Off Hiatus

•May 20, 2022 • 12 Comments

Well, fuck it. I’m jumping in.

I was really encouraged by the responses to my last post (and pleasantly surprised, as I truly had no idea if anyone was out there anymore). And as much as it would be, in many ways, easier for me to just stay wrapped in the hermit solitude I enjoy in meatspace, I keep feeling a pull to send some kind of missives out into the wider world regarding the spiritual practices and relationships I build my life around, and this still seems like the best way to do that. At least until (if) I ever have another book in me. (And as there have been some Hints that maybe writing is going to be an important part of my service in some way again soon, this is a good way to get back into the swing of that too.)

As I said, the world is indeed on fire and I deeply believe we need some people who are keeping the often-neglected flame of devotion and spiritual focus thriving through this (when not everyone can), and one way I can help is by sharing and hopefully encouraging others to deepen their commitment in whatever ways work for them. I’ll admit, because I think I’ve always been pretty up front about this, that my main concern is the gods and spirits far more than people (even the best of them), and if talking about all of this leads to more engagement with the divine powers – more offerings laid at shrines, more prayers spoken, more art created for Them, more ecstatic encounters, more everyday gratitude, everything – then it is well worth it. Even the parts that may feel uncomfortable to share (unfortunately this just seems to come with the territory, especially as I’m a very private person and some of my recent religious work has surrounded rather personal aspects of my life).

So I’ve taken down the “on hiatus” sticky post that’s been on the front page for 5 years, and you can expect to see some posts from me in coming weeks and we’ll see how it goes. Thank you to everyone who commented, and thank you also to everyone who didn’t comment but is still reading!

Some thoughts on the state of things

•May 18, 2022 • 39 Comments

While doing a little maintenance here, such as cleaning up dead links on the pages for my books, I noticed that it’s been 10 years, as of this month, since I published Dwelling on the Threshold, the first collection of essays from this blog. Funny, because I was just recently contemplating beginning to write a bit on the blog again after it mostly lying dormant since 2017. This is because I have been going through a crazy amount of change in the past couple years and especially recently, all of which I have been approaching and processing through prayer and ritual (because at this point nothing is truly mundane as I experience it), and I thought it might be helpful to share some of that here, where it might guide others or spark discussion. But what makes me hesitate is simply…. does anyone read this anymore? Do people read blogs at all, period? Are there still folks out there trying to bring more religious practice and perspective into their lives? Are there even a few who are committing themselves fully to the task, who are mystics and spirit-workers and all the rest?

Because honestly, I just don’t know anymore. I find most of the online world these days to be so toxic in many ways that I can’t bear to participate, and I don’t have the time or energy to keep on top of the changing popularity of various apps or ways of communicating. Call me old but I miss blogs, I miss long-form, in-depth discussion of spiritual topics, especially without much intrusion from politics or social issues. I want to read about people worshipping the gods, serving the spirits, creating a life steeped in magic and ritual. Not a bunch of glossy, manipulated photos of sacred things that probably shouldn’t be photographed anyway, to endlessly scroll through, which seems to have largely replaced real, thoughtful, non-ephemeral content. I want to read and learn and be inspired, and I want to write and share and hopefully inspire others. Does that sort of thing even happen anymore in the virtual world? Most of the blogs I read have shut down, or rarely post, and obviously I’m guilty of the same. According to WordPress I supposedly have 700 people subscribed here but I have no idea how many are actively engaged readers as opposed to bots or whatever. I’m not going to market myself as a brand and I’m not going to join the latest social media app and I’m not really interested in yet another online discussion group, wherever people are doing that these days, as most seem to have low participation of a superficial nature, perhaps that’s built in to the medium really. I suspect, too, that many others who share my feelings, and especially those who share an overwhelming commitment to their religious vocation that does not allow for a lot of spare time to faff around online even if they wanted to, may have already abandoned these platforms for real-world groups, or full-on hermitism (is that a word?). I’m most of the way there myself. And yet… I have things left to offer, I think, as well as (always!) things left to learn. How does that happen anymore? Spirit-workers and devotees were always relatively thin on the ground but these days… just feels like nothing out there.

So maybe I’m just ranting here, and maybe I’m saying, “Is there anyone listening?” because I truly don’t know anymore. Where are my dedicated polytheist peers at these days? Is there any point to sharing and talking about these topics that I specialize in, is there still interest? I know the world is a fucking dumpster fire more than ever and almost everyone is struggling in one way or another, but I think that makes our religious practices *more* relevant, not less. I think that means it’s time to double-down on re-enchanting the world. At least that’s been my approach lately. Life has been weird and hard and unexpected, but also holy and beautiful. Is that just me? I’m used to being alone in the way I experience things, and that’s fine, but is anyone else thirsting for more devotion, more magic, more deep service to the divine? And if so, is anyone talking about it out here? Or is this frustration on my part just the latest version of the same old problem of being Homo religiosis (as an old friend used to say) in a world of people who generally have other things they’re more interested in? I mean, if I wanted to spend hours reading and discussing elaborate fan theories regarding the latest fantasy TV show I’m sure I’d have no dearth of options.

I’m likely to delete this at some point later on but I guess I’m just in a mood and curious if anyone has thoughts on any of this.

Dark Moon Cartomancy

•May 15, 2022 • Leave a Comment

After a long break in order to accommodate some intense transformational experiences (which I will probably start writing about soon), I have reconfigured my cartomancy work and am now offering open sessions again. Most of the changes I made to the process shouldn’t affect the nature or quality of the resulting readings, but I like to be transparent about what I’m doing.

Sessions will now be once a month, on the dark moon. I will announce the exact date here a couple weeks beforehand, just as a reminder. I will also post if a session becomes full.

Other than the timing, the biggest change is in the entities I am directly petitioning for assistance in a general sense with the Work (I will still call on other gods and spirits as appropriate to the questions asked and the traditions of the querents). Whereas I had been primarily invoking personal spirits before, I have recently initiated cultus to Atropos, eldest of the Moirai (one of the first deities I was ever drawn to, well before I was technically a polytheist), and so will be going straight to the source, as it were. I am also including Erebos, Hypnos and Thanatos, all of whom share a shrine with Atropos in my adyton now, as well as Hekate and Medeia, who I had already been honoring on that night with the deipnon and other rites. Finally, I am paying honor to the Pythiai, who I met during my previous high-seat oracular work, along with other dead seeresses collectively.

The details of the rituals and offerings don’t need to be public, but I will mention for anyone interested in trance induction that I followed an intuition and began using a metronome for this purpose and have found it quite effective, especially in combination with chanting and breathwork. A relatively slow, heartbeat-like setting reminds me of a clock marking off the moments of one’s life and seems highly suited to a Fate.

I’ve updated the description of the process on my Cartomancy page, along with a new photo of some of the ritual implements and divination tools (staged, frankly, because I do not take photos inside the adyton or during actual ritual). Go there for instructions on how to request a reading. The cost remains the same.

The first open dark moon session will be held on Monday, May 30.

Opening of the Jars

•February 12, 2022 • 4 Comments

In the marshes, through tangled trees,
within the sacred precinct,
I follow footworn paths across The Mounds
and down into a hidden hollow
where dark leaves slowly decay in dark pools
creating shadows in the landscape.
The wine – from clay pots buried and unearthed
in ancient, Black Sea tradition –
fills the land’s shallow bowl at my feet,
and my horn cries out long
calling to the ones below the earth:
Come and drink! Arise!
The sharp green shoots of water-loving plants
pierce the muck and mire with new life
all throughout the wood,
yet night still carries the bite of frost
as it falls. I turn to leave
by doorways made of branches,
and find my way back to the world,
careful not to glance behind me
at those who are now remembering
a taste of what they were.

Perchtenlauf 2021

•January 4, 2022 • 2 Comments

Head over to my Masks & Monsters blog for a recap of our most recent mumming procession.

Odin Poem Print

•December 1, 2021 • Leave a Comment

As I described in my initial post about this project, writing The Old Man of the Woods was a long and intense process, especially for a single nine-verse poem. I knew from the start that I would only be making a limited number of the books – confirmed for me when the specialty paper company I was using suddenly went out of business just after I got all the supplies to make them! But I wanted a way to continue to send the work out into the world.

So I now have a listing in my shop for an 11×17 print, on heavy matte cardstock, that incorporates the typography and illustrations of the book into a single piece. It also has a couple of the same hand-embellished touches. The initial print run was small because I don’t know if there will be any interest, but I can always make more easily, unlike the books.

P.S. I still have Hermes coins available. Since several people have asked, I’ve implemented a coupon code for purchases of 3 (or more, I suppose) – enter “3COINS” at checkout and it will take $10 off.

Coins for Hermes

•October 10, 2021 • 9 Comments

Today is the 4th of the lunar month, and the date of a festival for Hermes that I’ve been keeping for many years, and so it’s the right time to announce a secret project I’ve recently completed.

Hermes has been particularly good to me this year. He has seen me through some precarious situations and kept luck flowing my way. When thinking on how I could express my gratitude (in addition to quite a bit of liquor that has soaked the ground in His name), I decided a couple months ago to finally embark on a public project I’ve wanted to do for awhile – to design and commission a coin in His honor. Obviously as god of merchants (and thieves), coins are particularly sacred to Hermes.

For the obverse, I adapted an image from a 6th century BCE krater, showing Hermes Psychopompos overseeing Hypnos and Thanatos on the battlefield. I searched through images for a long time, wanting to choose an ancient depiction that featured the god bearded, and with at least His cap and kerykeion as attributes. This one felt right to me.

For the reverse, I placed a ram’s head over a stylized crossroads, with an ancient epithet in Greek in each corner. Transliterated and translated they are:
ERIOUNES – luck-bringer
DOLIOS – wily one
ENODIOS – of the road
PULAIOS – at the gate

After weeks of working out the design with the company that manufactures these, and then more weeks waiting anxiously to find out how it would really look, I am quite pleased with the results:

The first one out of the box, of course, went directly onto Hermes’ shrine by my front door. In addition to simply placing this on a shrine, it could function as a mini travel shrine on its own, or as talisman or divination method – all very appropriate for the god.

I’m placing the bulk of this batch of coins for sale in my Etsy shop. If there’s a lot of demand, I can order another batch using the same mold. (P.S. If you want to order three or more coins, use the coupon code 3COINS at checkout for $10 off your total.)

As an offering I am also setting aside a number of them to be given completely free of charge to anyone who genuinely wants to use the coin devotionally, but does not have the money to spare at this time. If you are in this position, please email me at dver at birdspiritland dot com and let me know, and I will distribute these until I run out. (I’ll cover shipping too in the US). I’ll cross out this paragraph when they’re gone.


Formulating questions for a diviner

•September 3, 2021 • 2 Comments

A cartomancy client recently asked me the following question, and I thought it was a great one, and worth sharing my answer more widely (with their permission), as many people have inquired to me over the years about various aspects of how to properly phrase a question for a diviner. Of course every diviner will likely have their own beliefs and preferences on the matter, and I am only speaking from my own experience here.

“I was wondering whether it’s possible to ask a question in a poetic manner, or whether that would lead to non-productive answers.”

Good question! I think there’s a tricky balancing act here, especially when formulating a question for an outside reader (rather than doing your own divination). Because on the one hand, I prefer people to ask simple, not too detailed questions, just enough to pinpoint the general gist of the matter, so that I do not have any opportunity to cloud the reading with my own thoughts on the matter. One way to do this is to phrase things poetically. Certainly sometimes the responses come through in a poetic manner, full of symbolism and allusion rather than direct statements – as was common in antiquity.

But, on the other hand, it can be potentially problematic if you phrase it so vaguely that it becomes hard to interpret the response, or the response you get doesn’t quite address what you really wanted to know. On top of that, there are certain entities (fairies being the prime example, historically) where you want to be really careful about how you say anything, because they may take advantage of ambiguity to mislead or confuse. In those cases, you want to be as careful and precise in your language as possible.

That all being said, my general belief is that the gods know what you need, and will give you the answer that best serves you. Sometimes, that even means that they answer a question you didn’t really ask, because you didn’t ask the right thing – that’s happened a number of times. So I would advise, generally speaking, to be clear on your intent, and on the problem at hand, in your mind, but feel free to be a bit more obscure or poetic in your phrasing when conveying that to me for a reading.

Gods don’t really have faces

•July 31, 2021 • 9 Comments

Was just reading this great guest post on Numen Arts discussing anthropomorphic artistic depictions of the gods vs more stylized, symbolic or even abstract representations. Quote:

Sib is not a young blonde woman. She is frith, hospitality, the joy and responsibility of welcoming guests to your table. She is the sacred duty of making peace between rivals. She is the bounty and strength and potential of the freshly-tilled soil. She is the truth that we all rely on agriculture and the harvest and the earth for our lives. She is the eternal beauty of the golden hour before sunset.

This is what I was getting at in this old post of mine. We are seriously limiting our understanding of the nature of the gods and our experience of Them if we are stuck in the habit of anthropomorphizing Them (and even more so if our depictions are limited to whatever we personally find attractive). Frankly, I think this may be behind some of the problem of pagans mistaking an attractive character from pop culture (or worse, the actor playing them) for the face of a god. It may seem harmless to think, well if Dionysos came in human form, He might look like [insert popular famous person here]. Certainly, the ancients sometimes thought of their gods as human-looking, with certain hair color or other attributes. But we live in such a spiritually-bankrupt, superficial, image-obsessed culture, one that has no interest in or understanding of the gods. How can we be surprised then that it’s a short step to always thinking of that person’s face when thinking of Dionysos, to subconsciously merging their personalities, to the insidious impiety of treating the god like just another celebrity crush.

These are the holy Powers who shaped the world and move our lives. How can we bear to reduce Them to mere pretty faces? And how limited the faces we allow Them, too – not just predominantly human, but whatever the current ideal of a human is. Do we really think that, should Dionysos choose a face from the ancient gallery, He would always choose one that delights us? That a god of excess and drunkenness would always be lean and muscular? That a god of the Other would always match our expectation of race, gender, or anything else? No, I think we get much closer to the heart of what a god is if we seek something beyond familiar illusions and fantasies, something beyond the human entirely.

As far as I can tell, divine entities taking human form is simply a convenient short-hand that conveys This Is A Person to our stupid brains. It can help us to recognize and engage with these overwhelmingly HUGE beings on a level we can manage. It gives us a focal point for our entreaties and gratitude and adoration. But we should not mistake the mask for what’s behind it.

I think it would be a good practice for all polytheists to try going for a time without any anthropomorphic images of the gods at all. They are, in many ways, a crutch. See if you can connect to the gods on a different level. You might discover entire new ways of knowing Them. Dionysos as a new spring leaf unfurling. Dionysos as the warm tingle of wine in your belly. Dionysos as the exhilarating vertigo of finally letting go of your fear.

Hermes in relief

•July 30, 2021 • 5 Comments

I just stumbled upon something kind of odd and I figured it would be worth sharing here in case (a) any of my readers versed in Classical iconography have any information or theories and (b) other Hermes’ devotees find this interesting at least.

Many years ago, I took this photo of a relief in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It depicts Hermes in a very striking and particular pose – left hand on hip, right hand holding a kerukeion pinched between index finger and thumb. His angry expression also caught my eye.

I had no idea what to make of it, but figured it was an anomaly perhaps attributable to the individual artist.

Then yesterday, while doing some research on something else Hermes-related, I came across a page featuring a ton of ancient images of the god, and found these among them:

Now, I note that these are all so closely similar, down to hairstyle, clothing, etc. (though He doesn’t seem as angry in the others), that I suspect perhaps they were all copied from an original source. At the very least, there was some kind of stylized symbolism going on here.

But what does it mean? Is there significance to the way He’s holding that kerukeion? Does it possibly reflect cult ritual in any way? I just don’t know.

Any ideas?

ETA: I looked up the location and dates of these reliefs in case that would shed any light. From top to bottom, they are: (1) 27 B.C.-A.D. 68 Roman; (2) Piraeus, Attica (no date); (3) Roman Imperial period, 2nd century AD; (4) Second half of the 2nd century – early 1st century BC, Delos. So, most if not all are relatively late period, but scattered between Rome and Greece.

I will also add that at least the bottom three are apparently part of larger scenes depicting Hermes leading a procession of Apollon, Artemis and sometimes Athene.