A Chant For Isis and Some Other Things

Isis Crystal Rose

(Isis by Crystal Rose, sadly her DeviantArt page is no more).

By now, if you know me, you know that my Matron Goddess is Isis.  Mother, healer, Queen of Gods and Goddess of Queens, Mighty Of Magic, with more epithets and pseudonyms than you can shake a stick at.  Today, as part of my devotional work, I’ve written a chant/meditation to use to draw closer to Her:

Light, dark, red, green,

Sun and earth, Living Queen,

green, red, light, dark,

Mighty One on ancient barque,

dark, light, green, red,

Shining wings and sun-crowned head,

Red, green, dark, light,

Source of Life in day and night,

I focused on colors that are associated with Her (using “light” and “dark” rather than “white” and “black” because I found better rhymes for them and I felt that they both encompassed and surpassed the names of the two hues).  I wove traditional names of Hers into the chant as well.  It’s meant to be read and chanted over and over in a loop, allowing each word to evoke appropriate images as it is spoken.  I hope that She accepted this offering; it certainly worked to draw me into a trance state.

I had some thoughts about Her names, also.  I’ve been having trouble recently, as a lot of people who honor Her do, because of the media’s use of Her name for a certain organization.  The fact that the organization is made up of uptight orthodox Muslims who would never associate themselves with the name of a Pagan Goddess doesn’t mean that people aren’t associating Her with it.  I’ve heard and seen people being told to downplay their devotion to and worship of Her as a result, and that just won’t do.

She is Myrianymos, after all, “The Ten Thousand Named”.  So I’m going to make an effort to use more and more of Her epithets when speaking of Her.  I’m also going to start using Her Egyptian name (Iset, or Aset, depending on who you believe re: vowels; I tend to use Iset) when writing about Her and if I am going to call her Isis in public I’ll pronounce it the Greek way (where “Isis” came from in the first place) Ees-ees.

 

Isis in Heiroglyphics

 

(Hieroglyphs for Isis)

I find myself very troubled by this association; it feels as though someone is trying to befoul the name by which I came to know the One who has guided my life and given me countless blessings, the One to whom I owe more than I can imagine.  At the same time, She has many other lovely names that deserve attention.  It would be excellent if I found that others were using those names for Her as well.  I appreciate people using other monikers for that organization, as well; hopefully we won’t need to worry about that for long in any case.

May Her wings wrap around you and your loved ones and keep you safe, and may Her light cleanse you and bless you, and through you, the world around you.  Dua Iset.

Hijab at Gay Pride – My Covering Story

I’m a Pagan woman that covers, which is less of an anomaly than you might imagine.  There are a lot of us who do it for various reasons – reconstruction of traditonal practices, psychic protection, and more.  I wrote a piece about it earlier last year for another, now largely defunct blog, and wanted to share it here.  Covering has been a topic being discussed in many online communities lately, and I thought that it might be beneficial to share it here.

Hijab at Gay Pride – My Covering Story

I come to the practice of covering as a transgender woman, having been raised in a Muslim country by Sunni Orthodox (others would call them Wahabi) Muslims.  My mother was Episcopalian until she found Islam some time in my early childhood; I believe I was in first grade when she started going to a mosque and then started covering.  I had never been raised in her prior tradition, just given general ideas, and her excitement about her new path was contagious.  I read the books and learned the strange and magickal words in other languages and accepted wholeheartedly that this was good and the way that it was taught to me.  My mother married an Egyptian man who worked in Saudi Arabia and so we moved there with him when I was in fourth grade.

I struggled with my identity for a long time, who I knew I was being in conflict with who I was being told that I was.  My religion did not lead me to any satisfactory solution in regards to me gender.  Because of this and other things, I fought with my mother when I graduated High School to be allowed to move back to the States and live with my grandparents.

I found Pagan paths a few years after I moved back, and realized that Pagans weren’t evil or bad people and that there was a lot of value in Pagan practice.  I started to identify as Pagan and had a massive internal struggle as I cast off parts of my old faith a bit at a time.  I remember distinctly a phase where it felt like I was pulling hooks out of my spine, hooks attached to tense, invisible lines or cords.  It was painful and liberating.

I was afflicted with early-onset male pattern baldness.  I had always had my hair long as a teenager and young adult; it was the only feminine expression that I could get away with and losing my beautiful hair tore me apart inside.  I felt disempowered and that my only connection to my womanhood, to who I really was, was being torn from me one hair at a time.  I eventually just shaved my head and kept it short because it was easier to deal with it that way and keep it neat but it jarred and scarred me internally.

I eventually got to the point where I was ready to deal with my gender identity and began to live as I knew myself to be and transition medically.  At this point I began covering because of my hair loss.  I wore colorful scarves tied simply bandana-style, and over time my scarf collection grew and expanded thanks to friends (thanks, Deb!) and hippy stores in the area that I lived.  I have many colorful scarves that I use

My hormonal changes started allowing some of my hair to grow back.  As it started filling back in I realized that at some point I might be able to go uncovered and enjoy my stolen birthright.  At the same time, though, I had been reading about how ancient Isians would go covered, and was exposed to women of other Pagan traditions who covered.

Then, when going to the DMV to get my driver’s license changed to reflect my new name and proper gender identity, they asked me to take off my scarf for the picture.  I nervously invoked New York State’s religious exemption regarding covering in pictures and encountered no resistance to it.  However, walking out of the DMV with my new license made me wonder if making that statement and using my faith as an excuse to cover for the picture meant that I should be walking the walk and embrace it as a regular practice, even though my hair was beginning to fill back in.

Little things happened, too.  When my partner’s ex-husband was on his way over and almost came into the apartment one day I panicked, thinking, “But he’s not muhrim, I need to cover!”  I wasn’t raised as a woman in Islam, and still the concept of muhrim (people who are muhrim are “pure”, people who are allowed to see you unveiled) leaked in to my psyche and I began applying it unconsciously.  I began tucking hair in to try and keep it from showing rather than just covering most of my hair, as well.  I didn’t want to be a “hojabi”.

Today was Pride in Rochester, the city I live in.  I’m a leader in the trans community of Rochester and posed like a figurehead at the front of the float, proudly waving the rainbow flag and greeting those I passed with what I hoped was a good balance between lively enthusiasm and royal aplomb.  I kept seeing my own reflection in the back of the truck pulling the float, and at one point I let little wisps of hair on the sides of my head free and immediately felt bad about it.

We have a large festival after the parade, and while in a bathroom there I was looking in the mirror and saw myself and my scarf.  I took it off to fix and adjust it for the first time since I had left the house, and had a moment of pause.  On a whim, I tied it under my chin (rather than behind my head, tichel-like, as I’ve been doing) and folded it over on my cheeks.  My face was framed as my mother’s had been, as countless women I’d been raised with had been.

I didn’t know how to feel about it.  It felt much more complete and comfortable.  It felt more of a whole thing, and less awkward.  At the same time, I had short sleeves and shorts – I wasn’t covering “properly” for a Muslim woman – and I’m not a Muslim woman.

I put it back into the tichel style and went back to our booth at the festival.  Without taking the scarf off I showed the others there what it looked like as hijab.  I got some compliments, and one person remarked on how easily I had done it for not having done it before.

I don’t feel one hundred percent right doing it.  Part of it is identification – I’m not Muslim, and it’s a style associated with Islam.  At the same time, it covers all of my hair, and is something that provides the comfort of familiarity and a sense of continuity.  It feels “safer” than my standard style.

I like it but I don’t know if I like wearing it.  Part of me really wants to experiment with it, and part of me is afraid.  A lot of the fears are unidentified, but I know there’s a fear of being mistaken for Muslim (which is unfair to Muslims and could potentially be unpleasant for me, especially if I have an encounter with someone who actually is Muslim), there’s a fear of being like my mother or walking too close to the road that she walks on… I don’t know what all of them are.

It’s both comfortable and unsettling.  I don’t know what to do or how to feel about it.  I’m sharing it on this blog, but also with the facebook groups that I belong to for covered women.  I am still trying to digest how I feel about this.

The one thing that does put a smile on my face about the situation is the fact that I first wore hijab for Gay Pride.

Druitch? Wuid? Heathgan? Pitch?

I’ve got a mixed past, to say the least. I was raised by a convert to a monotheistic faith (Islam).  I grew up being told that polytheists and Pagans were evil because any God but the big one was really a devil in disguise, misleading people and giving them really kickass powers.  I kind of wanted those kickass powers; I’m not going to lie.  I tried interacting with the jinn while I was growing up in the Middle East, with interesting and varied results.  Not all jinn are devils, they’re viewed as being much like humans in that they have free will and choose their own paths.  I figured that if I dealt with goodly, God-fearing jinn I could get cool powerzzz and not have to worry about my immortal soul. Well, when I dealt with them stuff happened.

That could be a whole series of posts in and of itself – I might relay some of my experiences later.  It’s a shame that I didn’t have better occult training and discipline in my early teens, or I might have developed a very powerful practice.  Of course, the spirits there are far more active than they are here, largely because they’re used to being interacted with while the ones in the States are by and large used to being ignored (and often skeptical bordering on hostile to attempts at contact).  People there haven’t forgotten the jinn, they’re part of every day life in many places in the Middle East, so they still mess with people fairly regularly. Fast forward to me returning to the States for college.  I was supposed to experience a faith that wasn’t my own for an anthropology assignment so I went to a Pagan Coffee night.  I had this fantastic revelation that these totally weren’t evil people and in fact, some of them were super-nice and super-cool and with it.  I ended up taking a year-long 101 class by a very serious teacher, and then training for a year with a British Traditional coven.

I was a little too queer and weird for them (it’s been the story of my life).  So since I wasn’t officially invited to join, I started doing my own rites with others in the area.  I attracted a group and usually ended up leading rites.  My good friend Rose became an unofficial High Priestess and I was an unofficial High Priest who really, really wished people would label her a High Priestess and let her wear the silver moon crown. I loved Wiccan practice.  I loved the feel of power in casting a circle and the energy and presences I felt when calling the spirits of the quarters.  I loved the deep, resonant communion that I had with the Goddess when Drawing Down the Moon.  I developed a relationship with Isis early on for a lot of reasons – I was drawn to her and she had been worshiped as an All-Goddess since the days of her Hellenic and Roman followers like Lucius Apuleius, or perhaps even before that in Egypt.  I integrated some Kemetic things into my rites and felt the ringing, powerful and ancient might of those practices.

There were things that were missing, though, and it took me a while to work out what they were.  Every High Day seemed to revolve around us working some kind of magick and coming away with some new goody or spell, but it didn’t feel like we were giving back at all.  So myself and some other members of our group started instituting the practice of offerings.  We didn’t do physical offerings at first, but we would make an oath to whichever Goddess and/or God was presiding over a particular rite to do something appropriate in their name before the next Sabbat.  This immediately caught on, and the results were tangible and powerful – our relationships with those deities deepened and became more manifest.  We gave small amounts of our cakes and ale to the Gods and Spirits as well.

Something else that was missing was a genuine involvement with spirits and the dead.  There is no specific framework for that within standard Wiccan and Wiccanate practice.  I’ll admit that that confounded me.  I kept trying to approach High Ceremonial Magick for evocation, but I couldn’t stand the Judeo-Christian language; it wasn’t me.  I couldn’t reach back and incorporate the work I had done with the jinn; they lived elsewhere.  I was too afraid to work with the dead, to be honest, so I never reached out to them other than asking deities that worked with them to intercede and aid them.

Well, Rose died.  Other than completely shattering my world (she and I had a relationship that was not easily quantifiable or labelled but suffice it to say was unique and deeper than our bones and hearts) it ended up shattering our group and we all fell out of practice with one another.  Other than the monumental task of hand-copying her extensive Book of Shadows for her husband, I didn’t do a lot of work but the occasional Sabbat with a tiny crowd of friends or very private Moon rites. I started reading more on Isian practice and it filled the void for me.  Not all of it was Kemetic; some was Hellenic, some Roman, and some modern.  I joined the Fellowship of Isis, the work and spirit of which I appreciate, but I became very frustrated with the lack of organization.  It was difficult to find a functional Lyceum or Iseum that would provide the training that FoI advertises as free for all members.  It was a frustrating time spiritually for me.

I ended up moving to Rochester, New York to be with my partner, Maur, who was a member of ADF.  I knew nothing about ADF or Druidry, and just kind of listened to him talk about it and absorbed bits and pieces.  I was so frustrated with the lack of community, though, that I didn’t know what to do. So, when I went to the Sirius Rising festival in 2012, I went with a purpose.  I had done a week-long oracular intensive with Diana Paxson the year before, and I knew that she usually did oracular work as part of the festival.  When she does her oracular seidh she goes between answering questions through raw psychic ability and consulting with entities, often at the request of the querents.  The last querent had received a message about Greco-Egyptian practices, so I asked her if she could speak to Isis for me while she was “in that area”. Isis spoke through her.  There were a lot of manifestations that wowed the crowd – the sunlight got brighter and a nearby radio blared, “Let the sunshine in!” and then stopped.  I asked Her about community, and she told me to find take a journey to find the pieces of Her husband myself, and recreate him.  I’ll spare some of the details because, but later when I asked for clarification on how to find them, She told me to go to “the Groves of the North, the mountains of the East, the deserts of the South and the forests of the West, and wherever you go, you will find Me.”  She then reiterated that the first place that I should go was to the Groves of the North and the “Gods of my Childhood and Ancestors”.

Now, Norse mythology had fascinated me more than any other as a child and I greedily acquired books on the subject in those pre-internet days (before I moved to the Middle East, that is).  When consulting Maur about the “Groves” that he was most familiar with (ADF) I discovered that it wasn’t specifically Celtic – there were individuals and even whole Groves committed to various Indo-European cultures – Norse, Gaulish, Hellenic, Roman, Baltic, even Vedic. So at the behest of a Kemetic Goddess worshiped across many cultures in the ancient world I joined an organization that uses a Celtic word to describe its members (Druid) so that I could worship Norse deities in a structured environment and walk the path to finding and creating a good spiritual community.  Sorry not sorry, traditionalists.

I find myself still casting circles and using quarter calls when working magick.  I incorporate offering and the Druidic Hallows into my magickal rites and spells as well.  I still draw down the moon on occasion, but practice my High Days and much of my daily devotional in ADF’s style.  I still primarily am devoted to and honor a (at least originally) African Goddess while performing modern rites descended on the one hand from High Ceremonial Magick and on the other of modern scholarly interpretation of common themes in Indo-European religious practice.  I can just feel people (including my first teachers) twitching at this.

You know what?  It works for me.  For me, religion has always been about structured practices meant to bring about spiritual experiences and magickal connections.  People who gasp and pearl-clutch about mixing traditions and how no one can ever discover anything or “advance” without following some specific, structured, and ultimately man-made dictum simply haven’t had the experiences I have.  I try to be disciplined and regular and consistent in my practice, and I find that that has a whole lot more to do with successful God-talking and doing of hoodoo (as opposed to Hoodoo) and wondrous, magical, awe-inspiring, world-shaking experiences than following an initiatory ladder created by someone who has never met me.  Most of those systems were created by people who weren’t as multicultural as I am – I was raised Irish Protestant/WASP/(Modern) Egyptian Sunni/American Hippy Feminist who spent days with her Scottish/Egyptian best friend and practically became family to her Indian and Pakistani friends.  Most of those systems weren’t created by people in a world whose secret practices have been blown open by the internet and the marvelous sharing of consciousness altering, reality manipulating techniques from all corners of the globe. I truly feel that in this modern age, cultural context of practice is not as important as it once was mainly because it doesn’t exist anymore.

Culture and identity are changing so rapidly and wildly that what may have worked wonderfully for Upper-Middle class English people in the middle of the last century probably won’t work so well for us.  That doesn’t mean to leap around wildly between traditions – take some time and dedicate yourself to things.  Learn them inside and out.  Grow in them.  For your own sake, though, move on when you’re ready.  Don’t let that fancy ritual robe be a straightjacket.  The most successful witches, sorcerers, Pagans, and mystics and the ones that I admire most have that in common – dedication to practice, and practical open-mindedness. So what am I?  A Witch, a Wiccan, a Druid, a Pagan, a Heathen?  Any one of those fits; it depends on the rite I’m attending, who is going to be there, and what I need to accomplish.  I have grown to be unashamed of my eclecticism because over time it truly has strengthened my magick and connection to the Powers and helped me to refine and find mastery over myself, and that’s what matters to me.

Introductions

“Hail to the Day and the Day’s bright boy!

Hail to the Night and her daughter’s joy!

With eyes that bless us may you see,

and grant to those here victory!

The Gods and Goddesses we call

And holy Earth who gives to all,

give us here wise words and weal,

and in this life, hands that heal.” – Sigridfumal (as translated by Diana Paxson)

Hail and welcome!  This being the first post of my blog, I would like to introduce myself.  I’m Laine, and I’m pleased that you’re reading this!  I’ve had other blogs in the past (and still use a couple of them; those will be linked at a different time).  I want to let you know a few things about me and this blog so that there are less questions and surprises later on.

The title of this blog comes from a joke that I made to my fiance.  I had just been confirmed as the Grove Organizer for Shining Valley Protogrove, ADF (a druidic congregation) and was fishing a copy of A Book Of Pagan Prayer out of my purse.  A realization sank in.

“Love?”  I called out.  “You do realize that you’re marrying the Pagan church lady, don’t you?”

“I have no problem with this.” he replied from the other room.

The name rattled around in my head for a few days, and as part of my effort to embrace some new things in my life, I decided to enshrine it with its own blog.

So, I’m Pagan.  I am eclectic and unconcerned with the negative opinions of others vis-a-vis eclecticism.  My path has taken me through British Traditional Withcraft to Heatherny to modern Isism to what is generously labeled the “Druidic” practice of Ár nDraíocht Féin.  As such, I’ve got quite a history and quite a wide variety of practices that I’ve devoted myself to.  I believe that each person’s spiritual path is unique, and while following a tradition strictly can be of benefit, most people who try to tend to outgrow it and seek other things with time.  This is natural, no one path but the one we walk leads us to where we need to be.

I’m Radical.  I think that there are a whole lot of messes in the world that require serious work to change.  A lot of these messes are based on deeply entrenched social and cultural mores.  To improve things, some very deep roots will need to be dragged out of the ground and the rifts they cause given time to heal and lay fallow.  I comfortably use the term “radical feminist” to describe my views of kyriarchy, which causes some confusion to some people because I’m also:

Transgender. For most of my life people tried to tell me that I was male, and I very simply knew they were wrong.  It’s been a long journey, but some thirty-odd years in I found a combination of support of Deities, family, friends, and community that helped me to have the strength to stop lying to the world and to let the world know that they were wrong about me.  I’m a community organizer and activist; I have the strength and the skill with words to speak out when other people are silenced and I consider it my responsibility to do so.

I’m an unabashed Theist.  Yes, I believe in Gods and Spirits and the Ancestors and other things that there are less well-known names for.  My personal experiences as well as some shared ones make it seem pretty clear to me that the Gods and the rest exist outside of us, though there are places for them to dwell within us.

I’m  a Devotional Polytheist.  I’m both a hard polytheist and a panentheist: I think that all the Gods are part of the same thing, but then, I think the same thing of people, so to avoid confusion I call them (both Gods and people) by different names and treat them as separate entities.  That’s a demand of the level of existence we are on.  I make offerings and work to establish relationships with them, because it’s helpful and frankly fascinating and amazing.

I’m also a Witch.  I do magick.  I am magick.  I practice magick because it is helpful and likewise amazing.  I geek out on it the way some people geek out over Dr. Who.  My views are far from mainstream and my practices may make some people lift their noses in the air and sniff but they work for me.  They might work for you, too, which is part of the reason that I share them.

I think I’m out of terms to put in bold and discuss at the time.  Suffice to say that these will be qualities that you’ll see rise again and again in my writing.  They are things that I like talking about and exploring with other people, so feel free to comment as long as you’re civil and well-mannered.

Welcome, and be blessed!