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 • Leave a Comment

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!

Polytheist Leadership Conference!

•June 1, 2014 • 3 Comments

I don’t think I’ve posted about this here yet, but I’ll be attending the Polytheist Leadership Conference this summer. I’m pretty happy to be teaching about addiction and how that affects polytheists and polytheist community, and I’m extra happy about the fact that my class is going to turn into a book project.

I’m also hosting a casual salon/get-together/unwind-with-your-fellow-attendees time Saturday evening with drinks (both alcoholic and non) and light snacks. 

Sadly, however, my salon co-host and weekend roommate will be unable to attend as we had previously planned. That means I’m on the hunt for a few things:

  • A roommate. I am a poor, underpaid spirit-worker who can’t afford to foot the bill for a hotel room all by myself, but could easily afford to split a room. I arrive Thursday evening-ish and leave Sunday night or Monday morning (my plans are flexible at the moment), and I am happy to share with someone for all of those nights, or just Friday/Saturday. 
  • A co-host for Saturday evening’s get-together. Your job would entail making sure the snacks are out and arranged well, making sure there’s ice etc, and generally helping assure that people have a good time. I’m happy to barter for your assistance with making sure the other attendees enjoy their Saturday evening.

If you’re into sharing a room or helping out on Saturday evening, you can leave a note here or email me at alex dot bettencourt at gmaio dot com.

Cleaning the windows and blowing off the dust.

•April 8, 2014 • Leave a Comment

It always astonishes me and frightens me when I see and hear people talk about their spiritual practice remaining the same always and forever and ever. Perhaps it’s because of who I am or Who I work for and relate to, but stasis in spirituality and religious practice doesn’t seem that desirable to me. If it’s not growing and changing, I am not growing and changing. I know if I have been doing the same thing for too long, I am on my way to getting stuck, if I am not already there, and that my stasis is quickly going to turn to stagnation and complacency. I have found that stagnation and particularly complacency is the road to ruin for me and I get tossed on my ass the hardest when I am content with the idea that I know exactly how things are, should be, and should remain. Bad stuff when you work with divinities Who roll with creative destruction and liminal spaces.

With all that being said, I knew before I moved that it was time to re-evaluate my spiritual and religious practices. I held off doing anything new in the old place, since my unhappiness in being there was practically dripping off the walls. As I have pretty much finished settling in to my new place, it’s been time to sit down and figure out what has been working and what hasn’t been working.

2013 was an awful year in many arenas and my personal practice definitely reflected that. Since I was dancing on the brink of a complete stress-induced breakdown more often than not, my practices pretty much boiled down to ‘here’s Your stuff, please for the love of all that is holy don’t throw anything else at me’. I did the minimum to meet my obligations plus whatever new stuff They were leaving on my desk and hid out in the rest of my life in the ridiculous hope that They wouldn’t see me.

In case it isn’t clear, that doesn’t really work. There were times where They let me be, but that doesn’t mean that They didn’t know exactly what I was doing or that I was getting left off the hook(s) that were mine to hang from.

However, 2013 is blessedly over and done with and it’s closing in on the halfway mark of 2014. I’ve been noting what I’ve been changing both slowly and rapidly in my daily and weekly practice and looking at how that is affecting me in the larger scale. The changes involve both new things and old things that I used to do that have made a comeback.

More meditation. Meditation, in some form or another, has been a central part of my spiritual practice for years. Before I became a polytheist, I was flirting with Buddhism on a pretty serious level and did daily or weekly sits at local sanghas or in my home. When the divinities showed up and crashed the party of my life, establishing a regular meditation practice was the first lesson from my first teacher and it is the one that has stuck with me through thick and thin. I’m doing a daily sit of about 30 minutes right now, preceded by formal and informal prayer. My hope is to work up to an hour daily split between morning and evening [which, for me, means a half hour when I get home from work in the morning and a half hour before I go to work in the evening]. It is a powerful part of my practice that I’ll write more about another time.

More prayer. I have started to really intentionally pray. I informally talk with/talk at my divinities fairly regularly, but the discipline of prayer has stuck out as something I have been missing. While it feed my divinities, the practice of prayer is largely for my benefit as I am speaking my heart aloud and forming my gratitude into words. I’m working on writing formal prayers down and have at least two sets of prayer beads planned out. Most of my formal praying is done prior to meditation, but it also happens on the fly. Eleggua often gets most of His prayers while I’m driving or walking in the city.

More writing. I have done an incredible amount of private writing in the last few months and that’s been surprising. I used to primarily journal into a word processing document and save it in a folder on my hard drive, but on a calculated whim, I picked up a spiral bound notebook and started writing there. I wasn’t prepared for the explosion of words that would follow, but it’s there and it feels very, very different from typing. The way my writing comes out via my hand feels way more organic and way more accessible. It is much easier to move a pen across a blank sheet of paper than it is to stare at a cursor. I write more freely and more often, it’s more productive, and much easier to access [flipping pages versus opening individual files]. I’ve even started staging some of the outlines for some of my book projects on paper.

More opening. The result of increasing my meditation, conscious prayer, and changing how I journal has led to me opening more both to my life in general and to my divinities. The result of that is that I find it much easier to let go of preconceived notions, cede control in areas where it is best that I acquiesce, and just generally be the water in the stream instead of the rocks. This has led to profoundly meaningful interactions with my divinities and, in one arena, has completely undone the discomfort, tension, and awkwardness that has hung in the middle of our relationship. In the Buddhist parlance of my unhappy early adulthood, it’s been a sort of softening of my heart.

More dreaming. I used to be an occasional dreamer and would maybe have a dream or two a week, but now I am a person who is dreaming each and every night and usually twice a night at that. This has been both intentional and unintentional—I do work to remember my dreams, but I do not control how many dreams I have. My dreams have turned incredibly vivid and vibrant and I’m starting to cross the line from dreaming to lucid dreaming, which has also been both intentional and unintentional. Sometimes I go to bed with a dreaming agenda, as I do client work via dreams at times, and sometimes I go to bed knowing that at some point I’m going to roll over and scribble something down that I will try and decipher when I am fully awake.

More art. Since I have moved, I have been painting and drawing almost every day. Art is a hugely spiritual practice for me, as it both belongs to my divinities and provides a sort of moving meditation for me. Meditation, prayer, and art are the few times when I truly feel still. I’ve realized that I have a ginormous issue with actually FINISHING pieces [a quick glance around my space finds at least eight unfinished pieces that I am simultaneously working on], but that’s a blog entry in itself.

More talking. I realized the other day that I am having deep discussions with more people on a regular basis than I have ever before. They hear me, I hear them, and I am discovering that we have a lot in common in ways that I had not considered previously. This is a hugely awesome blessing for me, as working a skeleton graveyard shift leaves me with little outside-of-work contact with others on a regular basis.

More evaluating of words and how I use them. All of my divinities value language and how it is employed. They use specific words and concepts for specific reasons and are precise in what They say, so it stands to reason that I should be as precise with my words, as much as I am able. My favorite example of this was a conversation I had recently with a friend about ‘working with’ divinities. For me, that’s an inaccurate description of what it is that I do and implies a type of egalitarianism that I don’t believe exists within relationships [of any sort] with the divinities. I love, work for, serve, offer worship, libate, celebrate, learn from, and am inspired by divinities. I don’t work with Them, really—I work with my brushes and paints and pencils and other tools, and They are not in my toolbox or on my palette. The closest I might get to ‘work with’ is my relationship with my Father, Eleggua, and that’s really us working together or working in conjunction on something that one or both of us thinks is a good idea. My friend thinks that the idea of ‘working with’ divinities is drawn from the sometimes-idea in the pagan community that the divinities are archetypes or thoughtforms. You work with archetypes and thoughtforms because they are of human creation and can serve the needs of humanity. Regardless, that’s been kind of my process with words and language—really breaking down what it is that is meant by a phrase or word, making sure I am being as precise as I can be, and being mindful of what comes out of my mouth.

All of this has resulted in pure awesomeness, honestly. I can see distinct changes in the past few months that I’m really excited about and they just keep building. The maxim of ‘do the right thing and the next right thing will happen’ seems to be at play here.

I’m also finding myself to be more and more busy out in the world. I am booked to go somewhere, do something, and see people every weekend this month and at least two weekends a month through the summer…and I’m thrilled, honestly. I like being at home, but I have also missed doing things and seeing people while being extra sick in the last few months. I don’t think I’m going to stop being sick, but having a whole mess of plans to look forward to makes the sick and the pain much more tolerable.

And there you have it—that’s what my practice has been shaping up as lately!

I can’t sing, but I can dance.

•March 26, 2014 • 5 Comments

It’s been a busy little month over here. I’ve been preoccupied with settling into my new place and enjoying all the awesomeness it has to offer, as well as keeping busy with lots of art-making and crafting and writing. I’ve definitely been a bit of a hermit, as I really haven’t seen anyone buy my roommate and coworkers since I moved, but that’s been good for me on multiple levels and particularly so since my health has once again been difficult.

This past Saturday night was Fet Damballah, though, and I had made plans to go as soon as the manbo of the sosyete had released the date. Not only did I want to go just because, but I also made a promise to Papa Ghede that I would come back and see Him. To me, that means I get my butt to whatever fets I can because you don’t break promises to any Spirits, and the Ghede in particular.

My butt, however, had different ideas this time. I’d had the flu the week before and, as with any time I get sick, my chronic health stuff went off the charts. By Friday night, I was unable to walk upright and one of my legs decided that being useful was no longer in it’s job description. I limped off to work full of worry about getting to the fet. I knew that if I got there, I could just tuck myself into a corner in a chair and watch the festivities but the getting there was going to be an issue since it’s an hour drive from my home.

When I got home from work Saturday morning, there was a lot of praying in the form of ‘if I’m supposed to go, please help me manage my pain and functioning’. I took the assortment of pills that are rumored to keep me useful and went to sleep. I woke up in the evening without any pain and with the most mobility that I’d had in at least a week. I was rather gleeful about being able to at least get there, so I showered, shaved my head, and suited up in my whites before hopping in the car and heading towards the fet.

I won’t do a play-by-play of the evening, since that would be long and no one wants to read all ten pages it would turn out to be. There were a handful of really lovely and poignant moments, though.

The fet began as all fets begin, with the priye. It begins in French with traditional Catholic prayers and adorations and then moves into Kreyol. I have a hard time following it, since I don’t really have more than ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’ in Kreyol right now, but I manage to clap in the right places and mumble the call and response. The priye was a little different this time around, though, as about three quarters of the way through, the manbo gave every fire-and-brimstone preacher I have ever sat through a run for their money. She went free-form and brought the Powers AND the house down. I’ve never heard prayers like that and it got all church-y up in that basement, with people lifting their hands and breaking out the fans and tons of extemporaneous exclamations. The energy was off the damn hook.

Then, the drumming started and so did the dancing. There were four drummers this time and way more people interested in dancing, so the place was literally jumping—there were people dancing in the bathroom, on the stairs, and almost out the back door. There’s no way you can really sit still at a fet unless you’re trying to be bored—the drums really coax you to get on your feet.

Dancing at a fet is pretty much my only means of participation. All of the preparation is done by members of the house and I don’t speak enough Kreyol to really sing the songs with everyone else, so I dance. I figure that the Powers are so damn good to me that the least I can do is shake my butt at Their party. Plus, it IS a party—a religious party, but a party nonetheless. You’re supposed to have a good time and it’s kind of poor form to stay in your chair unless you’ve got a good reason. The Lwa want to have fun, too, so me doing my awful dancing up against the wall while the drums go to town and the Haitian folks put me to shame with their fantastic dancing is my way of contributing.

After the temperature of the room was brought up significantly and everyone was in the party mood, they began to sing for the Lwa. They sing for a whole lot of Lwa, but a few really stuck out to me.

Ayizan was sung for early on. As She is the first manbo, She is honored with a pretty specific salute done by all the priests and initiates of the house. It largely involves a particular dance and the making of palm fronds while dancing, but first comes the kolyes/initiatory necklaces for priests. The head manbo [who I will refer to as 'Manbo' for ease of writing] went back into the side room to get the kolyes. She emerged wearing all of them and did a really beautiful dance to bring them into the space and present them to Ayizan.

For reference, kolyes are about four feet long and made out of a mix of beads, coins, crucifixes, saint medals, and other charms, customized for the priest. Manbo came out wearing about twenty of them. They hung almost to the floor and she wound the excess around her hands while she danced. It took two people to help her lift them off over her head.

There was a particularly joyful moment when La Sirene was sung for. She is particularly well-loved in the house, it seems, because Her song brought up ALL the voices–everyone sang and danced for Her. Her husband, Agwe, came and rowed around the room, but She didn’t come down to join us.

Later on, Freda came down. I don’t really connect with the pink-and-perfume sort of femininity, but She was radiant and engaging. She asked two men to marry Her and spent time with one of Her husbands, who came with a huge vase of flowers for Her. After that, She began to move through the attendees to give blessings via pouring Lotion Pompeia, Her preferred scent, into their hands.

When the Lwa are walking around, I tend to stay out of the way for two reasons. First, They tend to want to greet house members and Haitians first and it would be rude for me to get in the way of that. Also, if a Lwa wants to talk to me, They will make Their way to me—I don’t need to get up in Their face and hang on Them while waiting. That’s just poor manners all around.

So, when Freda started moving towards where I was standing and giving blessings to those I was near, I hustled out of the way. There were plenty of Haitians who wanted Her attention and I wasn’t about to step on any toes, as I am a guest. She kept coming and I kept moving until I was pretty much cornered in a group of people who were holding their hands out to receive a blessing. If you’ve ever seen footage of the Pope moving through a crowd and people reaching for him to just touch him and receive blessings via that contact, it was very much like that.

I tried to move out of the way and I tried to be invisible, but Freda was having none of that. She reached towards where I was and I thought She was going for one of the sets of hands reaching out from behind me, but I was wrong. She motioned for me to cup my hands, so I did and She poured Pompeia into them. A friend remarked later that She must have thought I needed some invigoration and a breath of fresh air in my life and I laughed, because that’s very, very true right now. If you haven’t smelled Lotion Pompeia before, it’s a very strong smelling cologne. The scent lingered on my hands even after a shower.

After Freda left, it got even hotter in there. I’m told that the Petwo Lwa don’t often come down for what is mostly a Rada rite but boy did They show up that night. Bossou came down and ran around the room at full speed, which is what He does being the Bull. After He had His fill of that, He began to run at people at full speed and butt them with His head. He sent some folks flying into chairs, walls, and other people dancing.

The Ogous started to come after that and it was getting really late at this point—just about 7AM. One Ogou came and flung His horse’s body over three rows of chairs before He began to beat on the wall with His fists. I wrote after Fet Gede that the possessions were way more violent than I have seen in other contexts, but this really blew that out of the water.

The last Lwa to come for the evening/morning was Ogou Badagris. I have quite honestly never seen Anyone arrive like He did. Manbo was His host and she had already been pretty beat up that night—about a dozen Lwa came down and she was used by at least three-quarters of Them. She sat in a chair up against a wall and all of a sudden you saw her body arch out of the chair in that stereotypical from-the-movies this-person-is-possessed posture.

Ogou came in screaming at the top of the horse’s lungs and throwing His horse’s body all over the place. Not hurt-screaming or scared-screaming, but I-am-fucking-pissed-and-I-am-coming-to-tell-you-all-about-it screaming. The horse’s body was launched over three or four people before several priests got to Him and pulled Him upright. His feet and the floor before Him was sprayed/asperged-by-mouth with rum, which makes seating in the horse easier, and He was finally fully there. It should be noted, by the way, that Ogou Badagris is considered one of the most personable and congenial Ogous.

He jumped up and danced a bit before taking up His machete. He immediately began hitting His face and forehead with it. Then, He bent it. I don’t know if you have ever had the occasion to see a very petite Haitian woman’s body bend a machete, but I never had before. He danced a bit more, took His bottle of rum, and began to greet attendees.

I have heard tales of the Lwa taking people to task when They come down, but I had not seen it before. Ogou Badagris had one woman sobbing down on her knees in the middle of the room because she had failed to do something He had advised Her to do. He outright snubbed another woman by refusing to do the traditional greeting with her because she has put off kanzo for longer than He believes is acceptable. There were lots of heated conversations and He’s big on making deals—lots of things were agreed to and sealed with a handshake.

He started talking to every single person left in the room at this point—even the annoying drunk dude who was inappropriate all night—and He finally came my way. Our conversation started in the same way my conversation with Papa Ghede had—Ogou Badagris said He was very happy to see me. I returned the sentiment and He noted that I have a lot of work to do. My inner snarky over-tired asshole said ‘yeah, no fucking shit’ but my outer polite and well-mannered self said ‘yes, I do’. He said I needed a lot of knowledge and I asked Him what I should be doing. He said that all the places that I have been going won’t help me and what I needed to learn would come from the house [the sosyete that hosted the fet]. He got yanked away by someone else at that point, so that was the extent of our conversation. My translator says I should talk with Manbo, which is something I have been putting off for months for a variety of reasons, so I have a phone call with her later this week which will likely lead to a visit and a reading or two.

As I told a houngan friend after the fet, every time a Lwa greets me with ‘I’m happy to see you’, I want to rip of my headwrap and run for the door. It’s a blessing that They even acknowledge me, but that sentence is like the soft-shoe entrance for ‘here’s another life change coming for you’ and More Action Required.

This latest direction has me very, very nervous. There is a limited amount of things one can learn in a sosyete without some level of kanzo and, while kanzo did not pass His lips and I haven’t spoken with Manbo yet, it is tickling the back of my mind. That would be a huge, immense undertaking—a requisite trip to Haiti, a not-insignificant amount of cash, and a massive life change, as kanzo doesn’t just slip into your life. It would also create an irrevocable bond to the house and Manbo and I don’t know how I feel about that right now. I don’t like bonds and oaths to mortals that much—I prefer to keep those with the Divine unless absolutely necessary.

There’s going to be a lot of divination coming up on this. I suspect Manbo will need to read extensively on what I need to do and what that’s going to take and I’ll be getting a few outside opinions, as I have a rather high suspicion of anyone, mortal or Divine, who tells me that I must do a thing and the only way to do it is with this one specific person or place. That has ALWAYS been a huge red flag that has led to nothing but pain, and I have no desire to re-live those kinds of experiences.

After the fet, I came home and threw myself in front of the Mister. I had a great big ‘what the fuck is going on’ at Him and cried a bit, because I’m actually pretty terrified of this and not just because it was a huge curveball. I very much want a face-to-face with Him about this, but I doubt that’s going to happen so I’ll settle for meditation and prayer and ranting at the foot of His altar until I gain some sort of clarity, one way or another. I’ll also be having similar discussions with Eleggua and Papa Ghede, too. I’m side-eyeing Papa Ghede pretty hard, as this has the taste of a glorious set-up all over it.

I went to bed after my tired what-the-fucking and of course I have a Sekhmet dream, because everything absolutely should pile on at one time. Make hay while the sun shines and all that, I guess. I’m not upset, angry, or anything like that, but more resigned to the fact that the path my life is taking is, and always will be for the foreseeable future, out of my hands. I have wiggle room up until a point and I can pick out what kind of car I drive, but the spacing of the rest stops and the route in general is in Their hands. It’s nothing I haven’t known and come to terms with awhile ago, but every now and then I get a punch to the face to remind me of the dotted line that I signed on closing in on ten years ago. I’d sign it every damn day if I had to, because my life is so much better for it and I love my Powers above all other things, but it sure does make things interesting. They never promised me boring, after all.

Moved and Moving

•March 3, 2014 • 3 Comments

It is just past 4AM while I am writing this and I am eating kettle corn and drinking ginger beer in my brand new-to-me apartment. I moved over two days—packing up my stuff and having it loaded onto a truck this past Friday and then having it unloaded into my new apartment on Saturday. Friday night was spent in a hotel with a friend where we ate take out, drank a tiny bit, and talked about our lives and our Gods and all of that good stuff.

The move came about in a frantic sort of way. My roommate and I knew we needed to move because our heating bill at our old apartment was unbearably high [~$500/month for oil], but money, as always, was an issue. We went without heat for a month while waiting for tax returns to magically appear and, once they did, it gave us [read: me] under two weeks to find an apartment. I prayed so damn hard that I would find something that was nice, had affordable heat, was off the ground floor, would let me have room for all my spooky stuff, and might let me have a doggie. I prayed and prayed and made offerings and promises and we signed a lease last Monday, four days before we had to vacate our old apartment.

Moving is incredibly stressful for me and doubly so when spiritual matters are at play. I’d been at the old apartment for awhile and had a bunch of altars that were very lived in there. More than a few Powers had touchstones in my apartment and my room is the room that I shared with the Mister. A lot of Work had been done there, both for me and for clients, and I had extensive shields and wards that had been built over time, expanded upon, and re-drawn as needed.

I’d never moved with such complicated altars before. The working altar went into boxes first—I bagged everything else, prayed that it got to the new place in one piece, and entered it into the queue to be put onto the truck.

The altars for the Powers were taken down dead last I was boxing Them up when the movers arrived and it was a surprisingly wrenching experience. I had to try really hard not to cry while disassembling Sekhmet’s shrine, Eleggua’s space, and the Mister’s altar. Papa Ghede, in terms of physical stuff and emotional attachment, was pretty simple, but the Others were quite painful and I really wasn’t prepared for that mixed into the stress of the move in general.

In preparation, I literally printed out a map of where my new place is located and told Them what the journey would be like—that I would be placing Them in boxes, They would ride in my car to the hotel, I would bring Them into the room for the night, and then we would go to my new apartment in the morning. I checked into the hotel at about 7PM that night with a bellhop’s cart with several moving boxes on it. The staff must have thought I was a bit nuts, especially when I rolled that same bell cart with moving boxes on it out the door at 7:30AM, but I had promised Them I wouldn’t leave Them out in the cold [and it was fucking cold—2 degrees during the move].

The Mister, Eleggua, and Papa Ghede were perfectly fine with being thrown in the same box, as They appeared to understand that it was just the most convenient way to get from point A to point B, but the Lion-Headed Lady was having NONE of that. She’s displeased with me for other reasons [I have not been doing everything I should be doing], but She was absolutely not about to be placed in a box with Anyone Else, least of all any of Them. She tolerates the Mister and Eleggua, but She won’t entertain being in the same room as Papa Ghede. So, She got packed into Her own box—shrine box first with Her idol wrapped in the shrine covering and surrounded by jars of natron. The dried roses [orange and yellow, if you please] that I have accumulated for Her were placed on top and then I had one packed up Sekhmet shrine ready to go.

Once upon a time, I had bought a specific key for Eleggua and it had disappeared. Wouldn’t you know that I found it laying in the middle of the floor of the old apartment as I was doing a walk-through right before the final getting-the-fuck-out?

After the movers had gotten all of our stuff into the new place and I had made a Walmart run for some immediate necessities, I set up the Mister’s and Eleggua’s altars first thing. Both of Them got a hefty pour of Their preferred booze and Eleggua blessed the house by immediately knocking over His shot glass and dousing my carpet with His rum. He got another pour and both of Them got effusive praises and prayers of thanksgiving for delivering me to a new and wonderful place to live. Sekhmet is still in Her box, as She will be going in the living room and the living room is a clusterfuck of boxes and furniture at the moment. Papa Ghede appears to have requested a spot on top of the refrigerator[??], which is quite a change from Him living on my desk in the old place. The desk is now in my bedroom, so that’s not a place for Him any longer. He can see my desk from the refrigerator, so maybe He’s just going to stare at me from there? No clue.

It really is a great apartment, though. One of the things I specifically asked for was room to have space for all nine of my current altars and shrines without having to cram them all in my bedroom. Since I am only living with one completely oblivious roommate who doesn’t touch things that are not hers, the not-in-the-bedroom thing was easy. The space, however, was not.

I lucked out, though, in a major way. The house is spacious enough that many of my altars, particularly the ones that I do not want or cannot have in my bedroom, can live out in common space. HOWEVER, my bedroom is massive. I have been telling people that if a bathroom and kitchenette were attached to the bedroom itself, it would be marketed as a studio apartment. It’s huge enough that I’m going to be splitting it into a bedroom and an office and work space via curtains or a divider or something like that. This is pretty unusual for a bedroom in an old-school New England three decker, so I’m counting this as Them making my life a little easier.

The fact that I will having personal living space in addition to a bedroom makes me so joyful beyond belief. I don’t feel crunched and it means that I can keep Eleggua in my personal space. I was very uncomfortable having my Father in the same place that I dress in and have sex in, but if I am curtaining off the bedroom portion, that issue really isn’t an issue anymore. I like having Him close, but not up in my business like He was at my last apartment. He can sit by my door without being greeted by my ass all the time.

The best part about this place, though, is that it feels like home. I have not felt at home in an apartment that I have lived in for years and years. I have always felt like a bit of a nomad and had trouble unpacking or putting up any of my art and the like. This place feels like it’s mine, though, and that’s wonderful. I feel happy here despite the absolute physical chaos that is boxes and trash bags full of stuff and I am super excited to do things to the space to make it belong to me even more.

I have a lot of magic to do in the next few weeks, though, because feeling isn’t the only thing that makes a place mine. I’ve got a few notions rolling around in my head that turn old ideas into a new manifestation of what’s in my head and we’ll have to see how that goes. I’m excited, though, and that’s a good thing.

Otherwise, things are intense. I had a rather large realization at the event I was at over Valentine’s Day weekend and it’s scary. It was one of those realizations that finds you on your hotel room floor at 2AM crying because <thing> feels incredibly overwhelming and like more of a burden than you can carry. It’s nothing bad and, if I am honest, nothing unexpected, but it was certainly unexpected in that moment.

I’ve got a lot to write about and I’m hoping to do more of that writing once my life starts to emerge from boxes and bags. I am rather appalled that I am booking into the summer and fall for things, as I had told myself that 2014 was going to be a low-key year for me in terms due to the plethora of internal things I have going on. Best laid plans and all..

 
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