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.
The descriptor that got through to me, that I could understand a labyrinth as sacred geometry after, was grace. The shape of a labyrinth can mean: In this place, there is nowhere else you must be; in this movement, there is nothing else you must do.
It’s like any other way to alter the mind enough to catch at some soul-high message, maybe, except this is what’s been working for me right now. It used to be a variety of breathing patterns into blankness, then entering a tarot card illustration, then guided audio meditations, and I keep hearing about binaural beats but that hasn’t worked all that much better to me. Considering how often I’ve had to change up my methods when the previous one stopped working, I might get into it in the future. So far, though, no.
I was aghast to read about a meditation class where the instructor insisted on the fourfold breath to a student for whom the instructor knew that breathing pattern did not good-feeling stuff to the student’s cardio. There are so. Many. Other. Ways. To. Breathe! Must I also add that someone else’s way to breathe comfortably is valid for meditative practice? Or even, like…life? (I am so harshly judging that instructor.)
Labyrinth travel is hardly as basic as breathing, though in that vein, I’ve been fortunate enough to try out a variety of designs.
When I started getting into finger-tracing miniature labyrinths as a prayer practice, I had this idea of a labyrinthine part of Western Faery built of red brick—which it looks like Aine’s portrait of the Clarene sits on! I didn’t catch that detail the first time, or I forgot and it stewed in my subconscious until it bubbled up as the Sierra Sienna (which I sometimes call the Sienna Sierra.)
This next picture below shows the Ophelia. Mine’s the very anthropic version on the left panel, Opalfish’s gives me the vibes of (to paraphrase Granny Aching from the Discworld series) “‘Taint what the River looks like, it’s what the River be.”
So I certainly make room, even in my little pocket altar, for both the relational experience of the fae presenting/performing and representing as anthropomorphic (and zoomorphic—aww, I wish I’d figured out how to work in some of that in my portrait, butterfly wings, or gills or blue peacock feathers or something, maybe another time,) and this more phenomenal, animistic, symbolic sort of representation…and whatever it means to an individual Other Person, in haphazard combination or in-between (as I expect to be the case, usually—these are liminal beings.)
Next pic below is Aine’s portrait of the Laetha Arabella, and mine of the Dierne before Pallis (the Princess Irene, with whom I generate an unexpected lot more headcanon.)
the Laetha portrait turned out the best on photo paper, I’d say—bold lines, the colors just pop, and I feel it’s a style that generally conveys well that the Otherfaith is a contemporary religion, especially the upstart regent that the Laetha is (along with the Dierne Pallis.)
Maybe I’ll get around to adding some written prayers to this. More likely, though, it’d be adding more images—of the Dierne Pallis, at least a few more of the Laethas, and the fusions. Maybe some non-royal fae. Images alone feel right enough for now.
and the thing is I keep trying to post something not frivolous, such as practical conversational formalities to navigate conflicting headcanons, or the moral philosophy metaphysics of oppression and abuse, or how human history/geography and body politics convey specific qualities or characteristics of these fae (despite fae not necessarily being human, temporal, spatial, or corporeal—therefore not consistently subject to human narrative expectations/associations, not at all!) and how—though I’ve gotten so comfortable and open to the fae Others enough to find them and theirs in the world and life that I experience more corporeally—the Otherfaith remains very much an American religion to me. That last post would’ve quoted the earliest email exchanges I had with Aine Llewellyn back in 2014, and a more recent conversation with Morag Spinner about the dynamic between diaspora pagan gods and indigenous ones in the continental Americas. And there would have been footnotes 1.
Some of the fae Others suggest that I lighten up. My response to that being: the world the way it is, how about no.
Just as the title says, this is a post about incorporeal otherworldly weapons. I wish it were relevant.
My earlier paradigms of mysticism focused on finding consistent empirical evidence for forms of wishcraft that claimed empirical effects. Psychokinesis and remote viewing were the most practical skills I never accomplished, telepathy had too much bias interference but was fun to practice, lucid dreaming could be personally insightful but not much else unless at least two people could manage to have the same dream—and then there were the warriors. Frankly, from what I’d read, the ones who talked about it the most tended to come off as arrogant bullies, in discussions about anything else too. Their otherworldly lives would be filled with world-ending dangers, that no one else noticed because the rest of us were unintelligent or cowardly or otherwise worthless for being powerless…or even just civil.
No surprise then that I much preferred shuffling homemade Zener cards, and guessing at what fruit someone on the other side of the internet was thinking at me…until the otherworld dubbed me with a sword, and my spiritual life pupose became clear: arrogant bully with melodramatic otherworldly double life.
Even if some reasoned argument could be made for it: that arrogance is too often a word for frankly harmless expressions of power that aren’t the accuser’s own, or that also the word bullying can and recently has been levvied against those who recognize the way of the world as full of inequality and injustice and move to push back…
…I still wouldn’t recommend this as a method of finding one’s weapon.
Step One: Invest your emotions unwisely and conform to ill-founded societal standards of what is good and right Step Two: Sustain such a deep and sudden emotional injury from the betrayal that an identity crisis in imminent Step Three: A year and a month later—or four years later, or in between or more years later—get thrown into an intrusive memory (more like an engulfing memory) of one of the worse events your life Step Four: Quest in that memory and there’s probably going to be some thingy
I hope anyone in the accursed position of giving this a go—though it’s more like all these events have a go at you—finds a wise and kind guide instead (or a family of them), or a healing landscape, or a jetpack, or a walnut shell containing an exquisite miniature scene wrought from gold and many coloured precious stones depicting a strange and interesting temple. Or a walnut shell containing a walnut. (But that last one would make too much sense.)
By now of course I have motive to claim that there’s more to it than a calling to arrogance and bullying—as I suppose spiritual healers generally have a deeper and more complicated way of being called to the Work than “wishy-washy condescending privileged pacifist”.
I’d learned to feel violently because I’d suffered violence, oppression, and abuse. The latter doesn’t always lead to the former in everyone, so I’ve read and heard, but it’s not the way of it in my case (wishing the otherworld had given me an airship instead, or a healing potion, or a camouflaging cape.)
I found a weapon and knew it as part of me and mine. And I took it…as a sign of inherent moral failing, really. A weapon is violent by design.
I say I feel or have felt violently, and the ethereal weapon came out of that, though the quest to find the weapon somewhat redefined emotion. An ethereal weapon can also signify being able to say how about no; especially of having had to say no, of having that instinct challenged into definition. (“Challenged”…that words the process so kindly that it’s a lie.) I could wish that my soul said it with track shoes instead, but that wasn’t the way of it for me; it’s still not the way of it. While I learned to wield my weapon once I had it, in many other aspects and processes, my conscious ego could only observe the mystery.
Otherfaith mysticism mentions two aspects consistent with my own experience. The first being that these weapons could be conjured from the otherworld emotionally—to that I propose additions that ethereal weapons may be conjured imaginatively, emotionally, or philosophically.
Imaginatively, it is an exercise of active power for a mystic to manipulate their own experience in the otherworld—unless I’m being targeted and suffer the consequences of someone else’s questing, it’s not for me to say whether that’s “authentically” mystic, as opposed to shallow fantasy-fulfillment that’s easy to imagine the awesome. (I think it was Encounters with the Soul by Barbara Hannah, one of the first apprentices of Carl Jung, that I read some categorization of how to tell the difference between ego imagination and more purposeful psychic work by the same mental medium—but that’s Jungian psychology.) If you can call a weapon to mind just by knowing what it is, even if you have aphantasia and too many mystical traditions emphasize visual imagination—then you’re on the way to this. My own otherworldly quests are usually very visual to me, so even my emotional-philosophical weapon is imaginative too.
Emotional processes with ethereal or surreal expression, I’ve touched up on above and will get back to. Mythic weapons I’d categorize here include Blass, an energy-sink hammer of Mircea’s anguish under which everything becomes a nail and ey wielded that in the direction of the Sundering. Nialtrois, throwing knives that stop working if they escape the Laetha Ava’s possession, doesn’t have the advantage then of corporeal daggers that don’t run out of ammo—as the Laetha Ava is reputedly exuberant about throwing Nialtroiseseses about, I’d categorize them as maybe-emotional-but-not-sure.
Philosophy encompasses all of these and carries its own qualities. Philosophy-grade ethereal weapons include Fortitude, which is the name of the sacrificial dagger of the Laetha’s Oracle. How Althaea Altair came in possession of this dagger may not be the way that I found or forged my sword or arrowhead; these weapon origin stories have not yet (at the time of this writing) been disseminated. In any case, another example may be the pistols Fürst and Fürstin, the existing information of which describes the Dierne Pallis wielding them both, but are not associated with the wielder so much as they are associated with one another. The philosophy of these pistols is that, when it comes to the consideration of any one justification, the opposite is also true.
My sword changed forms over time, though I considered them one thing by intuition, and named the final form (rightmost of the four drawn above) Heartwrench. This is another Otherfaith mystical custom that matched my own experiences: the naming of the weapon. I’d categorize Heartwrench as emotional-philosophical, and still a weapon, although…I’d found out by accident that Heartwrench generates protective bubbles when the tip is grounded, and then I learned to replicate that experience when the weapon is positioned ungroundedly. Heartwrench can also give off the occasional blast of force, so it’s more like a very elaborate wizard staff…really not so much with the hack-and-slash. The discovery and discipline of this weapon, to me, I associate very much with a personal movement between territoriality (or personal defensiveness) and personal integrity. Generally, when someone’s secure in the latter then they don’t need the former anymore, but I wouldn’t dismiss the former as immature or worthless; in my case, at least, I can’t believe anything resembling the latter could have developed without the privilege of being that immature former.
Every ethereal weapon has its own design, function, and nature—is what I’ve gathered so far. Weapons that work for any wielder, weapons that don’t work depending on the wielder, weapons that don’t work depending on the weapons, weapons aligned to a philosophy or emotion, weapons that don’t conform to the expected corporeal things that informed recognition of a weapon’s form in the first place…and when I say Heartwrench is both me and mine, I mean that I find the nature of my ethereal weapon as exactly like Casimir, sword of Casimir, and Casimir, sheathe of the sword Casimir, and fairy prince Casimir who might be both. Hashtag it me, from the Department of Redundancy Department.
The unnamed elf-shot pictured below has given me more trouble than Heartwrench. It replicates itself by randomly exploding, and communicates to me that I should kill myself because it despises me. It’s technically me and mine but it’s not exactly on my side when it comes to the problem of violence. Elf-shot at least has more prominence in the pre-Otherfaith fairy lore—but maybe that’s for a whole other entry after I’ve read resources other than Alaric Hall’s Elves in Anglo Saxon England (in which Hall argues that elf-shot is a throwaway metaphor that was never considered a literal thing, and that while the variants of the phrase may have come into popular use as “elf-stroke” or a stroke as in a blood clot in the brain being attributed to elf-shot, many maladies not yet explained by medical science back then were blamed on elves. Jaundice. Measles. Hay fever. Epilepsy. Malaria, which I didn’t know medieval Europeans could even get all the way over there in Europe. “Feeling empty and sad” that, as Hall wrote it, sounded to me like depression—also attributed to inimical elfin activity, just not archery. These and various other ailments.) Or, perhaps, after…so fae regents help me…I’ve had more experience with this weapon in particular. It’s already changing form, but I haven’t gotten around to drawing the short double-pointed metal knitting needles that are flat on three long sides—by that description, I really ought to have simply drawn it—so anyway the elf-shot’s become a series of dark iron shivs, suspiciously similar to what I’d been pulling out of my fetch’s wounds two years before I found my elf-shot. I expect in the future I might be moved to aim at my past self and shoot several times without my past self knowing it was my future self—but the simpler explanation is just my mind/psyche boggling symbols like “now we make this thing look like another thing.”
This isn’t the person I wanted to be, emerging from an identity crisis with a weapon in my hand. (It’s violent by design, as I’d mentioned, and that fact bothers me.)
“Whyyy…” I’d whined to the Clarene, “…did you build a whole otherworldly schoool around combaaat??”
What we can say for sure is that empire makes all innocence impossible.
— M. Jacqui Alexander, “Pedagogies of Crossing: Meditations on Feminism, Sexual Politics, Memory and the Sacred”
Ey’d replied, “We are the other people.” Inclusive we, as in ‘you and me, we’ (the English language doesn’t make the distinction between that and ‘not you, I meant me and someone else’, unfortunately). And the word other didn’t nudge my mind towards fae, but othering—echoes of overheard conversations from richer and smarter, more educated, people about…humanist Levinas, existentialist Kierkegaard, infuriating Derrida. Dead white dudes that refined the definition of otherness. If the Clarene knew them, and the Clarene knew such an awful lot, I believe ey would keep them in mind but remain more pragmatic: “Whatever led you to believe that life would not come down to a fight?”
I almost replied, How about n—
—oh but too integrated into thinking that phrase at all and meaning it too is, at least in my case, Heartwrench-ing.
I don’t suppose that I can retract any part of that wish that could be consequentially tethered to violence becoming relevant to perpetuate? What a dangerously thoughtless wish.