Empty Words Make Ugly Statements: A Response to the Covenant of the Goddess.

•December 11, 2014 • 16 Comments

When I wrote about the death of Michael Brown in August, I wrote about my anguish at seeing yet another young Black man shot to death and my inability to do anything about it. When the grand jury decided that there was not enough evidence to send his murderer to trial, I stayed quiet on this blog. I also stayed quiet when the grand jury in New York decided there was not enough evidence to bring the police officer who murdered Eric Garner via an illegal chokehold, despite video evidence of Eric Garner repeatedly saying he could not breath while laying on the ground in said chokehold. I stayed quiet as witnesses to Michael Brown’s murder who testified at the grand jury have turned up dead and I have stayed quiet in the face of a rapidly expanding movement of police officers murdering Black men and women and not facing any consequences.

My silence has been because I am white and my voice is not the most important here. People with my skin tone are not being shot down for having a prescription bottle in their pocket, carrying a toy gun in the store that sells it, or standing in front of a police officer with their hands up. It would be a continuation of the systems of oppression that have driven this epidemic of state-sanctioned murder for me to be Yet Another White Person to express their outrage at these events. Outrage is a privilege these days, as it means I have the space to be angry, rather than fearful that my life will be taken from me because of the amount of melanin in my skin.

My good friend Caer pinged me this evening and asked me if I had read the press release from the Covenant of the Goddess regarding recent events, as she was writing a response to it. I had not, and I went and read it and found myself rendered mute by utter disgust and fury.

If you have not yet read this press release, this is the full text as accessed here on December 10, 2014:

We, the members of the Covenant, acknowledge and share the concern that many in our world and within our Pagan communities have voiced regarding inequalities in justice. We find that all life is sacred, and as such, all lives matter.

Today, we the members of the Covenant especially stand together with people who are not privileged by race and class and say to you: Your life matters. We stand with you and work alongside you in ending the systems that disenfranchise you. We encourage and support all efforts by those within our communities to explore the realities of racial inequality and to work to find ways to eliminate these injustices. We hope this will create a wave of introspection and reflection throughout our world, bringing about new levels of understanding and an appreciation for the unique expression of the Sacred we each embody. We stand together with communities seeking nonviolent means of safety and reform, for the unnecessary harm of any person is an affront to the Sacred and is in contrast to our central ethical tenet: An it harm none, do what ye will. May the work we do together today create a peaceful and just tomorrow.

To be blunt, this is a wishy-washy, mealy-mouthed, sunshine-and-rainbows, and utterly useless press release. You have failed, Covenant of the Goddess, and you have failed really, REALLY badly.

Instead of stepping up and making a decisive statement that the repeated murders of Black men and women is unacceptable, you speak with ambiguity. You don’t refer to ANY specific incident of ‘inequalities in justice’ and you dance on that neutrality as a way to avoid saying the nasty word of ‘racism’. In essence, you render these people who have been killed as invisible and you downplay the dirty reality of what has transpired…which is exactly what the court system has done and what the systems of oppression that support these horrible events dictates should happen. You have played the poker game just as you should, instead of upending the table that is populated by cheaters and card sharks and declaring that you will not support a system that seeks to subjugate others. You don’t even get an A for effort here.

Moreover, you make a terrible gaffe by saying ‘all lives matter’. That’s not even a heartfelt statement—it’s just another way to stand at the center of the seesaw without committing. Yes, all lives matter, but we are not dealing with all lives, are we? As the last few months have clearly shown without a shadow of any doubt, some lives matter more than others and not recognizing that is a literal whitewashing of the issue. Right now, as more and more Black people die in police actions, Black lives need to be paid much more attention because the inequality is astounding. Saying that all lives matter is a pretty way of trying to kumbaya your way through this and feel good about yourselves on the other side, and it’s sickening.

Further, you say nothing of consequence throughout your two paragraph statement and it is full of dead air. You say you support “all efforts to explore the realities of racial inequality and to work to find ways to eliminate these injustices”, but what does that mean? What is there to explore? Is there a question as to what racism means and, if so, why have you not educated yourself as an organization? You need to WORK to find ways to eliminate these things?

Here’s a place to start: make a definitive statement, period. While it would be nice if you came out as an organization that is appalled at the mistreatment of Black people in the United States, I’ll settle for any clearly worded press release that actually expresses something of meaning, rather than what you must believe is politically correct drivel that isn’t worth the space it takes up. If you want to explicitly say that the decisions of the various grand juries are correct and morally strong [because you have implicitly stated that you believe that, via not condemning either side], then do it. I won’t agree with you and I suspect many of your constituents won’t, but at least be brave enough to say what you really mean. Heck, even ‘we are making a statement because we believe we should but, really, we are afraid to have any sort of strong opinion as it might betray our own biases’ would be better.

Then, do something. Clergy of mainstream religious denominations are getting arrested for offering prayers for the souls of the victims and are participating in direct actions. Members of various pagan and polytheist religions and groups are showing up at rallies. Even those who support nonviolence are showing up with sandwiches and water for active protestors. As a group that bills itself as “one of the largest and oldest Wiccan organizations” and claims over one hundred covens under your umbrella, what are you doing beyond issuing empty platitudes? You list a variety of functions on your website, ranging from chaplaincy to law enforcement outreach to legislative activism. If you truly do all this work, it’s time to put your words into action and get out and aid those who could very well be your congregants.

Two things make this even worse. First, as I mentioned above, the inability to truly commit and say the word ‘racism’ or name the victims leaves the distinct impression that there is some significant part of your organization or governing body that believes the officers or the grand jury are above reproach.

Second, and perhaps more damning, I have heard unfortunate tales that originate within your organization saying that CoG was working on a statement that actually addressed the issues, but that it was quashed by some members in positions of power for fear of dissent in the membership. If this is true, shame on you. Afraid you’ll lose congregants? Well, if you’re worried about retaining members who believe shooting unarmed Black folks is an okay thing, then you have bigger problems than I can even comprehend. If you are a member of CoG who is a voice of dissent within your organization and you do not support the wibbly-wobbly statement issued by your governing body, speak up and support the experiences of Black people in the United States. A schism is a wonderful way to state your disapproval and moral outrage. As of this writing, I am told at least one coven has left CoG in response to this statement–good on ya, whoever you are.

Overall, I am disgusted and disappointed in you, CoG. Your words ring empty and taste of fear and they do not reflect the sense of justice you claim that your unnamed work embodies. You have failed to be a strong voice for your religion and your congregants, you have presented yourselves as unable to commit or address the reality of racism in the United States, and you have not even addressed the righteous dead by name. Instead, you have erased and smoothed over the fact that Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Akai Gurley, John Crawford, Rumain Brisbon, and countless other unarmed Black men were killed by white police officers. Even if you cannot speak the word ‘racism’, at least lift up the names of those whose lives were cut short.

I affirm the statement that Caer makes in her most recent blog post. If you, CoG, wish to truly make a difference and work for actual justice, versus issuing statements that make you feel good, you will closely examine Caer’s words and look for your own failings there. You have a choice now, CoG—you can either issue a statement that is supported by your claims of social justice and advocacy or you can cement your legacy as a religious group that chose not only to erase the identities of the dead and whitewash the systems of oppression in the United States. It is entirely up to you and the ball is in your court while those of us on the outside watch and wait.

May your divinities guide your hands and touch your hearts and may your congregants push you to live your stated values of social justice, peace, and equality while accepting nothing less. May you speak the names of those who have died as a result of racist police action and may you bear their pain and the pain of those who loved them, if only for a moment. May your Goddess bless you with wide open eyes and a heart full of compassion and righteous anger. May you seek to empower those who society seeks to strip of their very lives and may you have the courage to speak a firm truth, even in the face of your organizational fear. In these things, may you find the blessings and peace not offered to those cut down by an unjust system.

There, let the way appear.

•December 4, 2014 • 5 Comments

I am on a boat.

Rather, I am on a ship big enough to support the weight of a boat. It even has hand railings and, if I lean far enough over them, I can see the water rushing by and the froth and foam kicked up by the propeller at the stern. It’s a fine ship and it’s a ship I have put quite a bit of effort into building and maintaining via emotional struggles, tears, and pure sweat equity. Roughly half the ownership of this fine vessel belongs to me, with the other half belonging to the Mister. It is our ship and has been built to suit our transient and changing desires. I have learned how to be a ship’s mechanic, how to take up the wheel when the Mister steps away to tend business or otherwise watch me stand firm behind the spoked monstrosity, and how to make sure there is always a hidden away cache of whiskey for when I am literally and figuratively caught with my pants down. It’s a good ship and a good existence and I am comfortable with both of these things.

I am standing on the foredeck and the breeze brings the spray of the salt water onto my skin. I hate deep water, but I love this ship.

“A fine day, isn’t it?”

“Certainly.” I turn to face the Mister-shaped figure behind me, finding Him clad in a suit reminiscent of an admiral’s uniform. I find this terribly amusing and He raises His eyebrows at me. I swallow my smirk. “What may I do for you today, Sir?”

He looks past me into the horizon. “Perhaps you might like to go for a swim.”

I almost roll my eyes, but stop myself before my impulsive, emotional reaction gains me another eyebrow raise. I hate swimming in the ocean and He knows it. I am terrified of deep water and my compulsive tendencies have me twitching about all the stuff in the water with me—all the garbage and creatures swimming around hundreds of feet under me and…the seaweed. Ugh. No, NO, NO. I don’t mind wading into the water [but never past my knees] on the beach now and then and swimming pools are just fine, but throwing myself off our ship into the great deep blackness that I cannot haul myself out of quickly when something unknown brushes my feet? No, thanks. That sort of vastness terrifies me. I am but a tiny, albeit juicy, piece of meat and could be swallowed in one gulp. Nope.

He and I have had this conversation before and I expect it to go much the same way. I will demur, inform Him why I think this is a bad idea, and offer to splash around up to my waist on the beach. He will shrug and not be terribly pleased, but He won’t be displeased, either, and I will be satisfied with that.

“I believe I would find that terribly unpleasant, Sir, and I’d rather not. I could certainly find you another cute boy to go splash around for your amusement and pleasure, though.” I gaze at Him, set on doing the dance of negotiation that He has taught me so well.

He meets my eyes and, with a sinking feeling, I recognize the immovable iron force that has taken up residence just under His skin and it tells me that I will not win this round at all.

“I didn’t ask for your opinion.”

I swallow. “No, you didn’t.”

“Give Me one good reason unrelated to your general distaste for and fear of the deep open water and maybe I’ll reconsider.”

Oh, gods. Oh, GODS.

“These are the boots that You have expressed a fondness for and the salt water would ruin them. I also just purchased this suit and would hate for it to be useless so soon.” I know the moment the words fall off my tongue that He is not going to buy.

He snaps His fingers and, to my dismay, I am nude in the cool ocean air under His glittering, uncomfortable gaze. “Problem solved.” He begins to close the distance between us and I am terrified.

My back bumps up against the railing before I know I had moved. “Please, Sir. I do not swim well enough to swim in open water and I am really, REALLY terrified of something eating me.”

“Nonsense.” He scoops me up over His shoulder and I resist the urge to beat on His back with my fists. “You know how to keep your head above water and nothing is going to eat you. I have put far too much effort into your continued existence for you to end up as some half-digested lump of meat bobbing around in the ocean. Off you go!”

Before I have a chance to protest any further, I find myself flying through the air and the ocean rushes up at me. My skin burns as I enter the water and I am surrounded by cold, inky blackness. My claustrophobia kicks in full force and I find myself unable to breath, which is not a surprise being that I have not yet learned how to make my oxygen-craving lungs breath heavily salted H20.

I am surrounded by pressure and the relative dark and I scratch at the water, as if that will get me back on the ship and out of this nightmare. If anything, I feel more pressure and my body feels squished flat while my heart is doing it’s best to explode from terror.

Fuck this shit.

My rational brain sputters to life and I kick my feet until I breach the surface of the wasteland of water. My lungs burn and I take gasping and undignified breaths while glaring at the Mister leaning against the railing.

“See? No drowning.” He straightens and reaches into His jacket pocket.

“Fuck you.”

His lips twitch in an amused smile. “Hardly.” He produces a small tin whistle and begins to toot out an upbeat version of ‘Nearer, My God, To Thee‘ while I seethe. The water is not nearly as cold as I thought it would be and His ridiculous musical accompaniment to my distress distracts me from the possibility of Cthulu draped in the dreaded seaweed circling my toes.

My patience is wearing thin and I am already getting pruney. “Alright, Sir. Why the fuck am I in the water?” He looks down at me and I notice the tin whistle has disappeared from His hands. Maybe He tucked back in His pocket, maybe He threw it overboard, maybe He shoved it up His ass. I don’t know and, unless it gets me back on our ship, I don’t care.

“You need to learn how to swim.”

“I can swim!”

The Mister leans on His arms once again. “I want a breaststroke, backstroke, and butterfly that would leave the Olympic judges needing to change their panties. There’s also the matter of you not being terrified of that which lies beneath.”

I glare at Him, but say nothing. He’s right, per usual.

“And, before you ask, no, I am not leaving you, you silly, foolish, sentimental boy.” The words were said with fondness, not malice. “Now get to it.

–—

The above is largely a metaphor for the past week and a half, though some of the dialogue is stunningly accurate. That, and it amused me to write it which counts for something.

Two Saturdays ago was Fete Gede at the sosyete that has started to become a bit of a home away from home for me. I wasn’t terribly excited at the prospect of taking my only night off in two weeks and spending it an hour away from home and wide awake, but I was very excited to see all my vodouisant friends I don’t see often enough and greet the Lwa and be the awkward white weirdo dancing. Regardless of what does/does not happen, I always have a good time seeing people who See me and value my company and presence.

I had also made a promise last year to come back and see Papa Ghede and you don’t break promises to any Lwa, but especially to Him. Since He can show up at any fete, that means I go to all of them as far as it is reasonable. He did come this time and I got very gently chewed out for spending more time with my other divinities than I did with Him and for slacking off in general. It’s all true and I affirmed that and thanked Him for His correction and patience. With an admonishment that nothing would progress for me until I was right with Him, I promised I would do better and He was off to greet more of His people.

That was the easy, no-stress part of the evening. Somewhere in the back of my head, I knew it was coming and I’m grateful that He saw fit to pull me up on it, rather than just assigning consequences.

Earlier in the evening, I watched a variety of friends and acquaintances greet the Lwa and go through the ritual movements associated with each of Them. I idly noted that I should perhaps have one of my friends teach me the basics of what to do for the Lwa that most often come down at the sosyete so I don’t look like a fool if one of Them ever wants to formally speak to me. I’ve spoken to a few of the Lwa before, but in rather informal ways that do not leave me needing to do more than shake Their hands and listen carefully to what They say.

Not even five minutes after I had watched my friend spin around several times and land on his knees in front of a paricular Lwa, I got summoned forward by that same Lwa. Everything that I had just watched evaporated, my Kreyol trickled out my toes, and I stood in front of this Lwa looking helplessly at one of my friends, mouthing ‘I don’t know what to do’. I can’t ever remember going so full-on deer-in-headlights before, but there I was.

May all the gods bless my friend and make her prosperous forever, because she stood behind this seated Lwa and mimed all the motions that I needed to go through while I did them. I think I only looked a little ridiculous, but I got through it and ended up on my knees in front of this Lwa no worse for the wear.

This Lwa is not a big talker and, even if He was, my Kreyol was gone. He began washing my hands with Pompeia Lotion, which is this incredibly heavily scented cologne. That was all fine and good and vaguely normal, until He got to my right hand. I was clearly not picking up what He was throwing down as He began gesticulating expansively at Manbo and she stepped up and asked Him a few questions in Kreyol. He nodded and vigorously began to scrub the ring finger of my right hand as she bent down and informed me that He was asking me to marry Him.

I swear to all that is holy that I thought I was going to vomit on Him or pass out or something equally dramatic. I do not get stirred up that often anymore—I’m very much a big picture guy—but I almost lost my shit right then and there. Contributing to this was that this proposal happened in front of almost 100 people, give or take, and I am very much an introvert who is not into being the center of attention.

I managed to tell Manbo to convey to Him that I needed to think about it and He accepted that without issue before releasing me and moving on to His other people. My initial reaction was to scream ‘no’ and run for the door, but I somehow managed to draw on all the logical diplomacy the Mister has taught me. Saying ‘yes’ without any divination or reflection or meditation or communication with my other divinities would be stupid at best and ridiculously offensive at worst, and saying ‘no’ outright to a Lwa is a pretty foolhardy action as well.

After I was no longer in front of Him, I had to get the fuck out of the temple which was a feat unto itself as it meant pushing past the dozen or so people on the stair case to get up into the house. Once free, I paced Manbo’s living room and frantically texted a few friends telling them the basics of what has just happened and asking for divination as soon as they could deliver it and prayers for my continued sanity, as my life had just gotten way more complicated. Had there not been a full three quarters of the fete left, I probably would have thrown on my coat and gotten the hell out of there.

Instead, I sucked it up and Had A Moment, which involved me babbling at a few of my friends there about what had just happened and generally being a momentary basketcase. My houngan friend who had brought me to the sosyete told me that he wasn’t surprised this Lwa had asked for marriage and that marriage was not a gender-specific thing in this house, as women marry female Lwa and men marry male Lwa. I hadn’t even considered how I would feel about the gender thing at that moment, but it was a nice reassurance.

The rest of the night was fairly uneventful for me, save for Papa Ghede’s telling-off, and for that I was immensely grateful. After everything was over, I sat in Manbo’s living room with a few of her children and ate incredibly spicy Haitian food, which was damn delicious. I poured myself into my car not too long after that and managed to get home with only a few tears.

The first thing I did when I got home was scrub my hands. Pompeia Lotion is not my favorite scent and He practically poured half the damn bottle over my hands. The second thing I did was throw myself in front of the Mister’s altar and cry, a lot. I wasn’t angry or upset and I didn’t get the sense that He was, either, but I was incredibly overwhelmed and full of fear. I told Him that I didn’t understand why this had happened and wasn’t sure if His hand was on it or not, but would He please explain to me what the hell was going on?

I passed out and slept fitfully. When I got up, the panic started and no matter how logically I was able to think, it kept creeping in. This is pretty unusual for me, as I can usually talk sense to the crazy pretty easily, but man…this panic and anxiety wouldn’t quit. As I told a friend late last week, I felt every inch of my mental illness for a long set of days.

The problem was that I couldn’t figure out why this had happened. I could reason out why it might be a good thing and what benefits it might have to me personally, but I could not fucking figure out what the Mister’s angle on this was and, if He was telling, I wasn’t putting the pieces together correctly.

He wasn’t angry or surprised, nor was He handing me off to this Lwa. I got the distinct impression that He had arranged this and got a vague sense of why it would be a good thing, but no input that I could read as to why He had allowed it to happen, as He is nothing if not possessive in an intimate way. He never promised me monogamy and I have both never wanted that or offered it to Him, but this was a blow not even out of right field—it came from a ballpark in the next time zone. I would have been less surprised if this Lwa told me I needed to get on a plane to Haiti the next morning, initiate immediately, and that my only means of transportation for the rest of my life was continuous cartwheels while wearing a purple tutu.

I spent most of last week trying very hard not to engage my feelings on the matter while I waited for divination, only to have moments of curling up in a ball in front of His altar and muttering that I didn’t know what was going on but that I trusted Him. I also outright begged Him and my Father to relieve me of the burden of the panic and anxiety as it was starting to render me useless, and I am so grateful that, between the two of Them, They took most of it.

I spoke with a good friend and amazing diviner early this week and she was very patient while listening to me babble about just how much this was fucking me up. She helped me sort out what the actual issues were for me and it’s pretty straightforward—I have an incredible amount of personal baggage around the concept of marriage and romantic love and I am extremely wary to the point of running screaming for the door when it comes to committing to communities of humans.

These are both very true things. Because I am a fool, I have said many times over in the last year that I am not interested in marriage in any form to anybody, human or divine. Most of my reasons are based in the fact that most of the examples of marriage in my life have been extremely dysfunctional and because romance is really not how I relate to other individuals. While maryaj Lwa is done for love and intimacies, that is a secondary purpose in a lot of ways—the big reason to marry one or more Lwa is because They strengthen and balance parts of your personality and help you be a more complete and functional person. Many/most vodouisants who marry Lwa marry more than one. The classic examples are of a vodouisant who marries Ezili Freda must marry Her sister Dantor both for balance of the qualities each of Them brings but also to balance Their jealousy of the other. Those who marry an Ogou often marry Damballah and Azaka—Ogou is hot and Damballah provides balance by providing cooling, while Azaka grounds all of that out.

While my head knows that there is a business arrangement within the maryaj, it doesn’t provide me any ease. There’s also the fact that a maryaj Lwa also makes you a part of the sosyete you are married in and you gain godparents in the process. I have made it this far in my life with very few oaths and responsibilities to other mortals, and I like that quite a bit.

When my friend pulled out her cards, I halfheartedly hoped that the Mister would say quite clearly that this was a moment where Someone Else had tried to step in where They were not to tread, but I knew that was likely a fruitless hope and I was not wrong. As it turns out, the Mister is strongly in favor of me marrying this Lwa.

The reasons why make total sense, but they were still a bit surprising. This didn’t happen as an afterthought—a lot of planning went into making this manifest—and the Mister selected and propositioned this particular Lwa for very specific and careful reasons. In essence, He picked out the perfect Lwa to complement and balance who I am and what I need in my life. It sort of makes my heart hurt because it is very clear that He has done this out of deep love for me and not what He gets out of the deal, because He’s not getting much directly.

This was very much done for my benefit to help me sort out some of my issues and to help me learn things that He can’t teach me and I had a good cry about that, too. It isn’t something that leaves me sad or unhappy or anything, but it sort of reaches into my chest and pumps my heart a bit. It was a happy cry.

There are other less important reasons why He coordinated this, but the Mister masterminded the proposal for me as a gift so that I may sort out my shit and be the best person possible, versus the best boy for Him. He’s not getting immediate benefit out of and is very likely losing a bit on this if I say yes because it means I will have to pay attention elsewhere. He’s not relinquishing any sort of hold on me or sharing what’s His, as maryaj Lwa doesn’t walk on things He holds the reins on currently.

He leaves the decision to me, though, after expressing His desire for this to happen. I haven’t made a formal decision yet, as there is still a second round of divination to be done and that’s before I call up Manbo and ask to talk, which will inevitably lead to more divination. It was noted in this first round of divination that, should I choose not to marry this Lwa, the Mister will likely resort to more…creative means to have me learn and experiences what He sees as necessary. That alone has led me to give the Mister a provisional ‘yes’, contingent upon all the other divination returning with similar results. Overall, though, I trust Him implicitly in that if He thinks that maryaj Lwa will bring me closer to my Self and lead me to where both He and I want me to go, then I will believe Him.

That’s not to say that I am not scared. I really and truly am because I have no idea and no real control over how this will change me, if I give more than a provisional yes. The only things I can say for sure that will happen is that I will end up married to this Lwa and that I am going to get ripped open. The proposal has already left me feeling incredibly vulnerable in ways that I find really hard to cope with. I am very much a private person and I feel very, very on display, which leaves me wanting to flay my skin off.

At the same time, I’m eyeing this Lwa in that ‘I don’t even know You’ way. I have seen Him in possession several times before, but He has never even looked at me once while He was embodied. That doesn’t mean a damn thing, but I sort of feel indignant and all ‘You want some of this? Better get to work, because I am no starry-eyed boy who is going to be a good husband just because You asked’. I’m quite sure that’s not how these things work, but we’ll see.

If I do say yes, there is a staggering amount of stuff that will need to happen. There is an actual marriage ceremony performed by a lay Catholic priest, a marriage contract, actual rings to buy, and a huge party to throw that I would be footing the bill for, with drummers and special clothes and tons of food and all the stuff you need for a wedding. I find that sort of horrifying by itself, but if I decide to do this, I’ve got to do it right—no half measures.

Right now, I’m treading water pretty well and have been considering how to best test on my backstroke without gulping down water. The panic has mostly abated, though I keep wondering when something is going to bite my foot. I am profoundly grateful and in deep awe as to how much the Mister loves me. I have done nothing to deserve this sort of attention and I will never be able to adequately repay or return those feelings. He is so large and I am so very, very small and human in comparison, with my tiny human feelings and my expansive human failings. I don’t even know if I am capable of expressing how much I love Him and how grateful I am that He moves in my life and cares for me. May the work of my hands, the dust under my feet, and the love on my lips continue to please Him until I myself am dust ground under His heel.

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 • 1 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.

 
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