Archive for Legba

Learning to walk with the Lwa (the job edition, Part 2)

Posted in Legba, Uncategorized with tags , , , on May 29, 2017 by cheshirecatman
Golden Key

© Yanik Chauvin | Dreamstime Stock Photos

The last few months have been a bit of a roller coaster ride. Back in February I wrote about a new job that I was very excited about. It was at a young, up-and-coming tech company with great benefits and a friendly work environment. Things were going well and I was happy. Then the rug got pulled out from under me.

In early March, the company unexpectedly lost one of its main clients, and they laid off about a third of their staff. Being a newbie, I was in the group that got let go. It was sudden: we came into work on Monday, got called to an impromptu meeting, and got the news. Some people were angry; I was hugely disappointed. I also realized that I was fortunate in that I did not have a large amount of time invested in the company–one guy I talked to had been there for 3 years.

In such situations it can be tempting, from a magickal point of view, to ask what you did wrong to earn the wrath of your gods. Honestly, in this case I don’t think I did anything. Call it bad luck or bad timing on my part. I did, after all, ask Legba to help me get the job, and he did. No one at the company expected this to happen.

I do think that the Lwa don’t always lead you on a straight path, and sometimes due to various timing issues this is necessary.

I filed for unemployment and began the tedious task of updating resumes, scanning job boards, contacting employers and filing unemployment claims every week. There were a lot of jobs out there, but apparently there were also a lot of applicants. Even though one of my laid off coworkers found a new position quickly, about two months went by for me and nothing. No queries, not a peep.

Then, on a Thursday in early May, I got two text messages from two separate former co-workers who both worked for a Tacoma company I used to work for. They told me that one of their clients was looking for a graphics person. Note here that I sort of suck at networking, and in my entire professional life I can only remember getting a job via networking one time, and that was only for a 1-day temp position. So this was something new for me.

I called the company immediately and spoke with the owner, then sent him my resume. Over the next 24 hours, we e-mailed each other back and forth, and on Friday he invited me to go for an interview the following Monday. As I looked over their website I was amused that 1) the name was very similar to another company I’d worked at for nearly 10 years and 2) the logo design reminded me of the Tacoma company. Were these signs? Again, I asked Legba for assistance, but this time added the conditions that I only ask for this job if it’s stable and good for me.

The weekend came and went. On Monday, I dressed conservatively (for me) and headed out to the interview. Upon entering the building, I immediately noticed a good amount of diversity (as I would find out later, this company is about 50% people of color, 50% female, and diverse in age, compared to the tech company that was mainly young and maybe 25% female and 25% people of color). The owner was a person of color and the manager who sat in on the interview was a biker-looking dude with tattoos all over his arms. I thought to myself, “This could work.”

The interview was casual with no silly HR questions, no “where do you see yourself in 5 years” kinds of stuff. They told me they would let me know no later than Friday.

Two days later they e-mailed me back and asked if I could start on Friday! I was over the moon.

While this does not have the new technology type of excitement of the tech job, this company fits me well, like a favorite pair of shoes. And I am hoping now for a period of calm and stability on the workfront so I can fully focus on other areas of life.

Also, on an unrelated note, a couple of weeks ago I met a member of Mambo Sallie Ann Glassman’s sosyete, a New Orleans native who is living in Seattle. We’d been corresponding for a while on Facebook and he was every bit as kind in person as he is online. Honor to him and to his mambo and his sosyete.

Learning to walk with the Lwa (the job edition)

Posted in Dreams, Legba, Life Lessons, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on February 19, 2017 by cheshirecatman
job_key

© Skypixel | Dreamstime.com – Career and Job Opportunities

If you are a regular reader, you may be familiar with my recurring shoe dreams. Some people have nude-in-public dreams; I have walking-around-with-no-shoes dreams.

I had another one recently in which I was walking around in a truck stop rural area with the girlfriend. I look down and I am stocking-footed. It finally dawned on me that these dreams are largely about stability (and the lack thereof). I don’t know why I did not figure this out sooner. I have weak ankles, so good shoes are paramount to my physical stability. So it’s not too surprising that my recent bout with job instability would trigger a shoe dream.

Just over a year ago, I was laid off from a job of nearly a decade and transitioned smoothly into another job. The new company seemed like a good fit, the job was interesting, and things went well for a while. And then things started going bad. The mundane reason: a long commute (Seattle to Tacoma) meant I was often tired and started falling asleep at work and having job performance issues. My confidence in my work skills took a hard blow. The other reason: a long commute meant little time for much else, including service to the Lwa.

They weren’t happy with me and this became clearer and clearer over time. Whenever my thoughts turned to finding a new job closer to home, things would go better at work. But if I thought, “Well, maybe this will work out fine and I’ll stay for a while,” then I’d start having problems again. When they speak and you don’t listen, things go awry. Eventually enough was enough. So near the end of last year, I started sending out resumes and quickly got a call from a staffing agency, who placed me in a temp-to-hire position with a company that processes legal papers.

The paper-pushing job was super-convenient (a one-bus commute to downtown Seattle), but also a little depressing. Aside from handling legal documents all day long, I was very much a production drone who wasn’t utilizing many of his skills. I really don’t like looking for work and was hoping that this job would work out long-term, but after a brief couple of weeks I could no longer ignore the push to look for something better. And then a playfully written ad on craigslist caught my eye. It was for a graphics-related job in the tech sector.

I was hoping for but did not expect a response, but they responded within a few days and requested a phone screening. Now, I hate the telephone and knew I needed Legba’s help on this one. I lit a candle and asked for his help. And he came through. The interview ended up feeling more like a casual conversation over coffee, and the following Wednesday I found myself over on the Eastside for a group interview.

Legba came through again–I aced it. So much so that my interviewers had no additional questions for me at the end because I’d already answered them. Now, I am a very inconsistent interviewee–whether I interview well or not depends a lot on my mood that day and the demeanor of the people interviewing me. So this was no small feat. I liked the feel of the company–it was energetic, forward-thinking and seemed to value its employees. My interviewers were considerate and followed through whenever they said they would do something. Legba’s hand was evident during our interactions and when I wrote an inspired cover letter and the follow-up correspondence.

The tech company told me they’d make a decision no later than the following Monday. I tried not to become too anxious, but this was a job I cared about, and I knew I’d be disappointed if I wasn’t hired. However, they made me the offer the next day.

That day, prior to the offer, I was returning from my lunch break at the temp job. I stopped in the restroom and set my phone and the book I was reading on the back of the tank. I turned to latch the stall door when I heard a splash. My book and my phone had fallen into the john. I am not really sure how; I thought I’d placed them firmly on the tank.

I immediately snatched them out. I was very glad the phone still worked but the book was damaged. It probably was salvageable, but you can’t really wash a book, so I decided to trash it even though I was in the middle of reading it. It was a Christmas gift. Oh well, I’d replace it at some point.

Shortly after that (like, within an hour), I received the job offer. That made me wonder if the book was claimed by Legba as payment for the job. Later I would call Mambo and ask her opinion, and she said that sometimes happens if you don’t negotiate your deal well. And I realized I hadn’t been specific enough when I petitioned Legba. I liked the book, but I wasn’t too upset. It was a small price to pay, and if the phone had been damaged then I might not have gotten the call in a timely manner, and the job might have been lost. So Legba took the book. I just recently replaced it, but felt it would be a good idea to remember this lesson. So instead of buying an identical new paperback copy, I purchased an older used hardback edition. In this way I don’t feel like I am erasing that event.

After a slightly stressful ten days (mostly due to confidence issues left over from the Tacoma job), I am starting to feel stable again. Also, from a numbers standpoint, this is the 3rd position I’ve had since leaving my last long-term job. Three is my met tet’s number. So I am optimistic I will be here for a while.

My 2016 so far

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on July 3, 2016 by cheshirecatman

So yes, this site is still active and no, I didn’t fall off the face of the earth. I just got really really busy. And not in a bad way.

What happened was that I returned to work right after the holidays. The big muckety-muck from back east who is president of Company A that owned the west coast company I worked for was visiting. He called a company meeting and told us with exaggerated regret that the company and all our jobs would cease to be by the end of the month. I will say that at least Company A had the decency to wait until after the holidays and to give us severance packages.

My company’s closure wasn’t exactly a shock. Business had been drying up over the past few years, accelerated by the departure of the president of our west coast company, a woman who was not intimidated by the east coast big wigs and was not afraid to advocate for us. After her departure, we went through a series of general managers hired by the dudes back east who did not have the same backbone that she did. Anyhoos, enough of that. I realized I had less than a month to either find another job or live off of the extra money, which I preferred to keep in savings.

I was weirdly non-panicky. Usually I would be neck-deep in anxiety, running all the worst-case scenarios through my mind in an endless stress loop. But no, this time I was calm, even rather lazy when I began my job search. In two weeks, I think I sent out maybe three resumes. And then, for the hell of it, I decided to send off an email to one of our competitors, a company in a neighboring town. It would be a lengthier commute, but I really didn’t even know if they would respond, so didn’t think too much about it.

Well, the GM at the other company responded within a day. And was interested. And, as I found out during the subsequent interview that felt more like a conversation between friends than an interview, someone in their company had recently left and they were in need of someone with  skills similar to mine. And I got offered the job before I even left the building. I think that has happened to me maybe two other times in my life, not counting really crappy production or food service jobs. And each of those times, I ended up staying at the job for a while.

So, all these smooth connections and my lack of worry about any of it has Legba stamped all over it. I went from my last day at old job to first day of new job seamlessly (although in retrospect I probably should have taken a few days off).

The great thing is I love my new job. The not-so-great thing is the longer commute cuts into my time a lot. Hence, my neglect of this blog among other things. I am still trying to figure out how to balance it all.

A couple of other things worth noting:

I had a very nice “dream” recently about visiting with my beloved late cat Puck. We were in an ultra modern house with mostly white decor. My mother was also there, somewhere. I didn’t see her but her presence was very much felt.

Also, my travel plans for the summer got nixed, for reasons beyond anyone’s control. I’d been feeling kind of bummed about that. Then,  one night I had popped over to the psychic John Edward’s website, wondering why I hadn’t received one of his newsletters recently. Yes, I am a fan of his, and he is part of the reason (along with other research and my own experiences) why I am certain that life continues after the death of the body. On a whim, I checked out his tour schedule. He is scheduled for Seattle in the fall.

And I thought about the unspent travel budget, and…voila. Bought two tickets, one for me and one for an as-yet-undecided companion. I don’t usually buy expensive tickets and haven’t been to a concert in years. But I felt okay about spending the money. And then….

Literally about two days later I get a very nice check for some sold artwork for an amount that nearly covered the price of the tickets. I’d say, weird huh? But enough of these things have happened that I just accept them and thank the forces that be. I am not necessarily expecting to get a reading at the show, I just have enjoyed watching him on TV over the years and think it will be interesting to go. And so my journey continues….

 

 

 

Ask and receive, in which the Lwa work with what is already around you

Posted in Legba, lwas, Vodou with tags , , , , on July 26, 2015 by cheshirecatman

I had the opportunity to sign up for an online class related to my various spiritual practices. I really wanted to take this class, and it was being offered at 1/3 of the usual price. I still could not really afford it and hesitated, knowing that it would make finances very tight for the next couple of weeks, and that I would have to postpone some bills. With a resigned sigh, I said to Legba, “If you think it would be good for me to take this class, any financial help would be appreciated.” The discounted price was only offered for a very limited time and I was up against the deadline, so I took the plunge and registered for the class. This was last Saturday (July 18). That same day we had a grocery delivery scheduled.

Now, Anne and I are city dwellers, and have not owned a car for over a decade. To reduce trips to the grocery store (and to avoid having to haul heavy items like cat litter on the bus), we regularly use a grocery delivery service. We select a delivery time, usually in the evenings or on a weekend. Most of the time the service delivers on schedule, and even when they are late, they are good about letting us know. In the 3 or so years we’ve been using them, I’ve only had to call them about late delivery a handful of times.

Grocery expenses add up quickly, and last weekend was one of the larger orders we’ve placed (over $200). So, the scheduled delivery window came and went, and about 15 minutes afterwards, I phoned the company. The customer service rep was very courteous and told me that they had been having a lot of delays that morning. She briefly put me hold while she tried to contact the delivery driver. When she was unable to reach him, she apologized and said that she would immediately refund our order. She then said that if the driver did show up we could keep the groceries free of charge.

What? I was kind of floored. Our deliveries have been late before, and I’ve never been offered a full refund. The downside: if the groceries failed to show up, then Anne and I would need to go shopping that day and I would be either hauling cat litter on the bus or ordering from another delivery service. I was really keeping my fingers crossed that the delivery showed up.

And it did, only about 30 minutes late. Which was not a big deal to me, and I would have been fine without a refund. We just wanted our stuff. As it turned out, we got over $200 worth of groceries for free, which was wonderful and kind of weird.

And then I remembered my comment to Legba. And realized that my share of the groceries came up to around $135, which was about the same amount of money that I was lacking to pay for the class and my bills. Whoa.

I also thought about how he brought about this windfall using situations that were already at play in my life. Not that the Lwa can’t bring results from unexpected sources, but I think they are practical and have no qualms about working with the tools most readily available.

So Saturday evening, I lit candles and thanked Papa. Ayibobo.

Legba creates my vision

Posted in Agwe, Art, La Sirene, Legba, Religion, Ritual, Vodou with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 17, 2015 by cheshirecatman

Legba walkingI am coming up on the first anniversary of my Kanzo with Sosyete du Marche. Thus it seems like an appropriate time to reflect on the past year and what has (and has not) changed about me and my life.

Outwardly, there is not a whole lot of visible change. I am still at the same job. I live in the same place, in the same area of town. I haven’t gotten a spiffy new haircut nor remodeled my home.

Not all of my bad habits have changed. I still stay up too late on weekends, and have a tendency to procrastinate. I have an impatient streak, but it’s one that I continue to mostly control. I can be messy when I get busy or tired, especially when facing art deadlines. I still am fascinated with the afterlife, although in a much more positive way than I have been in the past.

What has changed outwardly is the official acquisition of my new family, the Sosyete. This is no small thing for me—my birth mother crossed over nearly three decades ago, I never knew my father and the one living relative I do know is permanently estranged. Now I have parents and many siblings I can turn to for love, advice and support. I took great delight in sending my initiatory mother a small Mother’s Day gift, something I have not been able to enjoy for many years.

So what about the less-obvious changes?

Many times I thought about writing this post but kept putting it off, uncertain whether there had been any changes interesting enough to discuss here. Apparently the changes kind of crept up on me. Some people’s experiences are more dramatic and obvious, but the majority of mine tend to be more subtle. My Lwa often speak softly, and in the language of images.

In March and early April I was engrossed in my usual springtime art frenzy, preparing to participate in a local sci fi/fantasy convention’s art show and another show at a local shop. I had quite a few pieces planned that were Vodou-related, including two sculptures of Legba, La Siren, La Balenn and Agwe, whom I’ve never sculpted before.

The first Legba I finished this spring was the Old Man walking along a road with one of his dogs, although I sculpted both Legba faces at the same time, and was very happy with them. This was a sharp contrast from the struggles I sometimes have with faces, which can result in me becoming so frustrated that I will toss them in the garbage and begin anew. I was particularly pleased that both of the faces resembled Legba as he appeared in one of my dreams.

Sculpting clothing is not always super easy for me, yet when I worked on his jacket and pants, I kept having what artists call “happy accidents”—my hand would move and create a fold or movement of the fabric that was unplanned, but looked good. Now, normally, I would never consider putting one of my own pieces on my altars, because I would sit there and obsess over the flaws and shortcomings. This time, however, I was so happy with the completed piece that I thought about keeping him for my altar if he didn’t sell at the convention. Also finished for the convention was a La Balenn piece whose face turned out unusually lovely. I received a lot of compliments on both of them when I showed them to friends.

La Balenn did not sell at the convention, but Legba sold immediately after to a couple of friends who saw him in the art show there. (They tried to buy him at the show, but due to a change in the art show hours, they were not able to purchase him before it closed.) It makes me smile to think of Legba in their home.

Then my focus shifted to finishing the pieces for the shop show. I decided to do a Native La Siren, as that is how she appeared to me the one time that I saw her. I was not sure exactly how to sculpt Agwe, so I had a loose plan to create him as a merman wearing an admiral’s jacket. However, he had other things in mind. I kept receiving flashes of images in my head, and realized that yes, he did want to be portrayed as a merman, but rather than the uniform he opted to have coral extruding from his back and crowning his head. Although I was working on my pieces up to the last minute, I never really got stressed out. It seemed that every time I got stuck on something, the answer would pop into my head and I was able to move on. Sometimes my hands felt guided, to the point that I don’t feel that I can take all of the credit for the way the art turned out. It was more of a collaboration between the Lwa and me.

When Agwe was completed, he also received many compliments. During the artist opening reception, one of my regular buyers whom I had never met before came in and bought the entire marine Lwa set (La Siren, La Balenn and Agwe). He wanted the seated Legba piece I had there too, but a friend had already spoken for it, so this gentleman commissioned a new one. (I have to smile when I think of Legba and the 3 marine Lwa displayed in his home; I won’t be surprised if they all start showing up there.) Another previous buyer whom I had never met came in and purchased a Sekhmet wall piece of mine. During the following weeks when my art was on display, a couple of local Santeria folks saw Agwe and loved him so much that they commissioned one like it.

Overall, this is probably the most successful art show I’ve had to date, as far as sales are concerned. I reflected back on the nom vayan (“valiant name”) that my initiatory mother gave me at my batem (“baptism”). It translates into “Legba creates my vision,” and he certainly has outdone himself this time.

If you haven’t already read it, my lovely initiatory mother has written a wonderful piece on magickal names in Vodou, which explains them better than I can here. All’s I can say is it certainly worked for me! Honor to her, Papa and the Lwa. Ayibobo!

Beautiful Vodou jewelry

Posted in Vodou with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 3, 2014 by cheshirecatman
Images © Black Water Siren Studios, used by permission

Images © Black Water Siren Studio, used by permission

Christians have their crosses. Pagans have their pentacles. What about Vodouisants?

If you’ve ever done an online search for Vodou jewelry, you’ve no doubt encountered mixed results, some with inaccurate veves. If you were persistent, you might have discovered Black Water Siren Studio.

Black Water Siren Studio is the creative brainchild of self-taught jewelry artist Cyndia Reddish. Her Vodou pieces are available in a variety of metals and price ranges. Several years ago I purchased a Legba charm for myself, and was impressed with its quality and intricate detail. It remains one of my favorite pieces to this day and I wear it frequently as a pendant. She has also started making veve rings.

If you would like to see more of Cyndia’s work, click any of the links below. I have also added a link to my Supplies and Stores menu on the right side of my home page. Enjoy!

Black Water Siren Studio website

Black Water Siren on Etsy

Black Water Siren on eBay

 

An interview with playwright Shawn C. Harris

Posted in Art, Legba with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 30, 2014 by cheshirecatman

crossroads_theatre_project1

On occasion, I like to feature artists, writers, filmmakers and other creative people on this blog. Today’s focus is on theatre.

Shawn C. Harris is a playwright from Richmond, VA who has written, developed, and produced plays in NYC’s indie theatre scene. A passionate advocate for improving diversity in theatre, her works consistently feature strong roles for women, people of color, and LGBTQ people.

Shawn’s plays include ENCANTA, TULPA, OR ANNE&ME, THE ROSE KNIGHT, and a variety of short pieces. Her work has been featured at The Cell Theatre’s Blackboard Plays reading series and WOW Cafe Theatre.
Since 2008, she has been writing essays and sharing resources about theatre, social justice, and diversity on her blog, Love’s Labors Lost.

In 2010, Shawn founded Crossroads Theatre Project to develop plays that challenge assumptions about what African diaspora theatre is and what it can be. Through Crossroads Theatre Project, Shawn’s full-length play, TULPA, OR ANNE&ME, received its world premiere at the 3rd annual Planet Connections Theatre Festivity.

Crossroads Theatre Project is currently developing her next play, ENCANTA, for production.

Thanks for being here, Shawn. In one of our conversations, you mentioned that the Crossroads Theatre Project was named after Eshu/Legba/Ellegua. Can you tell us a little bit about that? It seems fitting, Legba being the lwa of communications, among other things.

The way I make sense of it is that Eshu builds connections and exchanges between people, places, words, realities, and ideas. This can make him complex and sometimes paradoxical. Sometimes helping, sometimes harming. Sometimes fun, sometimes terrifying. I think that many times people simplify that by calling him a trickster, but I prefer to think of him as a guide into new ways of perceiving and understanding. Simply by being what he is, he challenges fixed notions of identity and perception.

It is likewise with Black identity. Black people, and therefore Black theatre, are not just one thing. Blackness is often seen as monolithic, so that tends to mean that people often simplify what Black humanity, and therefore Black art, is or can be about.

Crossroads Theatre Project is my way of giving space to the spirit of what Eshu represents while also rooting it in Blackness and in the intersections of Blackness and other identities.

I really love the way you just described him. You’ve obviously done a fair amount of research into African Traditional Religions. Is there one particular branch that interests you more than others, and do you see yourself one day traveling down that path?

I’ve committed to another path, but one of the things I wish to bring to my current practice is a sensibility rooted in African spirituality such as diunital cognition.

Let’s talk about your latest project, “Encanta.” I was trying to think of how to describe it and came up with romantic fantasy comedy with a touch of swashbuckler. How would you describe it? It doesn’t fit neatly into one category.

“Romantic fantasy” is a good way to describe it. I don’t particularly worry about how to label it genre-wise. I prefer to say what the play is about and let that speak for itself. Once people get to the part where the play is about a pirate and a sorceress falling in love, I hope it’s pretty obvious that I’m not dealing with a slice-of-life drama.

I love the humor throughout the script, even during the more dangerous scenes. Was it originally conceived that way or did you ever consider writing it as straight drama?

It was originally conceived to be lighthearted and funny.

At the beginning of the script, you mention that all parts can be played by trans and genderqueer people. I take it you put that right up front to keep that prominent in any potential director’s mind?

I wrote these characters so that trans and genderqueer people could play them, so that trans and genderqueer people can imagine themselves in these roles. A director grasping that point was a secondary, but still important, consideration.

For the record, it was not a Herculean task to make these roles inclusive of trans and genderqueer people. It wasn’t even difficult. So anyone claiming that it’s oh so hard to write roles for trans and genderqueer people is making excuses.

In your scene descriptions, you cast we the audience as part of the crowd on the street, or neighbors across the street, etc. We are participants in the world of the play. Is there a nonstandard way you visualize producing this play? Would you prefer to produce it in, say, a large room rather than the standard stage which separates audience from the cast? What inspired you to do this?

I don’t see it working well with a proscenium stage. I’d prefer something a lot more porous that combines the art with, say, commerce. A black box theatre can do that, but I would honestly prefer to stage this play outdoors in the midst of some arts and crafts fair or something.

Natural elements play a key role in some scenes. How do you visualize presenting those in your play, especially if you are in an outdoor venue? Would you use props, rely on dialog, or some combination of both?

There are ways to do it, but that’s the director’s job. It won’t work the same way it does in film, where the camera tells you everything. On stage, you’d have to use your imagination more actively.

One of the things I love about theatre is that the power of suggestion is much more potent. So you can take mundane objects like, say, a bath towel, and sort of transform them into other things. That same bath towel can be a superhero cape, a wig of long hair, a baby wrapped in a bundle, or something else entirely.

I really like the way romance and love is presented in this script. Women love women, men love men, and it’s just the way it is without any social stigma. The woman/man combo is not presented as the norm. Does your desire to contribute to a more accepting world affect the type of setting in your work (i.e., fantasy rather than contemporary)?

Not consciously. I just wanted fun, romance, and magic because I’m interested in that. I wanted something that came from my own experience and things I’m interested in without having to justify it.

I was far more deliberate about all the characters being Latino and Afro-Latino and opening all these roles to trans and genderqueer people.

You probably get this question all the time, but what advice would you give aspiring playwrights and other creative folks, especially those who are members of marginalized groups?

I don’t like giving advice. I find that most people have more wisdom about their situation than I ever could. But one piece of advice that has worked for me is to never take on debt to make theatre.

If you would like to read more from Shawn, check out her blog Love’s Labors Lost.