Tuesday, January 28, 2014

On This Day in History, Trajan was Crowned Emperor of Rome

On January 28, 98, Marcus Ulpius Traianus became Emperor of Rome. Trajan was universally lauded as a fair and good ruler, so good, in fact, that the Christians tried to retcon him into the Church:
"It was commonly said in medieval times that Pope Gregory I, through divine intercession, resurrected Trajan from the dead and baptized him into the Christian faith."

Monday, January 27, 2014

Nature Doesn't Care About Symbols

This is a good reminder that we can use imagery taken from nature as a symbol, but that doesn't mean nature is going to cooperate. I might see the gazelle as a symbol of swiftness and grace, but it ain't nothing but a snack to the lion.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Talking Tourette's

Well, I didn't imagine I'd be writing about THIS today, but it seems like a good time to bring it up. Over on this post, a commenter joked that another blogger needs to "overcome her Tourrets [sic]" in reference to her propensity to curse when she's angry. He got called out on his ableism -- rightly -- and deleted that portion of the comment, but I thought I'd use it as a springboard to talk about Tourette's (or Tourette) Syndrome, which I will call TS from here on out, and tic disorders, because I happen to have Tourette's.

First, let's clear up the biggest misconception about TS: coprolalia, which is a sudden outburst of profanity or offensive words or phrases, while the stereotypical image of TS, only actually occurs in about 10% of people who have the disorder. Most people with Tourette's don't go around saying "shit" and "fuck" all the time, and if I could change one thing about the way people think about TS, this would be it. I don't even tell people I have TS anymore because I don't want to deal with the, "So you say fuck all the time?" comments. If it comes up, I just tell them I have a tic disorder (technically true; TS is one of several tic disorders; not everyone who tics has TS) and leave it at that.

I am pretty lucky. My TS is mild compared to some people that have it. My tics started when I was in elementary school. At least, that's when they became an issue. I remember being in second or third grade and my friends making fun of me for ticcing. I didn't know what it was at the time. All I knew is that I had a constant "itch" in my throat and nose, a constant compulsion to make these noises, to move and jerk.

My main tics, which are still with me today, are a kind of growl that I make in the back of my throat, jerking my head back, sniffing and wrinkling my nose, or twisting up my mouth and nose. I don't know why I do it. They have been with me as long as I can remember. I can sometimes control them, and they get worse when I am nervous, which is often, because I also have an anxiety disorder. Yay, me! I once heard someone describe it as trying to hold back a sneeze. That's how strong the compulsion can be and how difficult it can be to control it.

When I am alone or around people who know me and know about my tics, I don't think about it until someone mentions it. My tics just kind of happen, and unless I am paying attention, I sometimes don't even realize I am doing it.

When I am in public or around people I don't know very well, things get a little more difficult. Like I said, I am lucky in that most of my tics are quiet, aside from the throat clearing and sniffing. A few friends have told me that when they first met me, they just though I had a really annoying cold. I get a lot of people asking me if I need a tissue! However, I still feel very uncomfortable trying to keep track of my ticcing and try my hardest to control them. Sometimes, I can keep it to a minimum. At other times, I have to excuse myself. It really depends on the situation.

Some people with TS have severe tics. Some bark or yell quite loudly, and some have motor (physical) tics that can be debilitating. Some DO have coprolalia, but as I mentioned before, the majority of people with Tourette's DO NOT.

There is no cure for Tourette's, but there is treatment. Some people have to take medication; some just need behavioral therapy. I never had to take meds, and my therapy was minimal (I needed far more intensive treatment for my depression and anxiety) because my tics, while a daily thing, were not debilitating. I had a fairly normal childhood, and aside from being seen as weird and getting made fun of (usually for things other than my tics), it wasn't that big of a deal.

For the most part, my TS does not affect my day-to-day life, and I am extremely lucky for it. I don't talk about it too much, but I thought I would throw it out there as it's come up in the Pagan blogosphere recently. If you have any questions, feel free to ask!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

All Roads Lead to Rome

The pull is there. It has been there a long, long time. I just never took the time to listen to the voices that said, "Come home; give us cultus; worship us; enlarge us; stop ignoring us, for we have been ignored and mistreated for far too long." Maybe I was afraid to listen, because going to that place would require work I wasn't ready to do. Gently, gradually, the spirits I serve have been pushing me towards Rome, saying, "Here. Go. We will always be with you, but you do not belong to us. You belong to Them."

When I first recognized the call, I thought it was coming from the Greeks. I didn't WANT it to be Rome. Ancient Roman religion, I thought, was too cold, too transactional. The gods were just  Greek knockoffs anyway, right? Greece is where it's at -- Dionysos and Hermes and great, thundering Zeus. They had the myths. They had the mysteries.

But no. The voices became louder. "Not to Greece. To ROME." So I started reading, and as I did, the cultus of the Romans opened up to me in a way I had not anticipated, and I realized that so much of the foundation of Roman polytheism, particularly the concept of Numen, appealed to my little animist soul. The worship of the Lares and Penates, the spirits of land and house, was something I was already intuitively doing, though I used different names.

The transactional nature of worship became something beautiful to me, giving cultus and worship to the gods because it is right and pious to do so. To see the hand of the gods and the spirits of land, family, household, and community, even the state, at work in the lives of everyone took my breath away as I uncovered it piece by piece. The precision of ritual -- doing it over if you got it wrong, offering propitiatory sacrifices in atonement for unknown offenses, paying attention to the signs and omens the gods send -- makes sense to me. It is done because it is right to do it and because the gods deserve it, because it is ultimately about them and not us, though we hope to help our families and communities by and through them.

So everything has shifted for me. I have been reading over the classics with a new eye (and pen and paper beside me), poring over my beloved Aeneid for the umpteenth time, and making up a new and unfamiliar calendar of feasts and observances that is sure to make the coming year an interesting one.

This blog, young as it is, will also be taking a turn towards Rome. I may retitle it. I will definitely be staking out new territory here and will probably make some mistakes. If you feel like it, I hope you will follow along with me, and we'll walk towards Rome together. After all, all roads lead there, at least for me.

It feels good to finally be heading home.