Trigger warning: If you are/have been affected by assault, violence against women, battery, blood, or any of the things connected with that, and CANNOT stomach reading about it, do NOT read any further.
It’s been suggested to me to start with how I’m feeling right now. How I’m feeling is shell-shocked and definitely with some stress cracks and fractures on the surface that go deep, but I don’t know how far down.
My reality is that I am a Pagan nonentity, despite some small notoriety with friends and compatriots in certain areas; kink, paganism, interfaith stuff, etc. I’m still what you’d call small potatoes. That means that I am also a working Pagan. I have a mundane job that kinda sorta pays my bills; but not enough. I say this because it’s background for why I was where I was when I was. If that makes sense.
I was at San Leandro BART station, waiting for a connecting bus to an office nearby for an employment exam. In this economy, we’re all of us; pagan or not, struggling for work wherever we can get it. I was there early enough that my bus was going to be a while. As with most things where I’m in a (self-imposed or not) spotlight, I get nervous with waiting. So I started walking around and working off some of the nerves. Cracking my knuckles, popping my joints, talking myself down from that. I walked towards the entryway to the platforms where Clipper cards are read and passes are inserted to get through. From behind me came the shouts. “Hey! Stop! Get away from her!” I had already started turning and had a visual of the scene before me, a man had bum-rushed a female from behind (a dirty play in ANY book) and knocked her to the ground. Her bags went flying, the crowd surged as he bounced off of her and started kicking and screaming obscenities at her. The crowd separated them but he cut through them as she dazedly tried to stand up. She got to some sort of a half crouch before he was on her again. At this point, I’m now a part of the crowd actively trying to fight him off her. He’s a dog with a bone and there’s no way he’s letting go ever, is what it feels like. Like pushing against the current. But this one was one filled with rage, hate, incoherent, but direct. Anyone who stands in his way is a direct target. I can still feel his hand around my forearm when I got between them as he tried to get to her through me and the crowd. At that point, a larger gentleman (with from what I could deduce some mental incapacities) sacked him. Low and to the midsection, if he’d been in college or professional ball it would’ve been hailed as quasi-perfection. At this point, the woman has run off towards the same entryway I was at moments (was it really just MOMENTS ago?) ago, and the police have shown up and are trying to figure out the situation. I join my voice with others trying to explain to the officer that the person they should be asking questions to is the man on the floor and not the ones huffing and puffing trying to get their breath back. The woman comes stumbling back over, dazed, bleeding, and going into shock. I walk over to her and the officer follows my lead and joins me in talking to her. I can see the goose-egg on the side of her face, lacerations and bleeding on the top of her head and blood in her mouth. She walks over to a column and calls for her belongings. I start to administer first aid, asking her name, checking her eye responses; you know, the things you’re taught to do. My voice is calm, detached. Professional. She steps away from the column and I’m lucky enough to get a hand on her as she starts to go down in a faint. I drop my knee straight onto the concrete and guide her fall. In my head, I thank whomever’s listening that she stays conscious and ask for first aid materials, anything really. She’s in hysterics this entire time. It’s only when I feel the ice in my veins and the breath in my lungs so cold that I nearly want to start coughing that I realize that my first job is to get her to calm down. I make her look into my eyes (are they really mine right now? I wonder…) and breathe for me. My hand (mine?) is placed right at her heart and her eyes widen and she takes those much needed breaths. A few more women join me and offer words or ice packs as I call out for them. I start to work on keeping her with me, to keep the panic from creeping into her voice again.
Then she starts apologizing.
With all the raging love pouring out of me at that moment. I took her chin in my hand, looked her square in the eye and told her she had NOTHING to apologize for. NOT ONE DAMNED THING.
At this point, I have to stop writing. I feel physically drained from everything already written and I need to recharge. I may continue this, I may not. I’m unsure if I can or want to, to be honest, until I’ve processed and worked out some more of the things this loosened up inside me.
Growing up, I was told that the idea of getting a modification on my body was a sacrilege. That tattoos, piercings, etc. marred the body g*d had given me and made me imperfect for the afterlife. I was told all this after having my ears pierced at an age I couldn’t object to, and what I later found out was against my mother’s wishes. *shrug* I can’t hold that against her, she shouldn’t either.
However, as I grew up, I learned to see a certain fearlessness in people who would go and get these things done. That fascination turned into a bit of an objectification for me as I enjoyed meeting with, dating, and getting to be very close to people who had artwork that fascinated and captivated me.
As I grew older and made my forays into the kink communities I chanced upon a class on branding, a new and emerging body modification that was happening in the community at large and decided (against maybe my better thinking) to try it. I got up and in less than 15 seconds, had a crescent moon branded onto a shoulder blade. The pain was minimal to nonexistent and there was no bleeding. The cautery pen (the same kind used in vasectomies) had done it’s job well. I played around a bit with the healing process and have a smooth scar with very little indentation and marring. The skin inside didn’t die or nectrotize or any other horror story that’s out there. It’s been a fairly good mark on me.
As I worked and learned about my spiritual path, the brand took on a life of its own and worked as my very own caller ID, if you will. If I was in deep meditation and focused on the intent I’d decided on, I would feel the brand light up and burn under the skin, an uncomfortable itch that I would leave alone as this feeling of peace and joy came over me. It is a way to know that Spirit is close, that I am being listened to, or that I need to pay attention. It has gone off at the weirdest moments; moments when I’m not paying attention, when I need to be reminded to stop, drop into myself, and check-in on how I’m feeling, moments of trepidation to remind me that I’m uplifted and supported. And during Ordeal work, it lets me know that one of my Fearsome Foursome™ is around, helping me, guiding me, or pushing me through the working.
It’s also become a marker for my real-life relationship. I am My Beloved’s Shadow Prince. The Moon and the Stars was one of the first songs I heard from My Beloved’s lips, and the moon on my shoulder warmed in response. My Beloved also enjoys the imagery and the concept of the spiral and has incorporated it into two complementary pieces of jewelry we wear.
In the here and now, I am currently researching and in consideration of five pieces of body art. Four for my Fearsome Foursome™ and one for My Beloved.
The one for My Beloved is probably going to be the first one I do and its details aren’t necessary here. The other four, need to be written down to reference them. This is also a way to provide some insight into who They are.
The first is a butterfly adapted from Paul Borda’s Butterfly for Xochiquetzal (Head Matron), I’m not sure what I want to change yet, or even if I’m ‘supposed’ to make changes, but we’ll see.
The second is Kali’s yantra. I am an initiate in the Daughters of Kali through Sharanya and received the name of Duti at my initiation. It means She Who Is Ambassador. Quite fitting.
The third is for the Morrighan. There is a piece of poetry that speaks of her cloaking us in her mantle of red, black, and white feathers. I am invoking that imagery and a crow into the piece I have created for her.
The fourth is for Odin. His two ravens, Huginn and Muninn, Thought and Memory, one holding a Valknut (as befits a dottir of Odin) and the other holding my bindrune.
The first part of all this is getting past the part where I remember that my flesh is no longer my own. I am reminded of this on a daily basis as I go through my day to day functions because that’s all I know to do. I walk in the beauty They provide. I walk in the mire of life because that is the path laid before me, and the one I consciously choose to walk for Them.
The second part is time and cost. That is on me, finding the artist who can do this for me, finding the time to get it done, finding the strength to survive the time in the chair, that’s where this all must have focus for me.
This may be one of the hardest things I have ever had to do; harder than inserting hooks into my flesh, harder than standing still while a flogger went after my back, harder than letting myself be tossed around and nearly drowned. This requires not shying away from myself and where my mind will travel, as the tattoo is placed on my flesh.