Sturgeon’s 90%: Soul Signs: An Elemental Guide to Your Spiritual Destiny

[Trigger warnings for physical and emotional abuse.]

I picked this book up for research purposes, since I thought the concept–that souls have different types that can affect who we are and how we do things–would be an interesting one for a story, and I wanted to familiarize myself with the system presented in this book to avoid unknowingly plagiarizing from it.

I’m kind of a sucker for typology type things in a never ending quest to find out whether I’m “something cool” (ie. not boring Capricorn). I’m also the type who likes to quiz everyone I know, because, let’s face it, it’s part of the fun even if no one takes it seriously.

In a nutshell, the theory behind Soul Signs is that every soul has a, well, sign. Every soul on Earth draws from five energy groups: Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Sulphur, and these groups dictate what sort of energy drives us and affects how we relate to others:

Fire signs are driven by passion and emotion.

Earth signs are driven by strategizing and planning.

Air signs are driven by passivity, and dislike conflicts.

Water signs are driven by the need to compromise.

Sulphur signs are driven by the desire to corrupt.

Each energy group (apart from Sulphur) has three signs and each sign has a different energy flow: introverted (directed inward, at the self), extroverted (directed outward, at others). or centered (balanced energy, flowing in either direction).

As is typical for books like this, once you’ve figured out your exact sign (and it takes a few chapters), Altea moves on to discussing compatibility, including which souls are your “ideal match” because no one ever reads these things to discover anything but whether they and their S.O. are perfectly 100% compatible, amirite? There’s also a chapter on pet soul signs (yes, all animals have signs too) and a chapter on evil and how good souls can do bad things.

One thing I did like about this book is that it tried to step away from the quiz format. So many books of this type are all like “Take this quiz and BAM! We’ll tell you which type you are!” Soul Signs straight up asks the reader “What type of person are you?” and while there are some quiz type questions that can help you figure it out, there aren’t many, and once you figure out which energy group you are, it’s a simple matter of reading the descriptions to find your sign. I identified with both Air and Water groups, but in reading the descriptions for the individual signs, ended up with the Watery Seeker Soul, characterized by a need to compromise and a great hunger for knowledge.

This wouldn’t be Sturgeon’s 90% without some harsh criticism, so here it is. To some extent, my issues with this book are the same issues I have with other “compatibility” books in that the descriptions for each sign are very general (which is, I suppose, a necessity of books like this).

No book of New Age weirdness would be complete without some dualism thrown in, so we have the Sulphur signs. Sulphur signs are, in a nutshell, Always Chaotic Evil, and they only have one type: the Dark Soul (not to be confused with the game Dark Souls of course). Sulphur signs are your serial killers, your Hitlers, because even bad people have souls. Oh, and by the way, you have the same soul sign in all your previous lives and every life after, so if you had the misfortune to be born a Dark Soul, you’re SOL. Fortunately, I’m pretty sure no one reading Altea’s book would identify as one anyways, and for the most part she just mentions them and then ignores them.

By the way, even the author herself doesn’t know where a Dark Soul begins and a “good soul that does a bad thing” ends.

The other major gripe I have with this book (which is something that, to be honest, is pretty standard thinking in the New Age movement) is how people “can’t help who they are” because soul signs. “Oh. she may be controlling, but it’s because she’s an Earth sign!” “He might be a doormat, but that’s his Air sign passivity shining through,” and she basically says at one point. “If only we could all know our Soul Signs, our relationships would all be fantastic!” (Except, she notes, in the obvious cases where family members have different signs.)

And then there’s the part where she talks about abusive relationships (using personal anecdotes) and, given what I’ve discussed, you can guess where it goes. To be fair, she does say that there are aspects of ourselves we cannot change, and upbringing and environment also play a role in how we relate to others, I can’t help but sigh in exasperation when a concept like soul signs is trotted out to explain shitty behaviour. Is your partner a commitment phobic? Don’t worry, he’s just a Traveler soul, and they don’t like to be tied down! Does your girlfriend always want to be in the spotlight? Don’t worry, she’s a Bright Stat soul, they crave that sort of thing. And then there’s the standard New Age thing that “we choose how our lives unfold” that just becomes so much victim-blaming, and, yeah.

In other words, it’s a typical pile of New Age talking points with a half decent personality type thing that isn’t a rehash of Myers-Briggs or the Enneagram.

Unless you really have the urge to quiz all your friends or you’re doing research like me. yeah, just get it from the library or something.

New Age Nonsense….Again

So I’m on the hunt for interesting tarot and oracle decks, and I’m looking in the “what’s new” section on Aeclectic Tarot, and I come across the “Animistic Yoga Oracle Cards”….

….so I was like “Okay, the art is kinda’ funky, let’s go to their website and–ooh, they’re Canadian!

And then I found this passage:

The term Hatha Yoga has been shaped around two important celestial bodies. “Ha” means the Sun and all his masculine attributes as a giving, passionate, active, rational and creative energy, and “Tha” is the Moon and all her watery feminine qualities, such as receptivity, creativity, nurturance, fertility and intuitive insight. Hatha Yoga symbolizes the alliance between pairs of opposites: the Sun and the Moon, the male and the female, the Earth and the sky, positive and negative, inside and outside, darkness and light, giving and receiving, rational and irrational… Therefore, by practicing Yoga, one integrates these essential poles that make a person whole.

SIGH.

 

Don’t you just love it when Western dualism is applied to Eastern systems like yoga? I know I do!     /sarcasm

I don’t have the energy to unpack this, so here are some brief points:

According to the very reliable source Wiktionary, one of the words for “sun” is “surya” which is also the name of the sun deity. I’ve come across a bunch of other terms, but none of them begin with h or are monosyllabic.

The moon deity is Chandra, also male. Sometimes Chandra is conflated with Soma, again, a male deity who has twenty-seven wives.

Furthermore, hatha translates as willful or forceful, yoga is usually translated as way, therefore the meaning of hatha yoga is “willful/forceful way”….

….which has absolutely NOTHING to do with the sun and moon, btw.

Even if my lazy translations are waaaaay off base, there’s nothing in this passage that indicates the author has even a basic understanding of so-called “masculine” and “feminine” forces in Hindu thought, namely that THE FEMININE PRINCIPLE IS THE ACTIVE ONE!

I could have used the older image for this, but this modern depiction will do nicely:

I remember my professor showing us an image like this one, and asking us. “What’s going on in this image?”

“It looks like she’s being a good servant wife and massaging her husband’s feet,” someone said.

“She’s waking him up.”

In a nutshell, Lakshmi is waking him up so he can start doing important stuff like, oh, CREATING THE UNIVERSE! (Symbolized by Brahma, the god in the lotus flower.) If she isn’t there to “stimulate” him, nothing ever gets done, he just lies there, being all “Whatevs, I’m happy on the cosmic serpent.” the cosmos is here because Shri takes the time to get her husband up every morning! She is active, he is passive.

In fact, this idea is so pervasive that in order to work in a temple, a brahmin must have a living wife (they might have changed this since I was in school) because without his shakti to support him, he can’t do his job.

Now, of course, the situation’s much more complicated than that, and the kyriarchy being what it is, women are often blamed if their husbands die before them, and “active” power is seen as dangerous unless it’s…ahem….brought under control, buuut that’s way beyond the scope of what I’m talking about.

tl;dr version: You FAIL Hinduism 101!

Review: Naked in the Woods: A Guide to Spiritual Nudity, and Talking About Nakedness

[Note: This post is about nudity, which is not necessarily sexual, still, just to be safe, this might delve into NSFW territory.]

You knew my reviewing good books couldn’t last, right?

Naked in the Woods: A Guide to Spirtual Nudity by Storm Moon, who self identifies as “two-spirited” despite being white (as I was always told that this term is specifically used in reference to Native peoples), is, well, what it says, about being naked….in the woods, and spiritual stuff.

Read More »

Pay to Pray

If you’ve been following this blog, you can probably guess my thoughts on this concept, but I’m going to talk about it anyways because, hey, it’s Thanksgiving and I don’t feel like doing a whole lot of anything (and before you ask, I had a horrible Thanksgiving dinner because my dumbass brother decided to tease me re: my unemployment, cue the waterworks and me shutting myself in the computer room and playing Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura to death, no, I don’t want to talk about it).

Anyways, this is old news by now, but the James Arthur Ray sweat lodge deaths prompted a slew of posts on cultural appropriation as well as paying for praying (some commentators noted that sweats are offered free of charge by actual native people, not all of them are open to non-natives, of course, but they do exist). More recently, eBay has banned the sale of curses, spells, and other intangibles on its site and, of course, we’ve all heard of the charlatans sort of people who claim their courses will prepare you for a Third Degree initiation when their courses actually teach the same basic stuff you could find in any Llewellyn book.

Anyways, for the longest time I sided with those who claim that you SHOULD NEVER PAY MONEY FOR SPIRITUAL THINGS, EVER! Money is the root of all evil! Money cheapens things. If you pay money for intangibles, you are an idiot who deserves to be parted from your money. Some may feel that its wrong to charge for basic information that you can get in any 101 book, or may have been instructed by their deities not to charge for particular services.

On some level, I can understand this view. The joke that I hear a lot is: “What’s the difference between a New Ager and a Witch? A decimal point,” and in my experience, this is true. When someone starts charging $60 for a quartz crystal point that I used to be able to get for free on the path near my house (they sanded over the good stuff years ago) that’s when I start rolling my eyes., just to put this in perspective, the story on the James Arthur Ray case I linked to mentions that attendees were charged around $10,000 for this “spiritual warrior” weekend thing, the kind of thing that actual native groups (from whom Ray stole appropriated the sweat lodge in the first place) do for free.

It’s fucking heinous, that’s what it is.

What changed my mind on this subject, however, was the simple realization that “people need to eat” and that includes religious specialists, and I don’t see anything wrong with compensating people for their time and effort (especially if I want them to take time out of their busy schedule to do a complex ritual for me). Kenaz Filan wrote an excellent piece on paying for initiations at hir blog which I encourage everyone to read, as it really illustrates the point that you honestly can’t expect so many people to give of their time and effort without some sort of compensation.

I definitely support people thinking long and carefully about where their money’s going. Do you really need to pay someone X amount to do divination for you when you could spend $20 to buy a tarot deck and do it yourself? (Yes, it’s hard to read for yourself, but with a bit of practice, you can pull it off) or even better, do you know someone who would do a quick reading for you for free? Do you need to take that course, or can you just buy any old 101 book and get the same information for a fraction of the cost? Do you need to go to that convention? In all honesty, as much as I’d like to someday go to a convention, I really can’t afford it , and I hate having to stay overnight and sleep in a strange bed (it’s. not. my. bed. dammit!) so I’d just as soon do without it. If you decide that Vodou is absolutely, 100% the path for you, be prepared for the expense required to be initiated into that tradition, and for the love of everything, DO YOUR RESEARCH BEFORE COMMITTING TO SOMETHING! Unfortunately, there are a lot of frauds out there who are eager to part unsuspecting spiritual seekers with their cash, so this is why it’s so important to talk to other people about these sorts of things.

At this point and time, I’m honestly not confident enough in my reading skills to charge for readings, so I don’t, maybe in the future I’ll charge a nominal fee (or perhaps I’ll just request pictures of cute baby animals) but not at the moment. You will notice (if you go back a few posts) that I also put up my short stories for people to read. Do I plan on doing this forever? Well, no, at some point I hope to make a bit of money off my writing (maybe I’ll even do a giveaway, winner gets a signed copy of my book, ooh, wouldn’t that be exciting???), but for right now, I like sharing my writing with everyone someone’s probably stolen my stories already anyways.

To recap…..

DO YOUR RESEARCH!

Unfortunately, charlatans don’t have signs around their necks advertising them as such, buyer beware.

Talk to other people about the product or service you are considering, don’t just rely on “testimonials” and the like.

When all is said and done, I don’t think you can really put a price on a religious experience, but I think it’s perfectly reasonable for someone to expect to be compensated for the expenses that they accrue in bringing that experience to you.

When Will It Stop?

And by “it” I mean “Doreen Virtue’s fluffy New Age mega-publishing machine”.  Seriously, it seems like she can’t go a week without churning out a new product.

Okay, okay, I admit it, I actually own one of her books (Messages From Your Angels) and two of her oracle card decks (the Goddess Guidance Oracle and the Angel Tarot) so, yes, when it comes to mindless consumption of her candyfloss in card form, I’m guilty as charged, but for fuck’s sake, look at this latest product on Amazon.

Seriously Ms. Virtue? Mermaids again? Did you forget you already pandered to those people a few years ago? Oh, sorry, I keep forgetting it’s all about the bottom line. Silly me, thinking spirituality should be something more than “buy these products to be the most spiritual spiritual person ever!” Not even Mary is immune to the New Age fluff machine.

Okay, back to the mermaid book. In all seriousness, if I had the money to spend on crap, I’d love to buy a copy and review it, because it’s a gold mine for snark, just look at this quote:

Different varieties [of merpeople] are called:

  • Merangels – These mermaids and mermen have a celestial connection, and are compelled to help save the ocean and the inhabitants.
  • Merfairies – Mermaids and mermen who guard bodies of freshwater and their inhabitants, Merfairies are thinner and more petite than Merangels.

(from the introduction)

Um, yeah, regular angels, fairies, and mermaids aren’t enough, now it’s merangels and merfairies–just add water! Seriously, does anyone actually believe in this stuff? (Well, actually, if you read my previous post, I did once, but that was when I was young and stupid, now I’m older….and only occasionally stupid.)

The only other reason I’d be tempted to buy this book (besides the snark factor) would be for the art–most of which is free online anyways, and the rest are pictures of beautiful women in those fake mermaid tails, but I could just as well buy a nice book of mermaid art without all the New Age bullshit and view that as a better investment.

BTW, if any of you want me to review something I already have, here’s a link to my collection of books on LibraryThing. Not every book I own is up there, though, so if you want to see a review of something, ask me if I have it. On my ereader alone, I’m currently reading through the entirety of Amelia Atwater-Roads Shapeshifters series (when did your writing become so terrible, Ms. Atwater-Rhodes?), the first book in the Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series (yes, I’ve heard all about what happens after book nine), and Son in Sorrow, the sequel to Lovers and Beloveds, which I reviewed in a previous post. I also have a selection of free kindle books, Ellen Kushner’s Privilege of the Sword and Storm Constantine’s Wraeththu Chronicles (which I WILL finish) so let me know if you want me to review something.

Confessions of a Former New Ager

In one of my earlier posts, you might recall that I posted my religious progression from Catholicism to Vanatru. You might also recall that the spot after “Roman Catholicism” but before “Eclectic Wicca” was occupied by “New Age”.

Yep, I was a card-carrying, chakra-activating, aura-cleansing, love-and-light-and-violet-flame-believing, angel-therapy-ing, dolphin-obsessive New Ager.

I first became aware of the New Age movement in high school. My grandma had just died and my math tutor (one of our neighbours) had given me $20 and told me to buy something nice with it. I remember how my dad picked up a book with an angel on the cover and said: “Here, buy this in memory of your grandmother.”

That book was Messages From Your Angels by Doreen Virtue.

At the time, I was looking for comfort, as grieving people tend to do, and this book gave it to me in spades. I find the “channeled messages” corny now, but at the time, they really spoke to me. As an adopted child, it was comforting to learn that children like me had “extra angels” to help and guide them throughout their lives, and, well, dolphins were “enlightened beings”, what more could a dolphin lover ask for?

I think that even before I realized how appropriative the movement is (especially towards First Nations people), I was driven away by how material objects seemed so necessary to this “anti-materialist” movement. Open up a random New Age text and you’ll find some mention of how (Western) society is so “materialist” and “Ego-centered” (the Ego, BTW, might as well be renamed ‘the Ebils’ because it is blamed for, well, everything)–while pointing you to all the books and tapes they’re offering. Doreen Virtue alone has all her books, cassette tapes, CDs, and at least one oracle deck to accompany every book. At the local psychic fair, they charge $60 for a quartz crystal that’s supposedly “cleansing” and every “psychic” will charge (at minimum) $60 for a reading (more if you want a longer reading), that’s not even going into the cost of  aura phoros, magical crystal skulls, and chakra wands.

I won’t even start on the issue of appropriation, how “Native Americans/East Indians are so spiritually enlightened–not like us Westerners,” white guilt narrative, let’s-take-things-from-other-cultures-completely-divorce-them-from-their-context-and-sell-them-back-to-white-people, thing, because that’s been done. What I want to talk about is something so vile and disgusting that I STILL remember it clearly even though it happened three years ago.

Three years ago, I went to the local psychic fair with a friend to take advantage of the tarot vendor who was selling decks tax free. We goofed around a bit and bought a cheap aura photo just to say we did, but then we sat down to listen to a couple of the presentations.

I’ll start with the funny one so you can prepare for being filled with RAGE later.

One of the presenters, we were told, was a psychometrist. Psychometry, for those who don’t know, is psychic-speak for people who can find out things about objects just by touching them (ie. that photographs inside an envelope documented a house fire).

She started with a couple of people (one of whom was going to be traveling soon, “near water”) and then she looks at me. Our conversation went something like this:

Psychic: You, I think I’d like to talk to you.

Me: Okay *gets up to go stand at the front*

Psychic: No, no, sit down, it’s okay…. *after I sit, she continues* Now, I definitely see some educational opportunities in your future, either you’re going to school or you’re going back to school….

My friend: *trying so hard to keep a straight face*

Me: Actually, I’m out of school and I don’t plan on going back, I’m just looking for a job right now.

Psychic: Oh, while I’m sure you’ll find the right job soon. You like people so it will all be fine.

Here are some things you need to know about me:

1) At the time, I was out of school (not planning on going back) and looking for work

2) I am short and often mistaken for someone who is much younger, several people have mistaken me for a high school student (or younger) including at my graduation when I received my M.L.I.S.

3) I’m such an introvert I probably exude a chemical that repels people

So now that you’ve had a chuckle, here’s the rage-inducing bit. The other lecture that we attended was by a “medical intuitive” who said such gems as these:

“Alzheimers means that you struggle to keep control of your life,”

“Diseases have physical as well as spiritual symptoms, if you change your way of thinking, the disease will go away.”

What is this I don’t even

Basically, it was the idea that every disease is really caused by hurt feelings. Do you have lung cancer? Maybe you’re talking to much and not listening enough. A fever? You probably have anger issues.

I don’t think I have to explain how fucking dangerous and WRONG this idea is, right? This is more than just flaky love and light and crystal spires of Atlantis stuff, these are diseases that are debilitating and oftentimes fatal. It is EXTREMELY disrespectful to people who have to live with these conditions to victim-blame by pointing the finger at them and saying “If you would only change your way of thinking, you would be cured!”

NO, NO, NO A THOUSAND TIMES NO!

You can’t rid yourself of a condition just by clicking your heels and WISHING it to happen (provided there is a cure at all), but the worst part is the people who were agreeing with her. I hope that no one would be so stupid as to not seek a doctor’s help when they had a medical emergency, but that’s the really chilling part: THAT PEOPLE ACTUALLY BOUGHT HER BULLSHIT. It’s one thing to scam gullible people out of $60, spouting all this bullshit when it’s HUMAN LIVES that are at stake is just….completely irresponsible.

Now, before I let you go to do whatever it is you like to do to help with all that rage you’re probably feeling, a note about calling people “New Agers” (this means you, my Pagan and Heathen friends).

Stop it. Right now.

In my experience, the majority of Asshattru Pagans who call other Pagans “New Age” (or, to use a term I’ve seen a lot “newage sewage”) don’t know anything about actual New Agers beyond that they believe in “love and light”. These people delight in calling my co-religionists “fluffy bunny new age crystal crunchers” because they aren’t hardcore reconstructionists FUCK YEAH! don’t believe the exact same things they do. You can say a belief sounds “New Agey”, that is fine, but to say everyone who isn’t like you is “a new age crystal cruncher” won’t make you sound smart except to your Internet Tough Guy buddies it just makes you sound like an asshole and a sloppy researcher.

You may now go let off some steam.