urbanimal.co.uk

Emma-Jayne Saanen

Re-shaping up!

Doge as a Twinkie I’ve been unhappy with my body for several years now, but over the past twelve months my health has gotten out of hand. Weight has been piling on around my middle, so much so that I feel like a beanbag being propped up by two chopsticks. The straw that broke the camel’s back was last month, when I took some nude selfies and I was just so unhappy with what I saw.

Of course fat is a feminist issue, which does make me reluctant to talk about this but here I am. I have never been made to feel overweight by anybody else. When I am harassed on the street the insults are about my face, not my body. I feel overweight because my body does not feel like my own; it feels bloated and out of control. Unnatural. Not a part of me.

I am unfit too. I get out of breath when walking up the stairs, and I’m too embarrassed to do any group fitness because I don’t want others to see how bad I am. I’ve been hiding behind my fibromyalgia too; using the pain as an excuse not to try anything at all. It’s ridiculous when I think about it.

My diet went to hell in a handbasket earlier this year. I didn’t have the time or energy to eat properly, so I relied on fizzy juice and chocolate bars to get through and I’m paying for it now.

Less moaning, Em! It’s time to c*nt up!

Inspiration came when a friend recommended the Re-Shape programme run by my local council. It’s eight weeks of access to their gyms, swimming pools, and fitness classes combined with weekly classes discussing diet. The ladies in my group are all pretty cool, and because many of them also have unusual dietary requirements I don’t feel like the odd-one-out for once. I’m back at the gym for the first time in about four years. Still finding my feet, but having fun. I’ve made a start on a C25K programme too. I had tried that earlier in the year, but running on the ground messed up my joints. Starting again on a treadmill feels so much better. I’m still not feeling brave enough to return to my Krav Maga classes, or to try any new fitness classes, but I have faith that it will come in time.

I have noticed that my jeans are a bit more comfortable this week. It’s the little victories that count. Hopefully in a few weeks I’ll have some more updates for you all. In the meantime, I hope you all feel happy and healthy in your own way!

 

I made a zine!

Claim your free zine!

Pile of Kurt ZinesMy first zine, all about the stray cat that lives in my garden, is available for free. However I do ask that you give a donation to your local branch of Cats Protection (or your local cat rescue if you live outside of the UK) in exchange. Just drop me an e-mail at melee(dot)meles(at)gmail(dot)com.

Bulk copies of the zine are available on request, through I will need to ask for a contribution towards printing costs.

About the “Kurt” zine

Kurt on the day he was trapped and neuteredThe “Kurt” zine is a very simplified version of Kurt’s story; how I imagine he came to be a stray cat living rough in the gardens of my home town. You can read his story in this blog post: the short version is that we had a stray cat regularly visiting our home for food, and with the support of Cats Protection we trapped, neutered and released him. TNR is the best way of ensuring the welfare of stray and feral cats, while helping to control their population, but Cats Protection can’t do TNR projects without donations.

The zine just a wee fun project I started to keep out of trouble, and is by no means a polished piece of work. I’ll write up a separate post about making the zine for those of you who are curious.

Feminism, I choose you!

“I DON’T PLAY POKEMON BECAUSE I’M AN ADULT AND I’VE SEEN A VAGINA”

– one of many bullshit memes doing the rounds on Facebook

It is very hard to enjoy anything these days without having to deal with patriarchal attitudes, including the latest iteration of the Pokemon Franchise – Pokemon Go.

Magikarp says "Fuck you!"

Magikarp says “Fuck you!”

I’m a Digimon girl; the anime and the characters were better, but they never seemed to get their games right. Pokemon was a side interest, mostly due to the fact that we couldn’t afford to have multiple consoles in our household when I was growing up. (Sega Mega Drive FTW). When my American friends started playing Pokemon Go it looked like so much fun so I downloaded the APK and played for a week before it was officially released in the UK.

The game is fun. I have mild agoraphobia, so having an app that gamifies my time outside is always welcome. It is also similar to geocaching, one of my favourite hobbies. Finally, I’ve managed to have an amazing social experience while playing; other people are outside playing too, and seeing so many people being joyful is a wonderful thing.

Of course there are haters, and haters gonna hate.

Mostly that’s fine. There are always some grumpy bastards who like to spoil everybody’s fun. However, a lot of the hatred directed to Pokemon Go players is deliberately misogynistic, homophobic and promotes toxic masculinity. In short, it’s anti-feminist and that has set off my inner feminist úlfheðnar.

Apparently enjoying Pokemon Go makes you ‘less of a man’ and by association ‘more of a girl’. Let’s pick this apart.

The image of manly manliness is pretty fucking toxic. Big boys don’t cry. Man up. No cooking and sewing, even if you like it. Lots of cars and fighting, even if you hate it. Be Alpha. You know, the sort of attitude that bullies men into being emotionally backwards, and closed off to the world. Because men shouldn’t ‘feel’. The sort of attitude that promotes hard hearts and harder thinking. An unrealistic expectation of all men to fit the mould that patriarchy set up for them, and if they fail then they will never be a ‘real man’.

Fuck that noise.

And what, pray tell, is wrong with being a woman? Are we too weak? Too frail? Is being compared to a woman such a horrid thing?

Think about it, and fuck that noise.

If you have a penis, vagina, both, neither or whatever, if you are male, female, both, neither or some other flavour, do not let some messed-up judgemental fuckwits tell you what it means to be a ‘real man’ or a ‘real woman’. I’m no expert on sociology or gender, but I can spot a scumbag human a mile off. And if you want to play Pokemon Go, then go.

It’s a sad day for Europe

From mEUw @ FB

From mEUw @ FB

What the fuck, Britain?

I get rudely awoken this morning by the trumpeting of xenophobic fucknuts, proudly proclaiming that they have taken back Britain. “From who?” I wonder aloud. It was never taken to begin with!

For those of you unaware, Britain voted to leave the European Union. In actual fact, it was England and Wales who voted to leave. Scotland (my country) and Northern Ireland voted resoundingly to stay … but screw democracy, amirite?

My reasons for voting to stay in the EU are based on personal experiences, as I couldn’t give a hoot about economics or fishing quotas. To be fair, the majority of the Leave voters didn’t care about facts either, preferring instead to complain about ‘teh ebil immigrants’ who are simultaneously stealing our jobs and claiming our benefits. I’m still waiting for one of the knuckle-dragging mouth-breathers to explain that one to me.

From mEUw @ FB

From mEUw @ FB

When my mum was receiving chemotherapy, four out of five of her consultant oncologists were immigrants. The surgeon who saved her life back in April is the son of immigrants. In my time working as a carer, the people who look after those who are vulnerable, a huge number of my peers were immigrants. My rights as a worker are protected by EU law, because I cannot trust Westminster to look out for me. My partner’s work (finding a cure for cancer) relies heavily on university and research funding from the European Union. Animal welfare, human rights, environmental protection, social justice … all causes that I care about, and all receive more support from the EU than the UK.

But here we are, creating a legal, moral, intellectual and (dare I say) spiritual barrier between ourselves and the rest of Europe thanks to some small-minded, insular plebs who don’t even live in my country!

I was furious this morning, and I will be for days to come. However, every cloud has a silver lining. The cultural division between Scotland and the rest of the UK is larger than ever, which can only drive us closer to a second independence referendum. Out of this tragedy, Scotland could have another chance to be reborn.

Keep dreaming!

Gratitude

13165849_10156918852250343_6205642873862213607_nLife is hard, is it not? I’m unemployed once again, my family is facing some major challenges, I’m still waiting for my Asperger’s diagnosis, my fibromyalgia is worsening, and all of that is causing epic levels of depression and anxiety. The negativity is palpable, and I cannot be bothered with it any more!

Last Thursday, I decided to celebrate all of the good things in my life. Out in the garden, it was a beautiful sunny day and my lawn was overrun with cuckoo flowers and dandelions. With my drum and my voice, I asked for my Goddess and the local spirits to join me.  I made a list of everyone and everything I am grateful for and then charged a candle for each of them. Each candle was lit in the presence of the Spirits, then we all chilled in the garden with some music and cider.

This was the most informal ritual I have ever done, but it had the best vibes. Things feel tough in the short-term, but long-term I am #blessed (chuckle). The disconnection I have been feeling in my heart (something that I may write about later) has lessened, and I feel like I can achieve things. I am a lucky soul.

What do you guys do to celebrate gratitude?

Book: The Cult of the Tiger

Cult of the Tiger, by Valmik Thapar, published by OUP India in 2002

Buy from Amazon

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I had seen this book recommended by a friend, and the cover just drew me in. Thapar is a naturalist and conservationist from India with a passion for the tiger; you can feel it in his every word.

This is a very short book that only gives a taste of the impacts tigers have had on the humans they co-habit with. I was expecting something joyful and spiritual, but in reality Thapar has documented the negative impact us white Westerners have had on the cultures we have brutally colonised. By murdering the tiger with our guns, we prove to the indigenous people that whites are more powerful than their gods. It’s grim to recall the damage we have done, and it’s aftermath is still going strong.

If you have more than a casual interest in tigers, or are interested in animal magic, this book would make an excellent addition to your library. The book can be pretty expensive to buy new, but of you are on a budget you can pick up an affordable second-hand copy.

Digivolution of the self

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I have been spending much of my free time watching Let’s Play videos of video games from my past, and many games I never completed or never had the opportunity to play for myself. This weekend I chose to watch a play-through of Digimon World for the Playstation, and so many memories came flooding back.

When I was younger, I was captivated by Digimon. I remember the first time I caught an episode. It was at my aunt’s house, because we didn’t have cable or satellite TV at the time. Some ordinary, and flawed, kids somehow managed to build relationships with magical creatures who could shapeshift if needed. Amazing, and so much better than the Pokemon anime.

At a time when I began withdrawing from my old friends and failing to make new ones, I spent much of my time watching the show, reading up about it, and collecting the (very limited) toy range that was available to a pre-internet fan. I would leave classes early so that I could watch the series when it was finally broadcast on terrestrial television. There was just something about Digimon that clicked with me, and made me inexplicably happy at a time where I was struggling socially and academically.

And here’s what many people will consider the ‘pathetic’ part; my Digimon obsession took place when I was at university.

Nowadays it is perfectly acceptable to have hyper-interests in anime, but at the time it just made me more of an outcast. While my peers were being refined artists, I was sat at my desk with my doll collection.

Memories like this are important to me. It ties in with my current work as a totemist; if I hadn’t crossed paths with shows like Digimon, shows that speak of venturing into other realms and developing mutual friendships with other beings, I may not have come across ideas such as shamanism and totemism. Digimon was a gateway into seeing the world differently, and acknowledging that behind the world we physically see there are other worlds running parallel.

Thank you, Digimon. And now that I am a proper grown-up, I can proudly go back to obsessing over them.

Book: Skull Scrying

Skull Scrying, by Lupa, self-published 2015.

Buy direct from Lupa.

SkullScryingCover-600I love to collect tarot and oracle decks, but divination is not a skill that comes naturally to me so learning to scry was far from my mind. However, having heard that Lupa had recently released a book on the subject I thought that I should at least give it a try!

My collection of skulls is surprisingly small (I really must rectify that), but I had two volunteers – a dog skull, and a kitten skull. Those belonging to the wilder animals were not interested in getting involved. For practical reasons, I chose to scry with the dog. He’s robust, whereas the kitten is very small and fragile. (I hope to work with the kitten in future though, now I have a better idea of what I am doing!)

Following the advice from Lupa, the dog and I spent a short time in deep conversation about his time as part of a living being, and what he thinks constitutes a good life. Nothing earth-shattering, as most of it can be learned from spending time with any dog (alive or dead).

Skull scrying is not a tool I’d use for divination, in the magical, mystical sense of the word, but it is something I will use when I want to get to know the spirits residing in the skulls that come into my care, and for asking the advice of those individual spirits; in a similar way to when I ask Lucy, my cat, for some sort of reassurance or guidance. It is a wonderfully intimate way to converse with sacred remains, and I would recommend that my fellow death workers try skull scrying (if they haven’t already, I’m usually late to the party).

The book itself is short and sweet (which is reflected in it’s price), and Lupa does her usual job of covering the practical side of the work before going into the esoteric stuff. In this case, she takes time and care to discuss the laws around acquiring and trading animal remains, and some ethical considerations practitioners need to make before deciding on working with skulls.

Lupa goes on to describe two techniques in which to scry, one short-and-sweet, the other more suited to longer ritual work. Both are easily accessible to those who have passed Paganism and Magic 101. There is nothing there that is intimidating. Skull scrying is a skill for anybody who cares to learn.

There is one negative mark against the book though; the e-book comes as a PDF. As a rule, I never buy PDF books as (unlike proper e-books), the fonts and their size cannot be changed so are near impossible to read on a screen or tablet. Personally I found the font far too small and had to squint to read the book. This is my individual preference though, and has no bearing on the quality of Lupa’s writing. If you are like me, perhaps consider spending a bit more money on getting a hard copy.

If you are a collector of animal remains, this book may give you some ideas on how to get to know the spirits attached to them. If you are already working with the spirits, this book may open up a whole new way of speaking with them. Both reasons are well-worth the price of this little book.

Of Cats and Mice

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This is Lucy.

When you bring a cat into your family, you have to accept that you are bringing a small, furry serial killer in too. If you aren’t prepared for that, or live in a fragile bioregion, cats are not the companion animals for you. Our previous cat, Dougal, had a passion for sparrows; Lucy is more into rats and mice. It’s not pretty, but you just kind of get on with it (and pray that you don’t tread on any of Lucy’s gifts as you stumble to the bathroom in the middle of the night).

And so, I have two stories to share with you.

The Cute Story*

*Cute is a relative term

Last week, I was changing my altar space over. I usually set up my altar a couple of days before a ritual or celebration, and leave it set up until I have another event to set up for. The past celebration was Samhain; for those of you unfamiliar, Samhain is the start of the ‘dead time’ where the veil as at it’s thinnest, is a time for honouring the ancestors, and is traditionally the last of the harvest festivals – the meat harvest.

I began moving my collection of skulls, stones and ornaments from the altar back to their regular locations. Between dog skull and my statue of Baphoment, I uncovered an offering to the ancestors left by Lucy.

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A little wood mouse! He was a bit squishy and smelly, but I was totally caught up in the magic of the moment. “Maybe Lucy is my familiar after all?”, I began to wonder as I called my partner away from whatever Very Important Thing he was doing to show him what Lucy did. I was so excited and happy.

But after a few hours, I realised that Lucy has probably stashed the corpses of her victims all over our house. 0_o

The Not-So-Cute Story

When Lucy flounces in through the cat flap and starts singing to herself (she really does sing to herself, it’s a delightful trilling / chirruping sound), I know she has brought something home with her.

This is what happened at silly o’clock in the morning. I began hoping that her victim was dead because it was cold outside my duvet, I was depressed, and the last thing I needed was to chase a mouse around. I followed Lucy’s death song, and found her throwing her tiny, and thankfully dead, prize around the bathroom.

It was then I realised that I was bursting for a piss.

“The mouse was already dead,” I reasoned, “so I’ll pee first then deal with him”.

You know when you are desperate to go, but the pee just won’t come? That was me. So I’m sitting there, in the dark, willing my bladder to empty while Lucy merrily throws the mouse around the bathroom. I heard it thwack off the wall, then the rustling as it was chucked into the stack of spare loo roll, and finally felt the warm furry body bounce off my face.

Christ on a bike, why couldn’t I pee?

Lucy continues her sociopathic merriment.

Finally, I finish and I can stand up.

I switch the light on and go to the mirror. Lucy, very kindly, had opened the throat of the mouse before throwing at me, so I was blessed with a blood offering on my cheek. And there’s no point being mad about it because Lucy is a cat person and this is what cat people do. So I wiped it off, traded Lucy her mouse for a cat treat, and apologised to the mouse for his untimely death before putting him in with the compost and going back to bed.

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I trust that she won’t kill me in my sleep.

The Kurt Report

Kurt 1

It’s been four months since we trapped, neutered and released Kurt, the stray cat living in our back garden. You can see him in the photo above, there. After all these months, that is as close as he will get to us when we are in the garden.

I’ll be honest, I’m disappointed. I have a selfish human desire to cuddle him. He looks like he needs a cuddle, and a nice warm spot to cuddle up and snooze on. But Kurt isn’t there yet.

Kurt 3

Kurt has managed to train me into his feeding routine. He will sit by the kitchen door (if it’s dry), or under a shrub (if it’s wet), and wait for me to spot him. I’ll wave and say hello. While I find my shoes, Kurt will run and hide amongst a patch of ferns, brambles and shrubs. From this vantage point, he’ll watch me as I stumble outside and fill up his food dish. I’ll chat to him while I do his, mostly for my own benefit because I usually only have myself for company. As soon as my kitchen door is closed, he’ll bolt out and start eating.

Even after all these months, I still have a child-like delight in watching him eat then skulk off. On a sunny day, he may linger in the garden to sunbathe. More usually, he’ll head off to attend to Cat Business. I don’t see him every day, which makes me worry.

Kurt 2

With the weather taking a turn for the worse, my partner and I made a shelter for Kurt. It’s a plastic tub lined with straw, insulated with foam and placed inside another plastic tub. The idea came from a shelter design shared by Nanayena. It’s not very elegant, but it has to be better than nothing. I don’t even know if he’ll use it, but we have to try.

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