Skip to content

12.27.04 2:24 p.m.

Why should it be that whenever men have looked for something solid on which to found their lives, they have chosen not the facts in which the world abounds, but the myths of an immemorial imagination?  

-Joseph Campbell


Previously in Xenology: Xen was a teaching student and a lapsed heathen who worked at a library.

Dressing for Monkeys

While Christmas shopping with Sara the Goode, her friend, and Emily, Sara said that she hoped none of her students saw her, as she was not dressed like a teacher. She was dressed conservatively, going so far as to be wearing a shawl. While this is fashionable, it is hardly something that would raise the eyes of... anyone, frankly.

While I do not have a problem with Sara, I do take issue with this attitude. I have heard it expressed far and wide, not only for teaching. However, as I am ostensibly on my way to becoming a teacher, it is to this profession that I will specify.
But what will the monkey children think?

I will dress appropriately for the job that I am hired to do. Very rarely have my clothes produced anything other than compliments and only then because I was not wholly aware of the dress code and had generalized incorrectly. However, once I leave the building, I am not that job (I am never my job). I will happily and without a second thought wear clothing featuring metal hooks or web comic related double entendres. I am a human being, not a library clerk or a teacher. The moment that I cease to perform the functions of my job and have left the building, my employers cease to have the slightest bit of say as to what I am wearing. Additionally, I am free to spout off about gay rights, Jungian Paganism, liberal politics, off-color jokes, or any other topic that would not be appropriate in a work environment. What I do to earn a paycheck does not and should not constrain my freedom of expression and movement once quitting time occurs.

As point of fact, I once ran into one of the librarians at my former job while I was being pushed around in a shopping cart and calling people scurvy land monkeys. I may have also been wearing one of my hooked, furry, or gothy shirts. I just smiled politely and said hello, blushing only slightly.

So what if Sara's students see her dressed as she would prefer to be dress (bear in mind, I have seen this pixy wear a Rainbow Brite hoodie with skater jeans)? It would do the brats good to understand their teacher outside the strict confines of their prejudices. I remember being so impudent as a student as far as high school, unable to really process that my teachers could possibly lead rich lives outside the school day. As I was generally fairly bright and empathetic, I can only imagine the fictions students lead themselves to believe. Let the children see you shopping, hanging out with your friends, and behaving like yourself. It could only do them good. Teachers are not an alien species bent upon the subjugation of children.

Although that would make things easier...

Unemployed Again

The library director called me into her office. A week ago, I had approached her and laid out the problem I would soon be having, namely that I would have to student teach and would only be able to arrive at the library after three. As the library is open until 9 four days a week and one of the women with whom I work frequently works beyond when our supervisor leaves, I did not see this as an insurmountable problem.

Judging from the tone the director, the results were not good. I knew that my supervisor was in a meeting for a few hours and had guessed that I was at least one (if not every) topic at hand, but she had not mentioned anything to me. I would like to think that my supervisor championed my cause and urged them to grant me that for which I asked, but this may be wishful thinking.

The meeting between the director and me was terse, though I could tell that she was somewhat saddened by my plight. As of the day I start student teaching, they will no longer employ me. Their main reason, if this meeting was accurate, was that it would set too bad a precedent to allow me to shift my work schedule. The wheels of bureaucracy are slow and coarse, unyielding to extenuation. The bad precedent does not understand or care into how bad of a situation this puts me. Before dismissing me, the director told me that she would be sorry to lose me.

Again, I felt sorry to be lost.

The only idea I have is that I could tutor, as they evidently get remunerated well and this is a skill I likely have. After all, I am going to be teaching several classes for free for fourteen weeks owing to this system that is depriving me of a job where I am respected and appreciated. Certainly that should count for something.


After taking two painfully easy teaching tests (featuring such brain steaming questions as - and I am completely serious - "which bear is a polar bear?" and "which word is a noun?" both coming after long reading passages explaining the characteristics of both), I drove to Emily's parents' home. Emily's grove was holding their annual Yule party and I promised that I would come. Emily is well acquainted with my apprehension about Pagan gatherings, as it potentially combines by discomfort with both off-putting Pagans and groups of strangers. However, these were Emily's friends and fellow members of her grove, so I had to give them a pass. I am not as religiously active as I would like to be, so this was a positive step toward resolving that.

I was still slightly uneasy, of course, but careful application of buffet style potluck helped to lubricate things. I listened in to conversations, as this is generally what I do with people I do not know. I make it clear that I am interested and listening, nodding when appropriate, but don't interject anything unless I feel that the words will be better than my silence. Munching on cucumber slices was better than breaking my silence for the first few minutes that Emily mingled and received hugs.

A solid man named Christian entered, sat next to me and start talking to me about Anubis. Anubis, aside from being the jackal-headed Egyptian god of judgment and the Underworld, is one of my patron gods. Though I know how vaguely creepy that sounds to people who aren't me, there is just something intriguing about a god who weighs one's heart against a feather after death. I take this to all be deeply metaphorical, of course, as this is the only way to understand mythology.

Emily had apparently told Christian that I honored Anubis, which provoked this conversation. It was all just a little too sudden and intense given that I had yet to ease into the flow of the party. I smiled and stammered, feeling quite ignorant when he started asking me Socratic questions as to Anubis's parentage. The extent of my knowledge of Anubis is that I like him quite a lot and, if my invocations of him are any indication, he reciprocates. That may be a bit too ignorant and vague, but I do not formally worship the Egyptian pantheon. Anubis is just like a good friend who happens to be an archetype shaped like a jackal. Eventually, right around the time that I explained that I had a plush Anubis doll that lived atop the bookcase, Christian politely excused himself for other partygoers and the ritual.

I had not known there would be a ritual or, if I had, I had completely forgotten about it. I had a moment of panic and considered asking Emily if we could leave. Having experienced more than a few public magickal workings that left be feeling drained and dirty, I had long used as an excuse my disinclination to mix my energy with people I did not know exceedingly well. This is one of the benefits of belonging to a religion where you don't have to tolerate everyone in your "church." I decided against asking to leave, as I had told Emily that I wanted to be more active and these were people that she felt comfortable working with. I think I can trust Emily's judgment.
The apple represents M's sense of the divine

I girded myself as the priest and priestess emerged from the bathroom in robes. I was wearing a turtleneck and would be keeping it that way, my gods understanding that street clothes are just as sacred. I don't malign the interest in specific religious clothing, it is just not optimal for me. There were other people in unusual and potentially ritual clothing, but they came in wearing the clothes and I just took it to be their style.

As Emily's grove is Gardnarian (for the non-Pagan majority, here is a syllogism: Xen is to Unitarian as Gardnarians are to Roman Catholic), I was concerned that there would be a whole ritual etiquette of which I was only familiar with in passing. As such, you can understand my relief when the priest said that we would be singing "Prepare Ye" from Godspell. Any religion that can work in Broadway musicals in such ways gets a gold star from me, as long as they do not also insist that Buddha and Jesus were reincarnations of space criminals.

As the ritual progressed with candle lighting and placing them all in the cauldron, the priest's and priestess's five-year-old daughter grew to wear progressively less clothing. She would dart into the bathroom and be lacking a jacket, shirt, socks, or pants on each emergence. Then she would run around as quickly as she could, only stopping to try, despite admonishments from all side, to poke the cauldron full of candles. In this way, her lack of clothing was fortuitous and it is only though the grace of some god that she did not catch fire.

As we left this party for Emily's gym's party, Santa came and wished us a merry Yule. Pagans get visits from Santa early, you see. As we are poor, we were not part of the Secret Santa gift exchange, so there was nothing in the jolly old elf's bag for us. The priestess, Emily's very good friend, stopped us before we had gotten in our car and handed us two pouches containing a sliver of scented wax and a seashell. I do not know its purpose, but it has found a place in my coat pocket.

We arrived late to the gym party and most everyone was thoroughly blitzed already. Emily commented that she was surprised that some of the more reserved people at the gym became quite flamboyant with the proper application of a lot of liquor.

I watched, amused, as a woman in white (ostensibly the most reserved person in a hundred miles normally) was undulating and happily slurring her need for people to dance with her. Eventually, and briefly, I provoked Emily to dance with me next to the stair climbing machines. This dissolved once it became apparent that I cannot dance well enough and Emily wouldn't believe that dancing is just like doing a Tae Kwon Do form underwater.

Soon in Xenology: Zack's girlfriend in the flesh. Christmas. New Years. Conor. Student teaching.

last watched: Coupling
reading: In a Sunburned Country
listening: Tonight and the Rest of My Life
wanting: the freedom to live how a wish despite what I do to get paid.
moment of zen: singing Godspell.
someday I must: go to another ritual, I suppose.

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.

eXTReMe Tracker