… a thought making crooked all that is straight.

Boundaries

The insider and the out-outsider

Once again my mind returns to thoughts of the individual and her/his relationship to community. I blame my university background in social anthropology.

Tomorrow I am going to a fetish market and the fetish party thereafter. Yes, whips, chains, spankings, dungeon equipment and all. The last time I attended I had a wardrobe malfunction just before leaving, and so opted for the most comfortable and smartest outfit I had. Unfortunately the outfit was totally unsuitable for a fetish venue: unless you are wearing rubber corsets, PVC outfits, Steampunk or transgender clothing, the acceptable alternative is black. How ironic that I virtually always wear black but ended up choosing a psychedelic mixture of patterns and colours instead. As a result I felt out of place and people didn’t know how to pigeon-hole me. I felt like a Sunday school teacher taking a walk through an opium den. Clothes identified people’s proclivities; they identified whether a person was Dom/me or sub. Dom/mes will not talk to submissive people because they might belong to another Master or Mistress, and it is a transgression of unspoken rules to play with somebody else’s submissive.

Years ago I had a social networking account. I was connected with many occult people, mainly of the LHP persuasion. I was new to the path and felt a bit out of my depth although I was making strides in my learning. But I never felt fully a part of the community because I didn’t ever “play” the darker-than-the-darkiest-darkness dude, so black my own mother couldn’t find me in a coal shed shebang. One day I looked at all the status lines:

Hail the chthonic forces!
My soul is travelling the reverse of the tree of life
Hell’s gates open and I embrace the fury!
Today I honour Baron Samedi!
Only those initiated into true gnosis will pass the doors of Death

And my status line?

I’m just about to have a cup of tea and put a chicken in the oven

Sigh. No. Somehow I just wasn’t wearing the right online “uniform”. I remained on the fringes, my hyperbole too soft, too friendly, too this-is-how-I-am. I didn’t wear a mask, and masks were de rigeur!

Groups have rules and etiquette that distinguish them from other groups, otherwise what would make them different? Isn’t it enough to have a different way of thinking, without having to fall into the trap of becoming a fashion clique: got the book, got the T-shirt, got the hand gesture to use on every photo to show that I rock! But humans are base creatures and we find comfort in such binding actions – the “in” vocabulary that leaves all others bewildered, the “in” jokes that no one else understands. Being “in” is so much more preferable as a social primate than being “out”. The outsider has no place in this jungle, she is rogue and looked upon suspiciously. She is the hedge-rider, the traditional witch straddling boundaries between village and … the wild, forbidding “world out there”/the “world beyond life”; she straddles social customs and acts as an intermediary between our so-called civilised, social self and our animal, degenerate self – the latter dragging us down, the former supposedly raising us up.

So even in fringe groups, such as occultists and fetishists, who may define themselves as outsiders because they dwell outside of the mainstream, there is a focus on social integration and rules of belonging … if you transgress them, you are out of the outsiders – a twist on Micky Flanagan’s brilliant skit on going out-out. Suddenly you are the out-outsider.

But if you play by the rules, learn the group language and wear the group mask, then you too can belong! It’s a toss-up between being true to your authentic self and finally bridging that yawning gap of loneliness and isolation. For those who have truly experienced loneliness, what wouldn’t they do to connect and belong?

However, sacrificing your self to the group mores can mean that you lose the outsider edge; you lose the ability to straddle more than one world. You are subsumed within an all-encompassing whole, rather than striding forth on your personal path, however weird or humdrum that may be. Not everybody’s authentic self is eccentric and quirky. Mine is, but that doesn’t make it better or worse than somebody who raises their hands in horror at what I do or don’t do.

The real question is the motivation behind our actions. Are we ACTing or RE-acting? Are we following the herd from a need to belong, or are we driven forward by an internal motivation, a lust for self-manifestation?

So, tomorrow I shall wear the right uniform. I shall behave in a way that people know I am Domme. I shall speak the group language and enjoy a day of belonging. But when I return home, I shall undress, light candles on my altar, pet my rat and continue reading about Pomba Gira. My happy medium is to continue straddling several worlds; to dabble my toes in the “in” puddle, before drying my feet and walking off alone into the woods. I am a hedge-rider, a witch, and I always shall be. I am an outsider, an out-outsider even, and that’s fine by me. The questions I leave you with are: how much of your own behaviour is an action originating from an urge for true manifestation of self, the expression of your unique will? And how much is it a RE-action to a need for belonging, a desire to be “in”, a longing to bridge the loneliness within? Are you straddling the hedge demarcating village life and the wilds? Or are you holding hands with your fellow group members, backs turned to the darkness, eyes firmly shut for fear of looking over your own shoulders?

©StarofSeshat 2012


Self and Other …

Whoremoans [sic]… Yesterday was a day when things flipped on the edge of a coin. Great one minute, in tears the next; everything feeling poignant. Months ago in such a hormonally driven state I cried when I saw a dancing dog. Really? It’s just a dog. But it’s dancing! Sob!

The brilliant biting sun of yesterday replaced today by clouds and a deeper chill. The ground is still too warm, throwing up crocuses and spring flowers which will all be killed with the first frost. So much death on the horizon – winter creeping up and taking us by surprise. The reasoning mind noting the excess of berries on the tree; people drawing on old folklore about heavy berry harvests meaning a harsh winter. Geese flying in Vs, unsure which direction they should head in. Robins happy but not looking fat enough to survive, as the instinct to overeat and build a fat reserve is inhibited by the plethora of insects still buzzing on warm days … even the odd wasp and bee. Bees should be sleeping deeply and dreaming of flowers by now.

I sat in the garden yesterday writing A Plan, saw Other (the local stray cat – named Other by me and my neighbour as he is the “other cat” who doesn’t belong round here). I called to him. The look of recognition and joy touched me as he scampered down the wall and pegged it down the long garden to see me (good job he didn’t start dancing). Normally he is such a reticent cat. Our first moment of contact was during a session of yoga in the garden. I settled into lotus for meditation and when I opened my eyes there he was sitting in front of me just staring – from awareness of Self to Other. That was the first time he let me touch him. Since then he can be approached cautiously. The last time his lip caught on a fang and I saw the beautiful skull underneath his black and white fur: “When you die, will you rot in my garden? Will you? Hmm? Will you? Purrrr. Do that for me!”

I’m in skull withdrawal and the paltry offerings of commercial Halloween do nothing to satiate my need for bone or decorative skullwork. Samhain fast approaching. Some acquaintances off doing their own thing – apparently I’m too “dark” for them. I think they are right. I have something else planned with Others: part of three days of ritual – one day for me, one day for a man I care deeply about, one for me and my friends. And so my own awareness expands from Self to Other.

Last night I finally finished Leonora Carrington’s book, Down Below. This is the problem with reading 20+ books at the same time, I am a water-book-boatman, skimming over the waters, drawing lines between ideas and reading deeper meanings into connections between multiple sources. I believe each moment to be an opportunity to experience a greater lesson than just the words on one piece of paper or the words from one person’s mouth. Rarely do I dive into just a single book, but that too is a refreshing and different lesson, necessary at times.

Her final words describe how she slipped from madness to lucidity through the words of a “reasonable man”. The world in which she had guided the planets and seen the true nature (or warped nature) of those around her dissipated like mist on the river. “He ‘deoccultized’ the mystery with which I was surrounded…” She realised that medication was just medication not a form of hypnotism, and that her obsessions with one man (who patently took advantage of her vulnerable state) could be broken by having sex with another.

All in all a most unsatisfactory ending; but such are endings in life. Encounters, situations and people are rarely cut clean and tied up with a nice bow. It’s a blood and guts affair that hurts, but with awareness it is a pain of purging not festering.

An awareness of Self and an awareness of Other – at times an inseparable dance or a balderdashing bashing of heads. But My time is currently one not of moulding Myself to anOther’s needs and feelings but of re-creating My sense of Self and Being. If Other fits My “occult” world, it may stay; if not, it may be deoccultized, as I continue to defy that thing called a “reasoning and reasonable mind”.

©StarofSeshat 2011


Bodies Under Siege: Christ as symbol & beauty in the pain

I am currently reading Bodies Under Siege: Self-Mutilation and Body Modification in Culture and Psychiatry by Armando R. Favazza, M.D. It is the first comprehensive attempt at dealing with the subject of self-mutilation from a cultural psychiatric perspective. I am only about 20 pages in, but I already feel that this man has understood the concept of self-mutilation not only from a cultural and ritual perspective but from the perspective of a mentally ill person.

Many people, knowing either vaguely or intimately my personal belief systems and practices as a witch, question and frown upon my use of a crucifix in my practices, and the fact that I often wear one when I am in a particularly bad “demonic” phase. The fact is I take great comfort in aligning myself with the voluntary self-mutilation that the mythic image of Christ allowed to be imposed upon himself. The crux of Christian myth is based around this voluntary sacrifice, but the issue for me is not sacrifice for another but identification with excruciating internal and external pain.

The images of Christ on the cross have been graced over the centuries with a virtual delight in the gore and excruciating agonies of this man-God. As such he can become the epitome and symbol of a self-harmer’s attempt to make peace with the forces inside and to say yes to life; because self-harming is not a suicide attempt but an attempt to avert suicide.

Quoting a discussion about Fakir Mustafa by Graver, Favazza says:

[Fakir] feels [the pain] not as a foreign invasion of the body but as a sensation of the body that separates the body from the mind.

And this is certainly one of the prime motivations for my own self-harming urges – to demarcate boundaries between mind, body, and I would add, soul, to separate out the mix and to ease the pain of their co-existence.

Suppression is a beautiful tool which can facilitate the survival of someone who has lived through the unspeakable; but it can too easily become a means of self-destruction, where the emotions that should be focused on “enemies” is turned inwards, thus indeed creating a form of social self-sacrifice. Favazza elucidates this point:

Blood has awesome symbolic and physiologic powers, as evidenced by its role in religious sacrifice, healing, the formation of brotherhoods, and blood feuds. When harvested properly, it can alter the course of personal and communal history. It is my contention that some mentally ill persons mutilate themselves as a primitive method of drawing upon their blood’s ability to foster bonds of loyalty and union among members of their social network, to demonstrate their hatred of and conquest over real and imaginary enemies, to heal their afflictions, and … to set right their relationship with God.

Favazza discusses the subject of self-mutilation within Christianity extensively, identifying possible schizophrenics, anorectics and self-harmers amongst the martyr crew. He writes:

It is clear that the individual human body mirrors the collective social body, and each continually creates and sustains the other. Misperceptions of reality, feelings of guilt, negative self images, antisocial acts, and all the other symptoms we associate with personal mental illness defy understanding without reference to the psychological, social, cultural, and physical integrity of the communal “body.”

Which leads me on to the disgust, bewilderment and rejection that self-harmers continually face from the “communal body”. Favazza’s statements support my own experience of the anger, disgust and fear that self-harmers illicit not only amongst passers-by but even amongst their so-called “caretakers”. Nobody truly understands the self-harmer from a psychiatric perspective and instead dismisses the person saying, e.g. it must be a chemical imbalance, or part of borderline syndrome, or a way of getting attention. Favazza summarises self-mutilation amongst the mentally ill as a morbid form of self-help, but warns that it is nothing to trifle with and that for those individuals who cannot control the behaviour it may end in unsightly scars or even “the loss of an eye”.

Personally, I wear my scars as a warrior would those won in battle. When your insides resemble the direst of Hieronymus Bosch’s paintings, and your outside is that of an amicable, sweet and smiling Englishwoman, there is a sense of relief when your external appearance begins to resemble the internal reality. Naturally this comes with extreme forms of social and familial rejection. Nobody likes to see pain, nobody likes to be forced to imagine what’s inside the person wearing the scars. There are very few who would reach out and kiss the scars, saying, “There is beauty in such life-affirming pain.”

©StarofSeshat 2011


Maggots Part II: A sense of the ridiculous

Ok, ok, so know your maggots but for goddess’ sake don’t go around dissecting everything that just LOOKS like a maggot … some things just are, some things are not in your control, some things do not respond to the rationalist analysis.

I’m sitting on a chair. Why am I sitting on this chair? It’s a bit uncomfortable. Ah, I must be punishing myself and this stems from my Catholic upbringing and the inherent guilt. It wasn’t my fault. I was brought up Catholic it was my mother’s fault. Ergo. It is my mother’s fault I am sitting on this chair.

I’m eating breakfast in the kitchen and not in the living room. Why is this? A living room is for relaxing in, therefore I am not giving myself permission often enough in my life to relax. This is because of the work ethic I was brought up with. It wasn’t my fault. My mother is German. Ergo. It’s my mother’s fault that I sit in the kitchen to eat breakfast.

It’s raining today. The weather report yesterday said it would be sunny. I feel disappointed that it’s raining. Why is this? I thought it would be sunny but it is raining; the meteorologist lied. This supports my belief that everybody lies to me. It’s not my fault. My mother never warned me that life is unpredictable. Ergo. It’s my mother’s fault that it’s raining.

Do you see what I mean?? And do NOT come back and congratulate me for this blinding psychological discovery that it’s all my mother’s fault! I am J.O.K.I.N.G. Geddit?

I can be as intense as the next person, but I sprinkle it with humour and the ability to laugh at myself. While writing this I am giggling away. The RH came into the office and said, “Are you laughing at yourself again?” He says that I find myself the most amusing subject matter, more so than anybody or anything else. It is true. I see the ridiculous in myself and it makes me laugh. My humour helps me climb mountains, and even when my feet are bleeding I am chuckling because I have wide feet that look like duck’s feet and my mind will start to envisage a duck quacking up a mountainside. When my ex turned up on the scene recently I was terrified, but I could still laugh about it at moments because it felt like I was Penelope Pitstock legging it in thigh-high pink boots from my adversary who loped behind me in a black cloak while twiddling his moustache …

Life is ridiculous. It is not always (or ever!) to be controlled. Other people cannot be controlled … So another person needs therapy and they won’t go for it? So what? Let them stew in their own complexes and when their life self-combusts maybe they will reconsider. Harsh? Pragmatic. If someone is ill and then refuses to take care of him-/herself but expects copious amounts of sympathy and emotional balm; leave them crippled. How else will they learn the simple lesson of cause and effect if you keep leaping in like some divine abrogator who deflects the consequences of their actions, sooths, calms and sacrifices your self on the altar of their ego (this does not preclude helping people with everything you have when they truly want to be helped – but believe me, not everyone does want help – some people actually like their life a bit shitty – apparent victims often hold all the power!).

I am right royally sick of it. And there I was yesterday saying I would control my urge to use the blog as an outlet for my vitriol. Oh no. Did you believe me? Do you feel betrayed and hurt? Have I just confirmed the ‘fact’ in your life that everyone lets you down? Glad to be of service.

Have you heard the one about the Jew who every time he dropped his buttered toast it fell on the buttered side. One day it fell butter side up. He was elated. Was this to be a change of fortune for him? He ran to the rabbi and said, “Rabbi, whenever I drop my buttered toast it always lands on the buttered side, but this morning I dropped it and it landed butter side up. Is this a sign from G-d that my fortunes are changing?” The rabbi pondered, and hummed and ha-ed and consulted various Talmudic reference books. Finally he came back to the man and said, “You buttered the wrong side of the bread.” Oy vey!

©StarofSeshat 2009