Kissing Twenty-Five Years

Birthdays have never really been a source of pleasure in my life. In the coming days, I build up a small hope, a sense of expectation that maybe, this year, things will be different. Maybe this year things won’t all go to hell in a hand basket on May 22.

When I awoke last Thursday, the plan was this: have a long, leisurely breakfast while reading; go to work an hour early; get out around 4PM; run a couple of quick errands; come home and relax until Alec came home and we got started on making dinner. But when I got up that day, early as I have been doing, I threw in a load of laundry and waited for it to dry before going to shower. Yet when I turned on the hot water…nothing came out. Try all the taps. Nothing is coming out. Call our front office and discover that they are replacing the water boilers today and didn’t you know? No, of course I didn’t. We only just moved in a week ago.

Thursday was not off to a great start. I lamented my day, had to contact work and explain the situation to them and cancel my day there. I waited and waited for the water to come back on and when it finally did, I had a realization: without work, even though the morning had been awful, the afternoon could be anything I wanted.

And I did do what I wanted. I went to the Indian place next door and ate the long, leisurely meal I had promised myself. I ran the few errands I needed to get done, namely grabbing charcoal and the steaks for the grill as Alec had promised me steak for my birthday. And then, food put away, I walked to the library across the street and began pulling out books on the various cultures that I have been interested in and their religions and cultures.

While wandering through the stacks, a book caught my eye. I stopped and set down the few books I had been carrying and pulled it off the shelf. There’s no way, I thought to myself as a memory clawed its way to the surface. But it was.

If you’ve known me for a while, you might remember the story of how Anubis came into my life. I was young, about ten years old, and had had a rough time that sixth grade year. But at my second school of three that year, I came across the Lord of Jackals. Or, rather, he came to me. Patron of orphans and lost souls, guide to travelers, and guardian he is. He came to me out of a textbook, a book we had had to read for class at that second school. Social studies, starting Ancient Egypt just after Ancient Greece, the unit they had wrapped up my first day there. I remember thumbing through that book and reading about the mummies and magic of the ancient world, my mind sparking with interest and intrigue. And then, a large jackal-headed man came to my attention as I was reading through this book.

Over the years, I have remembered the basic things about the book but never a name. Yet, as I pulled the book off the library shelf, I knew: it was that book. The one that had led me to Anubis and finally started me down this twisted, crooked path over the last fifteen years. As I flipped through its pages, I shook my head as memories came flooding back. Anubis was back, I realized. Months of quiet, as he is wont to do, but this book was a gift. A reminder of our relationship and that he is never truly gone from me.

Once finished with it, I set it aside fondly and skimmed through the other books that I had picked up, taking several notes and writing up the information on each. I pulled out the Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits, a book that I have read many times, but as I read through the section on Black Dogs yet again, something caught my attention. It directed me to another entry, not just the Black Shuck of Britain. Curious, I headed into S and looked until I found it: the Snarly Yow. Oh yes, that’s what it’s called.

I had never heard of this tale before and my excitement grew when I read where it was rumored to have been seen: southern Maryland.

What a coincidence. I live in northern Virginia now.

Black Dogs, for those who don’t know, have been a research topic and interest of mine for several years. In college, I actually wrote a thesis on them for my folklore class. (It was more or less an excuse to read and relish the various mythologies and tales on the entity and get class credit, too.) When I was in my final year of college, I had hoped to apply to the Fulbright Scholarship to study the tales in England, but things never quite panned out. “One day,” I promised myself. “I will go to England to do primary research on Black Dogs.”

Reading that section was the greatest gift I could have received on my birthday. It’s been a week and yet all I can think about is the fact that I am so close to a site where this entity is said to roam. There are many legends of Black Dogs and they vary, but the creature itself is something that fascinates me. I can’t wait to go and attempt to track down the history and the legends of the spirit from that area.

My time at the library eventually ended and I headed home. Dinner was a bit of madness as since we were still in the process of moving, not everything was at the new apartment just yet. Still, it was a delicious meal and I set aside a plate for Anubis as a thank you for his gift that day, cutting the tenderloin from my t-bone and setting it on the plate for him. It is always my favorite part, and the primary reason why I love that cut, so its offering was important to me.Twenty-five years is a long time. A quarter of a century, as my mother keeps reminding me. Looking over my life, I have done much and it appears that I have a long way to go. This year, I have been given direction, if I choose to read my experiences that day as such. (And I do.) I have much to learn and much to experience in the coming months, and these next few weeks will be an opportunity as Alec will be out of town and not back until his birthday. I’ll have free reign, both of our apartment and of my time without someone else to come home to each night. And though I will miss him, this time away will do us both good.

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Welcome Home

Today, Alec and I have officially moved out of our old apartment. We spent this weekend learning our new neighborhood with its plentiful birds and multitude of sidewalks, planting flowers and herbs to sit on our new balcony, and sipping lemonade while sitting outside and listening to the wind blow through the trees.

Our old apartment was cramped and small and in a busy area, not conducive to either of us. We were constantly on top of one another without any space to ourselves. In the new apartment here, I will have my own room to serve as an office and temple. I look forward to getting the furnishings for it to break up the bright yellow walls and set up the small shrines to my various gods and growing personal pantheon, but that’s a story for another day.

A quick update on my living situation and why I’ve been incommunicado for the last few weeks. Moving is hard work and there was lots to get done. But this new place with its fresh and brightly painted walls and quiet balcony has already felt like home longer than our previous place. I look forward to settling in and getting to know the area and giving my gods the space they deserve.

The Lord of Jackals

He came to me tonight as I lay in the arms of my lover, my partner. The soft flesh beneath my fingers became taut, lean muscle and I felt him there. The Jackal, the mighty, He Who Gives Air in the Coffin. He is the god who works, his well-muscled form one of labor than one of vanity. The Beautiful Guardian calls my attention, demands it as his due. It is time.

My fingers, long disused for writing the praises of my gods, dusty and ill-used begin to ache in the light of a swelling moon. The great orb above that alights shadows, long and stretching along the floor.

My tongue feels heavy, like a pool of moonlit water lay upon my tongue, pressing against my teeth. I feared if I opened my lips, it would dribble down like mercury upon my breast. As my mind rushes with his name, the ones that light upon the wind, I sit up, pull myself from my lovers arms, and open my computer to its glowing screen. It has been too long, a small voice whispers in my mind. You swore upon your tongue and your hands that you would do this when you were able.

And yes, I am able. He is just the first of many. I close my eyes and listen to the harsh arid winds that pummel me from nowhere. He has brought the desert with him in his wake. There is the taste of burnt gold, acrid and bitter, upon my tongue, the same sense I get whenever he is nearby, demanding attention.

Oh, praise be to the Strict Gatekeeper! Glory to the Lord of the Two Lands! I worship you of the Powerful Face! I submit to you, Lord of the Night! Dua Anubis, the Guardian and the Guide! The One Who is Secret, the One of the Dark Desert! He of the Swathed Moon! Lord of Silver Light and Desert Dune! Silent Laughter of the Desert!

I hear you, my messenger. I hear you, my guide. Bid to me that what you will and I shall honor you as best as my body and my mind is capable.

Pack It Up, Pack It In

Earlier this week, a friend back at college asked me to write a letter to our Pagan student group sharing my experiences and thoughts post-college as a Pagan. Honestly, it was pretty hard to write. I ended up with a five page letter and about a page’s worth of bullet pointed advice for them. But it got me thinking, and there was a lot that I didn’t get to say. Mostly because I didn’t think about it until later.

When I graduated college, I couldn’t wait to start my life. Life had other plans. My gods had other plans. I ended up in a dark place for a year but I leaned on my gods more than ever. I made an oath to them as well, even though it’s something that I never do. Now that I am better, I need to start making good on that oath.

We move in two weeks. Well, we get the keys in two weeks and then we go in to paint and the following Monday, Alec will be here at our current apartment supervising the move from here to there. Lots to get done: packing, deciding what to keep and what to sell/donate, cleaning everything. But frankly, I can’t stop thinking about the second bedroom, the one that will be my office and temple space.

Looking for a new place, we agreed that we needed more space. Specifically, I needed a space of my own where I could do my Pagan things and have some privacy for that and a place to work. While Alec has had his own space, it’s been hard on me not to have room to work. I’m very expansive when it comes to things and I like being able to see all my options. But, more specifically, I needed an easier way to get to my altars and shrines. The ones I currently have are so far in the back of our bedroom, segmented away by mounds of clothes and our bed that getting to it has been more of a challenge than not. So as we get ready to move into our new place, I keep thinking about all the shrines and altars I can build, both indoors and on the balcony we will be upgrading to. It’s very exciting.

One of the things that I came upon after sending my letter off was living as a closeted Pagan versus living out and proud. But there’s a middle ground that I occupy, liminal child that I am. I don’t hide my faith; never really have. I’m lucky enough to be someone who is able to stand up for themselves. When it comes to displaying my faith, I make no qualms to hide it. Whenever I did in the past, I relented quickly. Being completely secretive has never been an option for me, at least not in that regard. These days, I vary my pendants and other jewelry, but typically they each have some sort of meaning or spiritual significance. My ankh for Anubis and the Kemetic ideals that I still favor; the crow with its spirals and knotwork for The Morrigan; the skull bracelet I wear from time to time (to work) as a memento mori and a reminder of what I owe The Crow Lass; the stag earrings that I purchased years ago for the Stag Queen. I wear them all as beautiful reminders to myself of who I serve, who I work with. And if asked, I will tell people. Most of these are incognito, though, but the crow especially has a small pentacle in its breast, one that you can only see if you look closely. But I don’t hide it. I don’t think I can.