When I was born, I had no head

•July 23, 2014 • Leave a Comment

“The best day of my life—my rebirthday, so to speak—was when I found I had no head. This is not a literary gambit, a witticism designed to arouse interest at any cost. I mean it in all seriousness: I have no head.

It was eighteen years ago, when I was thirty-three, that I made the discovery. Though it certainly came out of the blue, it did so in response to an urgent enquiry; I had for several months been absorbed in the question: what am I? The fact that I happened to be walking in the Himalayas at the time probably had little to do with it; though in that country unusual states of mind are said to come more easily. However that may be, a very still clear day, and a view from the ridge where I stood, over misty blue valleys to the highest mountain range in the world, with Kangchenjunga and Everest unprominent among its snow-peaks, made a setting worthy of the grandest vision.

What actually happened was something absurdly simple and unspectacular: I stopped thinking. A peculiar quiet, an odd kind of alert limpness or numbness, came over me. Reason and imagination and all mental chatter died down. For once, words really failed me. Past and future dropped away. I forgot who and what I was, my name, manhood, animalhood, all that could be called mine. It was as if I had been born that instant, brand new, mindless, innocent of all memories. There existed only the Now, that present moment and what was clearly given in it. To look was enough. And what I found was khaki trouserlegs terminating downwards in a pair of brown shoes, khaki sleeves terminating sideways in a pair of pink hands, and a khaki shirtfront terminating upwards in—absolutely nothing whatever! Certainly not in a head.

It took me no time at all to notice that this nothing, this hole where a head should have been was no ordinary vacancy, no mere nothing. On the contrary, it was very much occupied. It was a vast emptiness vastly filled, a nothing that found room for everything—room for grass, trees, shadowy distant hills, and far above them snowpeaks like a row of angular clouds riding the blue sky. I had lost a head and gained a world.

It was all, quite literally, breathtaking. I seemed to stop breathing altogether, absorbed in the Given. Here it was, this superb scene, brightly shining in the clear air, alone and unsupported, mysteriously suspended in the void, and (and this was the real miracle, the wonder and delight) utterly free of “me”, unstained by any observer. Its total presence was my total absence, body and soul. Lighter than air, clearer than glass, altogether released from myself, I was nowhere around.

Yet in spite of the magical and uncanny quality of this vision, it was no dream, no esoteric revelation. Quite the reverse: it felt like a sudden waking from the sleep of ordinary life, an end to dreaming. It was self-luminous reality for once swept clean of all obscuring mind. It was the revelation, at long last, of the perfectly obvious. It was a lucid moment in a confused life-history. It was a ceasing to ignore something which (since early childhood at any rate) I had always been too busy or too clever to see. It was naked, uncritical attention to what had all along been staring me in the face – my utter facelessness. In short, it was all perfectly simple and plain and straightforward, beyond argument, thought, and words. There arose no questions, no reference beyond the experience itself, but only peace and a quiet joy, and the sensation of having dropped an intolerable burden.”

- On Having No Head, Douglas Harding

“You’ll never enjoy the world aright, till the sea itself floweth in your veins, till you are clothed with the heavens and crowned with the stars.” – Thomas Traherne


•July 23, 2014 • 3 Comments

Once again, a correlation between the practices of the spirit-worker and those of the artist:

“Nature’s particular gift to the walker, through the semi-mechanical act of walking — a gift no other form of exercise seems to transmit in the same high degree — is to set the mind jogging, to make it garrulous, exalted, a little mad maybe — certainly creative and supra-sensitive, until at last it really seems to be outside you and as it were talking to you, while you are talking back to it.” (Kenneth Grahame* – found via a post on Myth & Moor)

There does seem to be something about walking that invites this altered state of consciousness – which a spirit-worker might use for communication with the gods and spirits and/or for pathwalking, whereas the artist can use it for inspiration. I tend to walk everywhere, since I deliberately do not own a car, and I use it often to slip between worlds, even if I’m only walking to work in the morning or down to the store. I find it easier to move on a spiritual plane when I am also moving on the physical one (I often am reminded of an Amberite moving between alternate worlds this way). There is also plenty of opportunity, at the slower pace of walking, for omens to present themselves in the tangible world around you – whether you’re in the woods or in the city – and for the spirits of place to reveal themselves.


*Coincidentally, I just read Wind in the Willows for the very first time. How did I, a devotee of Beatrix Potter and Winnie the Pooh, totally miss this classic in my childhood? Fortunately, the situation has been rectified.


•July 16, 2014 • 4 Comments

Highly recommended reading: Rewilding Witchcraft on the Scarlet Imprint blog. The author talks about the coming destruction of so many species (and maybe all life) on Earth, and the proper response to it by witches (which I think could at the very least be extended to all animists). There’s some powerful stuff in there, not at all hopeless even though the situation might be irreversible at this point. I agree about one thing most of all – if you accept that (at a minimum) this culture we have built on unsustainable foundations does not have much future, then you can release yourself from its expectations, and live a different kind of life. Face death rather than avoiding it, and find some meaning and beauty in what life we are still given. (And yeah, maybe also put down that fucking smartphone and pay attention to what’s around you: spirits, plants, animals, elements alike.)

Some quotes I especially wanted to highlight:

“I will argue that Witchcraft is quintessentially wild, ambivalent, ambiguous, queer. It is not something that can be socialised, standing as it does in that liminal space between the seen and unseen worlds. Spatially the realm of witchcraft is the hedge, the crossroads, the dreaming point where the world of men and of spirits parlay through the penetrated body of someone who is outside of the normal rules of culture.” (emphasis mine)

“People are having their needs met by the online simulacra of witchcraft. Those who are seeking witchcraft simply do not have to hunt out lineages, everything is before them in the digital form that has socialised them while their parents paid more attention to their smartphones. This new generation are drawn into increasingly ‘dark’ expressions of witchcraft as, following the logic of teenagers, it seems more authentic. It denies access to adults. In a sense they are correct to pursue taboo as a source of power; problematically they do not orientate their practice in context and therefore remain trapped in their own ego projections rather than being engaged in meaningful work. Regardless, they out number you a thousand to one and they are trying to do something – we should applaud them for this at the very least.”

“Some will be afraid of this knowledge; witchcraft should be liberated by it, liberated from petty concerns to pursue lives of beauty, liberated from the sleepwalking into death that our culture has made for us and our children. So I counsel, confront death. For witchcraft to be anything other than the empty escapism of the socially dysfunctional or nostalgia for bygone ages, it needs to feel the shape of its skull, venerate the dead and the sacred art of living and dying with meaning. We are all on the fierce path now.”

Walking Glamourbomb

•July 14, 2014 • 4 Comments

One thing I love about Eugene is the number of opportunities one has during the year to dress up in outrageous costumes and mingle in otherworldly settings with other costumed strangers. (And when I run out of such events, I create my own.) Talk about re-enchanting the world! The Faerieworlds festival is a good example, but I actually prefer the Oregon Country Fair (going on 45 years now) which is set along twisting, shaded forest paths, with vendors set up in structures of moss-covered wood, roving musicians and performers, stilt-walkers, random parades, and at least half of the people attending are in some kind of fancy dress, a smaller percentage in truly stunning elaborate costumes. It’s very magical.

Of course, I love being part of that magic, and take pride in being able to put together a costume out of what I have in the house already (not hard, as I sometimes wear such things just to go out rambling in the city streets at night). This is what I did this year (all the animal parts have connections to my spirits):



In some ways the best part was wearing this outfit on the walk into town to catch the bus out there (stopping in Safeway to buy the tickets was especially surreal), and the walk back to my place, just passing people on the street and watching them do a double-take. It’s actually part of my Work (see, there are some fun bits to the Work!), in that it makes me a walking glamourbomb, injecting little moments of magic and weirdness into people’s lives. At the grocery store afterwards, we passed by a Mennonite couple – it’s fascinating to live in a culture where two people could look so incredibly different and be shopping at the same place. The woman did not appear to be fond of my costume (maybe it was the animal skull?), but I could actually appreciate her long, plain dress and head covering. Another surreal moment though.

As Rhyd Wildermuth has written recently, Eugene is a strange place, where the spirits are thick and maybe a bit perilous, and it shows in the ways we like to celebrate and how quick everyone is to become something Other for a time, and enter into Between sorts of spaces and revel there. It’s very easy to do here.

Dagaz, Gebo, Algiz

•July 11, 2014 • 11 Comments

I’ve been wanting to post something about my current spiritual situation, but it’s hard to find something to say that isn’t either over-sharing (by my standards at least) or so vague as to be meaningless. I usually try to find something in my experience that is relevant to others, but I’m not sure that many people go through this kind of dramatic spiritual upheaval, much less several times in their lives (isn’t one drawn-out, painful, ego-destroying, life-changing initiation enough?). But you never know when something might click for someone, so what the hell….

Back in January, I mentioned my Not-Doing experiment intended to help me shake things up, break old habits and approach everything fresh, but that was just the beginning. Since then (and in some ways, for the year previous as well) I’ve been going through a transition at least as significant as back in 2006-2007 when I went from being primarily a devotee to being a spirit-worker. That previous change upended my whole life in many wonderful ways, but it was often extremely painful and this process is no different.

I have re-focused on my “core” personal pantheon (Dionysos and several personal spirits at the very center; Hermes, Hekate, Odin and local spirits secondarily), which has been very powerful, but that meant setting aside several divine relationships that had once been very important to me. And within those remaining core relationships, the dynamics have drastically changed (not the first time this has happened, but it’s always excruciating) – forcing me to let go of every pattern I had built up over the years and start from scratch, hoping desperately that there was still that connection when everything that used to reassure me had to be jettisoned. I have been shifting the way I approach ritual, magic and devotion at a fundamental level, and while I know it’s “for the best” (in the sense that it will bring me in line with what my spirits want, and bring me more personal mojo and other good things), it has been ridiculously difficult to actually implement. It’s very frustrating to have reached a place where you finally feel like you know what you’re doing in your practice, and then be told to essentially abandon that practice and do something far trickier. Each time I made a breakthrough, I would then be plunged back into the depths of self-doubt and distance and madness. Part of me has been fighting this tooth and nail. I have been in some dark places. But I kept picking myself back up and trying again, because over and over I have received extraordinarily clear signs from my spirits that this is the right track, no matter how terrifying and impossible it seems sometimes. That’s one of the reasons I made that post about tangible omens recently – these  have totally saved me many times over recently. I put my trust in the communications I was receiving because they were confirmed so solidly, and these have guided me to ideas and insights I never would have come to on my own, but make total sense now in retrospect.

(I also recommend keeping a spiritual journal – mine is not narrative, just a collection of experiences, rituals, divinations, dreams, omens, etc., but it’s so helpful… recently I went back through the past year and noticed that at least THREE different times I had asked one of my spirits a similar question and got the same exact Tarot card – in different decks – as the response, which I had not realized at the time. He was probably getting sick of saying this to me over and over!)

Hopefully I’m not jinxing myself here, but I think I’m finally starting to get the hang of this new approach. Maybe the spirits won’t have to repeat Themselves quite so much anymore. I’ve understood the basic concepts for months, but I think I really had to be totally broken down and destroyed before I could truly let go of the past and what I thought was going to be, and embrace the present and the beautiful gifts They are offering me now (gifts I specifically asked for in some cases, but I have a terrible habit of asking for things and then complaining when I receive them because they’re always harder than I expected). And to confirm this feeling, I recently had a string of significant dreams, including one I can only describe as intensely shamanic, that showed me how things can be now.

So I have less to say here these days than I once did, because so much now revolves around personal spirits and the Work I do for Them which doesn’t involve or affect other polytheists or spiritworkers directly, but I can see now that it’s the culmination of everything I’ve been working toward for decades. My 13 year old self would be amazed at my life now, and how it has been shaped so heavily by the choices she made. And yet, I do not regret a thing – if nothing else, They have made me into a creature that only wants what They want. All the warnings about such spirits are true, but I can imagine nothing better than a life in Their company.

“The mask is constantly changing. Behind the mask is nothing. You are headless.”  (Sannion)


Darkwood Incense Cones

•July 4, 2014 • 2 Comments

IMG_3075My latest addition to the Goblinesquerie shop is some handmade incense. I decided to finally make my own incense cones after being unable to find the scents I liked, and due to concerns with the chemicals used in most commercial incense. The first batch turned out so well, I made another to divide up and sell.

These “Darkwood” cones are made from vetivert, red cedar, sandalwood and patchouli. The scent is dark and woodsy and strong, perfect for ritual and inducing altered states of consciousness, especially if you deal with powerful nature deities or forest wights.

I have listings for sets of 10 regular size cones, and sets of 3 extra-large cones that could be used in outdoor ritual (where you want more smoke and a longer burning time).


Strange days have found us

•July 3, 2014 • Leave a Comment


Hail to the poet Jim Morrison on this, the anniversary of his death.

I’ve already described here how I first encountered him, and The Doors, and how integral his work was to all the primary parts of my spiritual life. It’s still kind of eerie to me. In fact, only yesterday I finally noticed that the Doors movie just so happened to be released during this incredibly influential time in my life, right after I had become obsessed with the music, and only one month before I was to have the first major encounter with my spirits, that changed my life forever after.

I am now in a period of my spiritual practice where I am sort of starting from the beginning in many ways, and find myself re-visiting that time in my life when I first was introduced to Dionysos, to my spirits, and to some of the concepts that would become crucial to me. And the door into this new world for me was The Doors, it was Jim. And so I will always honor him for that, and especially now as a guide to that labyrinth I am treading once more.

Tonight there will be music, and poetry, and whiskey in abundance.

Choose they croon
The ancient ones,
The time has come again.
Choose now they croon
Beneath the moon
Beside an ancient lake.
Enter again the sweet forest.
Enter the hot dream
Come with us.
Everything is broken up
And dances.


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