Welcome to A Forest Door

•March 3, 2017 • Comments Off on Welcome to A Forest Door

This blog is on indefinite hiatus.

I have left a selection of my old posts active, but turned the comments off. If you’d like to read more of my work, check out my many books shown on the sidebar, especially Dwelling on the Threshold and Between the Worlds, which are both collections of essays originating here. I also have a list on the sidebar of links to my other projects, and pretty much everything I do can be found all together at Bird Spirit Land.

I will continue to make monthly posts here with my cartomancy schedule (sessions are generally every Wednesday with some exceptions). More information on cartomancy services can be found here.

I will also make occasional posts related to new books and other projects as they occur. So please feel free to subscribe if you’d like to keep track of what I’m doing. You can also follow me on Twitter (or just check my feed periodically) which I use mostly to provide updates on my work.

It’s been wonderful writing here for the past 8 years or so, but it’s time for me to withdraw a little further from the world of people and spend more time with the spirits at the edge of the wilds.

You can contact me at dver at birdspiritland dot com, although I may be slow to respond.

Hellenic Polytheist Survey

•July 9, 2019 • 5 Comments

I’m nothing if not changeable, and so after years of dismissing the idea, I’ve decided to put out a third (and probably final) edition of my first book, Kharis: Hellenic Polytheism Explored. The first edition came out in 2004, the second in 2008. While my thoughts about the practice of the religion itself have not drastically changed since then, the community itself certainly has, as well as the resources available for study. So the bulk of the text in this new edition will remain the same, but I’m going to tweak a few things as needed, update the recommended books and websites, and most importantly, present results of a new survey of the Hellenic polytheist community, with commentary comparing these results to the older surveys. My hope is that this will help Kharis to remain relevant and useful to the current generation of newbies and devotees.

So without further ado, here is the 2019 Hellenic Polytheist Survey. It will be open and collecting responses until July 31. Because I am not nearly as active as I used to be online, I really need help spreading the word about the survey to reach as many self-identified Hellenic polytheists as possible in the coming weeks. I’d love this to be as accurate as possible in reflecting the community. So please share the link (https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/HellenicPolytheistSurvey) anywhere that is relevant (especially social media). Thank you!

July 2019 Cartomancy Dates

•July 2, 2019 • Leave a Comment

This month’s dates for readings are:

July 10
July 17
July 24
July 31

As always, read my Cartomancy page for full details before requesting divination.

Disorientation for ASC

•March 27, 2019 • 6 Comments

The Poet makes himself a seer by a long, gigantic and rational derangement of all the senses. (Rimbaud)

There are many paths to altered states of consciousness. Rhythm, movement, fasting, entheogens, breath control, sensory deprivation and the opposite, sensory overload. But one I have not seen discussed much, but which is pretty fundamental to my personal practice, is disorientation. And I don’t mean in the sense of spinning around until you are dizzy, although that can work too of course. I am talking about practices which serve to change your sense of everyday reality in slow and sometimes subtle ways. I find these types of activities, while not always a direct or immediate entry into deep trance on their own, serve to thin the veil between the worlds and prime the mind for unusual experiences. When combined with other ASC methods this can lead into more focused ritual work in any specific instance, but also over time they can serve to loosen the mind in a broad and long-lasting way, making it easier to slip into that headspace on an ongoing basis. (The reason this might not be widely discussed, I realize, is that even most spirit-workers might not actually desire to experience this sort of constant alteration, but it is part of my path, so it seems likely there would be others out there, too.)

Some examples. If anyone else does anything like this, I’d love to hear some more.

  • sleeping in an unusual way – in a different room, at the foot of the bed, at odd hours, etc.
  • conversely, doing things (especially spiritual activities) in the middle of the night, between sessions of sleep
  • thinking in another language you aren’t fluent in (slows your mind down)
  • wearing a mask while doing everyday activities around the house
  • different lighting – colored lights, having only candlelight in a room usually lit with flourescents, blocking out all light in the middle of the day, etc.
  • lying down looking up at the ceiling and visually exploring the house in your mind as if the ceiling were the floor
  • watching a movie or observing people in reverse through a mirror
  • staying silent through an otherwise typical day, or speaking only in a whisper
  • when outside, taking a new route to a familiar location – especially through liminal spaces like alleys – until nearly lost (like this)
  • going through an entire day and night without looking at any clocks, erasing your usual sense of time passing
  • wearing a blindfold during normal (but safe) activities such as having a conversation with someone

November

•March 3, 2019 • 2 Comments

I have never seen anything that so captured the world of folk magic and beliefs and its deep weirdness like this movie. Magical realism, Svankmajer-like puppetry, a witch with very practical advice, the devil at the crossroads, the dead returning (and transforming into giant chickens in the sauna)…it is hard to convey how wonderful this is. Based on a novel drawing on Estonian folklore by the author of one of my favorite books, The Man Who Spoke Snakish.

Spirit-Worker Art – A Story About A Very Special Book

•May 1, 2017 • Comments Off on Spirit-Worker Art – A Story About A Very Special Book

Let me tell you a story.

Many years ago, my spirits told me that I would eventually learn to integrate my magical practices and artistic pursuits, that I would begin making “spirit-worker art.” This concept appealed to me but I had no idea at the time how it would actually manifest. I knew it wasn’t just a matter of making witchy-looking stuff (there’s enough of that anyway) but rather a deeper level of utilizing Art to open Doorways. Eventually I came to rely more directly on certain spirits for artistic inspiration, and began seeing an increase in ability too – what They wanted made, got made, even when I didn’t think I possessed the necessary skills. There were masks, and puppets, and many glamourbombs.

And then, over a year ago, They dropped a concept into my head and it grabbed hold of me. It was a book, with glossy black pages, and in it there were antique photographs of gentlemen (elegant, fine, but perhaps a little strange or sinister as well) representing one of the faces those spirits use, and there were also Polaroid photos – with their hazy, vintage feel – of liminal places I knew and of some of the other magical art objects I’d created, representing Their otherworldly home. And these would be placed together with poems – possibly fragments of some of the poetry I’d written about Them in the past. And all of this would somehow express just Who these spirits are – it would be an introduction to Them, a doorway for Them, and an offering to Them.

I had only just acquired a vintage Polaroid camera (also on Their insistence), and I knew nothing about collecting antique photographs, but I dived right in. And over the course of 13 months, that vision came to fruition. I spent countless hours hunting for unusual portraits in antique stores and flea markets (and online), and I took my camera on many numinous walks, attempting to capture the odd little places where I felt the veil was the thinnest. I even made a special trip to a run-down fairytale amusement park and battled rain to get shots of the giant witch and the haunted house.

As I did this, the vision became clearer, I understood better just what I was making. All the smaller details came into focus. However, even as I was wrapping up the images portion of the book (this was back in early February), I still didn’t know what the words would be. Nothing I had written before seemed quite right, but no new poetry was coming (which wasn’t surprising, given that I rarely write it anymore and have only turned out the occasional poem over the past decade).

But, I trusted Them. I followed a set of signs and synchronicities, and it led me to some powerful inspiration, and then one day, I wrote something – or rather, something came through me, because it didn’t really feel like I created it – different than anything I’d done before. A short, rhyming piece that felt more like a wicked nursery rhyme than anything else. And it fit. And then I wrote another. And in 10 short days, 25 of these poems came through me, just enough to fill the spaces in the book. They filled my mind, I could think of nothing else that whole time. And then the ink ran dry, and I haven’t had an idea for one since.

I arranged the images and words across the pages of the book (with all kinds of arcane symbolism and references that make it more meaningful to Them but are probably invisible to anyone else), and I even hid a spell of sorts within the arrangement of the poems (which *can* be found by any reader). I began and ended it with two quotes from the poetry of Jim Morrison, whose words were an early guidepost for me when I first met these spirits as an adolescent. Then, after the books were printed, I hand-carved a rubber stamp (a riff on the all-seeing eye, a symbol of Theirs) for the endpapers, and hammered out the title on copper plates – the title which had come to me at the very start of the project, a line from an old poem of mine, an invocation to the spirits:

“Gentlemen, madmen, things that are not men.”

And finally now I can bring this to the world, although the story behind it will only be shared here. Today, this May Day, marks an important milestone in my life with my spirits, and this is my “senior project” as it were, and one of my most potent pieces of spirit-worker art thus far. Aside from the photographs (many oblique) that appear on my art blog, this book will only be experienced in person, physically – I will not be posting the Polaroids I used, or scans of the old cabinet cards, or sharing most of the poetry. It is a tangible object and it needs to remain that way.

Some might call them fairies, some might call them monsters. They look like gentlemen but they are anything but gentle. They live underground, but they prowl our streets. Every shadow may hide a doorway into their topsy-turvy, twilight land.

I am offering 11 of the 13 copies of this limited edition for sale in my Etsy shop (under a new pen name, D. Venatrix). The book costs $75 (which frankly only recoups the cost of making the physical book; I consider the purchase of antique photos and expensive instant film as just the cost of being a spirit-worker), and for an extra $25 I will also include three original Polaroid “outtakes” from my adventures (I have been posting some of these to my art blog recently).

Just like with the glamourbombs I leave out while never knowing who will find or see them (or if any human will at all), I have to trust that these books will find their way into the right hands. They are doorways to a strange, uncanny place. Will you open the door?

The mound is cold but beautiful
It sparkles in the candlelight
The revels can be endless here
For underground, it’s always night
But as the flames die one by one
The time has come, their favorite part
When all the lords and ladies
Take their masks off, in the dark

(ETA: These books are now available in a smaller paperback edition in my Etsy shop.)

A Pathwalking Technique

•January 17, 2017 • Comments Off on A Pathwalking Technique

Pathwalking is a type of trancework that straddles the worlds, where one moves about in physical reality while simultaneously experiencing another Place and engaging with a spiritual reality. Essentially, you are peeling back the veil that separates the worlds for an extended time, while staying fully aware of material existence. It is often said to be one of the more difficult practices, especially compared to travelling wholly on the astral plane (or “faring forth”). However, I personally find pathwalking easier, as I do not possess the mental visualization abilities to properly journey outside my physical form, and because my entire path is based on being in a position between the physical and spiritual worlds. But it still requires a lot of work to do well, and it is often challenging to initiate the transition from regular, everyday perception, especially because one does not have the luxury of blocking out sensory signals and messages the way one does in many other forms of trance.

One technique I have found useful is something I think of as “narrowed focus.” The simplest version can be done by paying attention only to your feet as you walk along. Narrow your field of vision until you can only see your feet and the surface on which you are walking – the sidewalk, the forest path, whatever it may be. It helps if you can also narrow your other senses, so that, for instance, you predominantly are hearing only your own footsteps rather than any distant noises that would alert you to what is happening in the larger area.

In this little bubble, you are still experiencing physical reality, but it is somewhat separated from the world that you know is around you. This helps you both to disconnect a little bit from the tyranny of your preconceived ideas (what you have come to expect about your surroundings), and to access other Places which might look very similar from that limited viewpoint. For instance, if you are walking down a city street and look only at the asphalt and concrete and grass around your feet, you could be almost anywhere – across the country, across the world, or even in another world entirely. You could be in the present day or in a moment that happened decades ago. You could be alone or surrounded by others. The familiar suddenly becomes the unknown, and that disorientation creates an opportunity for you to slip sideways a little, into a liminal state where both Here and There exist together.

Once you feel that altered perception taking hold, you can slowly raise your head and start to shift your attention to the rest of the world around you, seeing it all with new eyes. You may literally see the otherworld superimposed on this one, if you have that gift, or you may experience the dual realities in other ways – for instance, encountering unusual objects or people that are clearly being influenced by spiritual forces, hearing strange music or a voice just out of sight, feeling compelled to take a certain route that leads you to a significant location or event, etc.

Of course, there is some practical danger in this technique, especially when done in an urban environment. Taking your eyes off your surroundings, even for a few minutes, puts you at risk in a number of ways, so it must only be done in certain situations. But if done carefully, it can be a very powerful tool. (Having another person walk with you might seem like a sensible precaution, but in fact will probably hinder you more than help, as their unaltered, everyday perception of your mutual environment may serve to drag you back into consensus reality.)

Obviously, if you are trying to access a specific otherworldly Place, it’s best to choose a material landscape that’s at least close in appearance. Or, you can just let yourself slip behind the veil a bit and see what’s going on in the spiritual realm that is closest to where you are at the moment; this is especially effective if you’re trying to meet the local spirits. Remember, also, that just as that world and its denizens become clearer and more present to you, so do you become more noticeable to Them, so it’s best to always do this kind of work armed with offerings, protective talismans, and anything else you might need in a variety of spiritual encounters.

A final note – in my experience, movement is fairly crucial to this technique. You should be actively walking (or even riding in a vehicle of some sort – anything that causes you to traverse the material world to some degree) as you narrow your focus and then slowly begin to widen it again. It may be due to a simple psychological reason; perhaps our brains expect that we must be moving in order to change locations, at least when interacting with physical reality (as opposed to dreams and even astral travel, where we can easily transition from one place to another just by intention rather than an actual process of movement). There may also be some magical or spiritual reason, even just the common guideline of “as above, so below.” Whatever the case, just like in the Amber books by Roger Zelazny, walking between the worlds seems to require actual walking in this world.