Personal Updates (Personal, Obviously)

In less than two weeks I’ll be moving across country to a place I’ve never been.  I know very few people in that place, but the thing that warms my heart against my fear is that fact that many of them have expressed excitement and impatience.

I have never been on a roller coaster with higher ups or lower downs than I have experienced in the last six months since moving back to Buffalo.  Relationships with both humans and Powers have been severed, altered, consummated, begun, realized… just about everything that can happen between two people (speaking generally) has happened between me and others during this period.  It’s been intense.

It’s been wonderful.  I may not be much of a masochist, but I appreciate being able to look back on painful times and feel the warm fullness of the experiences that I lived during them.  Despite the peaks of please, these six months have been painful.  Again, many kinds of pain have been felt – right now I’m dealing with physical pain (an obnoxious sinus infection, so any prayers, mojo, sendings, Reiki, whatever you have would be appreciated – I can’t afford to not be well right now) but there have been pains of all shades and colors.   I have had a wealth of experience.

I’m grateful for it.  I’m grateful to those who moved on or whom I had to sever, because our lives will truly be better without each other.  I’m grateful to those who became closer to me through troubled times, physical intimacy, and holy rite.  I’m grateful to those who have come into my life, even for this brief period before I leave this place, as well as the new folks I’ve not met in person waiting for me in San Diego.

I’m grateful to Freyja, and for Freyja. ❤  The Lady’s been pushing me and preparing me to do new things and take on new responsibilities for a while now.  She’s also given me immeasurable rewards.  She’s fulfilled promises many years old, and given me the strength to embrace myself and my future.

I’m grateful to Delling, for new days and new ways and many other things. ❤

I’m grateful to Jim the Odinsman for being my family and helping me in a rough spot and growing spiritually with me in this time.  I’m grateful to his fiance Clifford for being so accepting of me and bringing me into his heart and family and hugs without a second though.  I’m grateful to all the new cats, also.  I’m grateful to Brythwen Sinclair for swapping Godphone duties with me when one or the other of us was panicking or worn out.  All of my family, friends, and loved ones that have helped me keep going when things turned upside-down.

I could go on … there are a lot of folks out in the blogger community that have helped me to maintain my sanity over the last few months and other people who shared insight, wisdom, and just made me happy to know that they existed.  I’m grateful for you all.  I’ve met just about none of you in person and there are some who I haven’t spoken to at all, but your words have been good for my mind and heart and I hope that you know that I’m not the only one who is grateful for you.

I’m really going to miss this small, grey cat named Sheeba who loves me here, and comes into my room and rolls around and purrs and headbutts me while I type madly on my beloved laptop.  I think she’s going to miss me too. She is a sleek and lovely creature and one of the most feline felines I’ve ever encountered.

The practical effects of this all: I’m going to be maybe not blogging other than for my Patheos column for the rest of the month, and will be saving my writing time and energy for that and Walking The Worlds Issue 3, which I hope to complete an article for.  Since I’m doing a seidh rite after the Odin’s blot next week (9/9 is coming up, and James and I want to reprise the blot we did on 9/9/09, which is another interesting bookend for me considering the reprisal of the Freyja’s blot from 09 at Sirius Rising this year) I can take questions sent to me for the next few days; my cut-off will be Monday as I’ll need to compile things and prepare. After that I can do no more readings or other services until I settle in and am ready to pick things up again, give me at least until the beginning of October. I kind of need the money but I know that I won’t have the energy to focus properly on these things for a little bit.  I’ll be back to doing readings and whatnot soon.

I appreciate all of my readers and want to thank you for sharing your thoughts with me.  There’s a nice little community here too, and it may be electronically but we’re still building real ties.  Be well, and may your Powers hold you close and in love.  ❤

 

 

 

What Are We Really Afraid Of?

“Three rules I try to live by:

Always assume the best of other people.

Always plan for the worst in any situation.

Always keep your spirituality untamed.” – Morgan Daimler

The Nokean Bingo and Godspouse Bingo and similar conversations (as well as things going on in my own spiritual life) have had the wheels in my brain a-turning.  People all around me in the flesh as well as online are having personal experiences with their deities and spirits (something that Real Heathens say Never Ever Happens Except To Heroes Which No One Today Is Because Not Enough Swords and Slaughter or something like that).  People I know are awakening to all sorts of things as we open our minds both through study and technique, crack our skulls and barriers against things that we’re told aren’t possible and real, and (perhaps most significantly) have experiences that we’ve never asked for thrust upon us.

Reading about and witnessing how people react to Godspousery (I’m using this as a specific and pertinent example; apply broadly to other spiritual experiences that people who have’t had them label as fads or psychoses) I’ve come to witness a familiar pattern.  It often starts with a small voice inside someone saying “I thought I was the only one.”.  It is often followed by euphoria at feeling a connection to other people that you find that share similar experiences (which is followed by confusion and sometimes disillusionment when you realize that outside of your common experiences you’re probably very different from the folks that you encounter).

It continues with people who haven’t had the same experiences insulting you and trying to invalidate you (whether or not you needed validation).  It comes ripe full of blatant misogyny if you’re a woman, or reactive misogyny if you’re a man (you’re whipped by a Goddess?) and probably something similar for nonbinary folks.

People who have shared a similar experience will often stand up for each other and shake their fists at the accusers.  Sometimes they will turn on each other: having received qualifications for validation from respected outside sources, they feel it necessary to police others to help them maintain their own identity and credentials.

People are afraid of talking about it.  It’s either because they still think that they are the only one, or they don’t want to be associated with “those” people.  Even when those people are people just like them.

I suspect  you’ve heard some of this from me recently.  The question that is bedeviling me is “What are we really afraid of?”

Are we afraid that our experiences aren’t real?  In Clive Barker’s epic Imajica novels, one of the greatest curses that can be leveled by one magician to another is “May everything be as it seems.” (I wish I had the book handy to share the eloquent explanation given as to why, but I don’t have a copy with me).  The short of it is; because if everything were always as it seemed the world would be mud and your lives dust, meaningless, pointless, empty.  If we’re afraid that all of these voices are just in our heads, and all that we are is a bunch of chemicals artfully pushing around other bunches of chemicals (I agree that that is part of what we are, though I disagree with it being the whole) then we have nothing to fear, because we have no way to change that.  If all we are is nothing and all that is comes to nothing, then embrace the richness of your experiences.  Sure, make sure that they have some value and positive effect on your life, but if they don’t, simply ignore them.  After all, if they aren’t real they’ll fade like mist in the morning sun.  If you are misleading people, then what?   Humanity will end without truly affecting anything, either through planetary trauma, self-harm, or whatever end the physicists by and large agree on nowadays.  No harm, no foul, right?

Most of us know that that isn’t the case, though.

Are we afraid of being hurt?  Of being insulted?  These are real fears.  Words tear at our sense of self, they flay our egos.  Despite what Stephen Fry and every other bully on the planet thinks, there are words than can hurt any human being.  If I knew you well enough I could find words that would make you doubt yourself, that would make you harm yourself, that would make you weep and feel empty, that could remove your ability to keep trying.  I was raised in a family that used words as weapons and know that no matter your armor, there are holes and flaws.  I can be a cold, sharp, jagged, hurtful bitch when I need to be and anyone who knows me well has seen that side of me (though few who know me well have had to be on the receiving end).

Those insults come from people who either aren’t sure themselves, and thus need to put you in your place, or who are sure. and you can tell those from how they argue themselves in circles trying to disprove something that they can’t even experience.  They come to get you to stop saying things that tear at their own egos. To them, saying that a God loves you in a special way is saying that a God talks to you (which they know could never happen because you’re not them… I mean, a hero) or that that God doesn’t love them.  These assumptions hurt their self-images, and as I learned from Laverne Cox, “Hurt people hurt people.”  The places where they strike from indicate where their weaknesses are, for knowing or not you’ve landed a blow against them.

Are we afraid of being seen like other people that we may have an unknowing prejudice against?  I know that I am.  I’ve had some experiences recently that tread close to the ground of Godspousery.  My first reaction was, “I can’t be a Godspouse… I can’t be one of THOSE people.”  Then I thought about it and realized that some of the people I identify as Godspouses are people that I respect and admire.  I’d love to be like them in some ways.  I was reacting to the ridicule hurled at them by folks so insecure in their own beliefs that they can’t handle someone else claiming an experience that they have not had.

Are we afraid of being right?  I think we are.  I think we’re terrified of that.  I think that we’re afraid that the experiences that we’ve had are real because we’ve been raised to believe that they aren’t and we don’t have any guidebooks or manuals to help us with them (yet … I predict Llewellyn 2017 will be the Year of the Godspouse or something… or not, it might be too Polytheist or something even for them).  I think a lot of people are afraid that what they have going on is real and that they’ll have no way to prove it, and no way to *gasp* make money off of it (because when you get down to it, that is still the way the majority of people in our society gauge the worth of any sort of practice, knowledge or experience).  I think we’re afraid of screwing it up and having angry whatevers messing with us.  I think were afraid of being right but being unable to stop society from throwing us into straightjackets and padded rooms (or refusing us employment and help and treating us to old school exile/shunning) for something that they can’t see and thus don’t care about.

What do you have to lose?  I’m not saying that you have nothing to lose, but is what you might lose worth keeping things bottled up?  Is it worth feeling like you’re living a lie?  Is it worth that terrible weight upon your chest and the heart-rending anxiety?

It isn’t.  Trust me, it isn’t.  As someone who has kept a secret from everyone that she knew for close to thirty-five years for many of the reasons provided above, it isn’t worth it.  It’s important to pick your battles, surely, but it’s worth it.

You know what I’ve seen from people who speak up and live their truth (when they’re ready)?  I’ve seen them lose friends and relatives, jobs and livelihood, careers and children.  You know what else I’ve seen?  I’ve seen them gain respect from those who value honesty.  I’ve seen people who were their friends before becoming allies as well, and I’ve seen people who weren’t their friends before flock to them because of their inspirational example.  I’ve seen them being stronger, happier, and more honest.  I’ve seen them become better people.

So what is my advice for when Odhinn pops the question and wants you to share it with others?  For when you’ve had a journey to Vanaheim that gave you great insight into what most might consider minor mythological figure?  For when some kind of crazy woo happens to you and you don’t know if you should share it or not?

Consider it.  Consider who you’re presenting it too, but more importantly, consider your words.  Don’t overthink it, though, just be careful to say what you honestly mean.  Prepare yourself.  Also, consider Morgan’s rules and my corollaries:

Corollary to Morgan’s first rule: People will surprise you more often than not; you *will* be surprised by who will take it well and embrace you.  They will inevitably get it wrong and misunderstand, so be prepared to find other ways of explaining it and correct them with a will, but know that more often than not it comes from a position of ignorance, not malice.

Corollary to Morgan’s second rule: Try and have a support network.  At best, find real-life people who will be supportive; this can be hard, though, because coming out to them can be more difficult than folks online.  Find folks online.  You’re not alone.  I don’t care if you’ve discovered you’re the spawn of a Pleidian Dolphin Princess, trust me, you are not alone.

Corollary to Morgan’s third rule: Don’t pussyfoot around it when it comes to dealing with yourself.  Qualify it all you want to.  Take care and be as skeptical as you like with your own experiences, but when you know something is going on don’t lie to yourself about it.  Embrace your spirituality, live it, let it ring in your bones, set your heart aflame, and pour from your mouth like molten gold.  Holding it back will stunt you, and you don’t need a bonsai spirit, you need to grow and have your spirit be like a swaying willow, a mighty oak, a Yggdrasil-like yew.  You will only regret it if you try to tame your spirituality.

Lest anyone think that I’m speaking against spiritual discipline or discernment, let me correct you: discipline is needed for healthy growth, and discernment is needed for protection both internal and external.  Your tree won’t grow unless it’s put in a healthy place and kept safe from the prying teeth of the hungry harts until it’s big enough to handle it.

If you need to keep it quiet while it grows, then do so.  There will almost certainly come a time, though, when it will need to burst forth from its former confines and keeping it it hidden will only weaken and sicken it.  Seeing another person be confident and public or at least up front about their spirituality will help yours to grow; be sure to return the favor if you can afford to.  If you do, all of these trees that we’re growing will some day be the best kind of forest: full of wildlife, unrestrained, untamed, beautiful, powerful, dangerous, terrible, sublime, and a cradle of new life.

As I said earlier, I’m not a Godspouse, but if I’m going to be honest about it it’s only by a matter of degree.  I haven’t discussed it publicly because it involves experiences that I’m working hard to process and find the right words for.  If that’s a title that my circumstance and spirituality end up putting me into I will proudly claim it and happily discuss it – with people who genuinely want to discuss it or are dealing with it themselves (as opposed to Utgart.net-Trolls).  I am a seeress and have been wandering between worlds and talking to beings that aren’t visible to the eye (usually) all of my life, and the only reason I haven’t shared more of what I’ve seen is context and need.  You’d better believe that if there’s a good reason I will be up front about it.

You are not alone.  You are not crazy.  You should not be ashamed to live your truth, whether you do so quietly or with loudspeakers and a parade.  The more of us who do, the more the voices of the insecure fools that lash out at us will be drowned out, if not by our voices then by the thunder and the earthquake of our many feet.

What do you really have to be afraid of?

Wellspring 2015

I was hoping to start this post with something like, “Pagan Church Lady, reporting on location at Brushwood Folklore Center for Wellspring 2015!”  Sadly, I could find no wifi and neither my lovely Fraulein (that’s my laptop) nor my Kindle (I don’t have a name for her yet) were up to the task of connecting to the Grand Interwebs.  It was probably for the best – I wasn’t allowed to hide behind a screen or avoid the notice of others.

Too much went on for me to record how I felt about all of it, so I’m going to give you the highlights of what I witnessed and participated in.  I know that I won’t be able to include everything worthy of note and I’m sorry for what I missed (most notably the Warrior games and Bardic stuff). I didn’t realize how insanely busy I’d be if I decided to participate in everything that I wanted to, but I slept solidly every night (except the night where it dropped below freezing) as a result.

Getting to meet everyone was wonderful.  I often had to tell people that I was “glad to put a voice to the words” since I know so many fellow ADFers through Facebook and their writing.  It was an honor and a privilege to be in good company like that.

So, highlights:

Opening Ritual:

We processed from the crossroads to the ADF Nemeton, and singing, filed in.  The rite was warm and welcoming.  It kind of felt like it was the “Initiating the Rite” “Purification”, “Establishing Group Mind”, and “Statement of Purpose” for the whole festival (for those of you familiar with the ADF Core Order of Ritual).  With the rite’s focus on the Earth Mother and the spirits of the land at Brushwood (which was a theme in many of the rites I attended, which made my happy) it also felt like the “Honoring the Earth Mother” – again, appropriate for an opening since it’s one of the things we do first in ritual.

I got to stand in a circle and sing the portal song with maybe thirty or forty other people while folks whose names and works I’d only read before honored the Sacred Center and helped to open the gates between the worlds.  Although I’ve attended three Groves’ rites now (and numerous large-scale public Pagan rites), there was a power in it that I’ve never experienced elsewhere, and it set a tone for the whole festival.

Stone Creed Grove’s tent

On the coldest night of the festival we were lead by the siren call of voices raised in song (yeah, Druids sing a lot apparently – fortunately there are usually enough of them that they can’t tell that I can’t sing when I join in).  On a frigid night it lead us across the campgrounds to the tent of Stone Creed Grove, where we were welcomed and waved in and joined in as a completely packed tent (I counted over twenty folks at one point) drummed, played guitar, messed with noisemakers, and sang Pagan campfire songs/ritual chants.  The faces were red with enthusiasm and joy and voices were raised in fellowship.

Some of the songs were familiar, and some were new (one of the ones that stood out in my mind out was a song about Isaac Bonewitz’ wake).  The tent was tightly packed – at one point I was sitting between a pair of swinging hips on one side and the violently jerking elbow of a drummer on the other and worried that my head might be pulped if ever the two met (there wasn’t much room to move without being even more awkward), but I came out of the tent later unscathed and refreshed.  The brief time I had in Stone Creed’s tent that night did as much to make me feel at home and part of the fellowship as much as any of the grand rites did.

Hecate Rite

We went to the crossroads, because that’s where we assumed that a rite for Hecate would begin processing.  We were wrong, but one of the clergy came and found us and lead us to where it was beginning.  We trailed through the assembled Druids, picking people up and waving them in for a spectacular twilight rite to Hecate Soteira.  It was interesting timing, as I had just completed a term of devotional service to her, and I felt far more comfortable at the rite than I would have before this past year.

I’ve never been to an Hellenic rite before, and while I don’t feel a pull in that direction it had a beauty and power that I appreciated.  I have a deep respect for Hecate and for the clergy who performed the rite and I’ll never forget the depths and clarity of the sky as we called to Ouranous nor the fading/lingering daylight as it slowly slipped away through the rite.

Norse Kin Meeting

It was wonderful to meet other members of the Norse Hearth Kin and discuss updates and future plans with them.  We discussed the dearth of information available on mainland Germanic mythology (as opposed to Norse, something that we’re still working to track down more sources for), increasing discussion of trance/seidh, magic, runework, and other esoteric practices, Rodney Cox’s Order of the Raven and Falcon (a magical order within ADF dedicated to Odhinn and Freyja) and other things that are slipping my mind (but I’m sure we’ll catch up on).

We also did a blot and trance right after the Unity rite.  It involved working with the places that ADF imagery and Norse imagery overlap particularly well (Flame, Well, and Tree, the Hallows).  I’m used to using Yggdrasil for journey work, but this was the first time for some folks.  It was a private journey for each of us that bore some surprising fruit for me (those who were there will understand).  It was also good to just be doing esoteric work with other Norsey people, Heathen or otherwise.

Seidh Lecture

I had mentioned that I was excited that Patricia Lafayllve was going to be there, and she surely didn’t dissapoint.  She did a presentation on the aspects of seidh that are rarely discussed nowadays (including all of the cursey and negative stuff) – a lot of it read like a list of things that witches and shamans the world over claim to be able to do, which I appreciated.

Another interesting aspect of the lecture was the connection between the Finns/Saami people and seidh.  She discussed places where the Saami were mentioned in Sagas and how their practices, appearance, and how the Northmen felt about them may have influenced both modern and old Northern Pagan faiths.  I can’t wait to read and hear more about it – my roomate Jim and I geeked out about references to the Finns in the Sagas once I returned to Buffalo and I’m sure that there will be more discussions and inquiry sparked by it.

Oracular Seidh

Patty also did an oracular seidh rite.  I always appreciate seeing different styles of trance and variations within traditions.  It was certainly different from the seidh/oracular work that I’ve witnessed, participated in, and trained in myself.  There was no bringing the entire group with her to where she went (she actually asked us very specifically not to follow her), nor were there lots of songs (other than when she called to Freyja at the beginning of the rite).

The answers that I received from my own questions were heavy and have left me pondering and “puzzling ’till my puzzler was sore”, and I’m grateful for them.  I appreciate being able to be there for what I consider an important form of “magical community service” and to witness a skilled seeress in action.

I did walk away with serious amber envy.  I thought I was all Freyja-blinged out with my amber earrings and ring and sunstone bracelet… nope.  Patty had enough amber strung on her apron dress (there we go again with the apron dresses!  One of these days…) to practically form armor, and every other woman with an association with the Lady came with ropes of the stuff (or so it seemed).  I felt very small when the observation was made that amber was a sign of a woman’s wealth in the old days – but then again, most of what I find of it goes to Freyja’s horde anyway (and given my current financial situation, it wasn’t entirely inappropriate).  Maybe I should let myself keep some occasionally, too.

Freyja’s Ve

It’s always threes, or at least it should be – Patricia also brought her travelling ve (basically a shrine) to Freyja.  While I’ve been aware of Freyja since my childhood the serious devotional relationship and dedication to her that I’ve developed lately started the first summer that I encountered that ve (which I believe was 2009(.  It was also involved in many other important wheels turning in my and others’ lives, so I have a history with it and it was good to see it and use it again.

Within the tent is a godpost for Freyja, bedecked with ropes of amber and other bright jewels.  Spread out on a cloth around the post are a wide variety of treasures that people have dedicated to her – jewelry, bottles of liquor, artwork, shiny things, and of course, amber everywhere. Soft rugs and shawls lined the corners of the tent.  I made some private offerings and had some time to commune with her in a place where she is closer than normal.  I also brought charcoal and a cauldron to light it in and offered her some small pieces of amber through the coals. That’s a scent I will never forget – the scent of a sap of a tree millions of years old, sweet and piney and pure, sacrificed to the Giver.  I could never bear to made burnt offering with it before, but like they say, if it hurts, it’s a good sacrifice.

People of the Purple Feather Ritual

The People of the Purple Feather is the LGBT special interest group within ADF.  We had a meeting where we got to introduce ourselves and discuss plans and hopes for the future, and the idea of doing a ritual for our SIG came up.  While it was too late to do something official, a few of us wanted to do something anyway, so Chris from Wild Onion Grove and I spent the next couple of days discussing and planning it and spreading the word.

We were given the stone circle right by Druid Heights to perform the rite, a very public and open place.  As a result we had people join who had just wandered in, unsure of what was going on.  Each of them ended up having something important to contribute, however.

The rite was dedicated to the LGBT dead, and was done in Norse Hearth Culture (calling to and honoring Norse deities for certain parts of the rite, specifically Bragi for inspiration and Heimdall as our gatekeeper).  The rainbow-based invocation of Heimdall was especially beautiful, and we also called to Oscar Wilde as a queer ancestor for inspiration.  When it was time to call the Beings of the Occasion, we each named LGBT Ancestors of blood, of heart (chosen family) and of spirit (those who have inspired us) and called them to join this rite in their honor.  We called to people who have been outcast and confused and hurt, to those whose lives were publicized and to those whose names we’ve never heard, to those who died of violence, of suicide, or of other causes, to those who shouldn’t have had to be alone and might have spent their entire lives feeling that way.  We called to the homosexual people, the bi and pan people, the trans people, the agendered and asexual people, and every color of the rainbow that we could think of, and we each offered water into the great offering bowl for them as part of the Key Offering.  Afterwards we made individual toasts to those who had passed.

For the return flow (the blessings that we receive when we make offering) we stuck our fingers in the Well, the Gate to the Underworld, and asked for inspiration and blessings from the LGBT Dead and sat in meditation to listen and hear if any of them bore messages for us.  It was an especially powerful experience for me as an Ancestor that I’ve been working with for a little while came forward in a big way and made herself heard to me (I’ll talk more about her at another point).

Not an eye was dry, and for an impromptu rite I think we did some powerful mojo.  It felt good to get together with another tribe that I am a part of and celebrate and honor the Dead that we share.  I’ve often wanted for queer pagan space and rites.  I pray that their inspiration and blessings pour out through us into the rest of our communities.

I’ve said it before, but I’ll emphasize it now – especially for our folk, reach out to your Ancestors.  They are grateful to be known, to be celebrated, to be heard, to be honored to be acknowledged at all, and they have so much to give us.  They want to, and they will, and all we need to do is open the way and ask.  You don’t even need to know any of them by name.

Unity Rite

The main rite on the last night was a powerful experience.  Gifts were brought from the various regions that ADFers occupy to honor the land spirits in those places, and many varieties of Ancestors and Shining Ones were called to and honored.  I was excited to see Kirk Thomas (the Archdruid)’s Gate Opening and Closing – I’ve heard that they do it differently on the west coast and that he is the origin of that style, and it was wonderful and powerful to witness in person.  The ecstatic spinning with the robe and staff was very reminiscent of Sufi dances that I’ve seen.

Drawing that connection between earth and sky, Cosmos and Chaos, between us and each other, between all of our groves and solitaries (who were mentioned first in the roll call!) was immenseley powerful, and I felt the web that we worked to reinforce radiating outward from its burning center across the world.  I’ve participating in long-distance linking rites before during my time with the Fellowship of Isis and it’s one of my favorite types of large-scale workings – I like the feeling of drawing our disparate wyrds more tightly together.

I was happy to see the Nemeton in full use.  I’ve been going to Brushwood since ’99 and before this Wellspring only saw it used once before (by Whispering Lakes Grove for Beltaine of 2010).  It’s a beautiful space, but one that is made even more so by putting it to the use that it was intended.

Chenille Canopy

So, I didn’t go. (Long term readers will know that this is something that I’ve been agonizing over).

I am a genuinely (as in diagnosed) bipolar person and those dizzying (and sometimes dangerous) heights are often accompanied with soul-crushing lows, and I was experiencing one of the latter while the Chenile Canopy meeting (ADF’s unofficial womens’ group) was happening.  I was fighting my inner demons of dypshoria and low self-esteem, coping with bad brain chemicals, and couldn’t make myself go to a space where I was afraid that I would have to justify my presence – it happens a lot for trans women in womens’ space.  When we’re not specifically made welcome we assume that we are not welcome at all, because it’s often easier than having to fight for it and be turned away because someone uses an aspect of our anatomy to define our identities.

I do, however, regret not going.

I know that others who I’ve met online have told me that it would be accepting, but it was different to hear it in person.  When I expressed my concerns later I was taken aside by one of the organizers and vigorously encouraged to attend whenever I had the chance.  She explained to me that it is open to anyone who identifies as a woman, and that trans women are never a problem there.  Having someone talk to me about it and convey it in person made all of the difference for me.

I miss womens’ space, and I especially miss Pagan/spiritual womens’ space.  It’s a wonderful and powerful thing and I’ve had far too little of it over my life.   If I ever get a chance again to go to a Chenille event I’ll be there in a heartbeat.  If you’re a trans woman and a member of ADF and have the inclination, please do so also – not only are we very specifically welcome, but our voices are needed there too.  All women, regardless of anatomy, are welcome to be a part of it.

Other notes:

Doing multiple big trance rites in a day means you should be grounding hardcore and all the time.  I thought, “It’s okay, I can take it.  I’ll be fine and it’ll be cool and trippy.”  It was indeed cool and trippy, but I had to be physically guided back to the tent when my limbs stopped listening well and just kind of wobbled in place; I could barely walk.  It was embarrassing and uncomfortable and hope to prepare better next time.

I made a small offering at Isaac Bonewitz’ memorial and felt deeply frustrated that we had been at the same camp at the same time numerous times and I never met or spoke to him.  I’m grateful to him for getting the ball rolling on this, and for a lot of his other work as well.

Sometimes doing loads of spiritual stuff makes me crave the touch of the mundane just a bit.  I found myself thinking at one point, “I need to do something left-brained.  I need to do math or something.”  It probably would have been helpful.

I don’t know if it was just the space and people used to dealing with trans people but I didn’t get misgendered once the entire weekend and I didn’t need to tell anyone what pronouns to use for me; they figured it out on their own.  I had long stretches of time where I was relaxed enough that I didn’t need to think about gender stuff at all.  May it someday be that way for everyone who wishes it so, all the time.  It certainly made me feel comfortable, at home, and not awkward in a way that I’m rarely not awkward outside of queer space (I had ninety-nine other social awkwardness factors but gender wasn’t one!)

Wellspring had so many powerful events and moments that no matter how much I write I’m going to feel like I’ve left things out.  The brewers’ competition, Emerald’s fantastic class on ritual crafting, Kirk’s impressive class on sacrifice and offerings, the fire at Druid heights, the late night, drunken, nerdy conversations, the piquancy of the closing rite and wrapup all deserve honorable mention but even so I feel like I’m not doing it justice.  I’m in love with the land at Brushwood and have been for a long time, and I feel at home with the other members of Ár nDraíocht Féin (even when we don’t agree, and even when we don’t agree very loudly and in each others’ faces) and that’s a new but welcome feeling.  It felt like an unexpected homecoming, a Wellspring of frith and community love and stories (oh so many new stories!) and new friends and family.

I also would like to give a special thanks to the readers who came up to me to chat.  Being recognized like that gave me the warm and fuzzies in a huge way, and I hope that someday soon someone does something that nice for you.

Ghosti!

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.