What emerges

•November 7, 2022 • 4 Comments

It can be difficult to reconcile the kind of Work I do with my general personality type of always wanting to be in control, to plan, as well as my overall impatience. It would be so easy (and far more comfortable for me) to arrive here on this land and immediately start dictating how I am going to approach the gods, what practices make sense – to replicate the way I used to do things or to jump right in to designing new ways based on my own ideas and conceptions. Especially because I’ve been in a state of suspension or uncertainty for nearly a year now and I want to establish some roots and just get down to it.

Except…that’s not how it works. Not when your goal is to be of best service to the gods and spirits, to be the clearest conduit. I can’t hold the reins here, or set the timetable. I definitely shouldn’t plow forward with my hypothetical notions, for example, of how Dionysos might be found in this landscape, rather than waiting and exploring and inviting and reaching out until a true sense of His presence emerges, and shaping my cultus for Him around that.

So instead of immediately settling into a routine, I am trying to let things organically develop. I had some plans and designs before arriving, of course, especially regarding the physical set-up of the house and grounds, but I’ve really tried to keep my spiritual senses open and shift course where appropriate, when something didn’t actually feel right, and let the material and intangible qualities of my environment dictate how I interact with it, and with the gods and spirits I have “brought” with me.

Discernment is key, as always, and it requires time and attention and silence and openness, even emptiness. Letting go, my old friend.

What do my spirits, who have wandered far and wide with and without me, want of me now, here? How might They utilize or benefit from my new surroundings, my new lifestyle? What faces do my gods wear in the country versus the city, in the east versus the west, in the snow versus the rain, and how can I best honor Them? What can I learn about the living power of the land beneath me by drinking water from my well, drilled deep in its bedrock? Will I encounter any of the older gods of this region, and how will Their presence affect me even if Their ways end up being closed to me? These things can’t be forced or rushed.

Some things, of course, retain their power and significance regardless of circumstance. Breath and blood, the most vital offerings. Songs that draw forth. Plants that change the mind, mirrors that lead elsewhere. Liquor poured on the thirsty earth. The language of dream. These are some of the things I have relied on for communication in both directions, to begin feeling my way through the labyrinth that both is and is not the same twisting path as always.

I wonder what will emerge from the dark this time.

Where I am now, literally

•November 3, 2022 • 12 Comments

I’ve written a lot recently about change. My life has been about change lately in almost every imaginable way. It’s interesting, I noticed that I have had seemingly quite regularly-occurring periods in my life where this happens, and what emerges on the other side is not really the same person at all. Around early adolescence. Around my Saturn return. And these past couple years. I’ve shared some of these events here and some will remain private for various reasons but suffice to say there has been upheaval. Most but not all self-directed, chosen. Most but not all ultimately for the best.

I still can’t figure out what, if anything, I want to share about this latest (last, for now?) change, but I will say this much – literally six months ago it had not yet even crossed my mind that I might move out of the Pacific Northwest, much less back to the land where I grew up. I felt trapped as a renter in the city, and I was finally truly ready to live differently, but couldn’t see a likely way forward. But you know, those surgeries, those initiations, changed me. And one day I opened my mind to a very different path than I’d been imagining and after that the pieces started falling into place in ways I couldn’t have predicted – not perfectly, the way was a bit twisty as labyrinths are, and there have been sacrifices and risks and hardships, but… Today I am writing this looking out the window into a little bit of swampy woods that I actually own, less than 30 miles from the magical woods of my childhood in New England. And, I am not making this up, I just paused in the middle of writing for ten minutes because two deer wandered through the backyard, browsing on sedges and spilled birdseed, and I was captivated watching them. So that’s where I am now.

None of this, none of these changes over the past few years, were what I expected, some were not initially even what I wanted, and yet, looking back, one clearly led to another, and made each other more possible, in a way that just feels fate-heavy.

Anyway, I have spent the last several months – along with doing the various endless practical/mundane tasks this has involved, of course – ritualizing every aspect of the processes of saying goodbye (and thank you) to a beloved landscape and its many spirits, leaving a long-term home, choosing a new home, beginning new hyper-local and regional land spirit relationships, taking down, packing, and setting up shrines as respectfully as possible, modifying religious spaces and devotional practices to reflect internal and external changes, etc. I initially envisioned a detailed recap of all of this here but I don’t know, I may just address things piecemeal if I have something to say that’s more broadly applicable. Or maybe it has to wait further until things settle down a little more and the snow drops a blanket of stillness on everything and I have time to process. As much as I’m acclimating to my new life in many ways, I know I am still in the transitional phase and have not quite yet entered the integration phase, although I feel close. I am extremely impatient in general but have at least learned through experience that I must let things take the time they take.

That being said, I do feel ready to resume my cartomancy practice, and I am looking forward to using my newly set up temple space for it (this dwelling is not the most sturdy or glamorous, by any means, but I am quickly making it magical, which is much better anyway). So my next session will be on the dark moon as usual, which is Wednesday November 23. And because I am feeling grateful in general, it is free for everyone. One question per person, and I may stop accepting them at some point if I reach a limit to what I can do. See sidebar link for details if you’re new. SORRY BUT THE SESSION IS NOW FULL.

And just a hint of things to come, there will be a new (additional) kind of oracle offered next year, I am working on figuring out the details now based on directions received in a dream.

Oh! A fairy!

•October 17, 2022 • 6 Comments

[It’s taking longer than I anticipated to find the time and mental space to make some planned posts so in the meantime, enjoy this rather spot-on comic.]

Ancestress

•October 1, 2022 • 1 Comment

Some thoughts for these dark times…

•September 29, 2022 • 6 Comments

Due to a major development in my life (which I’ll eventually talk about here), I spent the last week totally away from any kind of world news. I didn’t purposely stop checking it, I simply forgot it existed because I’ve been so consumed with my own matters. Yesterday someone mentioned the hurricane to me and so I looked at the current headlines and…. catastrophic storms, unhinged dictators with nuclear weapons, gas pipelines leaking into the ocean…. it’s a crazy time to be a small fragile human. And it really struck me — this is when it is most powerful to have faith in the gods.

Not faith that They will save you, or even humans in general — all life must die, even whole species and ecosystems die eventually, and the gods are not there just to make it always work out okay for us, no matter how special a relationship we may have with any of Them — but simply faith that They ARE. That there is always something holy even in the worst things, because They suffuse the world at every level. That this human domain is not all that is going on Out There, nor even this material domain for that matter. That your eventual end is not the END, though whatever is beyond this may be only knowable in the language of symbols and dreams and, I suspect, never fully comprehensible while we’re still in a mortal container (just like the true nature of the gods, I think).

But even if we can’t quite meet Them face to face, or only for fleeting moments, we can still feel certain of Them in our core. Feel the holy terror alongside the all too tangible terrors. And absolutely revel in the beautiful parts as long as we have them, the gifts They have given us, the times when it is easy to see the divine touch everywhere.

As much as I would really much rather live in a more stable era, in every way, none of this madness can diminish the fact that They ARE. Hell, my god IS madness, after all. He is the dance of destruction and renewal, and that’s not just an abstract concept, and it can be truly harrowing to experience, but it is real and it is His sacred presence. Our gods are EVERYTHING. Now more than ever I seek to worship Them, to draw closer to Them, and through that connection, to feel the pulse of existence that encompasses not only this constantly shifting, painful, beautiful world of forms but all other realms and realities as well.

Hail to the Holy Powers, in times both light and dark.

There’s always *more* to give

•August 31, 2022 • 4 Comments

I recently marked the 25 year anniversary of my first religious ecstatic state. This was in the early days of my polytheist practice (when I was still calling myself Wiccan, because I didn’t know there was an alternative), although I already had an inkling that paganism was going to be very important to me. But that night was a turning point, and since then, devotional practice and spirit-work have been my raison d’être.

And yet. It has also been a gradual process of dedication – for while early on I considered myself homo religiosis (as an old friend used to call it), and had the intention to completely give over my life to the service of the gods and spirits, what that looked like in practice has drastically evolved in the years since. It takes a long time to detach the claws of modern Western culture and mindset, for one thing. And, as you sculpt your life and your self into the proper shape, chipping away all the detritus that does not contribute to that service, you keep finding more places to be sanded down and refined.

So here I am, approaching 45 years old, and feeling in some ways like I’m just getting started. My focus has sharpened, my will has strengthened, and the gods have opened up the way for me to go deeper. And I will always go deeper when I can, it’s what I do.

Now, I realize that most polytheists are not looking for this kind of all-consuming vocation, and are not constantly sacrificing parts of themselves and their lives on the altar of furthering their Work, and that’s as it should be – there are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the ground and we need everyone bringing their own unique gifts and approaches to worship, including ones that leave plenty of room for the other aspects of human existence – but I think the main message still applies, wherever you are and whatever your particular path is in relation to spiritual practice: There’s always more to give. It’s comforting, in a way, and exciting. You will never reach a limit to how fully you can offer yourself to the gods.

And for those few spiritual specialists out there, a reminder that there’s always room to go further. To live every single moment as truly holy. To make every action on Their behalf. To saturate your mind and heart with the divine presence. What is keeping you from fully experiencing that, what is still taking up too much of your energy, your headspace, your time, and how can you change it? That is as much part of the Work as all the offerings and rituals and trance states.

There’s always something to give

•August 16, 2022 • 9 Comments

I’m in a sort of in-between time in my life right now where things are fairly chaotic and I am unable to do my normal routines (in terms of religion or anything else). I am extremely busy and often overwhelmed, and I do not have access to my shrines or ritual tools for the most part. Rather than seeing this as being prohibitive of devotion, however, it has reminded me how many ways there are to stay connected to the holy powers. A few suggestions for times like these:

If possible, schedule your errands for the appropriate holy day or moon phase, making even the most mundane chores into something meaningful. Work prayers or small offerings into things you were going to do anyways – going out of your way to do something special is wonderful but those aren’t the only times that count. Take on a small, symbolic ascetic practice to maintain some awareness of the spiritual constantly, like giving up certain foods or being silent for one day each week or rising at dawn to light a single candle – nothing so onerous as to add to your burdens (there are other times for that type of sacrifice), but noticeable enough that it forces you into mindfulness no matter what else is going on.

If you’re collapsing after a long day and just want to watch some TV or listen to music, choose something even a little bit connected to one of your gods, just make that small gesture of acknowledgement – and in turn, some small corner of your brain will be just a bit more attuned to that god because of it.

Breathe. Whenever it occurs to you during the day, take one single deep breath and give it to your gods. Inhale, exhale…three seconds of your day, and a small but very real part of yourself offered up. Everyone can spare three seconds now and then.

And remember that the gods do not live in our shrines (at least, They are not only there) but are potentially present everywhere in the external world as well as accessible from within as well. When you have to live without all the material trappings of religion for awhile (as much as I love those), you have to rely instead on the what’s at hand around you. Zeus in the oak, Hermes at the intersection, etc. Pouring out a bit of your morning coffee from your travel mug directly onto the ground with a quick whispered prayer, no fancy libation bowls required. Closing your eyes at night and making your last thought before sleep of Them. As much as many of my gods and spirits love art and pageantry and theatricality, that’s not the only way to reach Them. And occasionally stripping things down to the absolute basics has a way of refocusing one on what’s most important. Then when you resume more elaborate ritual, the inner core of it will be stronger.

“Something Something Animism”

•August 15, 2022 • 2 Comments

Agree with every bit of this post, and thank you to the writer for saving me the trouble of writing something similar! From the environmental impact of material choices to the superficiality of social media posts to ignoring the animistic life present in the shrine objects themselves to the very real spiritual/magical effects of taking photos of rituals, this is all important food for thought. There are occasionally good reasons to share a photo – for instance, I included one in my Asklepios post as a way to publicly thank the god in the way people did in antiquity with public offerings in temples – but for the most part, I have to question the motivations. It’s not the same as sharing photos of one’s space and interior design choices – it’s the GODS’ space, and it should be for Them, not to win internet points.

Boring Return Journey

•July 18, 2022 • 4 Comments

The title of this post is taken directly from TV Tropes. It describes a story where, after a long, dangerous, difficult quest, the characters’ trip back home is just glossed over. No one wants to hear about how equally long, terribly boring, and/or arduous in different ways that return journey was. We just want to see the heroes get back from their adventure and celebrate their accomplishment.

This makes sense in the realm of Story, but the fact is that in reality, you still have to endure that trek back, with all its potential challenges, even after you’ve won the prize. Or, in spiritual terms (since obviously that’s where I’m going with this) – even after you have the big revelation or the transformative experience, it doesn’t mean you’re just “done” and can rest on your laurels now. There may still be more ordeal ahead, or you may have to ride things out for an uncomfortably long time. Integration after initiation can be just as difficult in its own way. Not to mention the fact that often all you’ve done is won yourself more Work to do, more expectations for your new role. Many times, a singular epiphany, however earth-shattering, takes months or even years to fully grok, and to move from something you just know to something you can actually use in practice.

None of that is the fun or glamorous part. The hardships involved aren’t ones we want to boast about, or even commiserate about (in other words, not part of the Story we will tell others). It’s usually a painfully slow process that might look like nothing at all from the outside, even if it is consuming all of your energy. And yet, if you try to skip it, then at best you’re going to end up with a much more shallow gnosis or metamorphosis.

Stick with it. See that return journey to its end, and take the same care with it as you did when you were preparing for the big ritual or courting the divine presence or making the life-altering oath. Because if you really want your life to be altered, it takes more than just a peak experience, it takes all the follow-up work afterwards. That’s the mark of a real commitment to the path, and to the gods. It’s not enough to slay the dragon and grab its gold, you have to bring that gold safely back to your community and do some good with it. You’ve got to figure out how to use what you’ve been given to better worship Them, or to bring others to Them, or to bring Their blessings into the world.

Those moments or periods of hard-won, long-sought, true divine connection and deep change are wonderful to be sure. But they are only the beginning.

Secondary libations

•July 2, 2022 • 4 Comments

I was just performing a very simple, frequent practice of mine that I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned here so figured it would be worth discussing a little. Am curious if anyone else does anything similar.

A common question from beginners in polytheism – especially those living in cities – is, ”How do I properly dispose of offerings?” Plenty of people have answered this for their particular traditions (including me, in Kharis), although it’s still debated to some degree. Some innovation is required because in antiquity, people lived in different ways that changed how they would approach this issue. They had dirt floors and constant hearth fires and easy access to wild places.

Now, I would say the majority of my everyday offerings are libations. This is partly due to the preferences of my gods and spirits, and partly due to practical considerations – it’s simply a lot more manageable to make libations and dispose of them frequently than it is to deal with food offerings or other things, especially in an apartment. So all my shrines have at least one drink receptacle, and receive regular libations of various wine, mead, beer, liquor, spring water, and other liquids. And periodically, I go around and empty them out. But while I don’t think it’s necessarily terrible to pour the liquid down the drain (it will all reach the earth or sea eventually, I figure), it has never felt quite right to me either, if for no other reason that it’s rather unceremonious and impersonal, sending it to some distant unknown destination. So instead, I have a simple lightweight bowl I use to collect all the libations together (depending on the constituents this can result in a very strange-smelling brew!) and then I go outside and I pour them at the base of the large sycamore tree in front of my home.

But over time, I began to feel that this was an opportunity to sort of secondarily dedicate these substances to the land I live on, and the tree which I am very fond of. I won’t claim to know how these things really work on a divine level but I generally ascribe to the idea that the gods/spirits take some kind of vital force from the food or drink we offer Them, and/or reap some kind of power from the act of offering in itself. Once that has happened, we are left with physical substances that may be spiritually depleted in a sense. But when I poured these out into the thirsty earth I did not feel like it was as simple as disposing of some meaningless and even soulless liquid. It seemed in a way like a second layer of offering. And so I began to dedicate these sacrificial remains by saying a prayer to the land, to the tree, and then again to the gods who received the initial offerings.

Funnily, it occurs to me only as I am writing this now that there is actually precedent for this in my tradition. At the dark moon, part of the rites for Hekate surrounding the deipnon involved also sweeping out the house and collecting the detritus of sacrifices (ashes and whatnot) to deposit at the crossroads. So in that case, what had once been offered was in a sense offered again. This is actually also something I practice, by including in my deipnon the ends of incense, matches and other burnt items I collect over a month of ritual work. Somehow I never connected these two things until now. Hm.

In any case, I like these practices because they make even the act of disposal into a holy thing. Not to mention, I think it has helped foster my connection to the plot of land on which I reside – even in an apartment in the city.