In The Air

•September 22, 2014 • 1 Comment

My whole religious and spiritual development as a polytheist has been odd. I have realized that there was never really a bit of ‘pagan’ development for me—yes, my first contact with other polytheists was via a group that defines itself as pagan and celebrates the Wheel of the Year, but the undertone of the group and it’s members was and is that polytheism is largely a given; that the Gods and Spirits are individual entities with individual wants, needs, agendas, and personalities. For whatever reason, as a terrified proto-spirit-worker who had been shoved from agnosticism to a world full of Gods, this made sense and it was never really a question.

In that oddness, I started building a foundation based on what I saw and experienced which has led to some very distinct differences with many of my fellow polytheists and good-neighbor pagans. One of those differences came to light this weekend, when that group that I’m loosely affiliated with held the weekend-long celebration of Mabon.

In that particular community, Mabon is about making sure there is enough to last the winter—enough food, enough warmth, enough community, ENOUGH. Being up here in New England where the winters have been getting more and more brutal, it is vitally important to have enough of all of those life-sustaining things and that is the focus of the Mabon rite proper.

This is also the time when many polytheists and pagans feel that the Wild Hunt begins to ride, when a variety of souls and beings begin to mass and take off throughout the world to gather souls or gather prey or gather whatever it is they and their Leader see fit to amass. There are as many version of the Hunt as there are vaguely Germanic or Britannic cultures and what you assign to it depends on what folklore you are looking at.

This community also hosts a literal Wild Hunt. It is held separately from the more family-friendly Mabon rite, as it is very much an adults-only rite in the sense that it carries a lot of intensity with it, rather than it containing any sort of sexual expression. Individuals who self-select as prey are marked and sent off into the ample woods to hide from the self-selected predators who, at a specific signal, run off to the woods to hunt the prey. There is a large fire built and those who attend who are not running as predator or prey have jobs to do as well, as this is a no-spectator’s affair. There are the Priests, who are coordinating the rite itself and leading ritual drama while the others work. There are the Hearthmakers, who are preparing the ritual meal of beef, beef liver, and a few skewers of vegetables over a cook fire. There are the Firetenders, who make sure that the fire stays huge and hot to guard against the encroaching cold and dark. There are the Artists, who do large pieces in the style of cave paintings to lend sympathetic magic to the Hunt in hopes that it will be fruitful and bless the community with enough to make it through to the spring.

Herne, the Hunter Himself, comes down in possession for the rite. His host is draped in skins and wears nothing else, save for a rack of antlers affixed to their head. Herne is the One Who begins the Hunt and, as the entire acre plus field and woods is dead silent when He arrives, if you listen carefully, you can hear Him growl out ‘ride, My hounds’ to send the predators off into the woods.

If the predators do their job well, they successfully hunt the prey and bring back each captured human to be laid at Herne’s feet. When all the prey have been captured or Herne is satisfied—whichever comes first—He blows His hunting horn, signaling the end of the people-Hunt, and that reverberates through more than one plane. He inspects His prey and, if He finds them acceptable, He ritually slaughters each one by removing what they were marked with, miming slitting their throats with a ritual knife, and pouring an animal-blood-and-wine mixture upon them.

He leaves silently after that, carrying the body He is riding into the woods, and the prey are sung back to life by the community and are fed first, in honor of their sacrifice.

I ran as prey for many years and I remember the absolute terror the Hunt inspired. Here I am, crouched in the woods in the dark with no light, while this massive Deity roams around and His hounds are out for my blood. There were times when I was literally stepped on by a predator and they didn’t See me and there were times when they saw me and I took off running like a scared chicken, but I was caught each and every time and slaughtered at Herne’s hand every year. I remember feeling the slice on my energetic throat and how long it took to heal. I remember the year that I actually manifested a very, very thin surface cut on my actual throat when I know for a fact that His knife never touched my actual skin. I remember the year I lost my voice right after the Hunt, much in the manner I would have had someone cut my throat and sawed their way through my vocal cords.

I no longer run as prey because I am no longer lawful prey, as I have been bought and marked as specific prey to a specific Hunter. Running as a predator would be amusing, but only in the sense that I would probably trip over a prey and fall over while they run like hell past me—my body is too old and decrepit these days to try and locate prey in the woods and bodily haul them out. I choose not to priest for the rite, I can’t cook over a fire for shit, and I am no good for hauling or cutting firewood, so I am always the Artist.

This year was no different—I went to add my magic as an Artist. I packed my backpack with a few things that I thought might be useful from my own supplies [I didn't end up needing any of them, but I was a Girl Scout once upon a time] and set myself down by the roaring fire to begin to paint the Hunt with my fellow Artists.

I sardonically told my friends there that when you take away my brushes, my artistic talent relocates elsewhere. However, the painting needed to happen so I fingerpainted as best I could. I painted Herne with His broad antlers spotted with blood and I swiped down paint to resemble the prey out in the woods. I painted corn and, at the direction of a friend, a few specific animals that she felt needed a place there. Others added their own renditions of Herne, of prey, of humans hunting, and of themselves.

There have been years when the Hunt was not successful—no prey were captured, Herne was very displeased, and the community was lectured by Him [no small event, as He very rarely speaks to anyone but His hounds—but this year, prey were caught and laid at the Hunter’s feet. After He called the Hunt with His horn, He slaughtered each one, gave them one long look, blessed His hounds, and disappeared into the woods. Amusingly, as He called the Hunt and slaughtered His prey, the nearby-ish neighbors chose that exact moment to set off fireworks.

While He was on His way out, the Artist’s lifted the three sections of our painting and laid them into the ritual bonfire to burn as an offering in thanks for Herne’s presence, blessings, and a successful Hunt. He accepted our efforts, taking pieces of the burning painting high into the sky until they looks like burning lanterns. It was incredibly beautiful.

That’s the Wild Hunt I know—where the Mighty Hunter sends out the hounds to bring Him His due and assure that the community makes it through the long, cold winter. I remember having a moment of serious dissonance when someone told me about Odin as the Leader of the Hunt because I have never seen that—only Herne and the hoards of the Dead and other beings behind Him riding across the sky. It’s not that I think folks who see Odin as the One Who calls the Hunt are wrong, it’s just a vastly different Hunt that I have never seen.

The Hunter Himself is incredible. He is, by and large, the biggest non-corporeal Being that I have been in the same ‘room’ with—bigger than any of my Gods, bigger than any of the Gods of my friends and loved ones. He’s huge and He completely fills the entire property [and then some] that the rite takes place on. I was busy when He arrived, but I knew He was there when I got incredibly dizzy and every single hair on my body stood on end. I turned to a good friend to confirm that the Hunter indeed had arrived and, as he nodded, I saw Him. He walked right by the fire, but remained cloaked in shadows—only the faintest outline of His antlers and His attendant trailing Him were visible—and, as He sent out the hounds, the entire field and woods sunk into total blackness. It was one of the situations where, if you stepped out of the fire light, you were swallowed whole.

I don’t often get wowed by Deity in possession—I have seen enough of Them embodied that it’s not a shock or something completely out of the ordinary—but Herne’s antlers were magnificent. Physically, His host was wearing a moderately sized rack of deer antlers, but Herne turned His head and suddenly it was a massive rack that extended a foot or so past the host’s shoulders. It wasn’t Him going ‘look how big I am’, either—it was just Him.

After the Hunt, I spent time chatting with friends and colleagues that I don’t get to see very often, which was really, really nice. I ate delicious meat and got to be chatty before heading out to my car [where I met a friend who I haven't seen in too long coming down the road] and heading home.

Participating rites like the Hunt always ends up a little unwieldy to me. As I am mostly moving within the African and Diasporic religious communities these days, it is an utterly foreign and unrelated practice that doesn’t exist with the Lwa or the Orisha or the Nkisi or any other African or Diasporic divinity that I have run into. That’s not surprising, as it is largely European in nature, as is much of the assortment of pagan-flavored holidays in the United States.

And yet, even as it has no bearing on my religious practice, I am a human and I am tied to place. I live in New England, where was have a seasonal ‘wheel of the year’ and I am affected by what happens here. I know what it is to not have enough in the dead of winter, as myself and my roommate went without heat off and on throughout last winter as oil was too expensive for us. I know what it is to look into the darkness [whether internal or external] and swirling snow and wonder whether or not the sun will ever shine again.

Blessedly, we will not freeze this year in our new apartment with gas [read: affordable] heat, and my inner darkness is a lot less scary these days. However, the dark of winter is still dangerous and still needs to be warded against. You don’t make I through by sheer luck.

So, I straddle two worlds in yet another way—being rooted in the place I physically inhabit and rooted in the religious traditions I keep getting kicked into. It’s another bridge that I find kind of awkward, but nowhere near as hard to stand on as some of the other ones I’ve been building lately. That’s a big blessing.

The season has also brought me some unexpected changes in some of my taboos. It appears that I may have been released from my food restrictions or, at the very least, I am being left to self-police what I eat. In the middle of a really, REALLY stressful period a few weeks ago, I was craving a cheeseburger, which has been on the No List as beef was off the menu. I threw myself in front of the Mister and my Father [the two who are responsible for my food taboos] and begged to have a friggin’ cheeseburger.

I didn’t hear ‘no’ or get a message of ‘that would be an unwise choice’, which is what I usually get. I didn’t get a ‘yes’, either, but, as I told Them, I took silence as Them either not caring or giving me rope to hang myself. I wanted that damn cheeseburger, so I took the chance that I was about to hang myself. I acquired my tiny meat savior and gobbled it down, then spent the rest of the evening waiting to get violently ill, as that’s what happened the one time I willfully broke my food taboos in a fit of rebellion.

I didn’t get sick at all. At the rite this past weekend, I gobbled down tasty, TASTY beef and liver [I usually hate liver] and I didn’t get ill then, either, but I usually have special dispensation for eating in ritual space. I had some carrot juice in a drink today and have yet to be ill, too, or get the side-eye from the Mister or Eleggua. I’m not going to test the waters and go wild with a barbeque feast or a pile of carrots or anything, but maybe a piece of beef once in awhile would be okay. We’ll see, I suppose.

I have a lot of painting to do, as I’m hoping to enter a piece in the Orisha Art Show that’s coming up in Toronto, and a lot coming up this week that I hope to write about. If you celebrate the Hunt or find that it has meaning in your spiritual life, may you be as blessed I your observance as I was in mine and may the Hunter cull that which is not needed from your life and replace it with those things that will see you to the spring.

Teasing Out Threads: What I Did On My Summer Vacation

•September 15, 2014 • Leave a Comment

The quiet existence over here at Rock of Eye doesn’t translate to real quiet in my day-to-day. While I am on actual vacation from my dayjob right now [praise be to all the Powers, as I thought it wasn't going to manifest and I NEEDED a break], summer tends to be vacation season in the US, regardless of whether or not you actually get a vacation then or have a schedule that allows for such things. I saw a bunch of blog posts of this sort and I liked the idea, so here’s my take on what my summer vacation entailed.

To start, summer is almost always my busiest time of year. I do most of my event-ing during the spring and summer and it has been a time when I am not in a classroom, which frees up a lot of time for me to do the long, long list of things that get pushed away during a semester. This year has largely been no different.

  • I did make it to a few events, though I sadly had to cancel on the Polytheist Leadership Conference due to being unpleasantly ill. I was one of the Ordeal Track facilitators for Dark Odyssey: Fusion [NSFW], which I wrote about here, and I taught two classes at Dark Moon Rising [NSFW] last weekend, which is a gathering for pagan-types into BDSM and other kinky things. Both were excellent experiences, if a little exhausting for a variety of reasons [none bad].
  • I began to paint and make art again. I stopped painting a handful of years ago for negligible reasons and it has kind of eaten at me because I love to paint and I’m passably talented at it. Once I opened the door this time, it wasn’t just opening it a crack—it was ripping it off the hinges and burning it for fuel. I have been painting SO MUCH and it’s kind of all I want to do these days. I have to convince myself to that sleep is a necessity and that I have other things to do besides slap paint on canvas/wood/anything that will hold still. I was told many years ago that my art belonged to the Gods and, since I’ve started actually doing art again, They’ve paid a LOT more attention to what gets done.
  • In that vein, it has been sort of Grand Central Station in my life with regards to the divine. As I said to a few friends recently, I have had Gods practically tapdancing in my living room. Eleggua has seen fit to bring some of His friends around, so I have had a steady stream of Orisha popping in and asking for things like space in my home and the Mister has decided that I am well-mannered and well-groomed enough to be sent off to meet His family [particularly His various divine spouses], which is terrifyingly intimidating and a sort of polyamory that I have no practical experience in. In about a month, I almost doubled the number of shrines I tend, with the majority of them being in my moderately-sized apartment. Between accomodating all the divine preferences as to placement and making it so I and my roommate can walk around without tripping over things, it’s been a bit of a challenge with regards to space. I am expecting possibly three more divinities Who will want space and that has me ringing my hands a bit.
  • I have put college on the back burner for now. I pulled out of last semester due to medical reasons and had a bit of a come-to-Jesus moment regarding how I was feeling about school. I was miserable because there was never enough time between my 60+ hour work week, 2-4 college classes, all of my spiritual and religious commitments, and the need for sleep and occasional human contact in a social context. When I started examining why I was so dissatisfied beyond the time constraints, I had to get real honest with myself about my current career path as it related to my education. I am pretty burned out professionally due to my work environment and my education trajectory had me doing the things that drain me as the thing that would make me money. The idea of doing that made me want to jumo off a bridge, so I nixed continuing my education on the path that it was going. I don’t know if I’ll ever return to that path [I doubt it], but I’m out of school for now and am entertaining what will come next for me. I’ve considered art school, which would bring me a lot of joy and little money, and religious studies in African, Diasporic, and minority religions, which would bring me some joy and more money if I get higher level degrees. Both of those things are a ways down the road and none of it is happening now.
  • I have nailed down some of my energetic issues and that has shed some serious light on some of my health issues, which have both increased a bit and had some light shed on them as well by my medical providers. There may be an answer to the medical issues, which will be a Good Thing, but it could/will be negatively affected if I can’t get the energetic issues under control. Out of all the things that I have been doing lately, this is the one that mystifies me the most and that is going to take the most creative problem-solving to treat.
  • I have gotten down to serious business in the writing process for one of my need-to-write books. I’m pretty sure, in a spooky sense, it is going to serve as a capstone on a rather large bit of Work and training that I’ve been doing and undergoing for quite some time. I’m hoping to have a significant chunk of my fact-checking and research done at the end of this dayjob vacation, as well as some actual writing, too.

All of these things have sort of tied [heh] together into the main focus of the last few months, which has been teasing out threads from what I am presented with. In the last year, there has been a lot of ‘here, learn about/learn how to do this thing’, which I have done without totally understanding why. I have now come to a place where it’s ‘that thing you learned about/learned how to do? Take it apart and find the thread of what actually is going on there and how it can be used in a completely different way’.

This has been both amusing, fascinating, and terrifying in turns. It is endlessly amusing because this is very much what quite a bit of my magical apprenticeship was all about—look at the way this thing is done magically, then rip it apart to find the bits that make it work so you can do it in a completely different way. It is fascinating because it plays to how I think about things [now—I didn't always, but the apprenticeship changed a lot of that] in that I get to apply all of my sociological methods and professional skills and deductive reasoning to things that I actually give a fuck about, versus sitting in a classroom and learning about things that bore me to death.

The terrifying part is that I know where this is leading and it’s not something I am looking forward to or clapping my hands with glee over. It’s going to be a very, VERY hard thing and is going to bring a lot of bullshit to my door. I understand [as much as a human can] why They are putting me on this trajectory, but boy do I not like it. It’s not a happening-right-now kind of thing, but the steel framing for the foundation is almost complete and then it will be time to start pouring. It’s pretty daunting, but I know They have my back on this and that They believe I can do it. I believe that I can, too, but the cost is going to be really, REALLY high. However, They have always demonstrated that the pay is commensurate not only with the amount of Work put in, but the amount of pain shouldered and suffered through. There are seeds of excitement in there, as it’s kind of thrilling, but those seeds are well-buried in the soil of ‘holy shit, I hope you Guys know what you’re doing’ and ‘why did you choose me, of all people, for this’. Inevitably, the answers I get are ‘We do’ and ‘because’, which is pretty much how it goes.

It’s still good to be me. I am on my dayjob vacation and am enjoying the metaphorical umbrella drinks while the seasons switch over to fall up here in New England. May the Gods continue to treat me well and may your Gods do the same.

To the Ground.

•August 15, 2014 • Leave a Comment

As a matter of course, I try to keep as emotionally uninvolved with current events as possible. It doesn’t help my mental health to throw roots into whatever mess is manifesting in the world at any given time and, if I am brutally honest, I deal with enough of the horrors of humanity at my day job and I am all full up on human suffering these days.

The murder of Michael Brown last weekend was the first time in a long time where I sucked some serious air through my teeth and felt my heart drop. He was shot down with anywhere from two to eight bullets while his hands were in the air and while he was complying with an order to lower himself to the ground. Since his death, Ferguson has been in a state of complete chaos and breakdown. The militarized police force [for a small city/town of 20,000] has used illegal and discriminatory actions to attempt to quell the civil uprising that has filled the streets. Civilians in positions of peaceful protest—seated with their hands raised in the air—have been shot with rubber bullets, subjected to acoustic weaponry, hit with tear gas, pepper sprayed, and chased down by police in riot gear. Members of the press were assaulted, arrested and held illegally, or physically removed from the town.

Today, five days after Michael was shot and killed, the Missouri governor finally responded to this utter abortion of justice and civil rights by stripping the Ferguson police department of any authority and charging the Missouri State Highway Patrol with restoring lawful order to Ferguson, which means assuring that nonviolent protests are allowed to continue without the illegal and brutal interference of Ferguson’s ‘peace’ officers. It seems that, as of this writing, this has turned the tide a bit as it appears that protestors are no longer being fired upon or arrested for simply being present.

The situation has made me physically ill and I have not allowed myself to spend more than five minutes at a time looking at coverage of this disaster for fear that my anger will slip it’s leash. I’ve purposefully stayed out of discussions about this and have spent less time perusing social media and my usual internet haunts because, until today, there has been no hope in this situation—none at all. It has been a terrible, fatal mistake that ripped open a wound that turned septic immediately and there’s just no swimming in that.

I have watched what other religious and spiritual bloggers have had to say, though, and reading those thoughtful and meaningful words has led me to feel like a bit of a freak. There has been quite a bit of writing about what people’s Gods might have to say on the matter or what Their response might be or what these polytheists or pagans will be doing on their own to try and quell the awful spectacle in Missouri. All of this has made me want to tuck my Gods into my pocket and shuffle towards the door while whistling Yankee Doodle in the hopes that no one will notice me sliding along the wall.

My Gods, by and large, are Destroyers. They rend, tear, crush, shred, pulverize, and otherwise destroy those things that do not serve the larger picture that us meatsacks don’t get but tiny glimpses of. They all have blood on Their hands and They make absolutely no attempt to hide that or clean it up or pretend it’s not there. They are not peace-loving divinities and They value the power and necessity of spilled blood. Each of Them has done terrible things in pursuit of achieving what They or Those to Whom They answer believe to be right and just. If my Gods were in a super hero movie, They would be the definitive Bad Guys.

I was incredibly reticent to approach Them on this at all. At first, I was concerned I would get Their anger in full force, which would break my head and likely destroy me, but when I dug deeper into those feelings, I realized my tiptoeing around the topic was because I knew I wasn’t going to get righteous indignation from Them or a desire for things to settle into what us meatsacks see as an acceptable peace. They are not human and They don’t view things as we do at all, so there would be no human response from Them.

Some parts of me wish I had been wrong on that, but I wasn’t.

When I approached Them individually, I was largely met with an impassive gaze and a general sense that They would not stop this destruction because, in some ways, it was productive and useful to Them. That’s not to say that They were gleeful over Michael Brown’s death or that They are pleased that people are frustrated, grieving, and deeply angry. However, it, like all things, serves a purpose. Blood spilled nourishes a barren wasteland so that something new might grow and They will not stop that. The closest any of Them got to the human expression of outrage was Sekhmet and I believe that’s because of the aspect She comes to me in, as the Protector of those who cannot protect themselves. Michael Brown and the protestors being harmed very much fall under Her jurisdiction there, but She is also a Destroyer Who does not hide the fact that She is covered in blood and, as such, She paces and views the destruction alongside Others.

The Mister chastised me gently in a you-already-know-the-answer sort of way and remained distant with His attention focused elsewhere, and several other of my divinities followed suit.

I approached my Father last and He heard me out in my very human sorrow and anger without a word while we stood on some sort of hill above what might have been Ferguson. I asked Him why things were so terribly unfair and why things were like this, and He chose not to give me any reasons, likely because there are no answers to those questions that would satisfy my human emotional response. Instead, He looked at me, looked at the town below, and simply said Perhaps you don’t understand before heading off to wherever He was bound.

He’s not wrong. In fact, He’s very right. I don’t understand, really, despite how hard I might try. I am limited by the fact that I am largely human with a mostly human outlook on humanity. I can’t for a minute pretend I have the worldview of my Father, Who ordered the slaughter of an entire village and anyone who passed the village gates that day because they offended Him, Who sat and watched this, and Who then ate dinner. I am not that big or wise. I get glimpse of how They see things when They see fit to show me and as I grow to know Them more, but I will never see this world through Their eyes, ever.

While this is a distasteful reality, it is one I accept as being true and it’s part of the price of admission with my Gods. If I dig deep, I’m somewhat okay with this. It makes sense to the parts of me that are not human and the parts that have been machined by my Gods. In the end, I can’t change it so I might as well get comfy with it.

Of course, being who I am, it’s not just Their worldview that I get to content with. I also work under Their Will and, in this case, it means have a torn logical viewpoint over my part in this. On the one hand, there is the spiritual worker who knows that he can throw some of his brand of spooky at this mess in the hopes that it will stop the proverbial bleeding for at least a second. On the other hand, I am a child of the Crossroads and the Mister’s boy and I fucking well know better than to do anything more than watching it unfold. In fact, since They were well damn aware of how strongly I feel, I was Told on no uncertain terms that I was absolutely not to lift one magical finger to sway this situation in any direction. I know better than to believe that I am Alex The Great and Powerful and that my noodlings would stop things in their tracks, but I am not to contribute even one drop to any of the buckets involved here. It must burn and burn out on it’s own, as, in the worlds that I walk in, trying to put a hand in the water to change the flow of the river would be unethical and directly against whatever has been decided upon for this spot in time.

It makes sense. It follows what I have been taught. It doesn’t, however, make me happy. The part of me that is the Mister’s boy and my Father’s child absolutely knows that sticking my hands in this situation would be an undertaking that I cannot see all paths out of. There’s been a lot of talk of spiritual contamination and boy HOWDY would stepping into that arena provide a huge amount of that. Still, it doesn’t make me happy because I dislike feeling powerless.

When I brought that up in protest of the memo that says I would keep my magical stuff inside the ride at all times in regards to Ferguson, I got The Look from my Father and a terse statement of I am not being active right now. Am I powerless?

No, Papa. No, you are not.

So, I watch. I stand as the Sacred Observer who witnesses what unfolds so that it is remembered and not written off as a misunderstanding or an occurrence that was blown out of proportion. My Gods have not turned away from Their people and, as I love Them, neither will I turn my gaze from their suffering and sorrow. It may be the least that I can do right now, but it is about the only thing I can do.

I won’t pray for peace because peace is a scab over a wound that is full of pus and rotting flesh. Instead, I will pray that we learn from this and that this resolves to the best possible outcome, whatever that may be. I pray that the man who lit the match that started this fire via firing bullets into Michael Brown’s body is judged justly by his Gods. May the Gods show those suffering mercy in their grief and grant them strength in their hearts.

A farewell, but not a good-bye.

•July 28, 2014 • Leave a Comment

No, this blog is not going away. No, I am not going away.

I sat for some ‘scorched earth’ divination last weekend, which was the first time in a long time—something like four years—that I have had extensive divination done on just about every aspect of my life, both mundane and spiritual. Over two days, my two fantastic and beloved diviners sat down for eight hours of divination for me and it was, by and large, pretty damn lovely. There was some hard stuff, as there always is, but it was surprisingly positive and cheery. This is notable, as these diviners have been reading for me for the last eight years and have had to deliver some really awful, horrid, and life-shattering news to me. It’s very nice when I don’t end up crying halfway through or walk away feeling like the Wyrd and the Gods have flushed me down a toilet to swim with the sewage.

Notably, this was the first time I had extensive divination on my relationship to and with Sekhmet. There are many reasons why I haven’t had anything more than a cursory look at how She and I relate, with the chiefest among them being that I have always, ALWAYS had something more intrusive to deal with and, frankly, She and I have not always seen eye to eye and, though I was certainly the one to maintain the hostility there, it certainly kept things terse for many, many years.

She tapped me maybe two years ago to give her a shrine, and I flat out told Her to go away because I was quite focused on the Mister and He was my priority in the moment. She did go away for maybe four months and then returned to demand that I build Her a shrine and I get started on it NOW.

So, I did. She has a small, very simple shrine in my home that has marginally satisfied Her. She would like bigger and would like some specific additions that I am considering, but it serves Her purposes, it seems, and mine, as it both honors Her and allows me to utilize Her shrine space as needed for Work…and, almost as soon as the shrine was built to Her satisfaction, the Work came. She downloaded a massive puja-style public ritual that She would like performed and noted that I should be doing a monthly shrine service for Her as Her priest since, you know, I was Her priest and all.

It was easier to just do the Work than to dig my heels in and spend valuable time and energy arguing with Her and detailing just how much I didn’t want to do shrine work. I began shrine services quietly and, while I advertised them a bit in the beginning, they became a private function for Her in a way that supported what I believe priestwork to be—focusing on bring a divinity more fully into this world and serving the communities near and dear to Them. As Her priest, Sekhmet came to me as the Protector of those who could not protect themselves. Specifically, She came as the Protector of women who had been abused, maligned, trafficked, and otherwise mistreated.

In this, She asked me for time given to Her people and this involved me going out and volunteering at a women’s shelter in my city and engaging homeless women who weren’t aware of the resources available to them. I’m grateful that She saw fit to send me to people with whom I already had experience professionally, as I would have fumbled around a lot more if I had not. This sounds like a fairly easy mission, but it was a significant act of sacrifice for me, as the only volunteer shifts open when I started doing Her work were the same shifts I work at my paycheck job. This meant that at least once a month I was either giving up a paying shift or turning down delectable overtime. Either way, it was money I could have really used, but sometimes the Work takes precedence.

As I went forward in these tasks for Her, She stepped back quite a bit and became very hands off. This bothered me a bit, as it was quite unusual for how we related to each other, but my plate has been very, very full and something occasionally slides off. My natural worry was that I had screwed something up, but I pointedly didn’t feed into that, as I didn’t have the time or energy to go on a truth-seeking mission.

However, when I went for divination, my relationship with Her was on the list of things that I needed my diviners to read on for me. I was incredibly nervous for them to do so because I was quite sure that I was going to get a face full of ‘priest, you done fucked up and it’s time to get with the program’. Fittingly, She was the last divinity that was read on, which is amusing given what I heard back.

Happily, She does not appear to be displeased with me nor did it come through that I have failed Her in some ways. In fact, I have done passably well by Her to the point where our arrangement in largely over with and She is now a part of my past as a spirit-worker and God-owned individual.

I had a jaw-drop moment when the diviner pronounced this, but it was like puzzle pieces fitting into place in that it made perfect goddamn sense. She is the divinity with Whom I have had the longest relationship with—She showed up first, put Her hand on my head, and said ‘time to learn to swim’ before throwing me in the pool eight years ago or so. She was the One Who tore my life apart to rebuild me into something and someone useful, Who opened my head, Who put me back together when I broke, Who taught me how to obey and be obedient even when I was absolutely furious with Her, Who gave me tools and structure in moving among the divinities, Who taught me grace under fire, and Who demanded that I stand up to Her and show my spine. She taught me how to be owned by a God and how to be a servant who, at the very least, did not offend or embarrass their betters by their very presence. Basically, She, as an implacable Task Mistress/Drill Sergeant/Overseer, took a formless lump of metal, hammered into into a vague shape, beat in some discipline, and handed it off to be made into whatever tool it’s Owner saw fit to shape it into.

And here I am.

The divination concerning Her ended at about 2AM and we all went to bed in some variance of exhausted. I spent quite a bit of time that night staring at the ceiling while the ‘holy shit’ carousel spun in my head. I’m glad I didn’t know any of this earlier or before She deemed us some sort of complete [my training and refinement will never, ever be finished] because it likely would have unfolded everything. I might have understood more of what was going on, but I don’t think Her lessons, guidance, and ass-kicking would have been internalized so well.

It seems that the last year of active priestwork has been part of working towards discharging my debt to Her. It will never be totally cleared, but doing something for Her certainly chips away at the interest incurred towards Her investment in me. She’s not disappearing at all—She very much wants Her shrine maintained as a way for me to remember Her and honor Her efforts in shaping me into something that could be molded further. I am happy to do this and will be futzing with the shrine when I can to make it a true reflection of the years we have spent together. I will remain Her priest, though the shrine services will be shelved for now and I won’t be actively seeking out opportunities to do Her work unless She asks for them or someone who is marked as one of Her people crosses my path. She isn’t going away and has, to the contrary, said that She will always be available to me when and if I need help of instruction but with the caveat that there is always a price and that I must be willing to pay it if I would have Her assistance. I’m okay with that—Her instruction and training has proven to be worth it’s weight in gold in the past eight years.

This is such a joyful thing for me in ways that are hard to describe. It puts a [permeable] cap on the last eight years and gives me a foundation to build on that is pretty earthquake-proof. It’s also nice to be regarded as somewhat useful, rather than a child with dirty hands who can’t be left alone for a moment, lest they break the good dishes and leave fingerprints on the wall. It also takes a lot of the nebulousness away, which is good for my head and my general sanity. If I have at least an idea of what Someone wants from me, I am much more likely to actually get it done, versus having Them just stare at me while I shrug my shoulders in Their general direction.

It also marks a cycle that has basically spread it’s tendrils among all my divine relationships, and it’s pretty exciting. Given that She was the first to throw me in the pool, it’s fitting that She is also the first to say ‘well, since you’ve learned to kick your feet in an acceptable manner, you don’t need this particular lifejacket anymore’.

Every time They see fit to talk to me or touch my life in any manner, I come away totally floored with how blessed I am, how lucky I have been, and how I don’t know how I can ever repay any of Them for Their care, oversight, and instruction. I truly live a life beyond what I ever had dreamed possible and, via Their poking, nudging, and outright shoves off the diving board, my feet have carried me here. Of course, I never would have known my feet could do that if She hadn’t demanded that I walk and carry my own weight.

Dua Sekhmet, Implacable Teacher!

Dua Sekhmet, Holy Devourer!

Dua Sekhmet, Protector of Those Who Cannot Protect Themselves!

Dua Sekhmet, Lady of Productive Plague!

Dua Sekhmet, She of Blind Justice!

Dua Sekhmet, Lady of Potential!

Dua Sekhmet, From Whose Muzzle Drips Blood of the Righteously Slaughtered!

May Your name reach the ears of every mortal. May You live forever in the shine of the brightest sun on the longest day during the hottest month. May You be always remembered and always praised.

An Unfortunate Polytheist Leadership Conference Update

•July 10, 2014 • 1 Comment

I’m really unhappy to have to post this, as I was really looking forward to this weekend.

I am in a position where I need to cancel my plans to attend and present at the Polytheist Leadership Conference this weekend in upstate New York. I have been ill and very under the weather for the last few weeks and I was holding out that I would feel better, but it’s just not happening. So, instead of doing a poor job representing the material that I wanted to offer attendees and not being able to participate to the level I would like, I am unfortunately going to withdraw and support the conference from home.

I’m quite upset about this, as I was looking forward to meeting a lot of people I have conversed with online and seeing a few really interesting presentations. I’m hoping this will not be a stand-alone conference and that I will be able to attend in the future.

3-Way Stop

•July 1, 2014 • 2 Comments

It has been an odd bit of time since I last wrote. In fact, it has been an odd few months. Maybe even an odd year-thus-far. Whatever the time period, it has been weird and that’s just fine. My life has turned into something like a hilarious acid trip and, while it’s terrifying when the purple crocodiles step out from behind the wardrobe and dance with Aslan, it’s largely okay otherwise. It really is a long, strange trip.

There’s a lot that I haven’t written about here that I have really wanted to, but the expiration date seems to have passed on long in-depth writing. There are pages and pages of things in my paper journal that either have not made it here, like the fete that turned out to be the most compelling and touching ritual that I have ever been to, and things that I am not quite sure are ready for the light of day, such as some deep emotional work and decision-making that has serious spiritual ramifications. There are things that I have had enormous trouble putting into words, like the awe I find within myself when considering the relationship that has developed between myself and the Mister, how His love for me manifests without word or language, how He answers each query, call, and request in it’s due time, and how I honestly never believed any of this depth of feeling was possible.

Then there are the Crossroads.

While all of those other things have been simmering in the background [background being every other waking moment], it has been Eleggua Time, all the time. He has been present and accounted for so much more than I have been used to or prepared for, and it’s been both really awesome and absolutely terrifying and soul-ripping, all mixed up in one bowl. That’s really not that strange, nor is it out of character for Him—He is the very embodiment of duality, liminality, and oil and water mixing like they are best buddies. It’s more that He hasn’t stepped forward so definitively before.

It ramped up for the past few months and Father’s Day was the moment when He blew the doors down and decided that it was time for He and I to really get to work. He has been steadily teaching the hard lessons and putting me in a position to look at the ugly things right along, but shit really got real in a hurry.

I had high hopes for Father’s Day, honestly. This was the first Father’s Day that I have had a father figure in my life that didn’t create incredibly negative feelings and dis-ease in me. I had a few things in line for Him—nothing huge, just a tiny gift and a food offering—and I was little-kid excited to give them to Him. It was great, really, because I could be happy that my paternity wasn’t a waste of time in all arenas.

And then I couldn’t look at Him.

I woke up on Father’s Day and immediately wanted to disappear. The lead-up had been hard from a biological family standpoint, as they kept wanting my attention and time on a day when I want nothing to do with any of them. Somehow, though, I thought I would just bounce out of bed and have a great day with my Papa. We all know that saying about best laid plans.

I couldn’t approach Him. I couldn’t even look at His shrine, and that takes some work, as He is located at the door to my office and bedroom. I hurried past Him like I was some sort of guilty party and that the ‘I can’t see you so You can’t see me’ game actually meant something. I felt horrible in general and then felt even more horrible because I was being a bad kid who couldn’t even manage to pour their Papa some rum and light His candle. It really, really sucked a LOT because it was not what I wanted.

Part of this was my unrealistic expectations, and Papa doesn’t play with that kind of stuff. The belief that His presence in my life would automatically lift away all the baggage, pain, and dysfunction attached to my relationship with my mortal father was flawed, to say the very least, and He was not interested in doing one damn thing that would alleviate those feelings. Why? Unexamined and untreated baggage is like cancer—the more you ignore it, the worse it gets until you wake up and realize that it has eaten your life and everything in it.

Part of it is just The Way Things Are. I have a really awful relationship with my mortal father and there is no divinity that can vaporize those thirty-three years of shit. All those years of shit create deep-rooted feelings and there is no magic Eleggua finger-snapping that can make that better. Even if He could, He wouldn’t, at least not totally. He’s not interested in seeing me suffer, but sometimes pain and suffering comes with the territory and with the lesson. It is not my preferred teacher or best way of learning, but pain is an excellent instructor.

He didn’t get all in my face about my lack of Father’s Day-ing, but He didn’t walk away, either. He just hung out and watched. There was not one bit of disappointment from Him, nor have I felt any since. I will admit that His disappointment was something very frightening to me, as it is a serious part of the dynamic between my mortal father and I. Maybe He knew that, maybe He didn’t, maybe He was not nearly as attached to having a Father’s Day experience as I was. But, He just stayed and watched while I pointedly ignored everything father-related, drew fervently, and tried to drown out His presence with Netflix [it didn't work, in case you were wondering].

As a consolation to myself so I don’t hold on to feeling like a bad kid, there is going to be some sort of special Eleggua something later this summer when it is further from Father’s Day. Maybe we’ll go bowling? Who knows. Could be fun to take Eshu to the lanes..

After the dreadful day had passed, it was time to get ready to head to Dark Odyssey: Fusion [link NSFW] where I was to be the chief catherder for the Ordeal Track. One of my sacred jobs has evolved into being the sacred stage manager, essentially—I can handle all the logistics and on-the-ground stuff while my colleagues run the active spooky. It’s something I take very seriously, am damn good at, and really enjoy, so I relish the chance to plan and make lists and do all the things that go into planning sacred experiences.

This year’s Ordeal Track theme was the Sacred Fool/the Journey of the Fool and I went in with eyes as open as they can be when one is holding space for the Fool. I knew going in that we were essentially opening the door to walking the Fool’s path as the facilitators, because we are not immune. Eleggua had showed a tiny bit of interest in this, as had His buddy Loki, but I waved Eleggua off because this is an event that is heavy on the sex and BDSM and I am not interested in engaging my Father in that sort of environment.

He took that, kind of, and in retrospect I can totally see that ‘yeah? We can play that way’ that He embodied. Basically, He pulled a fast one on me that I very much opened the door for. You can’t play a Player, really.

I began preparing for the event focused mostly on making sure I met the expectations of the Mister, as He had been very involved last year at this same event and because it is an environment where our relationship flourishes in a very natural way. When I reached out to Him and asked if there was anything that He would have me bring that I was not already aware of, I was met with ringing silence which was odd—He often has quite a bit of interest in what I carry into sacred sexuality and sacred kink environments. I packed the things that I knew I must have if I didn’t want to face His displeasure and winged it by packing the things that I thought might be useful.

As I packed and prepared, I kept getting little tickles of things to bring for Eleggua. He wanted the necklace I had put together for Him, and the baggie of coffee-caramel hard candies that He liked. I didn’t think too much of that, as those are things I would bring on the road with me anyways—I always bring all my sacred jewelry when I travel and, if I am on the road on days where I would make offerings, I bring offerings with me. I got a little more perplexed when it was clear that bringing all His keys would be a good idea—as the Master of the crossroads and Owner of all locks and doorways, I give Him whatever keys I come across that I don’t have a direct use for. So, into a baggie went His hefty handful of keys.

I really should have known better.

I fought with the idea that the Mister was remaining silent and withdrawn all the way down to the event site. It was really uncomfortable because I was so used to Him being present in that sort of environment. I wasn’t worried that there was trouble with Him or that I was being abandoned—He is quite clear when He is displeased—but it just didn’t sit well because it was so out of character for our relationship.

Once I got in, got settled, and spent some time with my co-facilitators talking about the upcoming weekend, I got the slap in the head that answered all the questions and made me feel like a complete idiot. I mean, I sometimes need the flashing neon billboard to get the point, but I sure missed it this time and Eleggua took great glee in my hand-to-forehead moment.

I don’t get Eleggua as what other people call a trickster, nor do I really get Him as Master of the crossroads. I mean, He absolutely is those things [in a way—I don't like the word trickster because I think it's inaccurate], but I get Him as a father figure being that He is, you know, my Father. However, He is the Master of the crossroads and, in some of His caminos, walks as the Fool. How convenient that we were setting up the Ordeal Track around the path of the Fool and the choices the Fool has to make and that His child is stage directing that. How absolutely convenient, right?

WRONG. Of course He was interested and of course the Mister stepped back. I was not there as the Mister’s boy, but as a child of the Master of the crossroads. My primary function for the Ordeal Track was to bring that energy into the ritual passage of all the participants.

I had a moment of ‘surely there is someone else who would be more suited that could do this, Papa’ and got back a solid steely-eyed don’t-push-it ‘nope, it’s you’, and there I was. All those little tickles about packing this thing or that added up to a great big ‘this is what you’re doing this weekend’ suitcase. Funny, huh? Funny like a car accident.

Everything pulled together, though, and I did what I was to do as best as I could. I finagled a piece of magical work that I was not prepared to do at ALL, but did a job that passed His muster in a ‘well, it’s better than a pile of broken glass’ way. I now know that I need to figure out how to open and close a crossroads so that it’s more than me tearing things open in the dark with a bottle of rum in one hand and my all-purpose work knife in the other. Lesson learned!

Just like last year, though, no one escapes the culmination ordeal without an ordeal of their own. Before, it was a surprise all-night vigil and we were bound and determined that, on the shortest night of the year, the final ritual would be over before the sun rose. We were successful by a long shot with that—the ritual was put to bed and we were all sitting around in the temple space drinking champagne and/or rum as the sun started to tickle through the trees.

I was really unsettled when the final participant had come through their ordeal because I knew it wasn’t over. Some of the other facilitators did what they needed to do for their part while I sipped champagne and wondered what the hell was wrong with me, because other folks felt done and I didn’t. I don’t like feeling that way because I don’t like finding out later that things got screwed up, and particularly so when I am stage managing the affair.

It was in that moment—sitting with some of the facilitators and drinking champagne while two of the other facilitators fucked nearby—that Eleggua put His damn finger on my forehead and drove my ordeal home and I have really never held such ill will for a divinity before as I did in that moment.

I worked the whole weekend doing a bunch of stuff for other people. I ran a few classes, coordinated a few rituals, did a bunch of counseling, and was the person who answered the majority of the questions for the Ordeal Track participants. I was, and am, really happy to do it and have done it—it was really good work that I stand behind. However, the catch was that I didn’t ask for anything for myself and Eleggua took that moment in the temple with champagne in hand to drive that home with a sledgehammer. Specifically, I didn’t ask for something I wanted very much for the weekend and He illuminated that in a way that I could not ignore.

He and I had a bit of a fight over that. It was hard enough to be forced to look at your failures in addressing your own wants and needs, but to shine a spotlight on that one damn thing that I had been rolling around in my head all weekend and had no means of achieving, even if I had asked for it? I had an adolescent moment of ‘fuck you, Dad. I HATE YOU’.

It was a pretty crappy realization and I felt really, really horrible. Not horrible because I have a pretty solid habit of pushing away my own wants and needs, but horrible because I couldn’t have what I wanted in any way, shape, or form. It just wasn’t in the cards for the weekend—there was no way I could have pulled it off, even with a lot of prep time. It felt like He was rubbing my face in that misery, and maybe He was. The point needed to be driven home, so He used the most painful example to make it stick.

I remarked to one of my friends and co-facilitators that, in that moment, it felt like the Gods were conspiring for me to be miserable and that I had set myself up for misery this weekend by holding any sort of desire in my heart. That’s not a true statement at all—my logical brain knows better—but right then, I was not having any sort of logic at all. I drank a little more champagne and rolled myself off to bed.

This misery sort of colored what was going to be the highlight of my weekend and I felt depressed going forward. The following day was Sunday, which is the Mister’s day, and, being that my active duties as Eleggua’s child were largely done for the weekend, I could have some time to be the Mister’s boy and essentially have a date night at the event. Being that the One True Desire for the weekend was Mister-related, it was pretty bittersweet to be having a date night after having that One True Desire thrown in my face.

Long story short, the date night went sideways in a lovely way and I got handed something that I’ve asked for repeatedly for the last year and a half or so. I’m still sorting out how that feels and what’s going to happen going forward, but it was a very sobering moment when I realized how my Father facilitated a large part of that and that the Mister has really never refused me anything that I have asked for in good faith.

It has been a very emotional few weeks with my Father and, in a sideways manner, the Mister as well. I can’t ever remember feeling as loved and cared for as I have lately and it’s really been interesting to open up my expectations to allow this to be possible and to not push it away. Opening the expectations I have held for my relationship with Eleggua has also changed how I see and know Him. I got to see a more jovial and playful side of Him during the event than I usually do, helped in no small part by having Him and Loki tag along when I went to see a fire troupe perform. Apparently watching folks juggle fire staves and spin poi and the presence of a sousaphone that has flames shooting out of it’s bell is a fine reason for Eleggua and Loki to kick back, have a drink, and crack truly awful jokes. Who knew?

I am home now, though, with some new realizations and new things to work on. Eleggua kept me safe and carried me through the weekend with a lot of His luck, and the Mister showed me once again that He wants me to be happy and that He loves me beyond my own comprehension. There are very few things that I could ask for on top of this, and knowing that leaves me feeling so incredibly blessed and reinforces that internal sense of knowing that I am headed in the right direction.

Even if my compass ends up being skewed, though, all roads lead back to the crossroads. Papa waits for me there and I know that He will guide me in the direction that is the right, or at least right-for-now, way for me. He’ll probably roll His eyes heavenward while I trip over my own feet getting there, but He’ll be there because, for better or for worse, I’m His child to raise and no child of His gets left behind. For that, I am beyond grateful.

Maferefun Eleggua, all day and every day, with every breath.

Get up.

•June 3, 2014 • Leave a Comment

It has been quiet on Rock of Eye for quite awhile now. There’s been posts about stuff I’m doing or a few re-blogs, but not too much of substance. That’s not been because there hasn’t been anything going on—quite the contrary—but more because I have largely chosen to be really self-contained lately. It’s been almost a bit of a vacation in some ways, as I have limited a lot of my online activities in pursuit of making more art, engaging more closely with my divinities, and just plain focusing inward. I’ve sat down to write blog posts at least a dozen times and have typed out at least half a dozen entries only to hit backspace on all of them because they didn’t seem quite right in the moment, or felt like things that weren’t important enough to put out into the world.

That’s somewhat been the measure of the last six months for me. Words and how they are used have always been important in my spiritual life and Work, but a heavier emphasis on really saying what it is that I mean and using the correct words to express whatever it is that I want to say or write has been handed down. This is quite unsurprising, as my gods are gods of precise action in the face of what looks like destruction. Everything is measured and weighed before the first ball is put into action on Their divine Newton’s Cradle and words are no different—they carry potential, weight, spoken and unspoken messages, and are the lynchpin that keeps a finely tuned agreement or negotiation in place. Part of really internalizing that concept and using language as rock hammer, versus a jack hammer, is remaining quiet.

This has had really unexpected results, or at least unexpected for me. I have found myself in a place of really profound openness. It almost feels like vulnerability, but not quite—I’m not in a place where being hurt in any fashion is something that is a concern. Instead, it feels like this highly specific sort of connection to things bigger than myself. It would be easy to write that off and say that I am just listening to my divinities more clearly, but that’s the easy way out. Instead, I think I am listening more intently to myself and listening for what I don’t hear coming from me. I’m also listening to what I do and don’t hear coming from others. Sometimes the most important things are unsaid and are not described in words, but take form from silence.

An equally surprising side effect is that I feel really, deeply satisfied with how things are unfolding for me. I have no idea what’s going to happen next, but I know it will fit into my life somehow [or I'll make it fit because I am stubborn] and I know that no matter what it looks like, it will not be able to crumble what I’ve been working to put together lately. Eleggua put me to the task of learning who and what I am in with the end result being an unshakeable core. I’m quite sure I’m not there yet, but I am already reaping the benefits of throwing myself into that particular swimming pool filled with sharks [maferefun Eleggua every single day].

Keeping in mind that remaining quiet has brought me some really wonderful things lately, what am I doing writing this blog entry?

To be completely honest, I’m not sure. I’m typing this out just before 6AM at my dayjob, which is usually reserved for me reading or, since I’ve been quite sick lately, laying on a couch waiting for the end of my shift so I can shuffle home and go to bed. However, I got that quiet voice at the back of my head that said ‘get up and write’. When I questioned what I could possibly be writing at the moment, I got ‘get up and write’ a second time. I have made it a habit to never have to be told to do anything more than twice by a divinity, so I got up and pulled out the journal and the laptop.

There’s been pages and pages of writing in the journal lately, as scribbling things down in a notebook has proven to be far more organic for me than poking away at a word processor. There are hastily written quotes from documentaries I’ve watched and books I’ve been reading. I read an interview with one of the FBI’s most wanted, who is a self-proclaimed anarcho-environmentalist who has burned down a lot of places and people in pursuit of his ideals, and wrote a note about a large tattoo he has that says ‘it only takes a spark’. There are results from several divination sessions I’ve had lately and the emotional spillage that followed, and underlined and exclamation-pointed questions that came after reading a really terrible scholarly paper. Sometimes my handwriting scrawls at an angle when I have recorded dreams before I am fully awake. Of course, there’s also long entries where I chew on an idea or situation or thought and try to tease out the threads of a solution or plan of action. There are lots of those and I often find myself just having to put the pen down so I don’t write for hours when I should be doing other things.

There’s also a lot of writing to be done, too. There is a running list in Google Docs of blog posts I would like to write, and that list is about seven pages of single sentence topics [I had to look at it to double check and I'm fairly floored that it has gotten so long]. The notebook-journal contains a list of book projects to be working on and each of them has something written for it somewhere. There’s a class I need to write for an event I’m teaching at in a few weeks and a pile of reading to plow through for all of my writing projects.

So, ‘get up and write’.

I obviously can’t cover everything that is on my writing plate in one blog post, and certainly not before it’s time for me to pack it in and head home, but I guess I need to get up and write more often, as there are a lot of words that I’ve been holding on to for the last few months. Here’s to more writing productivity!

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 339 other followers