This is another work inspired by the Otherfaith, this time by a spirit named Epiphany. When I started mucking about with Otherfaith mythology two weeks ago the first to catch my eye was the story 5169814 to Epiphany. I’m sure this is in no small part thanks to the alphabetizing of the myths, but I like to think serendipity played a role here too. Epiphany is a spirit who had once been bound by her role in life, literally known only by a string of numbers. She was born a Book Keeper, a type of spirit who eventually dedicates their lives to one particular subject area in the Library and no other. Epiphany was unable to choose and her wonder at all the knowledge in all the worlds lit up every neuron in her brain in a fiery maelstrom. The shame she had felt at not fitting in, at not being able to be a “good” Book Keeper and being shunned by her siblings, was burned away in her immolation. From the ashes rose Epiphany as we know her today – spirit of all knowledge, information, and chance, Lady of the House of Books (sorry, Seshat!) and kind patron of writers and misfits.
The following poem is under a cut for two reasons: I wanted to explain a bit of context, and there are some trigger warnings associated with its content that my readers should know about.
The spirit Mallory is a being associated with the Otherfaith, a modern polytheistic religion featuring new gods and new spirits. Though I don’t have extra time or spoons in my life right now for devotional practices – perhaps evidenced by my lack of regular updates to this blog recently – I have been helping my friend Aine get the Otherfaith wiki fleshed out. I’m a librarian-in-training and score pretty highly on verbal/linguistic intelligence tests; both of these mean that I love organizing information and making it accessible for myself and others. While I don’t have space right now for prayers and offerings, I do have space for writing wiki pages, analyzing myths, and picking Aine’s brain about all the random minutia involved with the Otherfaith.
I’ve enjoyed getting involved even tangentially because there’s a sense of play and relaxation in understanding the Otherfaith gods that I don’t easily get with other “established” pantheons. At some point I’d like to write about my tangled relationship with The Lore, my gods, and the Pagan/polytheist communities at large. The Otherfaith – being small and new – doesn’t have the same hangups I’ve found with other expressions of my Paganism. Now, one potential downside for myself is that since the Otherfaith is so new, that the direct experience of interacting with gods and spirits seems to be of utmost importance. Despite stylizing myself as a devotional polytheist, I’ve written before on my own troubles hearing/sensing/whatever the gods, including my own Beloved. (Is it because of how I’m wired? Is it because I’m hung up on the idea of “not having a good godphone”? Who knows!)
For me, learning about the Otherfaith has meant reading the myths, curating Pinterest boards for the gods, and playing with mythological fanfiction in my head. Approaching the Otherfaith like a new fandom has done wonders both for my anxiety about “getting it right” and for incorporating these new divine characters into my headspace. I’ve had a few flashes of these deities over the past few weeks: the Dierne, god of pleasure, manifesting as I ate a particularly decadent dessert, and the Clarene, protector of the West and associated with (among other things) medical equipment, who along with Loki kept me calm during my wisdom teeth extraction yesterday. Perhaps this was in recognition of me learning Their myths and thus reaching out to Them; perhaps it’s only in my wishful-thinking head; perhaps that distinction doesn’t matter.
My first contribution to the Otherfaith is a poem for the spirit Mallory. Mallory is an inherently solitary spirit, though I do not think she’d consider herself lonely. She was rejected by her mother Lyra at birth and is connected to the river/goddess Ophelia, known for her melancholy and grief-stricken nature. Mallory’s touch turns all things to death, decay, or rust, and because of this the other beings in the West (the homeland of the Otherfaith) violently reject her. Because of her inherently destructive nature, she’s known as “the calamity of the West” and bides her time in the waters of the Ophelia.
Something that struck me about this spirit’s myths – found here and here – is that Mallory is described as being totally sure of herself. She does not question her own nature, nor does she apologize for it. She does not attempt to be anything other than who she is, exactly. And while her nature is destructive, it is others’ unwillingness to accept Mallory that cause conflict. Death and decay and rot are completely normal parts of life. They are part of the life cycle and without them the world would be overrun with boundless, unchecked growth. Mallory is entropy and rust, the natural breakdown of our bodies after death, the decay that must happen if life is to continue. Things cannot continue as they are now. This is something we must accept with grace and dignity if we are to live life authentically and unafraid. Otherwise we are deluding ourselves and others, and delusion is, at best, a warped mirror through which we view life – and at worst, an excuse to bludgeon reality and those that get in our way for not adhering to our own whim and fancy.
In lieu of all that, I offer the following poem for Mallory. There are trigger warnings for imagery around violence and decay including entomophoba (fear of insects), mysophobia (germs), thanatophobia (dying), necrophobia (dead things), and hemophobia (blood). A lot of these things at one point or another viscerally bother me, so writing this poem was an exercise in confronting that which is discomforting and hard to embrace. Feedback is very, very appreciated! You might also be interested in my Pinterest page for Mallory or her page on the Otherfaith wiki.
I’m really glad to see this being addressed and talked about. The dual romanticization and shaming of mental illness in all communities (but especially Pagan or polytheist or “alternative” or whatever communities) is really, really destructive. I have depression and anxiety and can’t count the number of times my experiences have been erased and my use of medication and therapy questioned.
It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with dysthymia, put on meds, and seeing a therapist weekly that I was able to make enough space in my life to find Brighid, Who I now see as a patron of mental illness and healing. I don’t think it’s coincidence that Brighid in Her guise as Lady of the Stars found me a month after my diagnosis, or that Her holy festival of Imbolc takes place during a month of extreme emotional trauma for me. But I don’t think that She /gave/ me this trauma so I’d understand Her better (geez, that’s horrifically awful thinking isn’t it?) or that my mental health issues have somehow made more spiritual or whatever. They haven’t. They just exist.
Originally posted on Foxglove & Firmitas:
Alternative Title: I’m Gonna Keep Talking About This Until It’s a Generally Accepted Thing…
It happened again. Someone posted another article on mental illness being a sign of a healer being born on the Local Pagan Facebook Group with the general overarching but not direct message being that all native and ancient cultures saw it as this. Now I don’t deny that mental illness can be the birth of a healer. I’ve known too many people who have struggled with a history of it, myself included, that haven’t found themselves called to help others dealing with similar problems.
However, these articles tend to stress how society is actually the sick one, and how we need to stop shoving pills at people to fix all their problems.
Anyone who has ever been on psychiatric medication will probably tell you that pills don’t solve all the problems and most professionals are pretty…
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