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The Whippet #48: Earth, wraiths, graves and sand

McKinley Valentine — 8 min read

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Good morning moonbeams,

Did you know the Moon = feminine is not universal across all pagan cultures?

If you're a femme and feel some connection to the moon in a spiritual way then I am not going to try and take that away from you. I just want to say it's not innate to humanity. Sidenote, the menstrual cycle is not moon-driven, you'd have to have a perfect 28-day cycle which never skips or is late or early EVER because even once and you'd be permanently out of alignment. Plus, every other mammal has a different length cycle, so by saying there's a moon/menstrual connection, they're kinda saying humans are more important than any other mammal, and aren't neopagans the ones trying to de-supremacise humans? Do other mammals somehow live LESS in harmony with nature than humans? I'm suspicious.

Personally I feel really weirded out and alienated by neo-pagan binary ideas of feminine and masculine (I know they say everybody has a mix of both but it's still a mix of two fake ideas that I don't relate to). But also being a woman is generally denigrated and I can see how something which celebrates it could be really healing for you. My tone-flipping here is because I'm basically a lapsed pagan who still secretly believes some of it and has weird hostility to other bits.

Anyway: what helps ME is hearing about how none of our ideas about gender are universal across geography or time.

Also there's a superfrustrating kind of ahistorical Euro-washing neopaganism that will try to tell you all pagan/"pre-Christian" cultures are roughly the same spiritually, and it just isn't true.

Trees are probably magic though.

Sun and Moon

In most [Australian] Aboriginal cultures, the Sun is female while the Moon is male.

"The Sun is a lovely old lady called Walu Yolngu," CSIRO Indigenous Astronomer Ray Norris said.

"She gets up every morning and puts on her red ochre, which is why we get the red sunrise, lights a stringy bark tree and carries it across the sky and giving us all light and heat, travels to the west and puts out the stringy bark tree, then travels around back to camp in the east for the morning."

In all Aboriginal cultures the Moon is considered a bad person, Mr Norris explained.

"In the Yolngu story, he's called Ngalindi and he was big and round and fat like the full moon, and he was lazy.

"His wives and children got so angry because he did nothing to help, so they chopped off bits of him and he went from being a round fat moon and got thinner and thinner which is why you get phases on the Moon.

"Eventually he died and stayed dead for three nights before he came back to life, as a new moon.

"He cursed everyone and said that when he died he would come back to life, but when others died, they would stay dead."

This is from a longer piece about Aboriginal Australian astronomy.

Latvians also had a female sun and a male moon; I'm sure there's loads of others. Back to Latvia, this is an emotive array of afterlife keepers, dang:

"The world of the dead is called Aizsaule or Viņsaule. It is related to various mother deities (or perhaps one referred to by several names) - Zemes māte (Mother of Earth), Veļu māte (Mother of Wraiths), Kapu māte (Mother of Graves), and Smilšu māte – (Mother of Sand)."

My other favourite bit is their curmudgeonly take on the halloween / day of the dead ritual: "In autumn the souls were invited back home for a feast. The house would be clean and table with foods set. At the beginning of the feast an elder would invite the souls by calling the names of all the dead who once lived in the house the living could remember. He would then give a speech scolding them for not having protected the house well enough, ask them to do better next year and then invite them to eat."

(People would read more books if they were given cultural permission to relax about it and read what they like and skip bits and abandon books halfway through, or just read the fifth chapter, or to read the last page first [people do this, I was amazed] or whatever works to make space in their hearts, and not be told that certain things don't "count" as reading.) RT if you want, it's a great quote

Fiction writers who are struggling to actually write

Big mood, as the kids have probably already stopped saying.

So I want to recommend you this thing! The Couch to 80k 8-week writing bootcamp. It's a free 20-minute podcast with, and this is the bit that makes it marvellous, timed writing sessions. So it gives you a lil exercise and then times out 10 minutes and at the end says '"- and you're finished! Well done!" (You can see what I mean by looking at the soundshape below.)

For dumb human brain reasons, this makes it a million times easier than if it was a 10-minute podcast that said "Okay now do 10 minutes of writing practice, end of podcast". It also starts out really easy (the first few days, the exercises are just lists), which means if you've got art-fear-freezing happening, it's perfect, because just getting you to put anything on paper can throw up weird emotional reactions.

I also think the timed practice session idea thing is genius, and people in other art/craft disciplines should make equivalent podcasts.

Henry's Pocket

There is a name for the little double-foldy bit on a cat's ear and it is Henry's Pocket. "The pocket is of unknown function, and it is unclear if any exists."

(This is my IRL cat, Ombudsman Tuffy. If you're a new subscriber, don't worry it's basically never cat photos. PS if you're allergic to cats, this breed, Balinese, is one you might be fine with. They produce much less of the Fel d 1 protein, which is what most people are allergic to.)

Lukewarm water, not cold, is best for a burn

Cold water on a burn was just one of those things I was thinking "that feels implausible, I wonder if it's a placebo".

It's not! Cold water really does help carry away the heat so the burn does less damage. But cold water also stops blood flowing to the area, and you need bloodflow to heal (it's a huge part of why a torn meniscus is slow to heal and your tongue very fast). Lukewarm water is only a little slower at carrying the heat away. This doctor reckons 1 minute or less in cold water then switch to lukewarm, to get the best of both worlds (don't click the link if you don't want to read about animal testing).

Ice is terrible for a burn and can do further damage, so people who respond to clapbacks with "would you like some ice for that sick burn?" are really perpetuating unsound medical advice *prim sniff*

Burn pattern from a fallen electrical line

via @WorldandScience

Unsolicited Advice: "Am I overreacting?"

I read Daniel Mallory Ortberg's advice column, and there's a theme that comes up a lot in her answers:

'You are not overreacting, you are reacting.' [letter]

'I’ve been getting the “Am I overreacting?” question a lot lately, usually by someone who hasn’t in fact reacted at all, and could therefore hardly be said to have overreacted.' [letter]

'You are not wrong to be upset. It is very difficult for a person to be wrong to be upset, although it is possible to act badly as a result of feeling upset. You feel upset and want to talk to your partner about your feelings—that’s a perfectly legitimate position. It’s not a sign that you need to care less simply because your husband does not agree with you. That’s what respectful fighting is for, when two people who love one another feel differently about a fraught, mutually significant decision.' [letter]

Obviously it is possible to overreact, but just having a feeling or preference is probably not an overreaction. I dunno, it's okay not to be chill about things.

Potentially useful question: Am I reacting to what has actually happened, or to what I have wildly extrapolated it means?

That is, if you care about birthdays, and you're upset that your partner forgot yours and it makes you feel unloved, that's valid and addressable. If you're upset because your partner doesn't love you, which you know because they forgot your birthday, this is going a bit far and is hard for your partner to action. (It's not totally useful because red flags are a thing - if someone ignores your stated boundaries in a trivial situation, you should take that as evidence that they are likely to ignore your stated boundaries when it matters.)

99% of advice is inherently great for some people and toxic for others. You don't need to tell an overconfident dude to "be more assertive" for example, but others really need to hear that. Some of you maybe react disproportionately and would be happier in your lives if you worked on that. Since I don't know who will read this, I can't say if this advice is healthy for you.

But in a way it doesn't matter because the solution is always the same, it's basically a relationship cheat code: be really clear and honest with the other person about why you're upset, and what you would like to happen differently in the future. Then they can say "No, I can't do that" or "I can't do that but I can do this" and then you have the information to decide if you want to continue a relationship with them, knowing they don't intend to change their behaviour in the way that you requested. And at no point did it matter whether or not you were "overreacting" - all that mattered was whether two people could meet each others' needs.

If you want solicited advice, send questions to or just reply to this email.

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