November 2022: Heading Into Late Autumn

Let’s begin this monthly update with a photograph of dried flowers that I found at the farmer’s market during the first weekend of November, which I offered to Aphrodite. It is her season, after all.

A Susan Seddon Boulet art card of Aphrodite in front of a small vase of dried flowers. Photo by Kaye Boesme.

One of the reasons I love this card from Susan Seddon Boulet is that the artist did not hypersexualize Aphrodite. While she is a Goddess associated with such activities, in a Platonizing context where proper ordering of appetitive instinct/desire and emotion are crucial for the soul to have a balanced outlook on the world, leaning into those types of symbols can be counterproductive — the iconography we select for the Gods in our spaces sets the symbolic register’s tone, so it’s important for theurgy to select the most appropriate images one can. This is what influences Proclus to pray to Aphrodite (in the more general prayer of his) in the way he does, with that separation-albeit-acknowledgment of her role in generative activities. The type of coupling we actually want to encourage is to our divine causes.

In November, I did another deep dive into thinking about divine series, which is why I made some posts here about it — I didn’t want the information to only be dispersed in a compact environment, and the comments and interactions with those posts were very valuable.

There’s a kind of interior stillness that comes about when one thinks about these things so much, and a brightness during prayer to a God. I sometimes wish I were not so rushed in the morning so I could simply sit in the quiet after prayers and be present with that interior stillness, but that often doesn’t happen. Sometimes I also see Greek Poems to the Gods and hunger to linger with some of the Callimachus translations in it, which I have fond memories of reading. (The translations are way better than Powell’s understanding of Platonic metaphysics, which is a tad distressingly wrong.) Instead, I’ve been doing more meditations in the evening before I turn in for the night, and I’ve been reciting Proclus’ prayer to the Muses — mostly the van den Berg translation, but with some elements of the Powell translation thrown in because I enjoy the phrase the confused crowd and my own one-woman effort to push back against translators using man as a generic for human and person, but person/people could actually be any sentient being. (I’m sure there are aliens doing theurgy on other worlds, and I prefer acknowledging that.) I set the hymn as the background on my phone and lock screen after putting it in Canva to do some design because I’m trying to memorize it. My goal is to be able to say it offhand before I do theology/Platonism-related reading, either internally or aloud depending on my environment.

Proclus' hymn to the Muses

Beyond all of that, November is always a complicated month for me, with a lot of moving pieces. I don’t go to my family’s for Thanksgiving. It’s an awkward moment to take extra time due to when it is in the semester — students need a lot of help — and being funneled into holiday travel chaos is my least favorite thing ever anyway. (The solstice is easier because I can take extra time and am not structuring my travel around when the Christians are doing their thing, so it’s less of a hectic rush, although this year I’m not going to my mom’s for a few other reasons.) There’s also the “November is overwhelming as it is” bit — I write an annual citation analysis that is due the week of Thanksgiving. Despite my best intentions, I do not actually ever start writing it until the first or second week of November.

During the first few weeks after the Nobel Prize in physics, I am leisurely absorbing information from books, articles, educational videos, and news pieces, and I am also downloading and analyzing citation data (the meat of the paper). I write it in about ten days immersion-style. It’s a frenzied dance. My eyes are tired. “Done is better than good” is the motto I learned when I was studying at Smith, and even if I’m never at ease with the quality of my papers — the citation analysis is meticulous, but the “about the science” section is definitely a stretch, partly because of the quick turnaround time I have between the prize announcement and the deadline — but I get them done. When it comes time to do journal formatting, I always look at my older papers to help me proofread the Zotero citations for the Chicago Author-Year format. This year, I was shocked to discover that two of my previous papers have been cited by people who are not me — and people outside of library science. My mind has always categorized these papers as curiosity pieces that do not possess much scholarly value, and seeing someone cite it for my data tables (and who knows what the other one cited it for — I really have no idea why a panspermia book chapter would be interested in a Nobel laureate citation analysis, and I’d have to get it through ILL to figure that out). While I did miss my girlfriend terribly, as she wasn’t around as much for the first three weeks of November due to her young niece visiting, I was able to deeply focus on a few weekends, which helped me hunker down and write and avoid the last-minute stress that is sometimes very difficult to handle. I submitted it on Tuesday of this week.

The most confusing part of this year’s learning process has been learning that physicists and I have a totally different idea of what realist means. There is no actual real definition of realism. Like, nonlocality doesn’t seem to conflict with mathematical realism, but it does with measurement realism. But this nonlocality stuff is all just the observer behaving demiurgically and imposing form on matter in a dynamic way, isn’t it? Definitely, it took a while for the physics community to get to this conclusion with all of the stigma against fundamental questions in physics, but the results make sense. This jargon difference is one reason why it’s so important to ask people what they mean, as we often make assumptions about definitions and context that are wrong.

The main items I’ve been reading, apart from the Nobel statements on the prize website and works by the laureates, are The Quantum Dissidents and How the Hippies Saved Physics, each eye-opening in their own way. The cultural shifts at play in the works add a new dimension to why there is such an anti-pseudoscience backlash against concepts like quantum consciousness, and I now possess a clearer understanding of how ideas surrounding quantum physics filtered into the New Age movement and into paganism from those sources. Not to mention how badly all of this intersectional flow of ideas was harmed when a New Age thought leader involved in fundamental problems in physics beat his girlfriend to death, stuffed her in a trunk, and got caught a year and a half later when the body started reeking. I also found a strange comfort in the section of How the Hippies Saved Physics about Jack Sarfatti’s fallout with Werner Erhard because it is extremely colorful — Sarfatti harassing multiple physicists with warnings about Erhard via mail, yes, but especially Sarfatti getting high on mushrooms and writing a play in which Erhard’s consciousness was quantum-linked to Hitler’s. My jaw dropped at some of the detailed descriptions Kaiser provided! When you think the polytheist community is dramatic, just put on a history of physics audiobook. I mean, what on Earth! Nobody has it together, do they?

It is vey feverish to be juggling a paper like that against prepping for a discussion on seirai in a closed setting and reading Hierocles’ Golden Verses and doing all of the other reading/self-study I do. On Thanksgiving, I took a bit of a pause and opened up the fiction book I’d started reading at the end of summer, Before We Visit the Goddess. I’ve always thought of myself as someone who reads fiction, but my actual reading record says otherwise — I get highly pumped and motivated by nonfiction, and I also recognize that I am most successful at reading fiction when it’s in ebook format, not print, but people give me print books. Fiction in e is easy to jump into and out of when one is in a queue or on hold or similar in a way that most Proclus … isn’t. Wound Is the Origin of Wonder, a poetry book, also came in the mail to me (I preordered it) and the opening poem was so, so beautiful. I’m excited to finish reading the book.

About a month and a half ago, when I was starting to be time-crunched by deadlines, I saw moths in the hallway between apartments. I didn’t think much of them because moths are attracted to light, and those lights are on a timer. There are always a few that make their way indoors during the summer and autumn. These ended up being pantry moths.

First, they spoiled my onions and dried dates, and then they went for the rice. I did a half-assed mitigation every time I found them in something — of course, that doesn’t get rid of them. It just slowed them down. On Thanksgiving, after heating up a packaged turkey-and-cranberry tamale and offering the Gods one of the pumpkin dessert tamales (which was a great choice because the pumpkin tamale is delicious), I spent somewhere between four and six hours with trash bags and sanitizing spray checking everything, transferring items to glass jars, and doing dishes. There are a few plastic-packaged items that are sealed and that I can’t open to check until I have more glass containers to transfer them into. I guess moths don’t like gluten-free pasta because that’s currently completely untouched. Currently. Who knows if they’ll get desperate!

They made a silken mess of my walnuts, poked themselves through the cracks to infest the tapioca flour in a plastic flour storage container that apparently had expanded itself beyond the sealing ring from the weight of the flour (Oxo, wtf?), and wedged themselves into the rim of the peanut butter jar. The moths even got into the baking soda. My girlfriend blames the man who lives downstairs because he’s frequently left trash in his apartment before disappearing for days, and once, my girlfriend told me there was a smell like death coming up through the floor. I couldn’t smell it unless I got very close to the radiator pipe hole, which I covered with foil to reduce the scent to bearable for her. No idea if an animal got in there or if it was spoiled raw meat. Pantry moths can happen to anyone, though — all it takes is bringing in one item of contaminated food, and it could just as easily have been the guy across the hall or me. The guy downstairs would have been the least likely to deal with it in a timely enough fashion to protect other building residents, though.

But that’s beside the point, as the moths are now here, and Thanksgiving day was an expensive exercise in the transience of possessions of my possession (AKA my body’s belongings), which drives home points Simplicius made when commenting on Epictetus. I have (um, had) a well-stocked pantry because I don’t drive and want to make sure I have dry goods on hand at affordable prices (as I can just pick produce up from either of the neighborhood’s two small Italian grocery stores; they have higher prices for pantry staples and cheese and reasonable produce prices). This was two full 13 gallon trash bags. A lot of money down the money black hole, especially with inflation. What was left in my pantry, apart from the unopened items I’m working my way through: (a) sauces and (b) canned food and (c) jarred chia seeds and (d) seaweed and (e) spices. At least I have a freezer full of delicious tamales.

That aside, I’m excited to be putting up solstice decorations. In mid-December, I will have bay wreaths and other types of things to hang around my apartment, which I will ask the Gods to bless; but last week, I ordered some ritual supplies for the solstice, holiday cards, and a new décor item. I found a fun solstice T-shirt that I think I could get away with if I wore it tucked-in under a blazer to my workplace holiday party and some hanging lantern prayer flags to put in my apartment window. (The file folder in the photo below is a semi-barrier to keep my cat from completely demolishing the Peperomia ginny plant. The lush plant with dark leaves is the one I have for Dionysos, a black jewel orchid. I’m hoping it sends up a flower shoot for Anthesteria.)

The fabric lantern garland across my window, with some of my plants right below that. Photo by Kaye Boesme.

I pulled out the red bin where I keep my decorations this afternoon and got to work. About 25 minutes later, my apartment was a haven of jolly. I put up the tacky Tomte wreath and spread the stuffed tomte/nisse plushies wherever they seemed fit to be (note: these things are labeled “Christmas gnomes” in America — they broke out as a trend a few years ago and are really big right now, and somehow non-Scandi Americans are fine with gushing about hygge and lagom but absolutely not fine with using the correct name(s) for the land-spirit … they don’t even know about the porridge …). I put up the straw Yule goats (the julbok) and my tiny fake tree with its Platonic solid ornaments.

A holiday tree lit up with lights (small, artificial, tabletop) and a julbok. Photo by Kaye Boesme.

I’m still holding out for the day when I’ll be able to decorate my apartment during the summer with festive décor. Maybe that will require a coordinated campaign, though.

What I now need to do is ensure that I have all of the ingredients for the saffron buns (lussekatter) now that the Mothing has happened. (They were in my yeast, so I know I don’t have that.) My mom gave me our family recipe for braided cardamom bread, and I will try to make a gluten-free version of that this year. The keyword is “try” — as it’s a family recipe, the measured amounts are eyeballed, which makes recipe conversion risky.

For Black Friday, the consumerist fever dream that I really dislike, I bought a few new bras to replace ones that have lost their supportiveness, a 96-pack of toilet paper, and pajama pants, all from the comfort of my dining table — things I needed anyway, except it’s nice to get them on sale. I went out this afternoon to buy a new bag of rice (yes, it’s been transferred to a safe container) and some vegetables, and I added Foco mango and passionfruit juice to my cart to share with the Gods. On my way to the Asian grocery store, I passed by two women, one perhaps in her early 40s, the other maybe in her 60s, and the older woman stopped to hug a wide-trunked tree. They had been speaking to each other in Spanish up until that point, and they fell quiet. Hugging a tree would be nice, I thought to myself. It seemed so warm and cozy of a thing to do. I smiled at them as I passed. She was still hugging the tree when I reached the crosswalk half a block away. The sky was beautiful, with low clouds breezing by while the upper-atmosphere clouds remained unhurried. Some of the other people I passed on my way to the store held large shopping bags, most of them walking alone, all of them probably needing to hug a few more trees. On my way back, two men walking a short way behind me were having a heated discussion about the eco movement and water safety tests. The sun was setting when I arrived back home at 4:30. A bit after I got home, I made myself some hot cocoa — the moths hadn’t touched my chocolate powder — and settled in to finish up this monthly update.

Have a wonderful start to the late-autumn festival season, and happy New Moon to all who celebrated today.

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