Week 1, aka: I’m bad at writing liturgy

I’m trying to work on the first oath that I intend to perform during the equinox rite. The oath is just a self-commitment to the work the ADF stands for and an affirmation of the dedicant in front of the Gods, Ancestors and Spirits.

While reading the book the fellowship gives you for training, there was a small oath to be performed and I did it. You know, when pagan books tell you to “stop everything” and recite the occasional small prayer for this or that purpose? Exactly that. I was firm in my decision and recited that first oath, but it came out a bit…impersonal. Which is why I decided to make a simple, but full, ritual as it is outlined in another work: The Dedicant Path throgh the Wheel of the Year, an awesome resource that is helping me organising my work. Many thanks to M. J. Dangler for writing it.

However, while trying to write something, writer’s block came in: how should be the structure? The pace? What’s wise to include? (It’s still an oath: I don’t want to dedicate myself to works I can’t sustain.)
I ended up writing almost an exact copy of the already-existing oath and thinking that whoever wrote those words probably knows better than me, as there’s no other way I could phrase my commitment to virtue, piety and study that sounds better than those lines. They’re simple and on point. I added some tweaks here and there: personal things I value or believe important in my practice, and that’s that. It’s still (mostly) identical to the one printed, even though I know I’ll work on it a bit more.

So yes, turns out I’m not great at writing prayers. My solitary practice has always been mostly silent because you can’t chant while mom and sis have tea in the kitchen, unless you want to solicit their attention. My prayers have never been written down, I’d just start speaking. This is all new, the ritual structure seems complex and in any case it’s different from what I was used to, and I’m starting to get frustrated with all the things I don’t know. When they said that building a Druidic practice would “challenge and irritate you – we promise!”, I didn’t believe it would happen so soon!

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REVIEW: Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss

I do not love grammar. For all the love I bear to languages, grammar is always my least favourite part. That thing that stands between you and expression. Unfortunately, rules are what make us comprehensible to others.
In my almost 20 years of studying English – my, do they sound a lot! – I’ve learned about verbs and sentences and tenses, but never (not properly) about punctuation. It seemed sensible to me, when our professor gave us a list of books to choose from, to pick this one: first, because the subject matter is one I’m weak in. Secondly, because I want to learn to write properly. Punctuation is as essential as words, in that regard.

truss_book-a7ef04dc51ca66b0ffa7b6e403faa170e627455a-s6-c30I begun the book with great expactations, as it is (apparently) well known and well loved. I enjoyed the introduction, although I found some bits…uncanny. I read pleasantly of the various mistakes, the horror of the author at misplaced apostrophes, the history bits.
I must say that I did found interesting rules for the semi-colon and some for the comma; apparently they escaped my formal education. However, much of what is written is ridiculously…predictable. Maybe it’s because usage resamble a lot that of the Italian language, or maybe because I studied a lot of grammar. Either way, that part didn’t give me what I was hoping for (superior punctuation powers, that is). However it did help me point out mistakes I make regularly, so I call it a win.

The problem that became apparent all through the reading is the obnoxious insistance of the author on herself: I get it, you illustrate stuff that happened to you by recalling a life event. Many non-fiction books of this level do. Many bloggers do, too. It gets annoying, however, when there’s a continous stream of insults of any kind masked as “humor” or those very self-centered part that are meant to point out how superior you are.
I still need to understand what statements like: “I bought a book on grammar while every other girls was having dates and abortions and were at the isle of Wight, and wrote rude letters to a teen-ager” really give to the book. To me, it sounded like “I was not like other girls” discourse; meant just to underline, once again, the stupidity of others or the abyss between the stickler and the non-sticklers.

The constant pointing to the internet as the Devil, come to destroy the world, is something I still have to understand. More specifically, the claim by Truss that punctuation will disappear because it was invented for the printed medium of books and not the interwebs is absurd. There exist tumblr, with its uses of language that are meant to convey tone and allow people to write in a way that is more similar to speech (and yes, it does take a linguist do appreciate this), there are the facebook status updates of people who forgot how to use a comma; people that don’t care because “it’s the internet”. And then there are websites like Wikipedia, scholarly institutions like universities, companies and a whole lot that use punctuation because it will never cease to be usegil.
I really don’t see why a person can hate the old : – ) emoticons because they’ll make punctuation be forgotten, and be taken seriously. By the time the author made this claim, it was the end of the book; I was seriously done with these amount of absurdities and obnoxious tone though.

I gave the book 3/5 stars: it’s good, it’s not bad written, it gives information. You need to be really good at ignoring the author’s voice, though. I honestly hoped for it to be better.

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I have joined the ADF (Ár nDraíocht Féin).

I’ve thought about it quite a lot recently: what do I want from my spirituality? Especially, what do I want to make of it?

Like many, I started dabbling in paganism around 15 years old – as an adolescent I was amazed by all the things I discovered, all the things I learned. The more I dug, the deeper that neo-pagan thing got: Wicca came first, through the neo-wiccan publications available (sorry, Gardnerian folks). It wasn’t what I was looking for, though.
An eclectic mixture of various pagan tradition was the second path I took: studying the Hellenic mythology, while observing Celtic holidays. Present-day me goes “yikes” everytime she thinks about it. Yet, it was a well with no bottom, in many ways it still is, and the still-adolescent me didn’t knew what to make of all this information without structure she had acquired during the years.
Then, the abrupt alt: what am I doing?

Books, books, books: for some reason, they always seem to be the answer.

When I found out that the neo-pagan nerds are called “reconstructionist”, I exhaled a breath I didn’t know I was holding. That was a thing I could go well with! The previous explorations had been good, but my relationship with the Gods gave me an idea of the divine that apparently wasn’t the most popular. Fortunately, there is always someone that names the thing you’re passsing through or what you experience. We should really thank the shared human experience for that, saves you the horrible feeling of loneliness.

I dabbled a bit in Celtic polytheism before stopping with even the basic religious and spiritual practices I managed to hold during Hard Times. I needed time to reflect upon worthiness, relationships, myself. The relativity of existence. Adjectives. Meaning. A whole bunch of things.
Keeping contact with the divine might’ve been wiser, but sometimes you need to cut some ties and give time to yourself before being able to really invest yourself into a relationship.

I feel like this is the appropriate time. That’s why I decided to start the dedicant program with the ADF. I’m not gonna lie: I need structure. I’m lazy and I need to be pushed to action, sometimes my own internal drive is not enough. Mix this with the problem the reconstructionist movement face, and you get the perfect deterrent for me: “how do I even put these things together, where do I start? Ugh, Whatever!”
ADF will hopefully give me the structure I need, without sacrificing anything in terms of personal exploration of the pantheons and heart-cultures.

It’s not like when I was 15: nine years of life have added something. Even if there is not the kind of excitement that comes from the discovering of a completely new world you’ve just discovered, there’s this calm serenity that seems to say: “come at me! I’m ready!”

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February wrap up

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100 days of solitude by Daphne Kapsali
rating3
I bought this book on a whime, back in December, because it was on sale (I think it’s still is in the Amazon’s monthly deals section or somewhere). It was 0.99€ and…it sounded intriguing. It’s a collection of essays, wrote during the 100 days the author spent on a Greek island, writing. She wanted to be a writer and never did anything to achieve the goal, and then left her life to see if she could make it. I must say that like every story that aims at being motivational, is interesting: will she make it? What will she learn along the way? I find the writing style breezy and it’s an entertaining book…up to a point. Around half of it, the topics were more or less the same and it got a bit slow.
It was an enjoyable reading, though, and it’s definitely a good one if you like memoirs.

Se una Notte d’Inverno un Viaggiatore (If on a Winter Night a Traveler)
by Italo Calvino
rating5
Italo Calvino is one of the few Italian authors I’m interested in. This book was a compulsory reading for one of my uni courses and I must say I enjoyed it a lot. It’s a book that celebrates book, literature and the joy of reading (and of being a reader). It has a very peculiar way of telling the story, a story that unfolds rather unexpectadly. You could say it’s a bit experimental (although not the modernist kind of experimental novel). Although the story in itself is extraordinary and the storytelling clever, I must say that it wasn’t the story in itself that I liked. It was everything else.

The Path: What Chinese Philosophers Can Teach Us About the Good Life by Micheal Puett & Christine Gross-Loh
rating4
I’ve recently started to be interested into Daosim and subsequently Chinese philosophy, so I looked for a quick and easy introduction on the subject. This book is very short and shouldn’t be taken as more than it is: a brief, concise – although wonderful – introduction to the idea of the major chinese philosphers (Confucius, Lao Tsu, Zuangzhi, Mencius, etc.). It is so short I finished it in 24 hours, but despite the size I believe it’s a useful read, as it points out the core ideas of each philosophers in a clear and understandable way. It gives a very basic, very general knowledge that won’t change your life, but it is surely a good starting point. I found considerable food for thoughts into these pages and a very good bibliography to continue my researches.

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January wrap-up

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Adulthood is a myth by Sarah Andersen
rating5
Sarah Scribbles is a famous web comic series, written by Sarah Andersen, of which this volume is a selection.
It’s all about becoming adults, and sometimes not being really good at it. It’s about the anxiety you sometimes feel, hidden truths about life and the idea that we’re all on the same boat here.

Poorly Drawn Lines by Reza Farazmand
rating5
Poorly Drawn Lines is my favourite web comic ever. It surpassed also Cyanide & Happiness. A lot. It’s about non-sensical humor, space bears, mice with knives attacking boys with big ears and bad puns.
If you’ve never looked at them, please give them a try. Maybe it’s not your kind humor, but the author is so creative! I enjoy them so much! (and it’s the perfect volume for bibliomancy, I swear).

Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman
rating5
This book is probably one of the best introductions on the subject and not only because it’s written by one of the doctors who theoriesed the existence of an EQ. It provides basic knowledge on how the brain and emotions developed, explaining how the brain physically works its way around emotions. It gives data on researches and studies, as well as drawing from the experience of the author himself. It defines emotions very clearly, giving also a variety suggestions on how to handle them, and last but not least it’s also very detailed on how important it is to give our children emotional support and educate their emotions along with their logic.
I loved it. It took me a month to be read and I still go back to it when I need to understand something better. The language is simple enough for non-experts in the field and the writing is linear and clear. I strongly recommend this one to everyone, but if you’re interested in understanding how the brain works it’s a must read.

The Fox by D.H. Lawrence
rating3
I like foxes, which is why I picked up this book while in the library. It’s the first work of Lawrence that I read (although Lady Chatterley waits for me) and I wasn’t impressed that much.
I liked the idea of a manly female protagonist (for the age, must’ve been quite crazy!) but these modernist depictions of love I really don’t like, and the male protagonist was an contradiction of himself.
It surely started like an uncanny and pleasant read, but when I reached half of it I was already a bit deluded. I gained interest toward the end again, I must say. 

Dionea e altre Storie Fantastiche bye Vernon Lee
rating2
A collection of fantastical stories by Vernon Lee, but there is no correspondant edition in English so I’m going to assume this was a mash-up made by the Italian publisher.
I haven’t enjoyed them much: it’s too much…ninetienth century flavoured both in writing and in the depiction of history and mythology.I know how much the victorians were fascinated by such subjects, but it’s an obsolete way to look at it.  Plus, I haven’t found really anything particularly outstanding in the stories, which is a shame because I really wanted to enjoy them.

TAROT DECK REVIEW: Arcane Bullshit

I laid my eyes on the Arcane Bullshit tarot deck the first time I believe a year and a half ago. I was reading an article by Sarah Anne Lawless about indie tarot decks, because I was looking for a new addition to my collection. Note to the reader: my collection was composed of a Celtic Tarot deck based on the original RWS deck, and another one always celtic-themed where the 22 major arcana were represented by various God/esses (a mish-mash of Irish and Gaulish deities) and the minor were ogham in different order for each season.
I was looking for something with a more classic tarot imagery to start learning again, but I never found the Marseille or the Raider-Waite-Smith deck particularly appealing. It was a hard challenge.

Until I saw the Arcane Bullshit. Every single image spoke deeply to my soul (which probably says a lot about me). After months of going back and telling myself that “yeah, I wanted something more classic”, I received them as a birthday gift from my boyfriend. And I love every single card.

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Chaos Mom is in my top 5 cards in the deck

The deck is composed of 50 cards and doesn’t follow the standard major/minor so I think we could say it’s not properly tarot, but more of an oracle deck. Despite the name, I found some of the cards mantain some symbols we often see around (i.e. the eye, skulls, etc.) and cards like Knees, Random Clipart, Robododo or the Card of Cards still make a lot of sense to me. Working with them is wonderful, funny and really engaging. When you pull out a card that doesn’t seem to make any sense (litterally!) you really have to let your sixth sense run. What could the Pit Bull in a Triny Truck mean? What’s the Hooker with an Octopus trying to tell you?

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some of my favourite cards of the deck + my tarot journal

It’s like a new world to be discovered, because there is no set interpretation for the cards, although in the Tarot Bullshit app there are some idea on what they could mean. You can also do a reading with the app, which is completely free, and see where it brings you.
Despite their looks, I assure you this deck is absolutely serious – it only does its work in its own way, but it calls you out in such an honest way. I’d say thee cards feel very direct.

I adore working with this deck. I’ve never been good with card divination, but now I feel more interested into it and ready to study it properly (I’m going to get a RWS deck eventually for this purpose) and it has really boosted my confidence to work with cards that I can really understand.

I understand that this is not your standard deck, but I reccomend getting a copy if you like an approach to card reading that is absolutely non dogmatic and leaves you a little bit of freedom in the interpretation, or just to tell a very bizarre story.
I also believe that they would work great with Cards Against Humanity. Just imagine the greatness of such reading!

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“I need to see a psychologist”, my list of fears:

Mom, I want to go to the shrink

  • “I’m sorry sweetheart, we have money enough to cure only one person in this family and that isn’t you”
  • “You don’t *need* a doctor, this is something you can sort out on your own”
  • “Why haven’t I learned of this sooner? You always keep things to yourself and never, never share anything, are we even family to you or what?!”
  • “You don’t seem to have a problem, just waisting your time instead of graduating and doing real stuff”

To the shrink

  • “You are mad. Absolutely insane. You see, I’m not even here. I don’t exist. Nothing exist, it’s all you hallucination”
  • “The results of the test is that you’re a douchebag and there’s no cure for that, sorry”
  • “You have a very real, very concrete psychological problem (probably inherited by someone in your family) and you’re going to struggle with it your whole life and never get anywhere”
  • “Take these pills*”

My head

  • “I can do this on my own” I tried, it didn’t make it better, did it? “That’s because you’re a useless idiot who can’t do anything”
  • “You’re a terrible person. Terrible person deserve nothing”
  • *crying myself to sleep*
  • *the horrible sensation I’m getting more insane as seconds go by*

 

*this is not a critic to pyschopharmaceuticals, I’m just scared by them