Swords, First Dates, and Freeway Overpasses

(I promise these things are related. Stay with me here.)

Two weeks ago, at our April Initiate meeting, our initiator asked us, “what can you tell me about Air?”.

An array of answers tumbled out of our mouths. The element we invoke when we invoke East. Clarity. Strength. Flexibility. Decisiveness. The suite of Swords, in the Rider-Waite tarot (my favorite of the four suites, but that’s another post for another day).

Then, an even more interesting question. What were some deities we associated with air?

This was where our answers started to diverge. We spanned many pantheons, and many cultures. Oya. Skaði. The Morríghan. Hermes. Brigid. Hecate. Some names sprang to the tongue immediately, while others came later.

As we were thinking, our initiator told us that for the next few months we would be exploring a relationship with one of these deities through the connection of this element. My Hivemates and I all froze, and locked wide eyes with each other. This was the first real bit of Serious Working we had been asked to do as part of our training year. Some of us have established devotional relationships with various deities, while some of us direct our magical workings toward a larger concept (“Goddess” versus a particular goddess, for example). None of us really had any experience with directly courting a deity to see if they were interested in pursuing a relationship; as is often the case, Deity found us rather than the other way around.

Once our initial moment of panic subsided, we talked about it. We might have an idea for who we want to learn more about, but while casting around for a particular power it’s important not to miss any signs that might already be in your life. Look for confirmations or clues; there might be Someone or Something already knocking on your magical front door. Exploring this new relationship is like any other first date: if you don’t like what you’re seeing or hearing, you are totally within your rights to get up and leave. You can say “no”. This is not an ordination or a marriage contract; we’re not swearing any kinds of vows here.

We all left class with a lot to chew on. One of my Hivemates knew immediately who she wanted to work with, and got right to it. Another thought she knew too, but wound up taking a different direction. I left with a tentative idea that pursuing a deeper relationship with Guanyin (or Quan Yin, as it’s often spelled) might be to my benefit; I can certainly use more compassion in my life, and I have been struggling fiercely with my anxiety these past few weeks.

Within a few days of this assignment, I found myself feeling… hmm, somewhat desaturated? I do not mean this in a negative light, but rather like the volume of everything has been turned down to a more manageable level. Like I had been surrounded by eye-searing neons, but now found myself wrapped in softer, more dusky colors (which have long been some of my favorites, being the hues easiest to achieve with botanical dyes). My sleep has started to improve– I’m falling asleep faster, and I’m sleeping more deeply. I found some new clarity in a particular kata sequence I had been struggling with in my Shotokan practice.

I was thinking about all these things while I was walking to my car earlier this week. The building where I work doesn’t have enough parking for everyone, so I park my car in an offsite lot and walk a few blocks to and from the office, a practice I have really come to enjoy. Along this route I have to walk along an overpass spanning a very busy freeway, and I often stop for a minute to look down at all the cars whizzing past and to enjoy the rush of air that comes from all that motion.

Finding a moment of stillness and centering while all that air rushes over me, tugging at my jacket, my hair, a little piece of my soul.

…all that Air.

Okay, I think I can recognize an omen when I see one. I don’t yet know what form this work will take, or where it’s going, but I’m certainly interested in continuing to pursue this teaching if I’m already feeling calmer and more centered.

Guanshiyin, She Who Hears the Cries of the World,  I’m listening.

In Joyful Service,
Kitsune

Our Hands Remember

I’ve been thinking about my hands a lot.

The process of learning to sew has left my fingers stiff and aching, the skin at the edges of my thumb and index fingers (where my needle rests) raw and peeling. My hands don’t know these movements yet, and they ache with the pain of learning.

But they know other motions. They have other memories.

I’m a student of the martial arts. My knuckles are scarred and calloused from bag work and conditioning drills. My fingernails are trimmed short and filed down, with at most a new moon sliver of new growth. My right middle finger is slightly crooked from the time it got partially dislocated a few years ago.

I’m a dyer. The beds of my nails are still stained a faint blue from the indigo dyeing I did over Easter weekend. My skin is dry from repeated dunks into dye baths and mordanting solutions. I have dirt under my fingernails from foraging for dye materials, and from tending to my budding dye garden.

I’m a knitter. My hands know the motions of knit and purl as easily as I know how to draw breath. They are calloused and grooved from hours of knitting needles resting against my fingers, of wool slipping through them, of making warm things to keep those I love cozy.

I’m a kitchen witch. My hands always seem to smell faintly herbal, no matter how much I wash them. My wrists and my forearms are strong from chopping, mixing, kneading, lifting heavy roasting pans.

Our hobbies shape our hands. They tell our stories– of where we’ve been, what’s important to us, where we’re going.

Our hands remember.

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On Blank Pages, and Fear of Failure

Has it really been almost a month since my last post? Seems like March really got away from me! We’ve been having some technical difficulties here at Chez Kitsune that means my laptop is in the capable hands of the folks at my local Apple Store, so I’m borrowing a cup of internet at work to write this. I hope to be back to a more regular posting schedule soon! I’ve been on some fun adventures that I’m looking forward to writing about.

My Hivemates and I have been collectively thinking a lot about fear of failure, as we begin our Initiate years in earnest. We’ve been tackling new things and developing skills we thought we could not master. My Hive sister Ravensong wrote beautifully about discovering a newfound love of gardening, and transforming the lies we tell ourselves about “I can’t” and “I’m not good at” into more positive intentions.

I’ve been thinking a lot about clothes lately, both where they come from and how they’re made. I went to a really wonderful discussion on the idea of “slow fashion” at A Verb For Keeping Warm, one of my very favorite places in the Bay Area, and it really lit a fire under me in terms of trying to make some of my own clothes.

The only problem? Years ago, I had managed to convince myself that I Could Not Sew. I’ve been slightly afraid of my sewing machine for a long time, and while I have some basic sewing skills and can read patterns okay, I had built the whole process up in my mind to be this scary, incomprehensible thing that I was Not Good At and Could Not Be Good At. The idea of cutting into a blank piece of fabric, where there’s no turning back once the scissors bite into the threads, is unbelievably intimidating.

Sonya Philip, one of the panelists at Verb and the brilliant mind behind 100 Acts of Sewing, said some very wise things on this exact topic that really got through to me. She talked about failures not being failures, rather a documentation of the learning process. She talked about getting out of one’s own head, and just making something. I am the sort of person who reads obsessively when they get an interest in something. I have a fair pile of books on sewing, both technique and pattern, which I’ve read cover to cover multiple times, but there comes a point where I have to pull my nose out of the book and actually try. Making that leap is hard, and very scary.

I decided to start with hand-sewing, which felt friendlier and more approachable to me. I’ve been a big fan of Natalie Chanin’s work since I heard her speak on The Moth a few months back, so I sat myself down with one of her Alabama Chanin books and a pattern for a basic sleeveless t-shirt. I had been holding onto this shirt with a beautiful Green Tara design on it for a long time, so I thought cutting it down into a more fitted design would be a good place to start.

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The raw materials.

I read the size charts and the fit notes, selected a size I thought would work, and traced the pattern pieces.

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I cut them out, transferred them to the t-shirt (which required a little creative arranging, a process that had not occurred to me when I decided to work from a pre-sewn garment), and with no small degree of terror, applied scissors to fabric.

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Good tools really do make a difference here! I splurged on a pair of nice dressmakers shears, and I now understand the fuss people make about fabric shears being used only for fabric.
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Cutting away the excess.

This part of the process definitely did not go flawlessly. I made some minor tracing errors that meant the pattern pieces didn’t line up perfectly. I had to get a little creative with the back neckline. The curved edges aren’t as smoothly-curved as is ideal. I made mistakes– and that’s okay. I was still doing it!

The rest of the afternoon flew by much the same. I am without a doubt a novice, and I made a few mistakes. My seams are crooked, my stitches a little wobbly. My fingers ached something fierce by the time I took a break to make dinner. But after I finished sewing my first shoulder seam, I was hooked without a doubt. To my delight, I find hand-sewing to be really calming and meditative, much the same as knitting has been for most of my life. It was as if my scissors had cut away not just the excess fabric, but the excess fear and self-doubt I had been holding onto. I was embracing my wonky lines and clumsy seams. I was doing it!

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In a surprisingly short amount of time, I was done. With some trepidation, I turned the finished garment right-side out and examined it.

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It looked like a t-shirt! It was vaguely human-shaped! And now the real question: would it fit? Would my seams hold?

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And lo! They did! It fit! It fit, and it didn’t fall apart when I tried to put it on!

I’m not embarrassed to tell you, dear readers, that I may have cried a little at the end of all this. This first foray into sewing has taught me a lot, not just about the craft of making clothing but about trusting myself. Trusting that my work has structure and value, that my hands can make strong seams, that I can make mistakes and not be a complete failure. I have discovered what might be a new love, and I am already looking forward to what my next project will teach me.

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That blue fabric my scissors are resting on will be the subject of another post. I dyed it with indigo!

In Joyful Service,
Kitsune

Rainy Day Magic

Puttering around in the kitchen on a rainy Sunday is one of life’s little pleasures.

A lazy brunch for my love and I, bacon and eggs and greens wilted in the bacon fat.

Grain-free almond cookies in the oven for Witch Class with my beloved Hive. Sweet and salty and chewy, perfect with a cup of tea.

My grandmother’s mixing bowls. A tea towel from my mother. A beautiful hard-bound cookbook bought with scraped-together college student funds. Tools and tips and skills passed from hand to hand in crowded, bustling kitchens full of love and laughter.

It’s warm and cozy in here, full of the smells of good food made with love for those I care most about.

Surely, this must be what magic feels like.

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PCon 2016 Wrap-Up

(Because I am a “My Little Pony” fan, and I’m high as a kite on cold medicine, my brain keeps singing this post title to me to the tune of the “Winter Wrap-Up” song. Thanks, brain.)

It’s that time again in the Pagan blog-o-sphere where we all write about our experiences at PantheaCon! Since I’m now a part of that blog-o-sphere, and I know a bandwagon when I see one, here’s mine.

To start, a bit of a disclaimer: because I am a volunteer staff member of the convention, there is a large part of my con experience that I cannot discuss due to confidentiality concerns. I am not an official representative of the convention, and the thoughts and opinions I express here are not the thoughts and opinions of the con or of anyone else who works the event.

Now that that’s out of the way, I had a terrific time! This year was very much a year of transitions, with my past and my present colliding (in a good way, thankfully). I’ve been attending this event since I was 15 years old, and there is always a strange mix of childlike and adult energies that compete for my attention; there’s a lot of history here for me. I started to reconcile with my high school sweetheart, with whom I parted on bad terms; I reconnected with an old flame and started to rekindle some of that spark; I caught up with friends and family I haven’t seen in a while. This is also the year that I start to leave some of my old commitments behind as I make more space in my life for my Initiate work, which is always bittersweet, but transitions are never easy.

As part of my duties as ConOps staff, I spend a large chunk of the weekend roving around and talking to people (yay walkies!). This is a big change for me, since I usually help with the A/V tech and have done so since I was old enough to start volunteering, and it’s still something I’m learning to do well. I’ve spent a lot of my life trying to be invisible, for reasons I’ll not get into right now, so having it be a part of my job to be seen is an adjustment, to say the least. While I am an introvert and find social interactions draining, it’s an absolute joy to meet people and talk to them about their convention experiences, to reunite them with lost items, and to generally be a friendly face. One of my friends mentioned to me that working ConOps is like warding on a macro level, and that’s exactly what we do. No wonder I enjoy it so much!

And on that note, a list of thanks and gratitudes. This is by no means a comprehensive list, and I’m sure I’ve forgotten someone or something. Know that if I left something out it’s not because it didn’t matter to me; I am grateful to everyone who helped make this year’s convention great!

  • To my roommates for the weekend, a motley group of so-and-so’s collectively called the Monsters, my eternal gratitude for making our room one of the best places to be. For the cuddles, and the laughs, and all the incredible food (you’d be surprised what you can make in a waffle iron), you have my undying love.
  • To my fellow ConOps staff, for giving me a chance last year when I needed a break from Tech and for helping me learn how to be seen. Your calm wisdom and clear-headedness in stressful situations is truly something to aspire to.
  • To my CAYA family, for providing me with a chill place to relax at the end of my shift (and for all the joyful singing!). Especially big thanks to those of you who saw me at the end of Sunday night, when I was tired and in a lot of pain, and forced me to sit down and put my feet up while you fetched me a snack.
  • To all of you who came to PantheaCon, as attendees or as vendors or as staff members. Thank you for showing up, doing the work, having a great time, and (mostly) following the rules. Without you, there would be no convention. You give me hope for the future of the wider Pagan community.

I will close out this post with the tarot reading I did for myself as I was getting ready to depart the hotel (“the ugly carpet never lies,” to quote Mama Kitsune). From the Welcome to Night Vale tarot, the following wisdom:

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  • What did I learn from con this year? The Hanged Man. If I don’t slow down and take care of myself, the universe will do it for me. Don’t set yourself on fire to keep others warm.
  • What am I leaving behind? The Queen of Swords. I’m laying down one mantle– a full-time commitment to being con staff, not just at PCon but at the other events I work– to make the space to strike out on a new journey.
  • What will I bring with me to next year’s event? The Seven of Swords. All the wisdom and power and self-growth I hope to achieve through my Initiate work this year.

I hope those of you who attended had a great time! The convention is exhausting and overwhelming, but I always return refreshed and ready to take on new ideas and new projects. I’ve already got a few more posts lined up, featuring some crafty topics like sigil magick and natural dyeing, as well as some more thoughts on selfies (continuing the musings from this post). Watch this space!

In Joyful Service,
Kitsune

PantheaCon Whirlwind!

Like many of the other Pagans I know, I’ve been spending the last few days frantically trying to get all my things together for PantheaCon 2016 (I’ve also been sick, but thankfully I got that out of the way before con). It feels like my packing lists have packing lists at this point!

While I am not on the official schedule of events (I work behind the scenes of the con itself, making the magic happen as part of the Convention Operations (ConOps) team), CAYA is putting on a number of rituals and workshops that are shaping up to be really something. If you are interested in knowing what sorts of magical mischief we’ll be getting up to, my CAYA sister Wishbringer Molly Blue Dawn has put together this terrific schedule of events that CAYA is putting on, sponsoring, or being a part of. I hope to see some of you there, when I’m not busy performing my volunteer duties!

Of particular interest to me this year is that there will be ribbons available at the Info Desk that allow you to declare your pronouns, if you so desire! Since this is a first run at it, the options are limited to “She/Her”, “He/Him”, “They/Them”, “Ask Me”, and a blank ribbon where you can write in your own, and the staff asks that you only take one ribbon per person as the numbers are limited. We’ve had these available at another convention I work for the last two years, and they’ve gone over very well. Kudos to my fellow PCon staffers for working to make this available this year!

I want to encourage my cisgender readers to wear the ribbon with your pronouns on them, in solidarity with your fellow Pagans who are trans and/or non-binary. I dream of a world where it’s normal to introduce yourself with your name and your pronouns, and making that dream a reality starts with you.

This year’s theme of the convention is “Change Makers”. I am incredibly excited to see how this theme weaves itself into the magic and the laughter and the late-night conversations that fill this weekend every year. It looks like it’s shaping up to be something really special.

In Joyful (but hectic) Service,
Kitsune

Posing For the Dark Mirror: On Selfies and Shadow Work

Let’s talk about selfies real quick here.

So, I spend a lot of time on Instagram (follow me!). I’m a highly visual person, and communicating through pictures really speaks to how I like to interact. The #365feministselfie and #capturewhatcapturesyou hashtags have introduced me to some incredible people and some beautiful images, and reinforce my belief in the importance of finding the sacred in the mundane.

If you look at the little Instagram widget on the sidebar of this here blog, you’ll notice there’s an awful lot of my pretty face there (and also pictures of my food, because I’m That Guy).

Edit: one of my readers informs me that the Instagram widget is not playing nicely with all browser/OS combinations. I’m working on troubleshooting this!

I’m a big fan of selfies (although the word “selfie” makes me cringe a little for reasons I can’t pin down; it feels… dismissive?). I think they’re great. They can be fun and silly, and it lights up my day to see my friends near and far show up on my various social media feeds.

Selfies can also be a powerful act of magic.

They can help us reclaim our pride, our power, our identities.
By taking the camera into our own hands, it puts us back in control.
Selfies allow us an opportunity to confront the parts of ourselves we hide away.

Selfies let us be seen.

I have more to say on the topic, including some thoughts on how selfies helped me start to explore my non-binary gender identity, but this is starting to get rambly enough as it is. As a way to bring this to a close, I offer you the following little bit of spellwork to try; this is easiest if you have access to a forward-facing camera of some sort, like a smartphone or a webcam, but any picture-taking device will do:

I am a big fan of not just mirth and reverence, but mirth as reverence. A while back, my dear friend (and Initiate sister!) Laurel told me about how she would sometimes try to sneak up on herself in the mirror, and surprise herself with a particularly hilarious or grotesque facial expression. This gave me an idea for the following: in succession, take a picture of yourself doing these three things:

  1. Making a goofy face
  2. Laughing at your own silliness
  3. Relaxing after laughing

Don’t think too hard about these, or worry about camera angles or lighting or anything; that’s not the point of this. Take a good look at all three of those pictures, especially that last one. Do you see that spark of you-ness somewhere in there? Look at those photos and say aloud to each one, “I see you. I see you. I see you.”. Then, do with them as you wish. Delete them, keep them for yourself, share them with the world (if you do this third option, I would love to see them!).

Happy selfie-taking!

In Joyful Service,
Kitsune

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It Lives!

Well, it looks like my first post went through okay, so here we are.

Welcome to Tales of the Fox! My name is Kitsune (or Kit, if you like), and this little nest of mine is my second or third crack at blogging. I would love to say that I’ll be posting on a set schedule, but the truth is if I start there I will either not follow through or stress myself out way too much trying to keep to that schedule, and that’s no fun for anyone.

A little about me: I’m a genderqueer witch born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, currently making my home in the Silicon Valley. I am, among other things, a knitter, a student of the martial arts, an amateur tarot reader, and a trained linguist; I have undergraduate degrees in linguistics and computer science from UC Santa Cruz (go Slugs!). My pronouns are they/them/theirs, and if you don’t like that much I invite you to do some more research on use of the singular “they” through the history of the English language.

I started this blog because at the end of January I began my year and a day of training as an Initiate in CAYA Coven‘s Wildflower tradition; if all goes well and I complete that which has been asked of me, I will be ordained as a Priestx (that’s pronounced “pree-sticks”, or /pɹɪstiks/ for those of you who can read IPA) in the Spring of 2017. I wanted a space of my own to talk about an assortment of things relating to both my journey through this training year and life in general.

Ideally I would like to post here at least once a month, to coincide with whatever topic my Initiate work is focusing on that month. We’ll how how that plays out! Whatever comes of this, I’m sure it will be an interesting ride!

In Joyful Service,
Kitsune

Is This Thing On?

*tap tap*
*peers through glass*

Hello blog-o-sphere! If I’ve set this up right, you’re looking at the first post on Tales of the Fox! If not… well, then I’ll keep banging my head against it.

More about me and this little nest of mine to come. Watch this space!

Cheers,
Kitsune