Liminality

And my mama said
That it’s good to be natural
And my mama said
That it’s good to be factual

But I’m always on the run.
-Lenny Kravitz

 

I don’t play well with others.

I am an ENFJ – I like people, I like meeting people, I like talking to people. I’ve been told I’m a good friend, I’ve been told I’m very funny and fun to be around.

But me and group dynamics go together like bleach and ammonia.

It isn’t that I go out of my way to be rude or engage in annoying behavior – I’m actually a fairly mild-mannered, easygoing, easy-to-get-along-with person who tries to be polite and courteous even when I am not always in the mood to do so (but there’s a line there).

The reason why I don’t play well with others is because I am a fucking weirdo.

If you ask most people in the pagan community, “Do you consider yourself weird?”, 9 times out of 10, they’ll say yes. Most people in the pagan community that I’ve known over the nearly two decades that I’ve been pagan, think they’re weirdos. And by the standards of mainstream society, they might be “a little weird”. But if you can fit in well with a tradition, a group structure, a subculture, if you don’t chronically feel like an outsider looking in and like even places that are a near fit are still sort of “off”… you’re not as weird as you think you are.

When I was in school, I was picked on. There were a number of reasons why: I was too tall, too fat, too developed for my age, I wore glasses, I walk funny, I had a speech impediment (that was corrected via speech therapy, but still was a point of occasional snarkage with people who knew me in first grade), I was very obviously autistic, I had a genius level IQ and was a straight A student and got nicknamed “Little Professor” and “Encyclopedia”, I was poor and got my clothes from thrift stores before that was trendy *hipster glasses*, I have an overbite, I had a pretty bad case of acne as a teenager, blah, blah, blah, blah. In my tweens/early teens I tried to take steps to remedy the difference between me and my classmates, trying to do fashionable/trendy things with my hair, not wearing my glasses, “dumbing myself down”, trying to “act normal”, and no matter what I did it didn’t satisfy my “peers”. I was bullied severely enough that I had to be pulled out of public school and home-schooled for high school, and I really shudder to think what would have happened if my mother hadn’t done that (and one of the few things I am grateful to her for).

Contrary to what a lot of the “It Gets Better” folks say, my life did not magically improve when I turned eighteen. I wound up losing a rather dramatic amount of weight to get my body in shape to join the military for college $$ (which didn’t happen, but that’s another story for another time), and with money from a part-time job I got better clothes, my skin cleared up – I was actually pretty smoking hot when I was 18/19, to all accounts – and I had mastered the art of Present As Sane™ to where this day I’ve had people meet me IRL and be surprised to find out later I am on the autistic spectrum. (For what it’s worth, I resent doing this and I am in no way suggesting that other people do as I do, I actually find such suggestions to be ableist, but it’s something I forced myself to learn because the alternative was more bullshit.) And even then, something about me was “off” enough that I would still sometimes get bullied and harassed at work by co-workers and employers. It was like nothing I did would make me fit in anywhere. People could tell I was different. It was like they could smell it on me.

And this is without even getting into my gender shit.

Why does this matter? Like many people disaffected by mainstream culture, I became pagan. I did not become pagan for the community, I became pagan because I needed a belief system that made sense and when I was younger that meant “nature is awesome” and “divinity is female as well as male”. But when I wandered into the pagan community, I thought “oh boy, fellow weirdos!” Except… no.

I found out I was too “conservative” for Wiccans/generic pagans I met because I wasn’t into having casual sex and/or doing drugs, also I was a Doc Martens-wearing rudie punk rather than a hippie or goth which offended some sensibilities, but then I was too “leebral” for Asatruar because I’m queer, crunchy, disapprove of public drunkenness, and then there was the whole woo/UPG thing and being Vanic rather than Aesic. And then I was too recon for the woo people (which is ironic considering that some of these same spirit-workers have gone on the More Recon Than Thou crusade against woo-informed people they disagree with… interesting turn of events, that). I was too Druid to be heathen, and not Celtic enough to be Druid. I was too witchy to be heathen, and not *~magical~* enough to be witchy.  I am a polytheist and have personal relationships with gods and demons, but I am also too much of an occultist to feel comfortable in polytheist spaces, because my Work involves wyrdworking/magic and while that is a form of devotion to me, there are polytheists I’ve met who don’t feel that way and think what I do is “hubris”. On the other hand I am too much of a polytheist and an animist to feel comfortable in occultist spaces where it’s standard talk to speak of summoning/controlling/”owning” spirits – I’m owned and collared by a demon (that would be D., the One I Can’t Talk About) so I have Feels about people trying to order the spirit realms around. I know a few other people who visit Vanaheim and know/work with elves in common but their Work is different from mine (as it should be). I could go on. And on. And on. And on.

Initially, I tried to shoehorn myself into other people’s boxes. I tried to conform to other traditions. But over and over again, it was like the pair of jeans that doesn’t fit properly and if you bend the wrong way they rip and expose your ass. It took me a number of go-rounds with traditions/sects of paganism for me to finally get it through my head that I am really better off not strongly identifying with any established tradition.  In some of these cases, people have been reasonable about letting me tag along even if I don’t fit the mold 100% – nobody’s kicked me out of the Druid order where I hold a degree, for example. But in many other cases, it was like the same patterns of shit repeating themselves, where something about me was “off”, I tried to “fix” it to fit in and be “normal” and that still wasn’t good enough anyway and it was like I got even more shit for doing so.

In large part because of that, I am a solitary (well, solitary to all appearances in meatspace; I do magic and ritual with my spirit companion/s and other entities like [obviously] Asmodai). Even with groups that tend to be more accepting, I keep a distance because yes, there are some people who can theologically disagree on something, or have different ritual aesthetics, but still manage to stand together in ritual; I basically can’t. I have one of those minds that will start MST3K-ing rituals and if I don’t, Clarence does XD. I see a tradition or a liturgy and my brain immediately begins to dissect it and wants to muck around with it, “seasoning to taste” much as I do when I cook. It’s a very tricksy thing, my brain.

And yet, I am not FOREVER ALONE. I have friends who belong to traditions that I was or tangentially am still a part of. I have close friends who deal with the same spirits that I do (more or less, some deal with some I don’t deal with and vice versa) and we can “talk shop” and compare notes.  I am not completely doing the hermit thing, much as I’ve tried, because even though my Work does not involve the standard conception of a community per se, I cannot be a Gatekeeper if others are not going through the gates or don’t even know where the gate is. My “community”, spiritually speaking, is not a group or a tradition or a subculture, but people from “around” who may not have much in common except I seem to be there in part to help them get where they need to go.

Liminality is neither being a part of the crowd, nor wandering in the wilderness. It is existing on the border between the two. Serving as a living reminder to the crowd of the paths less travelled, of the world beyond what they see. I used to think this was the greatest curse of my existence and hated myself for it and why couldn’t I just be normal, or make myself conform to $TRADITION or $GROUP, why did my brain have to start getting itchy and uncomfortable and rebel against the status quo, and why when I tried to be normal did people treat me worse than when I stopped trying and acted like myself. A couple of years ago, Clarence lectured me about this and told me, “The more you try to pretend to be sane and normal, the crazier it makes you. The only way you’re going to be able to keep surviving is if you own ‘the crazy’, if you accept you are always going to be different, if you stop trying so desperately to belong somewhere.”

And he was right.

A funny thing happened when I stopped giving a shit about trying to conform to other traditions and groups and subcultures, and was just myself. I stopped being so angsty all the damn time. I started to feel free.

And I realized that, like a turtle or a snail, my home is on my back wherever I go. I already have a place to belong, with my elf boys and my demons, and this Work that wyrd has given me. I don’t need to search anymore for a place to belong.

This doesn’t mean I stop being weird. I am totally weird, and it means that I am necessarily a bit of a loner. But I’ve come to accept that, and see it as an asset to the Work that I do rather than a burden. I won’t lie that I sometimes get a little lonely, being on this WTF path beyond the pale, as a person who wasn’t winning any popularity contests to begin with. But what few people I have who do accept me as I am, are worth more than the dozens who accepted what was actually a mask, and where I was suffocating underneath.

There’s a lot of rah-rah about pagan community, and this expectation to get into a group or you’re doing it wrong, even from people who are solitary in meatspace, will still try to find other like-minded people to talk to (like the Lokean community as a notable example). This is not always wrong, and I’m not telling anyone they can’t try to find others to fellowship with. But everything has a price, and some prices ain’t worth paying. My freedom is hard-won, and I’ll be damned if anyone takes it away from me. I am a liminal outsider weirdo and I am damn happy being one, and I think it’s important that this be presented as just as valid a path as trying to find “community” and “belonging”. I belong to my spirits and I belong to the Earth, and that is all that I personally need, anything or anyone else is just gravy. I have the freedom to create my own path, a tradition that works for me – I have the freedom to do the Work that I was born to do – and that I find deeply rewarding. You can’t put a price tag on that.

9 thoughts on “Liminality

  1. I am an INTJ…and I still don’t play well with others. I seem to ask too many questions, and I pick things apart to find out why they tick….or why they go ‘boom!’ But hey, out here on the edges, it’s not so crowded.

  2. Sorry if this is too ‘old’ to comment on. But I just can’t but help notice so many similarities. I am very close to the same. My only main differences are our physical age, here, and gender. (As in I am the gender my sex is) That, and while you are Vanic oriented, I am thurse/jotun/rokkr oriented.

    And just like you, I taught myself the “don’t say this, don’t do this, don’t attract attention.”

    This post might as well be a slightly inaccurate post about myself. I am always the middle person, no matter what. Always on the fringes of something. It’s just, heartening to actually see this. Makes me want to start being braver myself, except, for I’m not ready for the ridicule based on my Otherkin claims. That still scares me.

    But yeah, thank you for this.

    • It’s totally fine to comment on old posts of mine! If I don’t want discussion on something I’ll just disable the ability to comment on a post. I am totally OK with people reading through my blog and commenting on older posts. I’m just happy people are reading my blog. :)

      And you’re welcome. <3 Re the ridicule of otherkin claims… that was a big reason why I didn't come out till 2013 (and I actually came out because an ex-friend of mine outed me as Vanir-kin so I figured I just better say something about it myself to start clearing up any misconceptions people might have), and I've gotten shit for it – people have said some really nasty shit about me on PagansUncensored on Tumblr, people have said some nasty mean shit about me on Reddit, and… it's like, I've lost everything in my life that could make me give a fuck about being perceived as "normal". I don't have a bio-partner, whatever friends I have already know about my weirdshit, I live 3000 miles from my bio-family, etc etc etc.

      I'm not gonna tell people "grow a thicker skin" re: fear of criticism because that advice doesn't really help, but… opinions are like assholes, everybody's got one, some of them stink, and one of the things that I do re: ridicule is I just ignore it, I don't look at what people might be saying about me anymore, just like I try to ignore the fact that people have assholes when I'm out in public. If people have nothing better to do with their time than sit around fapping to their sense of superiority going "hurr hurr look at this freak" with some random stranger's blog, they have a very sad life and they are beneath my notice, pretty much. It can be hard to come out about things and I generally don't advise people to come out about their weirdshit unless they're absolutely ready – in my case, I was forced out because I was outed by someone else, and I wasn't ready, and I got a crash course in readying myself. But if you do want to come out, just remember, if someone has nothing better to do with their time than make fun of you, fuck them, they need to get a life. And it can be hard to not care, but just keep telling yourself that you don't, fake it till you make it.

      • Holy hell by Cerebus, that’s just.. extensive. Like I know it’s a given, but I thought it would be a teensy tiny number of people and places. But dayum. See, I have people who know that I’m Otherkin, and the general who I am. Like, the intro to the introduction of who/what I am. I just, ah. But at least my mom knows about it, and is somewhat fine with it. (Though I fucked up some of my explanation when I told her)

        And anyone who traps someone about saying something that personal, when it’s not an emergency.. has probably overstepped quite a few boundaries.

        • Yeah I’ve gotten a bit of traffic from Reddit with a couple blog posts people were snarking on. I’m just like “thanks for boosting my Google search engine ratings, free publicity for my book, motherfuckers! :D ” I actually find it more funny than anything. People really have no lives. :P Most of my traffic comes from people like yourself, people who actually read my blog and get some spiritual benefit out of what’s being posted here. But if someone wants to go hurr hurr at me on Reddit it’s like… that’s the risk I take with posting about anything publicly, and the shame isn’t on me, it’s on people who have nothing better to do with their time and can’t live and let live.

          Re being outed: the person who outed me was an ex-friend of mine who knew about me being Vanir-kin because it was something I’d discussed with them in confidence. It was then something that they mentioned on public Tumblr after the friendship went south. Hence why I came out before I was ready, because they had broken my confidence and I wasn’t going to deny what was going on with me but I also wanted to provide correct information about what was going on with me. Before I publicly came out there were a few friends of mine who knew, from private discussions. I’m not open about everything regarding my spiritual life – there are things I do not discuss anywhere, and am not planning on changing this – but the otherkin thing is… it does lend context to where I’m at spiritually, that I’m not just a human devotee putting gods on a pedestal but the Vanir are family and friends to me and I serve from a place of love, I serve as part of what my job is in Vanaheim.

          My mom doesn’t know about me being otherkin (well she sort of does, I was very insistent that I was an elf when I was a kid), but if she found out tomorrow like if somebody else outed me, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. The only reason why I haven’t told my mom is because she doesn’t really get it? She accepts that I’m pagan, finally, she’s actually OK with that now (she wasn’t OK with it for a long time) but she’s kind of… not someone I can have deep religious discussions with because she doesn’t get it. Considering that she once threatened to call an exorcist on me though, I’ll take acceptance.

        • And as far as PagansUncensored on Tumblr, it’s a given that when you approach what’s considered Big Name Pagan status on Tumblr (I am considered a BNP on Tumblr; I could be considered a BNP outside of Tumblr considering I’m a pretty well-known Vanatruar and am about to start blogging on Patheos) you’re going to get some hate there, because you can’t please everybody all the time. I’ve seen a few things that were said about me, but I stopped paying attention to PagansUncensored because it’s a blog that exists purely for drama and I have better things to do with my time than give a shit about wankers. I pretty much stopped paying attention to Tumblr period, you’ll notice I don’t really use Tumblr anymore apart from what this blog cross-posts there, and the occasional popping in to reblog something or make a brief update. I’m pretty burned out on Tumblr, though that’s for reasons other than PU. I have to conserve my energy and it’s more important I spend spoons on this social networking platform and Patheos because this helps further my writing career more than Tumblr does.

          But yeah… I’ve gotten hate there, and people were really gross, but… again, that’s on them. Their shitty opinion of me does not diminish my worth and value as a person. I will not allow them that power over me.

          • Yeah I understand, I actually found you by tumblr. And it’s just like.. I know people will do whatever they want with what I tell them. But with who I am Otherkin wise, almost seems hubris. But I know it isn’t, it’s just me. But I know other people will act as if it is.

            • Yeah, I’ve been accused of hubris, and this is without even discussing any details beyond “I’m Vanir-souled”. Like I am intentionally vague about my business with the Vanir beyond the fact that I’m Serpent affiliated and I have this scribe job (which is not all I do). OTOH even without fearing backlash it’s just… a Serpent thing, to not talk much openly about HEY LOOK AT WHAT I’M DOING.

              There are going to be people who think it’s hubris even if you’re not important Over There, some people are pretty adamant that beings named in mythology never ever ever incarnate here. It can be tough to not care about them – as someone who was pretty severely bullied growing up, I used to be fairly hypersensitive to negative shit said about me, and I have BPD and my brain has done the broken record thing with criticism, but… it’s a learned skill, and one that can grow stronger over time.

            • Oh yeah, I know what you mean. Like I’m not a lore person, I’ve scoured lore for anything revolving me. And I’m not in either mythology that I am involved in. Or was. But I was borne by one. (Soul wise, of course) It’s just really confusing, especially now with what I’m learning about these things. But yeah, I hear you

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