Spring is here, and she has me joyously living and dancing! The sun is shining down on us, and all of life seems to be reaching to her, shedding the heaviness of winter.
In the spirit of everyone coming out of their heavy winter shells, I’m going to make a more personal post than I usually do. I’m going to write about how my lifestyle has changed drastically in the past year, largely in part due to my deepening spirituality.
It all started when I went back home for my brother’s wedding. I was unemployed at the time, and sad. As soon as I got back to the Appalachians–this mountain range is home to me more than anything else–I got a message in a dream from Freyja that it would be a good idea to start doing something pretty with my hair every day. So in the morning, I woke up, and did something pretty with my hair, and felt better about myself than I had in weeks.
After that, while trying to learn a library of nice hairstyles, I discovered that I wanted to grow my hair quite long. It was mid-back when I first got the message in August, and it’s now down to my hips and I’m not done growing. Having long hair makes me feel feminine. Putting it up every day makes me feel beautiful, and people are always commenting that I always have something nice done with my hair.
I feel like the hair thing is a great devotion for Freyja. For one thing, she loves beauty, and by putting my hair up everyday, I can spend just a few minutes adding a little bit more beauty into my world. But I also feel like it’s somehow a statement about how my religious views aren’t the same as other people’s–not that anyone will see me and think that. Many religions require their women to cover their hair out of modesty. But I disagree with modesty in general because it’s so body-denying. I have no interest in hiding my hair because I want to hide its beauty from other people.
In addition, in a class I took in college, there was an essay I read about religious mystics and hair. The essay was called “Medusa’s Hair: An Essay on Personal Symbols and Religious Experience” by Ganananth Obeyesekere. The basic argument in the essay was that hair is the symbolic genitals, and that mystics, therefore, either shave their heads, like Buddhists, to purposefully cut off their sexuality or let their hair grow into dreads because, like Hindu mystics, the sexuality is just ignored. While I found the argument in the article extremely problematic for many reasons (not the least of which being that he says that hair is genitals, even while saying that not a single one of his informants thought there was any kind of connection, even after asking them directly), I can see where his argument comes from (mostly Freud). His informants did all either grow dreads or shave their heads at the same time they became mystics and at the same time they stopped engaging in sexual activity. But I am a mystic who worships Freyja. I in no way want to remove my sexuality, symbolically or otherwise. I don’t want to purposefully cut myself out of the world or ignore it. I want to live here fully and joyfully. And so doing pretty things with my hair is a way for me to connect with that while I’m getting ready every morning. A way to pamper my worldliness.
Winter came, and with it, more changes. First my diet–I have long believed I would one day be a vegetarian for environmental reasons. I’m not yet, but I realized that I did need to make some changes to my diet. I started eating a mostly plant-based diet. Add that to the fact that I’m kinda poor, and my diet now consists of vegetables and whole grains and beans, with meat maybe once or twice a week. I’m eating better than I ever have, and the transition was so easy. I feel better and happier because I am taking care of my body and I’m not eating a diet I feel ethically opposed to.
Food takes longer to cook, and I like that. Now when I eat food that takes a short amount of time to cook, I feel a little gypped. I feel gypped by the fact that the food I’m eating isn’t real food, it’s just something to fill me up. I want those complex, earthy flavors that whole grains provide. I want to know that what I’m eating is nourishing me completely. I want to eat foods without excessive packaging I have to throw away.
I think it’s kind of a chicken-or-the-egg situation with my environmentalism. I’m not sure if I favor the Vanir because I am an environmentalist or if I am an environmentalist because I favor the Vanir. The truth probably lies somewhere in between, and the two probably feed one another. But the fact of the matter is that I want to do what I can to stop the horrible way we’ve been treating our Mother, and so I eat mostly plants and try to use as little plastic as possible. I carry a set of silverware in my purse so that I never have to use plastic, and I carry around a reusable water bottle and coffee cup so I don’t have to use disposables. In my mind, disposables are pretty much the root of all evil as far as environmentalism is concerned. Things that don’t biodegrade should absolutely not be made to be used for fifteen minutes.
The final change has been in my wardrobe. I feel a strong desire to simplify. I decided to wear only skirts. I’ve always worn skirts most days in the summer, but this year I decided to make it winter as well. That way I can get rid of my drawer of pants that I’ve always thought of as excessive. Wearing skirts makes me feel so much more grounded in my body. It makes me feel connected to the generations and generations of women before me who wore them. It makes me feel happy to do my housework. It makes me feel beautiful and feminine. I’ve often said that on the gender spectrum, I’m almost as far toward “feminine” as it comes. And wearing skirts every day just fits that well for me. It’s a way for me to make my wardrobe smaller. I’m about to give away about half of it.
It’s also another way for me to fill my life with beauty. In general, people seem to equate skirts and dresses with being “dressed up” for a special occasion. If I dress every day as if it is a special occasion, perhaps I will live like every day is a special occasion.
But I also like wearing skirts all the time because it makes dancing even more sacred and set apart from my daily mundanities. I don’t dance in skirts–that would be quite impractical for the kind of dancing I do–so when I take off the skirt and put on leggings, it’s like a special ritual attire. A way to remind myself that dancing is special and wonderful. I used to just wear my dance clothes all the time when it was nice out.
I graduated from college in May, and my appearance has changed so much–I’ve grown a foot of hair, changed from pants to skirts. My college friends told me in December that I look “grown up” now, and I understand what they’re saying. Taking control of my diet and coming into the wardrobe I want to wear makes me feel so much like I have grown into myself. It’s only been nine months, but I feel so much older, so much more myself, than I did them. I’m no longer extremely stressed–in fact, I’m quite happy with the amount of activity in my life. I have the confidence to dress and act and eat exactly as I want to.
I see all of this as devotion. Ways to connect to my Lady and the gods and to spread just a little bit of beauty in the world, to remember that I am a part of this earth, that I am a part of the endless firedance that is life.
I think it is inevitable that very devoted people will have lifestyles that shift as well. When we place the gods at the center of our lives, everything else will reflect that. When I put Freyja there, shining golden through everything I do, her beauty will radiate into other parts of my life. When I put her there, the earth that she loves, that is quite literally her mother, needs to matter. I need to respect her mother, and so I need to take care of the Earth–our mother and our home.