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Last night I got into a somewhat heated discussion on otherkin, vegetarianism, and animal rights on the ADF IRC chat.   A couple of members who believe they are otherkin brought up a publication and I asked them a couple things about being otherkin which kind of started it all.  You see, when I first heard of otherkin several years ago, I thought to myself, “huh.  That’s interesting.  I wonder if that’s why I’m so drawn to cats?”  I never really thought much more about it though.  Last night’s discussion kind of forced me to think about otherkin again and articulate my thoughts about my own relationship with the animal kingdom.

Animal rights and vegetarianism can be very divisive issues as last night proved.  There are scientific sides to the arguments, but when push comes to shove, a lot of what a person believes is based on UPG and their own concept of animism.  And that is fine.  I know I can’t push someone to see the world as I do anymore than they can push me.  Some of you who know me better understand that I think animals and humans are no better or worse than the other.  We are equal.  I believe that we have different talents and purposes, but that we aren’t somehow better.  As I thought about it last night, I realized that the Druidic concept of “a gift for a gift” is very much a part of my understanding of the natural world.

Don’t misunderstand me.  I understand that animals can be cruel to each other.  Cats torture small prey and monkeys wage wars on each other.  Etc etc etc.  What we call “human nature” may very well be “animal nature.”  I think humans are capable of forming symbiotic relationships with animals and here is where the trouble begins.  I have no problems with people who raise animals on farms or who hunt.  Our ancestors seemed to understand the spiritual side of this as well.  I’m generalizing my studies, but there are plenty of people who thanked their kill or left offerings to guardians of the hunt or livestock.  Brighid, a guardian of domesticated animals, could be thanked for the milk.  She is a protector of dairy giving creatures – maybe even one of them in some forms. (That is my own UPG.)  I don’t find deity to be limited to the human form.  If anything, I get the impression that the Gods are real forces and we gave them avatars or they chose visages that we would feel more at ease around.
Back to reciprocity.  We give cats and dogs shelter and food and they keep our homes free of vermin, help us hunt, drive our sleds, entertain us, etc.  We both give each other love.  I feel that, today, while we may have that symbiotic, “gift for a gift” relationship with our pets, we’ve lost it with the greater wild kingdom.  Instead of giving our cattle a comfortable home in exchange for milk and meat, a majority of them live in horrible conditions and are beaten.  We rape our forests in the name of profit.  We plant a tree here and there but is that enough?  Perhaps the forests, especially the rain forests, have given us enough and our gift back needs to be rest and lots of it while we learn to better recycle what we already have.  (Desertification is a very real and growing problem right now.  Mama Earth will be fine but what about the many humans displaced?  What about the countless number of plants and animals killed in the process due to human greed?)

This brings me back to otherkin.  I’m not convinced that I am one.  There are days, it’s true, when I suffer from “green guilt,” but I am not about to forsake my humanity.  There is plenty about it that I love – especially the arts.  I do not know if nature spirits have their own art – they might! – but I am enamored with human art whether it is painting, sewing, dancing, or song.  And while there are horrible, greedy people out there, I find that a majority of humans are kind-hearted and well-intentioned (if ignorant – but aren’t we all that way in certain areas?).

I do not really think that I am a cat stuck in a human body.  I am more inclined to think that maybe I was a cat in a previous life (some would argue that makes me an otherkin) or that the cat is a symbol I am repeatedly drawn to, physically and spiritually – a symbol representing the lessons I need to learn in this life, my shadow, or, perhaps my animus (one of my spirit guides is a male lynx after all…)

I do not reject the animal in me anymore than I reject the human.  If anything, I am trying to find a balance between my human and natural side.  I can’t escape my humanity – doing so would mean leaving behind the people and activities I adore.  But I feel like it would be irresponsible of me to ignore my inner animal and, thus, my connection to all of nature.  My inner animal is my empathy with other creatures – the drive of my vegetarianism and my desire to do less harm to Mama Earth and my brothers and sisters in the natural world.  I want to be closer to them, to better understand my place in the cosmos – not as their master, but as their sibling.

I don’t have an idealized vision of Eden where I’m lounging with the lion as fearlessly as the lamb.  I know enough about the cruelty of nature having lived in such proximity to it for years.  I’m under no illusions and am aware of the chaos and the destruction necessary for the renewal.  Just as human siblings quarrel and don’t see eye to eye, we compete and become annoyed with our nature kin.  But we must learn to live with them and love them somehow because we are all connected.  At the moment, I think our relationship is imbalanced and consisting of more “take” than “give.”

Perhaps my connection with the cat (and now my growing connection with the fox) is more shamanic than anything else.  I am inspired by them and seek spiritual union.  There are lessons for me in these forms.  The carnivorous cat has taught me to respect and value the hunter – no small feat for a vegetarian!  What else can they teach me?  And in the meantime, what can I do for them to return the favor?

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First Contact

When I moved to the North Country I started to poke around Witcvox’s directory to see who was around here. I do so every few weeks out of boredom and, sometimes, loneliness. I soon became aware of a shop called Moontide in Watertown. My work schedule and unfamiliarity with the area made it difficult for me to find. A few days ago, my husband and I explored an indoor shopping area and, lo and behold, there was Moontide.

The owner, who struck me as an intensely new agey but kind-hearted individual, dedicates half of her store to crystals, incense, and various New Age and Pagan knick knacks. The other half is full of romantic, vampiric clothing. I must admit, I want to go back and try some things on. I like ruffled blouses and long flowing skirts.

I bought a few small boxes of incense to replenish my supply, including dragon blood, a favorite of mine. I also engaged in small talk about the community and how we were new to it. She seemed glad that I didn’t complain about the snow.

I asked her about CUUPs and, while she hasn’t been in awhile, she recommends that I check it out. I got the impression that it is full of Wiccans which really isn’t a surprise. Either that or she isn’t aware that not all Pagans are Wiccan.

Anyway, that was my first venture into the local Pagan culture. There is a CUUPs meeting on Tuesday but I’m feeling under the weather today. I may not feel up to going. You may think that’s just another excuse for me to avoid socializing, but really, I do feel quite ill. Although… I must admit I’m wondering if I really should go. The very active ADF chats have been keeping me quite happy recently…

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ADF Chats

I am so glad that there are chats on ADF. When I joined about three years ago, I felt so distant from everything. I started to attend a grove and, while that helped, I only saw people 8 times a year. I didn’t get to know anyone. Then I started to befriend people on Live Journal and Facebook. This also helped and yet it was still kind of lacking.

Finally there were more and more chats on ADF. Real time interaction. I feel like I’m really getting to know some of the wonderful people in ADF. I’m getting to know peoples’ personalities and humors. It’s fun and spiritually/intellectually stimulating at the same time. I don’t feel so alone up here when I participate.

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I found out that the CUUPs group in Watertown was having a meeting last night. At first I really wanted to try and make it but then I realized how last-minute it was and decided to stay home and relax with my husband. I ended up getting on the ADF chat towards the end of the night which was a lot of fun and helped to remind me that I’m not alone, even if I’m the only ADFer in Northern NY (which it sometimes seems is the case…) We talked about the nature of deity, specifically whether or not Zeus was the same as Jupiter and Tyr, etc. It was a fun intellectual exercise but one we all agreed wouldn’t lead to any true conclusions. All the same, I believe that such discussions are important. They force us to contemplate our faith and even question it. This, I believe, helps to ward off stagnation and unflinching dogma.

Somehow, we ended up talking about the Fomoire, I admitted that I had an interest in them, in particular Bres. In much of the lore I’ve read, he is Brighid’s husband. Unfortunately, he turns out to be a horrible king. Bres is part Fomoire and part Tuatha de Dannan. He decides to enslave the de Dannans and favor the Fomoire. He was also not very hospitable which, to the ancient Irish, was a big no-no. After a war, The Fomoire are defeated and Lugh gets the secrets of agriculture from former king Bres. It’s a trade – Bres’ life for, basically, the secrets of taming nature.

I explained to my fellow ADFers that, while I’ve not made tribute to him and do not worship him, I have an interest. Perhaps I can compare it to the interest people have in someone like Iago from Othello. He’s the antagonist and I can’t help but wonder at his motives. More importantly, I wonder at Brighid’s relationship with him. Yes, in the myths, it was most probably symbolic of a political marriage and, perhaps, sovereignty. But, if the Gods have feelings like us, how did she feel? If it’s all just a metaphor, what does it mean to people devoted to Brighid? What does it mean to a feminist to worship a Goddess who married an asshat? Was he always like that? We know she invented keening when their son was killed. But that’s it. Brighid is such an important Goddess to me that I can’t help but wonder at it all.

Anyway, shortly after the chat I went to bed and I had a horrible dream. In the dream, I became aware of a shadowy figure watching me through the windows at night. No matter where I went he (because I somehow knew it was male) knew and fallowed. At some points he was just a silhouette behind a blind. Other times I felt his presence. Then there were times when he seemed to be reaching through the windows from the darkness. It was very frightening. Finally, in an attempt to flee I got into a car with someone else (I can’t remember who – my sister, maybe) and the person/thing chased after me. The car was going and I couldn’t get the door closed. The thing was at the door, a shadow, reaching through the spaces. I woke up shortly after that.

At work I ended up daydreaming for a bit. I was thinking about the dream. I hardly ever seem to remember my dreams and I suddenly remembered the discussion on the Fomoire. Was it Bres? Or was my mind still thinking of the “Outsiders” ( the term we often use in ADF to describe the “powers of chaos” like the Fomoire or the Titans)? Did I get their attention? If so, and if I had a dream like that as a result, I don’t think I’ll ever want to think about making offerings to Bres.

Tonight, as it gets darker, I think of Brighid, my patroness, and I ask her, as I always ask her, to protect my home and me in it. I can’t help but wonder what it means to ask the wife to keep the husband out?

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