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Practice makes Perfect

Week two and already running late – so I’m right on schedule.

My practice, which I could rightly call ‘The Struggle’ is interesting. With Northern Tradition Paganism being both relatively new to the game, and being extremely personal, my practice varies. Up until I was typing this, I would have told you I have no ‘daily’ practice. That is, I would have said there was nothing I do every single day that is part of my practice.

Currently, I work hard to keep a regular practice, rather than a daily one – I would rather be doing the same thing with regularity rather than the same thing every day for a month and then forget about it. I would ideally like to have a day to day practice that consisted of formal prayer and ritual, but I often feel as if that is a hold over from my Roman Catholic upbringing, though there are some I would like to bring back (For example, I could totally get behind praying before meals.  Really, why aren’t we doing that Pagans? Considering how tied so many of us are to agricultural and hunting traditions, we ought to be giving way more thanks for our food now than we were before! Really, I think we should all be praying more. I always enjoyed prayer when I was Catholic, both formal and spontaneous. To this day, some of the most intense moments I’ve had with my Gods have been when I’ve stood in front of them and talked to them in spontaneous prayer – if I’m weeping, I’m doing it right.)

However, there are two parts of my practice I would like to share:

The first, and these really are part of my personal daily practice, and I didn’t put it together until now, are my taboos. Angrboda has made several requests of me that I honor. The most obvious is covering my hair, which I have done every single day since I started in July. For martial arts and any other occasion where I wouldn’t or can’t cover, I wear my hair in french braids.

As well, at Her request I also only wear natural fiber clothing (currently I have been allowed to keep my ‘pelts’; that is, winter coats, though unsurprisingly they are mostly if not fully natural materials, go figure. I do have several costume pieces as well, because we all need a costume now and then). This has been one of the harder ones for me, as I do very much enjoy clothing shopping and thrifting, and shopping for clothing is a bit more difficult. I swear, I might have to start learning to machine sew again so I can make sure I have enough pants. As well as the fabric being natural materials, She has colour preferences as well – you will notice I tend to wear fall forest colours – browns, reds, orange, dark green, dark blues/purples, black.  Apparently W/we both think October is the best colour.

Along with my clothing, I no longer imbibe caffeine – this one was less Mrs. A saying No and more my body going “NOPE” and then divination confirming it was a good idea to no longer drink coffee.

So, every day, I get up and remember those things – cover my hair, check the tag, and don’t drink that coffee.

The other part of my practice, my favourite part, is Sunday. Yup. Every Sunday is Ancestor day, and usually a “Me” day. I get up, go to Aikido (another devotional request of my Lady), and when I come home I clean the house and altars and make offerings to my Ancestors and my house wight. Once a month, I have a slightly more involved Ancestor ritual, but usually its simple – a fresh glass of water, candles, sometimes rum, sometimes coffee, incense. Sometimes a formal petition, sometimes just a few moments in the mirror and a heartfelt “Thank you”.

Sundays are my favourite days. ^_^

 
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Posted by on January 12, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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On Covering and Uncovering: Vulnerability

I’ll start this by saying, I do some of my best thinking in the shower. In the bathroom, really.  Sometimes, when I’m stressed out, I let the tub get all gross and spend an afternoon scrubbing it back to white. This is rare – the last time I did it was when I decided I was leaving my husband and really needed to think about things.  Its been over a year now, and I haven’t had to do it since.   But mostly, when I am chewing on an idea for a few weeks, I find taking a nice long hot shower tends to unlock my brain.

I’ve been covering my hair since July now, and have spent a lot of time thinking about why I was asked to do this; I have a few thoughts but none have come together as of yet. However the last time I took a long hot shower, I put a bunch of pieces together regarding where and when I cover, and what the common denominator was.

The biggest key was an experience I had helping a friend move. They had stored some items in my attic, and I was going to load them into my van and bring them over right after Sunday Aikido.  My Sundays are fun-days – I start the morning with a shower, braid my hair, throw on a bandanna and head to Aikido class, and usually come home and tend to domestic stuff – offerings to my Ancestors and house wight, cleaning, etc. The few times I vary tend to be things like helping someone move, or if I’m committed to doing another woo activity – things my Ancestors feel fall under “Hospitality”.  So, I came home from class, and started to get things together. I figured since I was ready to go, I might as well stay as I was, contacts and braids and just get things rolling. I knew I’d be moving and lifting, and it didn’t seem…wait for it…prac-tichel (HA, see what I did there?) to stop and fix my hair.

So, braids down and bandanna on, I loaded up and went to do the thing. And I moved and lifted and ate pizza, but a combination of an unhappy back and feeling oddly naked meant I left after a couple of hours. There was another load of stuff coming, but plenty of people to help. I couldn’t figure out why I was feeling so out of sorts. It took a while for me to realize – this was the first time I’d be around that many people, most of whom I’d never met before, with my hair uncovered for that long. Plus I’d been feeling a little vulnerable that morning in class, which was also odd, but we’ll get to that later.

In my thinky-shower, I realized, DUH. Look at when and where I UNcover. I wear a scarf all the damn time so the exceptions are glaring: With my Lady, in my home (and sometimes depending who’s there, I’ll still be covered), in the Dojo, with my Kindred, and during some but not all rituals.

These are all times when I am vulnerable. In my home: well, of course I can uncover there – its my Hall, my domain, and  inside I am well warded and can and should be able to feel vulnerable there. I do sometimes cover when we have folks over, depending on who they are; having my hair down has become a rare intimacy for people. Amusingly, not everyone knew that. My house mate’s partner didn’t realize he was in a small minority of people who see my hair on a regular basis.I have always enjoyed sleeping naked; but now, the ultimate in ‘naked’ for me includes my uncovered, unbound hair. (Again, not always practical. I’d forgotten how much hair I have, and having it down when I have company gets complicated)

In the dojo, being vulnerable goes without saying – a big part of what I am doing there is making myself vulnerable to people who are not necessarily bigger or stronger, but far more well-trained than I am. I am putting myself in the hands of people who could seriously hurt me, but trusting that they won’t. Granted, trying to cover wouldn’t be practical either, but I’m sure I could find a way to do so if needed. My Sensei told me she once had a devout Muslim Aikidoka who would wear gloves, since he couldn’t touch women, so I’m sure I could figure out a way to cover if I needed. I had been doing double braids because its efficient – which are a whole other thing now. Braids have come to mean ‘battle’ or at least ‘getting shit done’.

I mentioned earlier having felt oddly vulnerable in class the morning I was helping with that move, and that too became more clear in my shower. I had been the only woman in class that day. Me, 4 black belts, and a brown belt. It was a hell of a class. But, and this is something that happens now and again, this time I was the only woman there. Even at times when I am the only female *student* there, Sensei is usually either running the class, or watching.  I didn’t realize until I put that all together, but I still feel very vulnerable when I’m the only woman in a group of men. Do I think anything, ANYTHING would happen to me in the dojo, at the hands of a fellow Aikidoka? Absolutely not. But my reptile brain still gets nervous – and then I get mad at my reptile brain for still getting nervous.

It goes without saying that I am, and should be, vulnerable with my Lady. Angrboda is bigger than me. Waaaaaaaaay bigger than me – and a predator. Granted, I am pack, not prey, so I don’t often worry about that; but it feels good and right to be vulnerable to Her, to show her my belly, as it were.

So the act of uncovering my hair has become a symbol for making my self vulnerable to a person, place, or situation.

I am really, really, shitty at being vulnerable. I hate it. I have been forced into so, so many vulnerable places that willfully choosing to make myself vulnerable is difficult for me. Yet…being vulnerable is important. Part of love is being vulnerable, in some way, to another entity. There is strength to come from vulnerability, in the forging of those love-bonds, the trust bonds.

Being able to choose when and how I (literally) let my hair down, and choose how and when to be vulnerable, has been an interesting experience for me.

Covering my hair has become symbolically tied with what I am doing and learning on my path as a woman and a warrior – to quote a friend “You’re learning the limits of your sovereignty, and how to best take advantage of it, because you’re coming from a place where you needed to learn you own (high) value.” But I think that is a topic best left for another day; next up in what is now a series of posts on covering will be an exploration of how I feel while covering, and an exploration of some of the whys, and the nature of covering and modesty.

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Covering and Uncovering

For the past two weeks, I have been covering my head every day. Full on covering, with a wrap – i find I do well with the tichel style, though when not getting ‘dressed’ I will wear just a kerchief. I do sometimes wear twin braids – that seems to be ok, since its for class and I usually have another scarf on anyway.

I should rewind, and explain that I have recently felt called to cover my head and hair – and had been doing so most of the year. Since I started martial arts, I found that twin french braids were a good style for not being distracted by hair in class, and started doing it more and more…and when not, would be wearing my hair back in a bandanna. The last time they were here, Volsung was teasing me about my drawer full of bandannas.

So I figured, let me try this again. Back in 2012 and 2013, my life got jacked up.  I asked for something, got it, and had my world go nuts and my heart ripped out many, many times. It sucked. I covered my head then to deal with some crown chakra issues, and it was an interesting experience.

As of late, it had been coming up more and more in my thoughts, as I have been going through a really interesting period of life – newly divorced, free, just turning 30, and really starting to come into my power as an adult woman.

It makes sense that it is happening now. Its marking a change, a transition from who I was as a child, to who I am as an adult. It’s part of the process. (Its hard to explain the whole ‘process’ right now, as I am in the middle of it all.)

But I feel good covered. I like it. I like not thinking about my hair, I like that I feel like folks are more focused on my face. I admit, I enjoy to some extent the feeling of ‘otherness’ but that is something I always feel – I am not much like many of my coworkers, for example, but around the folks I am akin to, the covering makes sense.

Part of it, too, I think relates back to a quote written on my board – “Hag before Heart”.  I think I had been focusing a bit too much on both my own vanity, and on some other things my Lady feels I need to focus less on. She’s right of course, but She often is when it comes to me. I just get stubborn. I find covering to be a good act of humility.

There are no real rules to this, such as with other religions and very specific modesty laws. Mine are all kind of being figured out as I go. The above covering guidelines (wrapped up, in braids (covered) in braids (uncovered) and long but in a kerchief, in that order of preference) are about all I have to go on right now.

I am finding it interesting to find out how, and around whom, I feel comfortable being uncovered around. I enjoy getting to choose this boundary, especially as someone who has had many issues with boundaries in the past.

I’m also finding it an interesting take on modesty, as otherwise, I have not change my style of dress. I’m still inclined to get naked. But my hair, is MINE.

 
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Posted by on July 3, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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