Pet Loss and Disenfranchised Grief

I just returned home from burying my beloved animal companion of the past 12 years–my cat Thor–on my parents’ property. I am exhausted, and tears have freely commingled with sweat and snot on my dirtied, makeup-smeared face. I look like a parody of a zombie meant to spring out upon unwary, cash-paying visitors to “haunted house” attractions in this Halloween season. Everything about me feels “off” today because it’s plain that my visible manifestations of grief, what used to be publicly acknowledged as mourning, are no longer welcome in this death-denying, youth extolling, commodifying, grinding capitalist world where productivity comes at the expense of our collective humanity. A grinding world where, especially when it comes to the loss of a treasured companion animal, one is met with snide remarks of “Get over it–it’s not like a person died” or “It was just a cat. The city is crawling with them; just go get yourself a new one.”

This grinding world is the locus of disenfranchised grief, which noted grief expert Dr. David Kessler defines as “a type of grief that other people might deem as ‘less than'” (You Can Heal Your Heart, p. 136). Pet loss is the most common form of disenfranchised grief; the losses women experience after undergoing an abortion or experiencing a miscarriage are even more glaringly absent from any form of public discourse.

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A Lament for My Familiar

Death. I’ve been acutely reminded of its omnipresence in many ways lately. Seeing the low angle of the sun at this time of year has begun to trigger my seasonal affective disorder. My nightly cemetery walks have been tinged with greater pensiveness and even despair. It’s a gloomy, cool day here in Chicago as the Sun gets ready to enter the eighth sign of the zodiac, Scorpio, herald of the mysteries of death and rebirth. I’m still processing the devastating news I received on Tuesday when I took my 11-year-old cat, Thor (a feral kitten rescue from Hawaii), to an emergency veterinary clinic for an abdominal ultrasound and other tests. My regular veterinarian had performed an X-ray on Thor to determine the cause of his misshapen stomach and elevated liver levels revealed from recent blood testing. The X-ray indicated a mass protruding from Thor’s liver–one so large it had actually pushed Thor’s stomach at a 90-degree angle. No wonder Thor’s lost 9 pounds in a little over two months. Was it a tumor? If so, could surgery be an option? I was referred to the emergency clinic, which is equipped with an advanced radiology department, to find the answers. Instead, the main veterinarian there stunned me with the diagnosis: advanced pancreatic cancer that has metastasized to his liver and lungs. And then those horrible six words, laden with the iron weight of finality:

“There is nothing we can do.” Continue reading

My Upcoming Ritual Honoring Set at Chicago Pagan Pride This September

Great news! I’ve just received word from the organizers of the annual Chicago Pagan Pride celebration, which is scheduled for Sunday, September 13, in Oak Park, Illinois (a beautiful southwest Chicago suburb known for being the birthplace of one of my favorite Modernist authors, Ernest Hemingway), that my proposal to lead a workshop and ritual honoring the Great God Set has been approved! Huzzah!

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Prayer to Sedna

I am so incredibly excited! Galina Krasskova, a Heathen author and spirit worker whose work I’ve admired for years, personally contacted me today, asking me if I’d be interested in writing the prayer to accompany stunning imagery for a prayer card of the Inuit goddess Sedna! Galina has been producing Pagan prayer cards depicting various artists’ lovely renditions of Deity images from different cultural pantheons–and Sedna is up next for production! Galina informed me that her partner told her about my devotion to Sedna–my deepest thanks to you, Sannion!–and of course I immediately replied that I would be honored to compose the printed prayer (below) in honor of the Sea Woman; it’s going to be published under my legal name.

"Sedna" by the late Susan Seddon Boulet. This is not the image going on the prayer card Galina is producing; it is one of my personal favorites, however.

“Sedna” by the late Susan Seddon Boulet. This is not the image going on the prayer card Galina is producing; it is one of my personal favorites, however.

Sedna, Mother of Plenty, my thanks to You for granting me this opportunity to share my devotion! I’m so happy I’m squealing like a narwhal!

 

Prayer to Sedna

Sedna, I honor You

I welcome You, I give You thanks

 

Praise to the Sea Woman, swiftly advancing, roaring

Uinigumasuittuq the Tormented

Survivor of treachery

Your severed fingers birthed new beings

O Nerrivik, Mother of Plenty

Sustenance for The People in exchange for observing Your pittailiniq (taboos)

 

But when the balance is broken, O One Who Halts Harpoons in Mid-Flight,

You rightly gather up Your children

And they sigh with relief

Not being made food for fools, You shelter them in Adlivun

As our sins choke the ocean with grief

 

Ravenous Sedna, Bringer of Hunger, harvest my whispered prayer:

Teach me to free You from the nets that suffocate—from the paralyzing

Plastic bags of past deeds deserving of punishment

May I bring You comfort, soothe Your flippers when they ache

And disentangle Your long, black hair, thereby dissolving strands of Memory

Until all that is known is the sea

 

Dread Goddess Sedna, have mercy on me

 

Sedna, I honor You

I welcome You, I give You thanks

Some Thoughts on This Evening’s Final Uranus-Pluto Showdown

Well, folks, the 7th and final exact hit in the protracted Uranus-Pluto square is timed for 8:50 p.m. Chicago/Central Daylight time. This “exuberant” (to borrow the euphemism Rev. Selena Fox uses to describe unruly children at public Pagan gatherings) planetary aspect has been with us since 2012, and revolutionary Uranus in Aries and transformative Pluto in Capricorn have more than done their duty in illustrating profound dysfunction in the various systems we live under–governmental, financial/corporate, societal. (Pluto, in particular, is a planet dedicated to exposing secrets.)

Uranus in Aries at an exact 90-degree square to Pluto in Capricorn. Image courtesy of www.templeofthejaguar.wordpress.com

Uranus in Aries at an exact 90-degree square to Pluto in Capricorn. Image courtesy of http://www.templeofthejaguar.wordpress.com

The key words coming from both planets in their respective signs are “dismantle” and “restructure.” Uranian energy is like The Tower card from the Tarot: a zapping, instantaneous demolition crew knocking down what no longer works/has served its purpose. Let’s-cut-the-bullshit Pluto in Capricorn detonates with the force of a nuclear blast (think of how Robert Oppenheimer, before testing the atom bomb for the first time, quotes the 11th chapter, the  “Viswarupadarsanam,” of the Bhagavad-Gita, citing Shiva’s declaration that “I have become Death, Destroyer of Worlds”–that’s Plutonian energy in a literal and figurative sense), asking us how we’re going to birth new selves and structures into being, ones that can adapt to the New Normal.

These are energies that make people uncomfortable because of the sweeping changes they bring. In fact, the last time that Pluto and Uranus met was in the mid-1960s, setting the tone for the dramatic cultural and political transformations that occurred in the U.S. and around the world: second-wave feminism, the Civil Rights movement, anti-war protests amidst an escalating Cold War, political revolutions (Kennedy’s assassination, and further down the line, the Watergate scandal was hugely Plutonian given the element of exposure).

Narrowing our focus to the past three years of this planetary square (Obama’s second term, for those of you who are counting), we’ve had an Arab Spring, a resurgence of Cold War rhetoric and saber-rattling between Washington and Moscow, the mounting ecological devastation of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, various harrowing incidents (read: the shooting of unarmed black male youth) bringing to light (there’s that Plutonian spotlight) the egregious imbalance of power tied to race, class, and gender issues in the U.S., the alarming rise of the Islamic State and its heinous killing spree (cultural, religious genocide) in the Middle East and concomitant destruction of world heritage sites, and global economic volatility (the “austerity measures” the EU demanded of Greece, as one example, not to mention our own $13 trillion debt and counting to China) and instability, with talks now of countries like Hungary and Iceland vowing to pull out of the EU, to name but a few events. I’m sure you can think of more.

But as the great occult axiom from the Emerald Tablet imparts, “As above, so below; as within, so without.” That the motions of the planets impact vibrational levels experienced by people on earth at the collective and individual level is the underlying principle of astrology. Think: How has your life evolved in the past three years? What dramatic changes have you undergone? I’ll wager you’ve gone through some life-altering ones during this span of time.

Pluto the planet and the Earth Sign of Capricorn are all about power: consolidating it, manifesting it in the public sphere. (Capricorn rules the 10th house of career/public life.) Who have you become/who are you in the process of becoming on the World Stage? How are you being perceived by the world at large? How does your sense of vocation fit into it? Are you in a position to share the gifts that you’ve been given with others? This is the time to showcase your leadership in an inspirational way, to reclaim (if you’ve lost it) your sense of personal power and use it in the paradigm that Starhawk calls “power-with,” not “power-over” another

And that’s just it: we need to think collectively, about the imprints our thoughts, words, and deeds leave behind. Be mindful of a ripple effect you create, even in the most seemingly mundane of moments, for that is where the magic lies. It could be something as simple as greeting a stranger in the elevator of the office building where you work, holding a door open for a mother struggling with pushing a stroller inside a restaurant’s entrance, offering a person with disabilities your seat on the bus. Little moments of kindness can turn a person’s day–and perspective–around for the better in an instant. The new Uranian-Plutonian paradigm calls for interrelatedness.

Of course, as with the advice given by flight attendants in the emergency preparedness demos before your flight takes off, it’s best to have your own proverbial oxygen squared away before you can lend a hand to your seatmates. As this planetary square is a very intense one–and note that it happens just four days before the Spring Equinox Total Solar Eclipse, which brings its own high-intensity energy levels–it’s very important to make self-care your top priority. Eat nourishing foods, and try to limit your caffeine intake. Get seven to eight hours of sleep a night. Go for walks and let your feet connect with earth energy: stabilizing, grounding. Exercise in other ways, especially in methods that showcase a mindfulness link with the body’s movements, such as dance, yoga, t’ai chi, other martial arts. Surround yourself with positive people who love you, whose interactions leave you feeling energized and content, not depleted and defeated.

Those are the basics of self-care. For those on a spiritual path, especially a Pagan one that features devotional practices at its core, turn to your Power(s) for help. Pray for the removal of obstacles in your life, that the Uranus-Pluto square helps you clear away effortlessly (and hopefully gently!) that which is no longer aligned with your highest good. That the new Self you’re birthing into being (Plutonian rebirth, the phoenix from the ashes) consciously moves forward as a more fitting receptacle of Divinity. Stronger yet more humble. More aware. More generous and helpful. Fully attuned to the rhythms of the interdependence of all beings.

This past weekend, now that the snow has mercifully melted here in Chicago, my Bodacious Beau™ and I began to clear away a lot of debris in and around our humble home, starting with the east-facing balcony of our condo and the veggie and flower garden we have there. Happily, the potted rose from my birthday last September managed to stay alive over the winter in our kitchen, so we transferred it outdoors and repotted other plants as well (rosemary, oregano, hyacinth, spider plants, “hot cakes” seedlings). The black pansies we bought at a local nursery were potted together as a devotional act for Hekate: Goth flowers for the win! And all that sweeping away of gunk and reorganizing that we did really amounted to an effect that’s so refreshing, such a big “Ahhhhh!” every time I walk by the patio door. (As Stephen King would say, it’s become a “sweet spot” of our home.) It’s also a perfect metaphor for the Uranus-Pluto square too: out with the dead, the detritus, and in with the green shoots of new growing things. As we used to chant at Imbolc in my Gardnerian coven (whilst sweeping the ritual space widdershins with our besoms):

Thus we banish Winter

And thus we welcome Spring

Say farewell to what is dead

And greet each living thing

Thus we banish Winter

And thus we welcome Spring

 As the energies of this Uranus-Pluto square rely upon death as the necessary precursor to rebirth/renewal, it’s also been a good time for Dan and I to take morning and evening strolls in the local cemetery, leaving offerings for Hekate, Hel, and the spirit children that died with their mothers in the poorhouse at the Read-Dunning asylum for the criminally insane. On Saturday evening, we even went to fly a kite with the intent of sharing joy with the ghost children, as there was a nice (and apt) strong breeze from the north and kite flying brought out our own inner children in full force. There’s an example of interrelatedness right there: the worlds of the living and the dead reinforcing one another. Death and life, the two sides of the same coin.

Life is breath, and so I suggest we all take a series of deep breaths and set our intention on the new Wyrd we’re weaving together as this final Uranus-Pluto boxing match gets underway. It’s Go Time!

Be blessed and may your ancestors, your Goddesses, Gods, guides, and helping spirits help you navigate the remainder of the month with ease. May you be granted safe passage through the crossroads.

Ashé!

Hypnosis Naturalis

Restorative contact

Made in the refashioning of a wintry spell

A glimpse of reptilian hide

Beneath the dull gleam of the non-waves

Photo (c) by my friend Jovan Radakovich, www.countrad.blogspot.com

Photo (c) by my friend Jovan Radakovich, http://www.countrad.blogspot.com

Forest hush interrupted

By startled stork wings

A white blur in treetops pricked by

Budding sensations

And why not delight

Despite the overhead cling of gray expanse

Unpenetrated by shaft of sun?

 

Why not delight

Despite the din of debris and

Slicked ghost swirls of stains

Upon the land’s liquid mirror?

 

Why not delight

In the midst of this yawning grave,

This unthinking hum of collective

Motion to nowhere?

 

Now here

is treasured medicine,

Spun by untold minds at dreaming’s dawn

 

Now here

is quickened lifeblood

Splashed against the haze of infinite crossroads

 

The gazes of gods guide my stumbling footsteps aloft.

 

Now.

 

Here.