“What we call evil, is the only and best shape, which, for the person and his condition at the time, could be assumed by the best good. Two people may be at the same spot in manners and behaviour, and yet one may be getting better, and the other worse, which is the greatest of differences that could possibly exist between them.”
— George MacDonald
Around mid-April I denounced the Four+. Unrelated to that, while I thought to get the Quests written out on here as they happened, even if they didn’t have any discernable point—I started having too many remarkable (in my biased opinion, remarkable) quests and not enough time to actually remark on them, or I still had a sense of how to translate what happened into a specific narrative structure that the Quest wouldn’t even nearly fit.
- When I encountered the Laetha Ava covered in blood—eir own blood—and I loftily voiced my musings about wounded inner children in Jungian psychology (because the smell was so terrible, the whole of what I was witnessing was, and I wanted to remain detached until the meaning of finding em like this). I spread my newspaper-print bat wings, and Ava leapt on me and ripped each one out of their sockets, shouting that now I couldn’t hide behind words. This had a very personally significant meaning, but I could hazard a guess that the curse must have taken hold if I’m sure there are words (for what this Quest meant) and I can’t even scribble them.
- Discovering more of the troublingly possessive nature of my headcanon Captain Dahlia, as in during a swordfighting lesson in the otherworld, ey reached into my arm and started moving it from the inside, which was effective but unusual.
- Breaking the Bone Box curse or something, that is, encountering a fusion of Mircea and the Bone Box Girl before volunteering to take the place of the latter. (“Volunteering” is entirely the wrong word for this!)
- Meeting the Dierne Pallis in the Ethereal.
That last one has to do with my cosmology: Corporeal, or the world subject to physical sciences; Sidereal, the world of cultural constructs and society, overlapping the corporeal and sometimes touching back but not the same thing; and Surreal, where Quests or Journeys take place, usually tuned out from the first two.
The Ethereal is, I suppose, the Surreal without tuning out. I would form and express headcanon of the Dierne Pallis in the stories I was writing, which would be Sidereal; or I would have a dream about em, categorically Surreal.
When I sit in a table in a tea room in the Corporeal world, and I see my cup of iced peppermint milk tea and black sago pearl sliding away from me because Pallis took a grab at it—but I know the tea and the cup are still right in front of me, and I know that no one else sees the person with tea-thieving hands and arms that I’m seeing, and I wonder what would happen if someone corporeal sat down right where ey was sitting at that moment…
That’s the Ethereal, basically a hallucination.
And in another entry I might describe the figurative filing system of names and associations—How this Dierne appeared like Captain Foxglove (a personal guiser I work with) but didn’t come off as Captain Foxglove, or why I even still consider this the Dierne rather than Mircea…with whom the Dierne Pallis is very very perilously easy to confuse.
And in another entry I might mention what we actually talked about or got around to doing.
But as far as my mystical experiences go, the Dierne Pallis still doesn’t play nice with me and I am growing to hate em right back.
And if ey can put that aside to do what we’ve been working on that’s apparently more important, I won’t be shown up in that—even if ey has more of an idea (and more of an aversion) than I have what this thing we’re working on even is. It involves Mirror Work and absorbs my recent research into the philosophical nature of evil. (Cross-referencing Marie-Louise von Franz’s “Shadow and Evil in Fairy Tales” and Hannah Arendt’s “Eichmann in Jerusalem”.)
Couldn’t I do this with Lilybell Vega? I like Lilybell Vega.
I don’t know what Hell Month would mean to me this year, as I have since shifted gears into the Tesseract (more popularly known as North-South); I agreed with the Clarene, with whom I worked most, that the King of the West isn’t through with me.
To the question of, “Fine, but why’s the star-boy still around?” Eh, if I’m gonna know, I’m gonna know…eventually.
(Featured image taken on/of a city street, silhouette of tree branches in the morning sun, behind a wall draped with white bell flower vines in bloom, evocative of the Dierne Pallis’ Court of the Starry Forest.)
The following entry may contain triggering material.
The little white booklet accompanying the deck contained a helpful guide to meditating with each card. I think that was part of learning to read intuitively. I had yet to read it best put: an internal voice that originates externally, but in the soundless language of the cards, the levels and nuances of meaning cued by each image. Each was like a cardboard song.
I drew the Justice card, and the harmonics were off but there. If I had to translate, it would be, You’ll get your own for this. You’ll get what’s coming to you.
“I will?” I blurted, surprised. “You do know that I’m her victim, right? Not the other way around.”
Four years my senior, university graduate, employed, full financial control of what our dead unwed mother had left us, social butterfly, life of the party, drunkard, gossip, abuser. Well, now I’d pronounce that last bit as, “Hated me and didn’t want to admit it.” I dropped out of high school, siphoned the family funds into therapies and treatments for eating disorders and suicide attempts that they told me in so many words I could just not do, and was perpetually rude to my mother’s wealthy lover who ensured we wouldn’t need to worry about the hospital bill. Converted to U.S. dollars, it cost just under six figures to fail at curing someone’s cancer. Or was that the cost of the funeral? It was a long time ago. My memory is better—because between November and February each year, I get nightmares—about the smell of mother being gradually disemboweled by a uterine tumor. Deaths as gory as that could happen to anybody.
I learned to disobey late in life. My mother kept me out of school first for a year, and then I dropped out upon getting re-enrolled. She’d lost her job, had nothing saved, that year made for a particularly tense home life and I absorbed every blow. That I couldn’t leave all that behind me once it was over wasn’t exactly disobedience: I was sick. That said, I would shout at my mother in therapy for all the terrible things she did, and she would pretend to have forgotten. If that were an order to the opposite, it wasn’t direct enough.
But I learned to disobey late in life, after my mother died, after my sister got so drunk that she fell on me and cut my scalp open, and I begged my godmother to let me live with her instead.
“But all you have left is each other,” said the roommate, who I still saw on weekends. (“In case you only need a bit of space,” my godmother said.) (If I recall, big sis was out drinking again, during this conversation with the roommate.) You don’t choose family; it’s what you’re born into and you have to act only to keep blood family together.
“To shut it down like that was rude,” said a mutual friend, who was her friend first. I began to say that I had a right to say no, firmly, to a death anniversary vacation where we’d do something special for the memory of a physical and sexual abuser—and if my sister wanted to remember such an awful person as mom, she could go alone. (He hadn’t been in the room when I said no—it was firm, I was so sure, not rude. My sister got to him first, and embellished, and there was no convincing him otherwise.) Always let even slightly older people tell you their wise experience. They know what’s what, even if you don’t.
“I’m sorry I upset you,” said my godmother, “But you know…I don’t have to take you in.” That was over a lot of things, but if I wanted to curry sympathy I would say it started because my godmother hadn’t wanted to hear that her lifelong friend since kindergarten had an affair with a married woman and that they abused a teenager together. Don’t be a burden.
I felt Manannán mac Lir as a voiceless presence, like the cards without the cards, from the stories of Freagarthach and the chalice. Don’t lie. You’re geased not to.
But I was breaking every rule, the most important ones too, all the time, anyway.
But everyone else told lies anyway.
They made this monster of me—
That would have been the first lie, that anyone made a monster of me but me—but I only say so because I forget what it’s like. I told a few more, big ones it seemed then, to mess with my sister and her friends and hurt them back. And I told myself that it was worth it, that I would always wonder if I didn’t take a stand like this, and that I deserved that satisfaction.
Justice strongly suggested otherwise. Repressed subconscious guilt reaction muddling the intuitive experience, I thought, borne of the same conditioning towards niceness that got me practically volunteering for this abuse all my life.
No, it was intuition. I’d confused disobedience at all for freedom. I didn’t believe that I had a soul, or a personality, I thought I was as I did (not even—I thought I was what was done to me) and held no values that I could betray. This was a difficult way to learn that I did. It wasn’t merely breaking a godly geis (a trickster god took over, we didn’t last); it wasn’t even losing any moral superiority I would ever have, to strike out (thinking I could instead embrace that for once, just once in my life couldn’t I not be cowed by habits or fears or rules—)
I let myself down.
Worse than that, I’d involved an ex-girlfriend of someone in my big sis’ group of friends who…was really trying to recover from having been the victim of all of them, too. I pulled her back into our toxic world out of selfishness and spite.
And if I won’t let my own damn self off the hook for that after five years then I really have very little tolerance for people who go beyond the pale and don’t own up to it.
Knowing what’s right and true and just can’t all only rely on a pretty bit more cardboard.
“—ntrarian but when someone tells you to stay on the path, you do it,” Arabella told me. It was difficult to catch the expression, because eir head was a giant orange rose starkly veined like lettuce, and the voice was more like a scent, but I’d like to say ‘amused but only because it had been a good day’.
“The King had it sorted,” I argued, but quietly. Oh, we were doing this; sometimes it stops and starts, but this concluding conversation happened weeks ago.
We paused, having arrived at the center.
“What else are you going to leave to someone else’s problem?” The Laetha’s fingers were calyx petals, closing my own hand around the hilt of my broadsword. “What is this for? Who is this for?”
Ey sounded curious, back then, but of course it troubled me that I didn’t have a ready answer.
“—rds honour you, my deeds even better. This I pray.”
Doesn’t usually get an answer, but this time—
“No,” the King’s tone of voice was like the dark of night, the part that’s a relief after a day so hot and bright that fuzzy cyan ghosts of serpents and jellyfish cloud the vision of anyone who steps outside. “I told you to keep to the path.”
It was only a voice, though. Is that more reliable than a visual, or less? This could still be the other Clarene.
Hell, the one I kept referring to as the Laetha Arabella could have been a common flower fae.
I keep telling myself that it’s the message that matters. The otherworlds can go on being as zany as it is, and I just roll with it. Anything I carry over to the corporeal or sidereal worlds, I must admit are all on me.
“Giving someone a limitation isn’t the same as giving them wisdom,” I said. “I can live with myself better now. I couldn’t trust that would happen by doing everything you tell me to—that’s not even why you tell me, so…”
I had a knowing, though the voice didn’t come with a body I could see, that the Clarene was pulling a sewing needle from eir earlobe—where I’d run it through months ago, at the Clarene’s suggestion. With a flip of eir hair, the piercing had never been, and I had a certainty that the bass clef shape at the back of the shell of eir ear had dissolved.
“I did you a favor,” the voice said. “Remind me not to do that again.”
“I think you’d remember,” I replied, gloomily. (That had been a massive help and relief, and I’d just gotten used to feeling exactly whelmed, and then I’d started forgotting why.)
“No,” the voice said again, distantly. “I wouldn’t.”
1. “My Medea” by Vienna Teng
So this one isn’t technically a music video so much as a video with music in it. It begins with Teng expressing an erstwhile fear of never becoming a great artist because it isn’t only about technical skills, creativity had to come from being an interesting person whereas Teng’s own life had been so ordinary. Fortunately, there were people who lived in this artist’s head, and one very beautiful and very powerful one who did not always have Teng’s best interests as a priority…but who could inspire hauntingly moody, powerful and beautiful music such as this.
In German there is a word betrachten which means giving something life, growth, and greater number when you give it attention. There’s something to be said for simply ignoring what isn’t constructive to address, something to be said for shutting down or shutting out what’s outright harmful, but not (in this instance) by me. (Though the philosopher Swift made a video lecture explaining the humanist existential concept of shaekitoff.) I believe art and fiction as a medium overwhelmingly often take what we’d rather eliminate within (and we can try, but nothing of the psyche truly dies) and put it outside where we can have more control over it, where we can watch what once festered in invisibility and silence, and transform or direct that force or focus more beneficiently. One does not become “enlightened” through figures of the light only, but by making the darkness conscious.
The mythic adversarial figure of Mircea (and the Mircean Firebird) may never be redeemed, even as much to the status of challenger—but I don’t consider it a glorification of evil necessarily to acknowledge the presence and nature of evil.
So come to me, my love
I’ll tap into your strength and drain it dry;
Can never have enough
For you, I’d burn the length and breadth of sky
For I must die for what I’ve done
A twist of fate, a desert sun
For I see what I destroy
(Sweet reflection knife into me)
For I see what I destroy
I can see what I’ve begun
2. “Just Like Fire” by P¡nk
I keep mishearing a line in the chorus, “If I can light the world up for just one day” as “fucking, like, the world up for just one day“.
…That’s my only comment. It’s a song about being like fire and being different; if that’s not laethic, I don’t know what is!
3. “Wide Awake” by Katy Perry
This definitely isn’t a song I like, but I do like the visuals in the video. It speaks to me especially of some more contemplative Dark Laethas: martial and strategic Alaria, hypercritical Artois, competitive Azure and healer Alma.
4. If I could find the official music video for “Indestructible” by Alisha’s Attic, I would have included that too for the CGI animation from 1997. The song generally gives me feels of the Laethas Ava and Alma’s sisterhood, and also a rare and harshly defensive side of the human Arabella—that I think of as Traumabella (as Mircea’s ex-lover, and Only Human, some vestigial habits of living with evil I have heard called “fleas”.)
At least here is “Video Killed the Radio Star” by the Buggles.
Retro-futuristic sci-fi nostalgia about technology. LAETHIC AS HARK, HOLY HEARTS. For such an enjoyably campy video, too, the sound production has so much dimension.
In my mystic life, I think it’s safe to conclude that the Dierne Pallis does not like me. It’s been thirteen months since the first heavy hint of that. I still haven’t figured out why that would be, or if that even is the case as I’d expect some limitations to come with that tension—and the most obvious one hasn’t. For instance, Lilybell’s been around a lot, no trouble.
And in my laity life, I still include the Dierne when speaking the litany, still keep the Dierne in mind when I make small efforts to enjoy life sometimes, still explore the Dierne’s symbolic associations…Well, what’s supposed to happen with all of those, when a faery sovereign mystically dislikes someone who speaks and thinks and lives the ‘faith with that one in it? Should a fresh canker sore form on my tongue for every time I dared to speak the title? Must I commit to an ascetic life, with respect to joy being the domain of the Dierne—uh-oh, communicative consent is the Dierne’s domain, too, do I live among corporeal people without regard for that from now on too? (Better to keep that a secular value.) Do I stay away from star shapes and diamond shapes for religious reasons?
I get the sense that the Dierne really doesn’t want a personal relationship with, but would still preside over eir domains that I’m living in. Or, I expect at least that much, and if that’s not the baseline compromising way of it then I should make something diernic and dedicatory for the sole purpose of desecrating that thing. Because I’ve already asked why, nicely, with genuine curiosity, several times. If I wanted a religion that arbitrarily demanded I make life purposelessly difficult for myself under the silently judgmental gaze of a spiritual lord, I’d’ve stayed Catholic.
Life is difficult, though (…wrote the literate Anglophone with internet access.) Sometimes that’s an outright burden, other times I have the privilege of reframing that difficulty as an opportunity or challenge.
Maybe if I could drive, I’d appreciate another level of interconnectedness with the city, or some awareness of my body as I wrestle with the steering and pedals. The way I’ve watched some people extend themselves into their cars is almost transhumanist.
When I was very young and somewhat smaller than I am today, I was always a passenger. I would be ushered into a machine full of cushioned seats, and doors with rubber at the edges that sealed them shut, and a movie would play at every window of the world passing by, and finally I’d get out of that room and find myself magically teleported to a new place. I’d watched the same movie run outside the window enough times that I should have had it memorized, but I never put in the effort: it was just a movie, and not even a favorite one. I didn’t process the turns, or the lifts over the bumps; in The Car, I’d take it as sitting still.
It wasn’t until I was 17 that I took the jeepney and train route alone for the first time. I sensed that my sibling had fallen into a grump, before I left: at not much older, ey’d been flown abroad for university and had to figure it all out alone. The both of us had taken the commute route together enough times. I should have known it by then, so ey’d argued over the phone to our parent. And I’d agreed, and I very much wanted to go pet-sit because I like animals, and all the young protagonists in all the books I’d read were never so troubled at wandering another dimension of reality—one city to another ought to have been easy.
I still felt as though I was going to die if I set foot out the door. And then, several foot-sets out the door and into a jeepney, that I wouldn’t recognize the train station if I watched for it. I felt as though I’d miss my stop when everyone and the driver had left for theirs, and that the jeepney would keep rolling into and through a wormhole in the fabric of spacetime where everything gets stretched out into some void cosmic darkness, and that I’d die that way. And then that, if I asked the jeepney driver one more time if this was the station, that ey’d take on a snappish tone answering no, and then my feelings would be hurt…and I would die. From that. Somehow.
My one parent called me anxiously on my cel, said not to go pet-sit for my sibling’s friend after all because the commute would be full of smog and bumping into strangers, and what if I contacted lung cancer or got mugged or the weather was bad or I lost my way? As I was already halfway there, comfortably within my bearings, it was too late to warn me off.
Since then, I’d found a lot to like about commuting. To be sure, it’s exhausting, body and fumes; the train’s always getting more expensive (I can’t say enough how lucky I am to keep up), inclement weather isn’t always enjoyable, so much can go differently in crowd movement and/or machinery that I can’t get to where I meant to be exactly when I meant to be, and while the vast majority of commuters are really just trying to get from one place to another…even after having gained a tolerance for crowds, there’s a few I wish I hadn’t been quite so near, and that wasn’t even traumatic (which is always a possibility.) It’s far more of a privilege than it is a virtue for me to have gotten past my fears and maladaptive sensitivities, to have the funds to even travel, and to be part of the majority of the population that’s ambulatory. Subway elevators in my city are very narrow; subway escalators are very steep and very very narrow. More vulnerable people still have to fight for this practice, whether the approach is sacred urban paganism or (more likely) secular utilitarianism—even in a developed nation. In my offline social circles, walking and the commute is the resort of the almost-destitute. Nobody does that for fun in this city. To be a commuter, especially a pedestrian, is so pedestrian.
Maybe one day I’ll have the time to learn to ride a bike, or the money to get my license and a Volkswagen beetle painted red and spotted black, and I’ll explore the transhumanist aspect and declare myself half machine (at least while traveling—Maybe similarly, if I need to be somewhere I’m not familiar with, I surf Google maps on my phone, which I couldn’t have done as easily in the 90s.) Maybe one day I’ll appreciate the childhood luxury of being chauffered, in that cushioned film reel room with the dreadfully chilly wind. I remember that time and feel only this queasy revulsion at such powdered-and-perfumed helplessness.
I know this city (and the next one over) well enough, and the flow of the travel well enough, that I feel as though I become it when I travel and it becomes me. To learn the art of the commute meant more personal power, and freedom. I do it when I have to, when I have a responsibility to, and things go wrong—but when, where, and how is a decision nobody else makes for me. Beyond that, the passing of the world outside isn’t merely a movie anymore. It’s a reason to catch sunshine, toasting my skin and filling me with life, or else burning and sweltering. It’s the way it glints off the skyscraper-scape of the business district, where the sidewalks are almost pavilions. It’s the smells of street vendor’s food frying, and a nearby chocolate factory, and a sort of oceanic version of petrichor riding in a gust from the bay. It’s the steampunk technology of the jeepney drivers—cooling fans, pull-stop lights and horns on a literal shoestring—army vehicles deconstructed and neon-painted and rainbow-beribboned in times of peace, and sitting up front with a co-commuter and eir bamboo cage of live chickens. It’s a memory of a Japanese superstition (overheard from a non-Japanese friend of a non-Japanese friend, who’d been there, I can’t add “or so they said” because I was there with them in Tokyo but couldn’t speak a word of Japanese,) concerning train spirits that may take offense at commuters using their phones, and my now knowing by what national partnership the main rail came to be in my own city, and wondering. I don’t know what’s poetic about buses, but I’ll think of something later maybe.
Often, it’s ignoring the litter and walking guiltily past the many, many, many beggars.
On occasion, it’s feeling cramps around the hamstrings and having a pack of salty batter-fried peanuts for dinner when I get home because I’m too tired from traveling to cook. Compared to my youth in The Car, I don’t feel the same revulsion at having a room to call home. I think everyone ought to have a way to stay out of the rain, where richer people won’t prod you with a stick for trying to sleep just because the sidewalk doesn’t look nice with people lying down on it (as though there were always somewhere else to go!) It’s only a thought: I’m not given what I call home by right, but by luck. And not a small amount of express entitlement.
the Dierne Pallis should be here, too: in the room called home, in the natural light from the window, in the mechanical breeze (from that spinny thing sounds like an admirer), in the box of winter that keeps the ice cream sandwiches that I eat in my bed—in that last one, the option of that, or batter-fried peanuts, or groceries that have been stored and just need a bit of cooking and have actual nutrition. To have options! To choose what you want!
Until everyone has at least that much, though, my headcanon Pallis continues to wander.
To the Dierne Pallis, the Pedestrian, the Streetwalker, the Wanderer. When one in destination longs for another, may you lend them your comet’s tail. Keep us lofty wealthy restless ’til we uplift those who have fallen where the pavement breaks. The ways within the City between the Cities are yours, the rush of the hour, the press of the crowd. Hold us together and keep us apart. This I pray.
the Clarene’s laid claim to fairy tale compilations and I heartily agree to adopt this headcanon. However, I haven’t felt like doing a cover-to-cover read of my copy of the Grimm fairy tales, to gather familiar symbolism and maybe spark some insight.
So, I’ve started doing bibliomancy instead, that is, taking the book, letting how I randomly feel like turning to some random page, and paying attention to whatever random line on that page that I randomly feel like reading.
Figuring this out has been an adventure in thinking about how I think about it.
“What a beautiful bird I am!”
For example, that line from “the Juniper Tree”. Is it the Laetha catching me away from a communion I’d set out with the Clarene again, or the bluebird Sky Ophelia, or the first Dierne because of the singing? Or is it a fairy tale of solace because of the simply-told yet unfathomably complicated position of the enabler/victim, the favored younger daughter of an abusive stepmother, who in some versions is named Marleen and in others Anne-Marie (like one of the ghosts who haunt the Laetha’s mansion)? The Moth Diaries film has the vampire-ghost Ernessa sing a version of this fairy tale’s song to the tune of Roud Folk Song Index #13190 (wouldn’t give up a millstone for that, personally,) where I first heard it, though I didn’t know that it was from this tale, or what it meant. Do I incorporate that association in my intuitive process?
My intuitions settled on the story itself being a message that, in a post-truth world, it’ll still all work out.
She had a fairy looking-glass, to which she used to go, and then she would gaze upon herself in it, and say:
Sometimes I read ahead or behind, enough that it makes more sense simply as text.
“Tell me, glass, tell me true!
Of all the ladies in the land,
Who is the fairest, tell me, who?”
There we go.
My version’s big on stepfamily conflicts, I know the original Snowdrop or Snow White had some very flabbergasting animosity between the biological mother who wished for a beautiful daughter and the beautiful daughter that the now murderously envious mother wished for in the first place. As this is the first instance of that rhyme, is the mirror’s answer an affirmation of self-love, just taken in isolation from the rest of the story? Or is it a calling to Mirror Work, taken in isolation from the rest of the story and associated to Otherfaith? Or ought I take this passage as an omen against self-absorbed obsession that gets taken out on innocent wee princesses, and is this my own self-absorbed obsession to be wary of or is it somebody else’s?
The moon shone brightly, and the white pebbles which lay in front of the house glittered like real silver pennies.
Hansel collecting markers for a trail back home before (as ey well knows) eir parents abandon em and eir sibling Gretel. It reads like an encouraging thing, out of context. I also parallel this with “the Juniper Tree” in the positive brother-sister bonds. Hansel and Gretel work as a team: though Hansel’s the planner and implementer of the operation the first couple of times, it’s Gretel who defeats the ‘final boss’ when Hansel’s locked up. With Anne-Marie and the unnammed brother, they’re more a team in terms of deciding when compassion or retribution are appropriate.
Bibliomancy interpretations haven’t gotten so very methodical to me, yet, right now I’m just flipping the pages around, and dipping back into the classic tales that way.