The end of March, all of April and part of May were a write-off. My M.E. and reactive hypoglycemia flared up so I was bed-bound for around 15 -20 hours of every day. Hell. Things stabilised in May, although “stable” to me still means “affected every day by my illnesses”. Sadly I had to come off the raw vegan diet in order to reach some kind of balance again. I still hope to go back to it, or perhaps just to the transition diet, popularly known as Raw till 4, but at the moment I’m just trying to crack down on being vegan as it’s tough giving up dairy completely.
My writing has picked up. I am working through a poetry course at the moment, learning about form and structure as well as content. I am half-way through the course and already see an improvement in my poetry (none of it is published yet on my poetry blog). Today I wrote a sonnet pastiche on Tennyson’s “If I were loved as I desire to be”. I’m pleased with the result. I get such a buzz from writing the main draft of a poem or from getting a lot of editing work done. I’m currently working on one of the main submissions for the course, a poem about the deep sea. So far I have 14 pages of draft work for a 35 line poem.
Feedback from friends on my recent writing has been good, although they are always supportive and vocal in encouraging my work. Feedback from the other course participants is … interesting; peer criticism forms about 50% of the course and I’m finding it difficult to offer constructive criticism. In private I gasp, “Oh my god, that’s awful!” or “Wow! I love it!” and that’s about as constructive as it gets. I’m not yet in the right frame of mind to take their poetry apart and offer helpful, critical suggestions. This latter ability will soon get some practice as I’ve joined a local writers’ group and we will be holding co-writing sessions but also critiquing sessions. The challenge is to learn to offer criticism but also to take it. At least all this literary criticism is toughening me up. What does surprise me is when I encounter someone who is “published” but whose writing is pretty dire … then I think, “Hey, I’m not quite as crap as they are, maybe I could do that too!” The main difference between us is less the quality of work and more the extent of self-belief. THEY believe they are writers and self-identify as such. I keep viewing myself as a dabbler, and even though (in my opinion) some of my writing is better than theirs, I pull back from calling myself “a writer” because it smacks of delusions of grandeur. But maybe I need to be a little more grand and a little more deluded if I’m ever going to make anything of my writing!
I was visiting a friend in a coastal town. Finally I had time to relax and just take in the sea air. My friend is a non-pagan with an open mind to all of my ways. Her partner calls me a Wiccan and I don’t object; it is a conceptual handle on what I am, as anything beyond that starts to sound a little too Middle Earth for him.
It was a bright but cold day when we headed to the sea. We found a café along the pebbly beach and settled in to be chilled by the wind and warmed by coffee. I offered to buy the second round and headed to the small wooden hut that served as kitchen and counter. A man stood there already waiting for his double latte with chocolate sprinkles. He eyed me suspiciously, a look that became rather sharper when he noticed my unicursal star broach. He nodded at the broach and said, “Love is the law… ” Suddenly I felt like a German spy from the Quiller Memorandum, “No, zes are not ze braend of zigarettes dat I normally smoke …” I replied “Love under will” and then stood awkwardly looking at him, feeling like we should now do some kind of black ghetto secret handshake ending with us bumping shoulders.
He grinned and I wondered if I should have just feigned ignorance and said my broach was a pretty star and that it went with a super-duper outfit I had at home.
He asked me if I was from the area, I said no and studiously avoided saying exactly where I was from. No need to worry about intrusive questions, he was more interested in telling me about himself, ending with, “Don’t you think I look like Crowley?” You and all the other overweight bald Thelemites, I thought. “Oh, yes,” I said. “Definitely a resemblance.” I made regretful noises about how I must return to my friend who was starting to look in need of coffee-defrosting. I saw him gearing up to ask to swap contact details. On his in-breath I jumped in firmly and said, “SO nice to meet you. LOVELY talking to you. MUST go.” And I trotted back to my friend, coffees in hand. I prised her chilled fingers off the old cup and slotted in a new cup which started to send heat up through her arm, enough for her to bend her elbow and swig a few gulps.
“Who was that?” she asked.
“Oh, just another Aleister wannabe.”
She looked at me confused. I gave a big ‘never-mind’ smile and toasted her with the coffee.
“Is that how much I owe you? I thought it was your round …”
I leant across and gave her a big kiss on the cheek.
“I must teach you the Secret Handshake of Middle Earth at some point …”
©StarofSeshat 2009 This is a work of fiction, any resemblance to persons living, dead or other is purely coincidental.
I am a snake shedding her skin leaving black scales in her wake.
I rose to the sun seeping over the hill, orange and pink at the horizon slipping into blue and black with a few brazen stars shining their light.
A candle was lit to Meretseger. It sputtered and hissed and extinguished. Only a new, virgin candle is good enough for Her, to sit before the cobra’s head, to honour the desert silence She brings.
I am minded of secrets told to me this year. Three people sharing secrets from secret teachers at secret organisations; the papers passed to me in a hush with reverence. My stomach tight in anticipation … the deflation of a balloon with a hidden hole, not quite >pop< more >hiss< and >sigh< when I realise that I have read these secrets before and nothing is new to me. I wonder if the secret ministers of the hush-hush organisations have heard of the internet …
Then mundane life hits me round the head like a frozen trout. I am angry and reeling at the potential financial insecurity this heralds. Whose job is safe in these rocky times? Like a minor tremor on the other side of the globe, a customer has a applied price pressure and the pressure is passed on in industrial Chinese Whispers, building and growing, until it crashes over me in a tidal wave of existential anxiety.
Such is life. Such is a Monday morning that feels like a Friday because I have worked through the weekend again. When I lived in Israel, the weekend was Friday afternoon and Saturday. No lazy Sunday mornings, instead I had awkward outings on Saturday juggling Shabbat public transport and eating at Goy restaurants that were the only jabbering waterholes open in the dusty echoing streets of a Shabbat day. Beit She’an: the flirtatious French archaeologist who showed me how to chip away at a marble column and marvel at mosaic tiles … my schoolgirl French going a long way to fill in the gaps of the blown kiss, the beckoning hand of communication.
So, now I must turn to the melting trout in my lap and see if I can turn it into some kind of meal. To be fed or to starve? Tomorrow at least, when I am fed by TGW, I shall be satiated on multiple levels… To be filled for others to suck me dry? Just try. I am wearing the reverse head of Sekhmet today …
I know that most pagan writers are self-published or working through small publishing houses where budgets are tight. But why, oh why, oh why can’t they at least run a basic spell-check if they can’t afford a decent proofreader? Are people so arrogant that they don’t get a friend or colleague to read through their manuscript before going to print? Or are their friends so sycophantic, all they can say is marvellous, rather than, bloody hell, where did you learn to speak English?
I have read pagan books by Worthies in the past and really struggled with their phraseology and ‘typos’. This is a trend in publishing in general; the standard of proofreading has slipped considerably since the 1960s. Am I betraying an academic snobbery by thinking that people who are published should take pride in every aspect of their writing? I know when I worked at the bookshop that the same slovenliness applies to mainstream writers too. I received a proof copy of a novel by someone like Maeve Binchy or Patricia Cornwell (a woman writer at any rate). This proof had not passed the editorial bench yet, so I was reading it in the raw. I only managed 2 pages before throwing it on the pile to be pulped because the standard of writing was appalling. This writer MAY have come up with the original idea, but based on the writing, the future kudos for her work most definitely lay with the editor…
Last night I cracked open a new tome on witchcraft. I’m not going to mention names because his writing is typical of many. Apart from the spelling mistakes … and I really don’t believe they were all slips of the finger on a keyboard … his phraseology was so obtuse that I had to virtually do the ‘magic eye’ trick by unfocusing my brain and allowing my subconscious to filter the main words in a sentence and try and make sense of it that way. This book is a modern-day grimoire. It is a book leading the reader into some very dark aspects of magick. The writer warns the reader that he takes no responsibility for what happens to the practitioner working with this book. If he is so bloody concerned, shouldn’t he have at least done a spell check on his demon names and invocations??!! At best nothing will happen, at worst the practitioner will summon a demon as pernickety as me who will want to know why his sigil is wrong and his name mispronounced!! I am (as usual) writing with tongue firmly in cheek, BUT this is a serious point.
I have often felt compelled to offer my proofreading services to certain pagan authors. I am a qualified proofreader, and I would even do it for free as a matter of principle to raise the dross standard of pagan writing. How on earth can we expect to be taken seriously, if our literature – the very books we base so much of our learning on – is full of errors that even a mundane-minded 15-year old would spot. If writers are so lackadaisical as to allow basic grammar and spelling mistakes to pass (bear in mind, their readers are paying for this substandard shite), then I start to question the seriousness of their research and the magickal gnosis that they say they are imparting to me.
I identified one basic error of Egyptian mythology within the first couple of pages of the book I started last night, and now I feel that all the other information I am being fed, I will have to strain through a filter of research and double-checking. I am not a knowledgeable person, so if I can spot an error, how many others are stuck between the pages. And this is NOT about deliberate blinds, smoke-and-shadows, hiding the true gnosis from the initiated; this is about slovenly research and poor writing skills.
And don’t even get me started on books that contain statements like,
“[The author] … is (like me [the person writing the preface]) constantly in the company of beautiful women as any true Magister should be. What more proof of power need there be? Genuine power is sexy. Crap magicians do not get laid.”
Oh, puhleease pass me a barf-bag. Really.
© starofseshat 2008
In the Beginning there was Nothing; and the Nothing had a Voice and spoke my Name.
My Ren (name) came into being and dwelt with Nothing, until Nothing spat and breathed upon the void and I was not alone.
The water moved and a serpent arose. Typhon, the chaos demon, swam and split the waters.
Then I knew fear, and fear was my Sekhem (immortal power).
The waters shifted and there arose the primeval hill: my Khu (immortal light of the mind) flew from the darkness and was a Light resting upon the hill.
I was before Atum, but Atum knew me.
I was before Atum, and I proceed through him.
I hold the darkness in my mortal Ba (heart) and Typhon protects my mortality so that my Khu may fly freely over the waters and rest at will in the hands of Atum; there, my immortal parts shall merge: my Ren, my Sekhem, my Khu, and I shall become the first Sunrise.