, but it does have me thinking about where the power of spell work does lie. Is a curse effective simply because the person on whom it is cast believes, in however small a way, that curses have power?  Or does a curse’s efficacy lie solely with the caster and their ability to affect the circumstances of another person’s life?

For now, I’m just going to agree with the response that was given by another character: “Magic just is. It doesn’t need a theory or a philosophy.   Must you overthink everything?”  Ah, the joys of having philosophical debates in one’s own head.

Happy Holidays

There is a certain damp chill to the air today and the trees rattle their leaves like some many loose bones in the breeze.  The afternoon threatens those who would wander outside with the threat of skin-scouring mists and bone-numbing drizzle.  Crows are roosting in the snug safety of nearby branches, their silhouettes creating dark holes in the gold and russet arboreal tapestries. Their calls herald the arrival of autumn, a far better indicator of the season than any day marked on human calendars.

This time of year is by far my favorite and today and tomorrow are the most favored of the season.  Today is a celebration of both the secular and the sacred.  I’ll open the doors of my house to both trick-or-treaters and to the blessed dead.  Candy will be served to the children of the neighborhood and those parents who themselves never outgrew the spooky fun of Halloween.  For the dead, there will be offerings of food, prayers, and blessings.  The celebrations this year will be much more low-key than last, with the spiritual aspects being observed in my typical solitary style.

Tomorrow is set aside on my personal calendar as a frenzied celebration of the creative spirit.  November 1st kicks off National Novel Writing Month, so the day will find me writing wildly, drinking copious amounts of coffee, and occupying a world that exists largely in my own head.  I believe in celebrating those things which bring you joy… and for me, there is a great deal of joy to be found in seat-of-my-pants speed writing.  After a year that’s given little opportunity for writing, I’m looking forward to immersing myself in storytelling again.

Wishing you all a Happy Halloween, Blessed Samhain, and Fruitful All Novels Day!