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.  ❤

 

 

 

#ThisIsWhyWeNeedPolytheism (My Polytheist testimonial)

(Contributing to the tag that Anomalous Thracian started.  Please read his many excellent posts with this tag.)

All of my life I’ve heard voices and had seemingly random and frightening spiritual encounters.  I’ve suffered from horrendous nightmares and night terrors.  Medication has never helped – and I never understood how pills could help anyway.  In the religions that I was raised in, the only option when creepy things happened was to reach out to their Highest Power and beg for intervention – which sometimes helped, but only rarely and often provoked more conflict and visitation.  In the Ceremonial Magic tradition I moved to later, it was possible to interact with the spirits that I knew lurked around me – but only if I knew their names, only if I could create the right charts for them, only if they fit into the worldview of the practice, and only if I threatened them, again, with the might of the Highest Power of that faith.  In the Wiccan-based practice, Chaos Magick, and the Western “shamanic practice” I explored afterwards I learned more about energy manipulation and journey-work, which helped slightly, but only kept things at bay, or made the relationships adversarial and dependent on my personal strength and skill.

Embracing a polytheist mindset and practice has changed this.  I learned that spirits were often willing to interact with one who offered to them and was hospitable to them.  Devotional and meditative practice taught me how to get to know them personally.  Research (something that many polytheists value) taught me about their cultures of origin and how to relate to honor them in ways that pleased them.  Working with them regularly helped to clear my vision, perceiving and understanding them more completely.

Polytheism itself taught me to treat them as their own entities, all individuals in their own right and not merely archetypes or reflections of what is within us or shards of an abstract principle.  It taught me to respect them, to know them, to give to them and share with them and to listen to them as well.  It taught me to build good relationships with them.  Twenty-some years into my spiritual practice I no longer suffer from nightmares and terrors, and when high strangeness comes knocking I have techniques, allies and friends who can help me to deal with it.  Now I look at these experiences as new experiences to learn and grow from, and polytheism has given me the tools to do so.

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!

Praying the Gay Away

I recently read a copy of Raven Kaldera’s open letter to transgender spirit workers ) to a good friend of mine.  (Warning: the language is dated, and some may find it offensive, he apologizes for it but refuses to change it because it is an artifact of another time and he thinks it should stand as a record and I honor that decision.  It’s still very much worth reading if you’re transgender, a spirit worker, an ally of either or some combination thereof.) We both wept, and both knew what he was talking about, as we’d both felt it.  We’ve felt the Kindreds tear at us until we acknowledged who we are.  We’ve heard the howls of rage and fear and sorrow of the transgender dead, the demand of “Let me be the last one!”.  We’ve felt alone, and we’ve told other people that they’re not alone.  In light of Equality and Justice Day in New York and the recent efforts being made against conversion therapy nationally and worldwide, along with Raven’s letter, I wrote this:

I believe that you can pray the gay away.  Wait, hold on, don’t make any assumptions and listen to what I have to say.

I believe it because it happened to me.  No, seriously, please hear me out.  This is not what you may think it sounds like.

Well, it wasn’t “the Gay”, it was “the Trans” but I was so poorly educated on the subject back in the early 2000’s I didn’t know the difference.  I hadn’t been exposed to the idea that gender identity and sexual orientation were separate things.  Indeed, everyone that I knew conflated the two things (too many still do).  So I thought that I was a gay (or maybe bisexual) man who had some kind of confusion about their gender.  I was desperately wrong and painfully confused and I didn’t know any safe or healthy ways to manifest my nature and identity.

So I did something that I’ve been good at over my life.  I prayed.

I prayed and prayed to my Goddess, begging Her to take this from me.  Despite the fact that I had felt her be supportive of the part of me that knew that I was a woman, I asked her to strip me of it, to cut me off from it, to let it go.  I felt Her asking if I was sure that I wanted this, and I, in pain and miserable, assured Her that I did.

So she did.

I don’t know how it happened.  I’m not sure what exactly happened, other than that when I woke up the next morning, I had no issue reconciling with my body.  I went about life as a man with absolutely no conflict or issue with my body.  For a few hours it felt all right, even good.  It was a relief.  A relief to not have to think or worry about it.

Over time I started to notice a flatness to my perceptions.  A creeping emptiness started to invade my heart.  Over time it felt like color and with it meaning and value were being leeched from the world.  It crushed me like a slow vise.  At first I thought that it was something that I just had to tough through, but I discovered that there was nothing that I could “tough” with.  I was missing the essence that held me firm, the djed  of my soul.  I suppose if there was any turning point it was when I realized that I was missing an essential part of myself – that the part of myself that I was cut off from was truly essential.  I was dying inside.

I finally broke and begged Her to give it back to me.  I apologized for my foolishness and plead ignorance.  My Lady is a forgiving one and let me feel myself and live again.  I felt an ineffable, irreplaceable part of my Self flood back into contact with the rest of me and I collapsed in tears and gratitude.  I knew from that moment on that I couldn’t get rid of it without getting rid of myself, something that I was not willing to do.

This is much gentler than experiences that other trans spirit-workers have reported when they try to keep their gender locked into a box and deny it.  I have faced depression, loss, self-destructive urges and even potential suicide in my journey.  Living and overcoming those things did not have as much of an effect on me as this experience did.  That deep-rooted knowledge that my gender identity was an inseparable part of who I am was something that helped carry me through the darkest of times.  There had to be a way to reconcile with it.

That’s why Raven’s letter resonates so very strongly with me.  I’ve heard the Gods and Spirits for as long as I can remember, some times better than others.  I’ve learned to work with them through childhood trial and error and adult study and practice.  I know that my community needs people like me to help us through some of the most difficult periods of their lives.  It’s not to say that I won’t help anyone who asks if I have the spoons and know that that’s what you need.  I will help anyone that I can if they need it.

It does mean that I will go out of my way to help other trans and gender-variant people if given the opportunity.  Like with other professions, so many of us are turned away by those who reject our identities and our selves.  Many of us also encounter those who are willing to help but in the end are unhelpful because they simply can’t understand our experiences, not having lived them themselves.  I have been a trans person all my life (though my coming out was more recent) and have heard from the Kindreds all my life as well.  If you feel that you need someone that fits those qualifications I will do whatever I can.  If I feel that I can’t help you, I will do my best to find someone who can.  As my Matron is my witness, I promise this to you; may She help me remember and fulfill my promise should I ever forget or slack off.  I will be there for you.  You are not alone.

– For Asteysa.