Archive for February, 2014

Post-Pantheacon: The Third

Posted: February 25, 2014 in Uncategorized

Saturday morning of PantheaCon 2014 I awoke on the floor of the Temple of the Morrigan, to the chanted devotions and benedictions of two of the priests of Coru Cathubodua who slept to the side of me. Fighting against the urge to stay-the-fuck-asleep, I succumbed to consciousness and made myself upright. Caffeine flowed like blessed victorious allies into my veins, and I made myself decent enough to stumble out into the wild, whacky world of the conference. I managed to get myself some coffee before the big rush down at the hotel’s Starbucks kiosk-of-waiting-doom, and then did some check-ins via phone after the welfare of my corvidkid, back East with a babysitter.

Saturday was the “fullest” day for me in terms of programming I needed to attend, including Sacrifice and Modern Paganism: A Panel Discussion which was put together by the Coru, Lupercalia 2014 which is an annual Antinoan rite performed by the Ekklesia Antinoou, and Danbala Sevis – Honoring the Serpent & the Rainbow a Haitian Vodou ceremony hosted by Mambo T’s House, Sosyete Fòs Fè Yo Wè. I met up with Corvus Cardia before the Sacrifice panel, and we snagged some fashionably-not-quite-late seats in the back left of the presentation hall. John Fucking Beckett joined us in our row, as did another dear friend (clearly we were the cool kids).

The Sacrifice panel was a fascinated set of discussions, with a very knowledgeable group of five folks: Jeffrey AlbaughCrystal BlantonDr. Amy HaleMambo T, and Sam Webster (links stolen from John Beckett’s post), and was moderated by my friend Rynn Fox. John’s summary of the panel is a good one, and it is not my interest to go blow-by-blow through the whole thing. In fact, as has been my theme with these recounts so far, I will share only my personal process and inner experience of the panel.

The panel’s description, borrowed here from the Coru’s event calendar, reads:

From offering the best wine and grain to the finest animal or tribal member to the Gods, sacrifice was a central part of many ancient cultures. But as modern Pagans we must ask ourselves: what is the role of sacrifice today? How is sacrifice relevant to our experience, and should we invest the time and energy to restore ancient sacrificial rites to their place within Pagandom? Or should we invent modern sacrificial rites, and if so, what would they entail? Explore these questions and others as we discuss the place of sacrifice within ancient and modern traditions.

Despite seeming to be focused more broadly on “general sacrifice”, the major topic of discussion seemed to be specifically on animal or blood sacrifice, with one audience member bringing up (during the Q&A segment) the subject of human sacrifice. Sam Webster stated early on that sacrifice, if anything indeed could be considered such, is perhaps the universal theme connecting religious and spiritual traditions globally and throughout human history, which I thought was a powerful, accurate and evocative statement. While he, and several others — including Crystal — spoke of “other” forms of sacrifice (such intangible-made-tangible in the form of conceived thought put to word, or social activism), the focus and charge of conversation kept circling back to animal and blood sacrifice. It was very interesting to see the group of five assembled voices address the topic, and to note that amongst them, only one (Mambo T) had performed animal sacrifice.

I found myself thinking about other conversations that I wanted to have on the subject, but made the assessment that the present venue probably wasn’t the place.  I was disappointed, I think, that the subject of “general sacrifice” was not discussed more in-depth (e.g. is there a difference between giving a gift to the gods, versus giving a sacrifice? why did so many people seem to have a recoiled response to the idea of transactional relationships? is there a difference between an offering and a sacrifice? does the value of a sacrifice increase if it is harder for the giver to acquire, or does that not matter to the spirit or god in question? how much do these things depend entirely on the tradition or path in question, etc.) and that, with animal/blood sacrifice as the clear “buzz topic”, it wasn’t addressed with more hands-on experience or specificity. Overall, I think that this conversation was an essential and necessary starting point, which ultimately took off as a fledgling from the nest without any crash-landings. From here, more steps-and-flights can be taken (through different trees, approaching the canopy…) to further explore and engage the subject.. and I look forward to seeing where it goes from here!

Next on the agenda was Lupercalia. As a Lupercai myself, I always love returning to this ritual. My initiation into the fabled ranks of lupine fellowship happened not at PantheaCon, but within (and then outside of…) my very own Thracian Temple of Night, some years ago. However, at this particular time, I felt physically unwell; travel is never kind to me, and while I as remarkably able-bodied this convention weekend, I have health issues and am generally using a cane for mobility assistance (which I wasn’t, for most of the con.) I was critically fatigued, in the “I have a chronic invisible illness, and I ran out of spoons” sort of way, and spiked a fever for a short while. One of this year’s Lupercai-to-be was a friend and family member of mine, and it was an obligation that I stay to support their process in the proceedings, otherwise I may well have needed to duck out to throw myself into a power-nap or a vat of espresso or a swimming pool or something.

The ritual itself is a powerful one, and despite some logistical snags — delays in getting the right furnishings from the hotel’s event staff, stalls and ritual modifications due to those delays, and some communication snares — this year’s expression was not lacking in potent deliverance. PSVL recounts the ritual here, and eir frustration at the logistics is clear, but I will say this: when the footrace came to a close and the energy built up through the rites coalesced and the ritual blessings — first of victory, and then the removal of defeat — were lashed out upon willing audience members, who lifted their palms to receive that which was offered, my fever fucking broke and the muscles in my face stopped twitching and the fatigue gave way to a feeling of cleansed restoration. Winged Victory struck through palms from flayed goat — as if there is any other way to know sweet victory, daughter of Styx — came and took stance at my back, which straightened out of pained slouch. She touched my shoulders and my head lifted and, fuck, I felt pretty okay. (Anyone who has suffered from chronic illness, pain, or extreme fatigue will know how rare such a wave of restorative relief is… and how much of a true blessing it really is.)

With victory assured and defeat slapped away, I found myself finally feeling the ground beneath me.

And it turned out that I would need these blessings to make it through the rest of the night…

As I would be attending the Danbala Sevis later in the evening, I was abstaining from alcohol for the day, and so I made do with 5-Hour-Energies and smoked salmon to keep myself upright and human-shaped. I changed into my ritual whites — which was quite a sight, for those who hadn’t ever seen me in that mode — for the ritual, and prepared for that with the rest of the House. There was a memorial service for Eddy scheduled  immediately before the Sevis, and there is a lot of overlap between those who were at that and those who would be attending or participating in honoring Danbala. I am told that the memorial was intensely powerful, and completely divinely profound and important; however, it also I think lent to a certain tension in the air transitioning the space for the Sevis, which was a thing that could have been logistically coordinated better by Programming. Part of the problem with an event like PantheaCon is that it is really fucking hard to coordinate all of the moving pieces; however, I think that sometimes the very real and concrete nature of some of the energies invoked and brought literally down into spaces for certain rituals is not necessarily factored into decisions of this kind. It is just not a good fucking idea to have certain sorts of events happen back-to-back in one space; but no Programming team can be on top of every single thing.

The ritual itself was powerful, and also immensely challenging for me on several levels. Danbala is amongst the biggest and most potent of the lwa (spirits) in Haitian Vodou, and is greeted and treated with a huge amount of deference and reverence. Prior to this evening, He had not come down — through spirit possession — into a priest at any event I was present for, and so to be asked to feed and greet Him when He arrived was a tremendous honor, which I hopefully didn’t fumble through too poorly. However, I will actually not be discussing the rest of the ritual in-depth here at all; Danbala had an interesting exchange with me as I knelt with Him, which — to say the least — left me spun and out of sorts. Under ideal circumstances, I — or anyone else similarly impacted by the very real and very present and very in-your-face Divinity — would have received care and intervention to alleviate some of what I was going through. (For that matter, in other sorts of ritual contexts, I would normally be one of the people doing this.) In this particular evening, however, the only Vodou priest present in the ritual was not longer present, because Danbala was riding her.

The remainder of the ritual is a blur — a thing Rhyd Wildermuth might appreciate me referring to as “Divine Trauma” later that evening, but which was equally just a state of spiritual overload and physical depletion — and my sequence in memory is mapped primarily by scattered images, shaky steps, and spinning rooms. I experienced high bouts of vertigo for the remainder of the night, feeling as though I were pressed against the head of a giant white serpent, who moved up and down through the sea and sky and heavens with such force that I was flattened and then lifted, weightless, and then pushed downward again. My equilibrium was vertically shot and I was loathe to get on an elevator — but stairs were absolutely out of the question. After the ritual was closed, and the space cleaned up, with altars and adornments moved back up to the tenth floor, I felt myself needing to not be sitting still. (The vertigo was worse when I was still.)

I found myself wandering through the halls of the hotel — probably ill-advised in my state, but we’ll take this as a “don’t try this at home” segment — and was appreciatively taken in by an ally, priest, and kinsperson some eight floors down, who spent a few minutes helping me reorient. It is humbling to be the one stumbling about, as I am so often on the other side of that, helping to ground people back into themselves and into this place and into this time, with my own feet never too terribly far from the earth beneath. But this weekend? I don’t know that I ever really landed.

Later I was blessedly collected by a supportive, nourishing presence and gathered up into the Temple of the Morrigan, where communion rites before the altar helped to calm the rise-and-fall; from serpents to ravens, I ended my evening in blessed darkness, safety, and prayerful repose.

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Other highlights from Friday evening include, but are not limited to:

– Walking two dear loved ones — one newly met and one well known — toward their exit from the Double Tree, and helping one of them ground following an ecstatic ritual. I have found that a useful way to help return awareness to the process of energetic and conscious grounding is to not only help press a person back into this world through their feet, physically, but also ask them to breathe their awareness to their toes: “How many toes are you aware of having, right now? No, not how many do you have.. how many are you aware of?” From three toes to six toes in a few minutes is not a bad coming back process. Also, I was pretty drunk. Toes? Really?

– A fantastic conversation with PSVL by the elevators, which somehow led to my being handed a box that might have contained a puppy.

– Two beautiful men — the ever stylish Orion and Sethlan Foxwood — then joined the mix, several yards away from the elevators, and in some completely delirious state of intoxication and glee I somehow managed to acquire a completely fabulous wide-brimmed hat. Apparently I was so contentedly drunk at this point that I kept forgetting, mid-conversation, that I was wearing said hat… and freaking out about it. Also, I still had a box that still might have had a puppy in it, which I’m pretty sure I talked about excessively with both of them. (The next day, Orion lovingly described my antics as “absolutely adorable”, and Sethlan assured me that “you don’t ever need to apologize for being so drunk you delighted in sharing a flask of fantastic rum with me”.)

– With puppy-box and black-hat I marched back up to the second-floor and shared the bounty of the box with the assembled Coru-and-Family. (It turns out that the puppy was dinner, and the dinner was rare and meaty, and probably said “moo” a bunch in life, but it was passed around and devoured heartily and savagely by the assembled war band.) Because obviously the Coru needs to be linked to eating puppy flesh now, after all that business with the once-neighing offerings in Canada…

I may have had a whole lot to drink on Friday, and certainly the sequence of events becomes slightly blurred — wait, where did this hat come from?! — in some areas, but I promise these are mostly reliable accounts of the events. Probably….

Post-PantheaCon: The Second

Posted: February 23, 2014 in Uncategorized

This conference recap is taking longer to write than I’d planned for, because I am in the middle of a move (and a whole bunch of really awesome and profoundly derailing ritual cycles) and I have limited access to the internet (and this computer) in the midst of all of this. But, fuck excuses…

When last I left off here, I had recounted the stunning rites of the Ekklesia Antinoou and the making of two Sancti, recently passed from this world in life. That brought us to around 7:00pm on Friday, the first day of PantheaCon’s 20th Anniversary weekend.

This particular time-slot is actually a tiny bit disjointed for me, because I was tired from the “hunt for PSVL” earlier in the afternoon, sleep-deprived, not quite calibrated for the time-zone yet, and by that point I’d already finished off most of a bottle of Barbancourt 8-year Haitian rum (I shared!) and was moving into a bottle of 2 Gingers Irish Whiskey, which was delicious. The primary highlight of this period, however, was the wonderful time spent in the Coru Cathubodua‘s hospitality suite — one of the two rooms that they occupied, and shared with this humble feral Thracian, on the hotel’s 2nd Floor, the other being a not-yet-at-that-time consecrated Temple one door down — during which I got to engage in both theological discourse and purely fun socializing with dear friends new and old, sworn allies and beloved kin. In short, it was pretty awesome. And then (I think, anyway.. linear time isn’t really my strong suit..!) a most unexpected thing happened. That thing is called…

John Fucking Beckett. I was engaged in some supremely awesome topic or another when suddenly my attention was drawn to my left, and I noticed a man sitting there, talking, gesturing, engaging — and I realized I knew him. “John Fucking Beckett!” I exclaimed, and with those words, the tone for the rest of the Conference (for at least one of us…) was established for the ages. John looked over to me with this completely earnest expression of half-surprise and half-bewilderment at who this profaning savage beside him was. I lifted my con badge, which read “Anomalous Thracian”, just as somebody else introduced me verbally. He lit up. His smile goes all the way to his eyes. We shook hands, and some fantastic conversations flowed and followed — and he even drank one of my god Sabazios‘ favorite beers, while I continued to commune with the 2 Gingers — and a whole lot more profane introductions took place. By the end of the exchange, everyone at the entire event was whispering about the rumored presence of John Fucking Beckett, and there may well have been some threats of revenge against my person from this seemingly mild-mannered blogging druid from the great state of Texas. (In seriousness, meeting and talking with John was amongst the highlights of the weekend for me. If you ever have the opportunity, buy this man a beer, and pick his brain. Be sure to address him by his proper profane name, and he’ll know I sent you.)

The Coru’s Temple was set to be consecrated ritually and opened to the public at 9:00pm, and I was eager — for reasons which can be discerned if you know about my own Temple, and the years spent serving it almost 24/7, before my move from CA and its ritual razing — to be present for that. However, the Spirits had other things in mind, as I was summoned elsewhere for other community engagements (whereupon a certain Haitian spirit gifted me with a bottle of Barbancourt White rum, and clean, tidy offerings were made on my behalf to other spirits at the recently risen altar up on the 10th floor). I got to spend time with blessed and beloved family, including my brothers from Chicago who run the Vodou Store and Big Liz of the Conjure CornerMambo “T” Chita Tann and others, too many to name. After a while, other community (and spiritual) obligations called me away from one family, and back to another — back down to the Coru I flew. (Well, in honesty, I may have stumbled a little. It was very good rum, and my third-ish bottle of the night. I shared from that, too…)

It was a blessed night spent with people I either never get to see outside of this event, or else haven’t seen since my East Coast relocation. It was emotionally hard for me to be “back”, and this caused a stirring of conflict for me at some of the people and geographically-close connections I’d left in this move.

That night I had the blessing of spending the night in the Temple of the Morrigan itself, which was powerful for me for entirely personal reasons. There are very few people who understand what it was like to have the Temple that I had: the care and maintenance of which was a full-time job for years of my life, spent in humble devotion with my gods, and other gods and spirits not at all “mine” who came through or talked their way into being given space within those hallowed walls. There are precious few true Temples to be found around in our Polytheist communities; that there are some (such as Tess Dawson‘s Canaanite Temple, which I have had the pleasure and blessing of visiting and Working in!) is heartening indeed, but as Sannion once pointed out in his blog, taking care of a real Temple and serving a true Temple Priest is complicated, demanding, and fucking hard. I know this, from the years I spent doing that every single day; Tess Dawson knows this, and the Coru certainly experienced it as they traded shifts throughout the weekend priesting in this blessed space that they erected for the event. While I lay on the Temple’s floor that first night, I wept for my own Temple, whose ashes I carry with me. I communed with the spirit of this Temple — not just the Gods and Heroes and Spirits enshrined and invoked and fed and named, but the spirit of the Temple itself — and I found that we got along well. It seemed to know me as a Temple priest, albeit from a different Temple, and a different sort of Temple, but there was recognition just the same.

I don’t know what the conversations between the Coru priests and members were, as they planned for their Temple. I don’t know what their intentions were, from the start, nor if what they wound up with at the conference was indeed what they had set out to call into being. What I do know, however, is that every single fucking person who stepped into that space — shoes removed, body washed in sacred waters, knees bent in reverence as they entered — was graced with something entirely fucking different than the rest of the weekend could offer, and in most cases I would wager entirely fucking different than what could be brought into being in their own homes and shrine-rooms. There is a difference between a Temple and a shrine-room, between a “dedicated space” and a living, sentient and responsive Temple, which was big enough to contain all of the gods named and a thousand thousand left unnamed and all of the blessed and elevated dead and not a few wandering, misplaced souls (both of the corporeal variety and otherwise), which reverberated from inside with fucking majesty and authentic, lived and experienced divine graceOthers have described the Temple in more detail than I will, here, because I don’t really do descriptions. What I can do, however, is a humble, completely unworthy acknowledgement: what was done with that Temple, by the priests whose care and crafting brought it from possibility to awesome reality and by the gods and spirits who guided and guarded the process, was important. Just as the Saint making from earlier in the day was of concrete, causal importance, the very existence of this Temple represents a thing so often lost in our communities and collective devotions: a present-tense of profound, lived magnificence. There was nothing past-tense or “ancient” or “removed” about this Temple, despite the ancient armaments that adorned most of the shrines: this was not a recreated thing from the past, not a reconstructed diorama or a theatrically reproduced installment. This Temple was fucking alive, not because of what it reminded people of collectively or personally or mythologically or academically or literarily, but because of what it fucking was, in a completely stare-you-down-and-breathe-on-your-neck sort of way. And so I give genuine, heartful praises to all of those who had a hand in its inception, and who guided it through into this world.

As I lay in the darkened space, I became intimately aware of the Morrigan’s eyes upon me. I opened my own, and my vision settled on one of the larger statues upon the main shrine to the Phantom Queen, and a severe comfort came to me; not the comfort of down pillows and warm baths and silk sheets, but the comfort of a rucksack and level ground beneath me and open sky above me (even with eight floors of hotel above…) and the ache of toil in my bones and a sort of stunned joy mixing with grief mixing with a healthy dose of familiarly staggering awe. In this rushing calm, I smiled: the statue was from my Temple, left with trusted priests here in California when I moved. In the shadow of Her phantomed gaze, I felt at home; I slept well that night, forgetting for a time all the business of record-breaking-cold and living in a van and struggling with snow and ice and warming myself with tea-lights and animal skins. For that night, I rested. It wasn’t really sleep, and it was only moderately restful, but it was real rest. For the first time in months, and months, I felt that I had permission to clock the fuck out and just surrender to the Night.

And I was not alone in this. Are any of us, ever?

More to come, as I move into recounting Saturday — which was “the day that liquor didn’t happen!” — which I am hoping to at least get most of written up this evening. With a little help from this bottle of Knappogue Castle 12 year Irish Whiskey, I may just get there…

Post-PantheaCon: The First

Posted: February 21, 2014 in Uncategorized

In my Prologue I discussed the first few days of my trip back to California — the first since my epic move away in the late Summer — and the community engagements and hospitalities and personal struggles encountered therein. Now I’ll move into the meaty bits of the Con itself, which may be a distracted bit of writing as I am presently dodging a downpour of rain and stealing high-speed wifi in a Southern New Hampshire shopping mall, which has somehow placed me amidst an alarmingly large group of presumably Australian high-school students all wearing creepy green hoodies denoting their presence here as some sort of ski-trip-team. Except that they’re all buying creepy amounts of clothing and perfumes instead of, you know, skiing. Maybe they don’t know what skiing is in Australia? Anyway, there are twenty or twenty five of them sitting in arm’s reach of me right now (these couches were empty when I sat down) and there is simply not enough whiskey in my flask to handle this. However, on principle, I will not be moved to abandon my fucking couch in the face of even these unspeakable odds. I will stay, seated, drinking, writing, Tippy-tappy.

So anyway. PantheaCon. Friday morning was a mad-rush of assembling stuff for the conference at the home of two dear friends, with ritual items and mundane items and food items and tons of liquor items (and some fresh meaty offerings to be fed lovingly to the wilderness en route) piled in around us in the vehicle. We had time to eat some meaty cow flesh on the way down, which I certainly partook of, but in honesty I was still a bit raw from some of the things that had come up for me the day before, and was finding it challenging to et my feet beneath me as we drove and eventually arrived at the Double Tree. It was certainly one of those “there is not enough coffee in all the world for today” sort of days, which I resolved promptly by consuming dangerous levels of caffeine and then an even more amazing amount of liquor, which served to suitably assist my feeling arrived and grounded. I began my day with a fresh bottle of Barbancourt 8-year, flasked for easy carry, and found my way into the company of a dear friend until the chaos of bag-stowing and room-finding needed to be addressed.

My first panel to attend was PSVL’s talk on the Ephesia Grammata at 1:30, which is a thing I knew very little about beforehand (which is sort of folly on my part, but this is why one knows PSVL!) and I was very excited to dive in, though wound up being a little late in getting into the presentation. And then, just as I was settling, I was summoned away via vibrating text to tend to some logistics with ritual particulars for later in the weekend, and needed to excuse myself…

Which began an awkward few hours for me. The ritual logistics were squared away and several particularly noteworthy boxes of “things and stuff” were left in a room out of the way. I met back up with my friend, and we fetched some lunch and headed poolside for what I was told would be the Ekklesia Antinoou‘s 3:30 Sanctification rites for Rev. Eddy Hyperion Gutiérrez of the Unnamed Path and Olivia Robertson of the Fellowship of Isis, both of whom left this world in a much better state than they entered it, earlier this year. The rites would be the formal process through which each was made an elevated Sanctus in the Ekklesia‘s tradition. On arrival I saw some familiar faces, and many I did not know but which bore the familiar expressions worn when grieving one truly loved by so many. We arrived early, socialized with some beloved friends and allies, and then… time went on. And the ritual leader from the Ekklesia did not arrive. Concern began to grow; this was not a figure known for shirking responsibility or being late to anything. Phone calls were made, texts were sent; all unanswered. My concern grew to genuine, deep worry; there were grieving family members awaiting a major ritual at the pool, and nobody involved in the ritual was present. And so, being me, I went on a search… for just under two hours, scouring the hotel, consulting Programming, Con Ops, on-sight medical staff and security to ensure that there hadn’t been any health issues or accidents. Searched and searched and searched and then.. finally… found somebody else from the Ekklesia.

It turns out that the ritual was at 5:20, not 3:30, and nobody really seemed to know where the miscommunication was. I was tired. I was relieved when I finally heard from the “not-quite-missing” ritual leader, and attended that rite… which was a blessed one. No, it was more than that. Much more.

There is a thing that I think gets missed sometimes in modern Polytheisms and Paganisms and otherwise spirit-traditions and religions overall; the living side of them. We speak of things too frequently in either the past-tense, or with a vein of “hypothetical” secular removal, even when engaging with wholly non-secular topics. We tend to treat religious events (outside of the “specifically personal”) of note and “lore” as being a thing that happened in some distant past, never to be repeated. Things that come up for us today in our ritual lives or our sacred devotions or with chance encounters with the divinities that guide our worlds, we tend to either dismiss as coincidence or only make sacred space for in the individualistic, “personal revelation” sense. Well fuck that. Fuck “personal revelation”, at least for the moment. What happened poolside at 5:20pm on the first day of PantheaCon was not about “personal revelation”, nor was it some dressed-up ceremonial theater to make the present humans feel good — or feel anything — because it wasn’t about us. It was about the making of two fucking gods-blessed saints. This is not a memorial or remembrance, or an abstract elevation; this is a permanent and causally significant rite that has etched itself into the fabric of all that is for all the time that will ever be, and these two blessed humans will live on not only in the ways that all of us do, but as members of the Sancti, who will be called upon by a living religious and ritual tradition as elevate guides, guardians, and divinely risen agents for as long as there is breath to speak the words and, I suspect, well afterward.

There is nothing past-tense about religion or spiritual tradition, about living or about dying. Orion Foxwood describes the engagement with the ancestors and the blessed dead as, at its foundation, a basic acknowledgement of the “continuity of being” that we are all a part of; and yet so many times when rituals or sacred tellings or divine happenings are discussed or engaged it is with this modernist secular step-back that “others” the whole thing as being somehow separate from us, as if the literal engagement with living spirit tradition might somehow infect us.

Well, you know what?

I fucking hope it does. Because what happened at that poolside on Friday evening? That was nothing shy of miraculous; the gods and the spirits and the Orisa and beings I could not begin to name were present, were singing, were dancing, were watching from the ledges above us and the literal second that the energies raised through prayer and chant and invocation had fully amassed around us and the Ekklesia Antinoou‘s formal Latin prayers were completed, a fucking legion of winged messengers burst from the hotel’s roof and carried all that had been done up to the heavens. I counted them, just as they counted us, and my eyes flooded and I smiled and I thought to myself: okay, I’m sort of glad to be here. Because, fuck.

And herein ends Post-PantheaCon THE FIRST. Stay tuned for THE SECOND, wherein Friday evening will be addressed and lead into Saturday.

Pre-caffeination ramble here, as I collect my thoughts from a week of travel, ritual, community, and devotion…

I arrived at Boston’s Logan International yesterday evening, having spent the entire 3,000+ mile flight doing some pretty intense ritual trance stuff (apologies to anyone awkwardly sitting near me on that flight…) and today is all about settling and spending the day with my corvid-kid, who is a feathery delight of excitement in seeing me returned.

But first, a brief overview of the last eight days of madness and travel and community and family and devotion.

I flew into California on the 12th, and coming in over the mountains by plane was *intense*, spiritually: I spent a lot of years with those mountains and that land and those waters and my blood is in them and they are in me somewhere near the marrowed core of who I am, today, because place fucking matters, even and especially when I am not with and in and around it anymore. Flying into the sphere of energy we call the San Francisco Bay Area — which I called “home” for over a decade — was like running into an ex and realizing you weren’t quite as over things as you’d thought, no matter how amicably things had ended. So that happened.

And then some dear friends and allies through the Coru Cathobodua picked me up at the airport — because how else would a Thracian arrive, but with a warband of corvids? — and there was promptly Guinness and the flesh of our enemies (and/or some cattle) served up in a pub. The later highlights of this day include handling Haitian boa constrictors (which were absolutely lovely) at the East Bay Vivarium (which I miss being local to…) before settling in at the home of another corvidy-allie for an evening of gyros, Raven Eye Imperial Stout, over-spending my liquor budget pretty much immediately (for offerings and rituals, mostly…) at BevMo (which I also miss…) and then somewhere in there I tried to eat some copper talismanic metals, which I thought were cookies, and then I think I was wisely put to bed.

Thursday was a day of tattoos at Dream Masters with Svetlyo, who is one of my best friends and conveniently also the artist of the in-progress devotional tattoo sleeve on my right arm. This was a high-pain day for me, not because of the tattoo process itself — I have virtually no pain response to tattooing — but from the contortion work I needed to do with my horrendously nerve-damaged and chronically maligned arm to get it in the right position for the work. This was a bit more physiologically triggering for me than expected, and brought up some felt (rather than remembered) flashbacks to times of restraint and breaking bones and burning — because childhood should always leave a mark or two — and I was humbly and deeply reminded of my own edges, and the staggering depths that await just over them, in those spots where the guard-rails have maybe rusted out a bit. I was reminded in this process just why issues of consent, boundary, and freedom are so immeasurably important to me on a human level, in addition to the fact that each of my gods emphasizes these as paramount in Their worship and rites. (It is an interesting quandary for the ages: did I encounter the sort of torture that I did in youth because of who my gods were, to highlight the import of those lessons and the liberties that lead away from them, or did my gods find me because of these experiences? Given that my memory of relation with and to Them predates my memory of such things, in a linear sense it would seem answered; but who amongst us is still fool enough to give merit to linear consideration?)

Post-tattoos there were many hugs and then off again, for many drinks and — most importantly — some very moving and intimate (no, not like that) offering rites with a certain War Goddess, in which we assembled priests (three in count) experienced and witnessed some interesting and somewhat precedent-setting moments. Witnessing ritual events that get taken up and driven by the spirits and gods of our traditions — or other people’s traditions, for that matter! — is always a beautiful and vitally affirming thing. However, witnessing ritual events that there is just no prior framework for, or given moments that defy the laws of physics — or even bend the accepted norms of certain spiritual technologies — is a blessing so humble and resolutely profound that I can’t begin to offer words to recount. So instead I will simply say, it was a good night, and it is a damn good time to be  a polytheist. (It was also very very personally moving to make offerings at this particular shrine statue, because it is Her form from my Temple, left here in capable hands of capable priests, when I moved.)

The conversations of the evening were hospitality, place, sacrifice, death, warriorship in our post-post-modern age and — of course — alliance, kinship and friendship across distance, time and circumstance. I processed in sacred space my own edges from earlier, discussing from a place of rising calm the challenges that I returned to, with my arm twisted back. I laughed a bit, at my own expense, as here I am somebody who can break a leg and walk it off over a few months of living in -45 degree winters in a van, but having my arm twisted round for consented sacred and devotional tattoos brought an opening of floodgates and a prone warrior’s savage rage, breathed through and controlled; PTSD is fascinating, humbling, heavy, and I count the blessings of my gods when I am able to learn more about how that weave works its way through the somewhat tattered and stained tapestry that my gods have woven me to be. I thank my gods for the lessons, guidance, and blessings granted throughout my life, which allow me to sit in abject terror with a retained sense of dignity, and the strength to look at trauma and darkness and pain and see where I still have work to do. Because we all have work to do. What I do today allows me to be that much more useful to others tomorrow; this world has no shortage of others reaching for purchase to pull themselves to safety from similar in their own lives and stories.

People sometimes ask me why I would “choose” to work with gods who are as dark, or terrible, or painful, or extreme, or heavy as the ones that I do. Firstly, I made no choices, but I would choose Them in an instant just the same. In an age of complacency and comfort-seeking blindness, my gods have shown me just how versatile and exceptional human-formed beings and tenacious Will can be, when circumstances are shifted from comfort. I am sometimes mis-perceived as a “doom and gloom” Thracian, which is not necessarily untrue; but from this vantage in the gutters and burial mounds and wind-swept wild ditches, I see only hope in humans, and a flickering thing which can and should and must be rekindled to roaring light to move forward in our lives, our devotions, and our communities. I count my scars as blessings, for each carried a death in part or whole, and each of these brought me closer to understanding life; this is the language of my gods and the katabastic curriculum of my tradition. From the rubble resulting from a nine-day-fall, one can look up and around with a renewed clarity and perspective literally not achievable beforehand. My religion is built upon that tenth day, of shallow breath and spinning head and bleeding earth and sweat-stung eyes and if there is not at least a touch of terror, how can its opposites ever be appreciated?

Hail! to the Terrible Gods, who I know also in their lighter and more inspiring roles; but Hail! to Them here as the tarnished ones, the jagged ones, who oversee lovingly the spiking pains and hallowed depths that bring such clarity and grace, if given chance and guidance. Hail! to the gods of the spaces between all things, to those who overflow the edges and lay barren the rivers and then flood them again with the blood of every fear you can ever conceive. Hail! to the gods who hold a mirror darkly before us, in which we might finally meet ourselves as we are, rather than as we wish ourselves to be. Hail! to the gods, whose love is madness and death, and in whom I find hope in despair, strength in broken weakness, alliance in a sea of enemies and solid earth in a sea of change.

I could keep on going, but… this is merely the Prolog Blog, and soon there will be Part the First, of the PantheaCon sprawl.

Stay tuned. I need coffee.

Thinking, today, as I pack for PantheaCon. And this came to mind:

Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’” ― Isaac Asimov

Much as I agree with the above quote — which is more true today than it EVER was in Asimov’s life — I also am very, very worried by the amount of anti-religion, anti-supernatural, anti-mystic, anti-magic, anti-Other that I have been observing — in increasing quantity — amongst the Pagan and Polytheist communities. It saddens me to see the spirits stripped away from spirit traditions and communication styles; it saddens me to see Humanism (or Humanist ideals) spoken of by co-“religionists” with the same zeal and fervor that they carried in dangerous eras of our past. Is it really so hard to be both firmly theistic and spiritual and magically configured, AND recognize the power of science, mind?

I would like to see a rise in “empirical polytheistic religion” — that is, polytheistic religion “based on, concerned with, or verifiable by observation or experience rather than theory or pure logic” — instead of this zealous anti-mystic trend that people keep trying to call religion and spirituality.

I posed this topic on Facebook, and a friend was quick to reply:

“Traditional Occultism was supposed to offer a format for empirical mysticism. But, modern Paganism I think has been divorced from it for some time and embraced the all-accepting “New Ageism” so prevalent within the movement. In response to the pan-acceptance has risen Humanism, trickled even into Recon and other Polytheist camps. “Oh no we really don’t BELIEVE in the myths and Gods…” Because they can’t seem to somehow justify how anyone can seriously worship Deities who are conniving, argumentative, etc.”  — Oracle

There seems to be a growing — and disturbing, to me — trend amongst “spiritual communities” to quickly distance one’s ideas of religion or spirituality from “real belief” in favor of more comfortable psychological or Humanist models, or — just as frustrating and equally dangerous — “relativism”. I have seen this in shamanic circles (which of course are already dangerously interwoven with certain psychological modalities and models, thanks to Harnerian koolaid) and magickal circles (which are quick to shift footing to the “reason and mind” side of the their traditions and away from anything stinking of actual belief or paradigm acknowledging the presence of “real” spirits and gods) and so on. Further, people don’t seem to recognize that there are differences between magickal or occult approaches to “stuff”, and religious or devotional approaches, which is frightening to me: either is fine and both are good but they are not the same thing. (I have both a magickal practice and a devotional practice; these are not the same.)

Also? Fuck relativism.

Relativism is ONLY useful as a navigation toolset, NOT as a central processing paradigm. Shut the fuck up with that shit altogether, too, if you never bothered to learn the disciplines of rhetoric and debate, you smarmy fucks.

Relativism works in an intellectual’s toolset only when leveraged against a fucking backbone of intellectual discipline, rather than watered-down trite one-size fits all armchair “everyone’s an expert!” bullshit.

Fuck everyone. Also, I’m out of whiskey, because I decanted it all into flasks and packed them for PantheaCon. Rum, too. So I’m down to this red ale, which is tasty, but.. not quite the same.

calvin-and-hobbes-on-postmodernism

PantheaCon 2014

Posted: February 10, 2014 in Uncategorized

So, I’ll be there, and rumor has it that I’m actually a lot more personable and friendly than some people might assume if they’ve only ever known me by my blog. Especially if you’re buying.

Safe travels to all those making the trek, from wherever, and hope to see some of you there. Remember, the bar at the hotel *does* stock some decent Scotches, but BevMo is never too too far away in the Bay Area, and they have a *much* better selection, and it won’t cost you a year’s salary to walk away with a whole bottle.