A Temporary (Or Possibly Permanent) Hiatus

•September 21, 2015 • 5 Comments

The time has come for me to set aside this blog for awhile. At least for the next several months as I enter the incredibly busy spiritual season for me. I haven’t had much to say lately anyway. And I’m finding that having a place where I can share my religious experiences and activities – while theoretically nice – is actually hindering me from being fully present in them. A little piece of my brain will still be thinking of how I will describe what happened, or what photos I will post. I need to be focused on the tasks at hand. And I need to put my money where my mouth is regarding the validity and power of offline, real life, private spiritual experiences. It may seem like a small thing, but I think it will make a significant internal change. In the new year, I will re-evaluate the situation and decide what to do next.

In preparation for this transition, I have gone through this blog and deleted a LOT of old posts, especially those which were just relating my personal experiences. I wanted to pare this down to a more accessible set of essays on concepts that are broadly applicable to other devotional polytheists and spirit-workers, including most of those found in Dwelling on the Threshold as well as several similar pieces I’ve written since that book was published.

I want to make a special note that I will still be accepting Cartomancy requests, and in fact really hope to keep getting these as it helps me stay on top of my game in the work of divination. If you need a cartomancy reading, please see my page on it here.

I will also continue to work on book design via Winged Words.

I am only putting this blog on hiatus – my other project-specific blogs will still be running, and showcasing a small part of what I am doing over the coming months, as applicable. So during this time you can still find me in these places:

imWalde – where I post photos of my own art projects as well as art that inspires me

Girls Underground – where I post examples of my favorite story archetype in books and movies as I find them

Raven’s Bread – where I post images of Amanita muscaria popping up across popular culture

Masks & Monsters – where I post about my own mumming experiences, and any relevant news

I will also still be running my Etsy shops:

Goblinesquerie – where I sell incense, bone jewelry, original art, and animal parts, as well as my booklet Working With Animal Bones

Magpie & Rook – where I sell vintage treasures, specializing in jewelry, occult, fantasy, old toys, and also my Carnival Talk book & postcards

I may also start using my old Flickr account a bit more. And of course, if you’re missing my words, you can always read any of my books (along the sidebar here)! And if you want to keep track in general of all my projects, I have everything listed on one site, BirdSpiritLand.com. Finally, you can email me at doorunderground at gmail (although please be aware that I may be slow by today’s standards about keeping up with correspondence, due to my aforementioned insane spirit-work load).

Today I felt the Hunt calling strongly as I walked through the blustery morning, and I feel that getting a little more quiet in this way will help me hear Them even more. So I am off to parts unknown – as the otherworld is always a bit of a mystery no matter how many times you visit. Hope you all have an amazing season as fall arrives and then deepens into winter. Fare thee well, for now.

How we speak to the gods

•September 9, 2015 • 11 Comments

I just happened upon this blog post about speaking to the gods silently. The author talks about how, despite some apparent dissent from other polytheists, she generally speaks to her god silently, in her head, and that she does not doubt the gods are able to hear us that way. Neither do I, for the most part – if the gods can speak directly into our own minds (without us “hearing” Their voices the way we might hear the voice of another person), I see no reason They can’t receive communications via the same process in reverse.


This topic happens to be timely for me, as I’ve recently begun doing the opposite sometimes (especially around the house), at least with some of my spirits. But the reason has nothing to do with the mechanics of material-spirit communication. It has to do more with human psychology.

Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve found that speaking out loud to my spirits, as I would to any physical person, subtly shifts my experience. Perhaps it’s that it signals to my subconscious that I am truly talking to another being, and not to myself (since I also talk to myself a lot, silently, in my own head, even using the second person). Perhaps it’s that it feels noticeably bold, walking around my house, seemingly “alone” but vocalizing my interaction with another being that no one else would be able to see or hear – it kind of jolts me into a more aware and present state. Perhaps it’s simply that doing spiritual things more tangibly in the material world, using our physical senses, is almost always a good way to make them more powerful.

It’s not something I’m entirely comfortable with yet, which is also a reason I want to be doing it more.

None of this negates the worth of speaking silently, and I still do that a lot too. But it’s something to consider.

Where the gods are found

•August 31, 2015 • 14 Comments

Just came across this post about Local Cultus. The author, like myself, is happy to see more emphasis being put on local cultus in modern polytheism, but dismayed at the way it is sometimes being discussed. They quote an example which was someone’s attempt to align the various Greek gods with the Boston area, and discuss where they think this person went wrong.

“I’m honestly disappointed in how people are handling these ideas. People are misassigning concepts to deities who just don’t handle such functions. It’s one thing to see examples of slow development toward functions that aren’t the norm elsewhere, but people don’t want development over centuries. They want everything now, even when they often lack a firm grasp of the basics.”

This is, indeed, one of the roots of many problems in modern polytheism – people being unwilling to wait and let things naturally evolve. My biggest concern here isn’t the specific examples of mis-assignment (though they do exist, and are indicative of a serious lack of understanding in some cases). It is the fact that these folks are sitting around trying to artificially assign gods to places and things as if it’s just a game, or at best an intellectual exercise. Once again, they are treating the gods as characters, rather than actual living entities. They are guessing about what a god would like rather than finding out what a god actually likes. Which means, ultimately, they are eschewing any attempt at direct experience of the gods in favor of armchair theorizing.

Real, workable, relevant local cultus evolves organically (and yes, even slowly!) over time in response to one’s environment. Sure, some things might be obvious – if you live near the ocean, you’ll probably find Poseidon there. But you might also find another, unexpected god there. And you might have an experience of Poseidon more strongly somewhere else. Maybe, in fact, you’ll have so many experiences with Him in that other place that you realize He must really be present there, and you start worshipping Poseidon of That Place as a special aspect of the god. That is how it happens.

When I came to Eugene, one of the first places I felt Dionysos was at the base of the butte that rises at the edge of downtown. Yeah, there was a lot of ivy growing there – but that is true of many places around here. And yeah, it could almost qualify as a “mountain” and therefore a location of the traditional Dionysian worship of oreibasia – but that would be even more true of the butte on the other end of town which is much higher. If I were just picking and choosing locations for Dionysos based on a list of His common epithets and associations, I would probably pick the nearby vineyards, or even the bars downtown. But those are only the places where He might be found, not the places I actually have found Him. It’s a crucial difference for a living religion.

I will also note that in practice, historically, not every “major” god would be equally represented in a given area – because some were simply more present there than others. You wouldn’t find all the Olympian gods in equal force throughout a city – you might find, instead, that Athene was the most commonly worshipped there under several different locational epithets, followed by, say, Artemis and Hephaistos, and that you had to go to the nearest mountain before you found a major sanctuary for Zeus. That doesn’t mean Zeus – or any god without a temple or major cult presence – wasn’t worshipped by anyone there, it just means that He hadn’t (to anyone’s knowledge) claimed any part of the city as His special place. Just because there was, for instance, an oak grove there doesn’t mean it would automatically be favored by the god due to His oak association. It’s so much more complex than that in reality.

I hope we can, as polytheists, do better than this. I hope we can go beyond games of free association and treat the gods as real and our religion as a serious undertaking. And I hope we can be patient enough to let something deep and beautifully complicated grow, something that is based on experience rather than theoretical ideas, something that might even last the test of time.


Orphic Hymn for Dionysos

•August 12, 2015 • 4 Comments

So part of our Filled with Frenzy ritual at Many Gods West was a series of devotional prayers before the shrine. I decided to do the Orphic Hymn #30 for Dionysos, in ancient Greek (which I had fortunately already memorized nine years ago for a Pantheacon ritual and still had knocking around in my brain). But then I got a strong feeling it should be sung, not simply recited. We know that the ancient hymns were sung originally, although we don’t really know how they sounded, if there were set melodies, etc. I basically just played with this until it found its own rhythm and notes – not quite a static melody, and not quite formless either, it seemed to fit.

Someone asked if I would be recording this. We did not make any recordings of the ritual (that’s against our entire approach) but I decided it might be interesting to others to hear what this sounds like, so I recorded myself singing it. Warning: the quality is that of my laptop’s built-in microphone, so not great. Also, I make no pretenses at perfect ancient Greek pronunciation, or having a good voice. This was an offering to my god, not a performance. It had more power during the ritual itself, obviously, but this might still be useful as a record and perhaps inspire others to do the same.

Inherent Animism

•July 15, 2015 • 6 Comments

“The city of Melbourne assigned trees email addresses so citizens could report problems. Instead, people wrote thousands of love letters to their favorite trees.”

I know this sounds silly, and I’m sure many of the letters were tongue-in-cheek, but… personally, I see it as a good sign. There’s still some inherent animism in the human spirit, even when the person isn’t consciously animist or polytheist. And maybe it will stop us from entirely destroying the other living beings on this planet.

Speaking of animism, a beloved local stadium built during the Depression just burned down in my city (just a couple blocks from where I live!), and it’s been interesting to see the reactions. People were really connected to that place, even beyond any particular memories or associations. The other day I noticed a sign tacked up to a nearby phone pole: “Rest in peace, beautiful stadium. You deserved better than this.” Again, a bit of personification at work, perhaps the same reason we still call ships “she.” Always makes me smile a little – one of the few times I’m on the same page as the rest of the culture.

Warning Label

•May 7, 2015 • 5 Comments

You know how they say that if you go to Fairyland and manage to get out again, you’ll either be mad or a poet? Well, the truth is that you’ll either be just plain mad, or a mad poet, but it’s not like the poet thing will let you off the hook from the madness part. You’ll probably always be on the verge of veering off into non-functional insanity, holding on by the thin rope of your inspiration.

And the things that were familiar and comforting before will seem strange and remote. And you will have no common language with the people around you, and even the words of your art may fall on deaf ears, although you will not be able to stop it lest you fall into the abyss again. And you will still love Fairyland with all your heart, even after it has done this to you. You will always be looking for the door back in.

Sound like fun? Then I have some spirits you should meet….

Beyond the God-Phone

•February 27, 2015 • 10 Comments

For several years now in various spirit-work communities, the term “god-phone” has been used as short-hand slang for the ability to hear the gods and speak back to them in return. A full explanation and examination of the term can be found here. I think it’s a useful metaphor, for the most part, and it fairly well describes the experience of what is probably the most common level of divine contact for spirit-workers. You are able to talk back and forth, in real time, with the gods or spirits, using a generally reliable connection that allows for understanding on both ends, and can be initiated by either party (although, to extend the metaphor, you might get no answer, or a busy signal, at times). Of course, many things will affect this connection and the ensuing “signal clarity” and it’s not as if you can always pick up the phone any time you want regardless of mental, physical or spiritual receptivity, but the basic principle still stands.

However, there are other levels of divine contact that are just as important for a spirit-worker (or other type of mystic). I think the god-phone is pretty much the middle of the potential spectrum (this isn’t addressing periods of no contact whatsoever, which do happen to everyone).

To one end of the spectrum, we find a process more like mail than a phone. Messages can be sent and received from either party, but they are not necessarily communications in real time, nor do the parties need to be co-present. Messages from us to Them might be in the form of prayers, petitions, devotional acts, questions posed to divinatory methods, etc. Messages from Them to us might be in the form of omens, answers given through divinatory methods, words delivered via another mystic or even an unsuspecting person, etc. This is the level that non-mystics – everyday worshippers – generally experience (although even this takes a certain amount of effort and attention), but that doesn’t make it any less important to a spirit-worker’s practice. Especially because it requires a lot less energy, clarity and openness than other levels – making it more accessible in any sort of circumstance, as well as a lifesaver when we’re going through fallow times.

To the other end of the spectrum, we find an experience more like having a conversation with a person standing right next to you (or in the case of my spirits, behind you, as that tends to be how They manifest with me). If the relationship is a particularly intimate one, it may even be like They’re whispering in your ear. You are co-present, in real time, with nothing between you to relay or translate the communication. They absorb your full attention, unlike god-phone interactions which can sometimes be carried out while engaging in other tasks. You may also see or feel Their presence (depending on how you are oriented) in an immediate way you don’t get with the god-phone. This is the most direct, most personal form of communication.

It’s worth mentioning, that just because we use this terminology that involves “speaking” and “listening” does not mean you will necessarily “hear” Them as such – either with your physical ears, or internally (the way you might hear music in your head). Obviously, as in the mail metaphor, messages can be conveyed through other means. Not everyone is geared toward auditory input just like not everyone is geared toward visual input (which is why not every spirit-worker has visions). Nor are all the gods and spirits going to communicate in the same way.

Sometimes “hearing” is just a convenient way to express a much more complicated or nebulous experience. For instance, there is a certain quality of inspiration that I know, from confirmed experience over time, comes from my spirit-Husband. I might describe such an instance to someone else as “He showed me a mask to make” or “He told me what to do next” but that doesn’t mean I saw or heard anything. I received the information, and experienced the connection nonetheless.

So your god-phone might function entirely through pictures, your mail might be delivered via a sudden lack of balance (we have more than five senses), your intimate conversation might feel more like a synaesthetic dream than a chat with another human. It doesn’t really matter how it happens, just that you figure out how it works for you and for Them, and keep practicing to attain both breadth and depth to your communications.



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