Monthly Archives: November 2014

Gratitudes

Saying “thank you” has always been tough for me. It’s as if some deep part of me is certain that anything good I have was given to me by mistake, and if I draw attention to it with gratitude, it will be taken away. The part of me that insists that this is not actually true thought I should write this, today.

I give thanks to Dionysos, for all his gifts to me, and for the lessons and challenges, and for the times when all he did was listen to this poor mortal’s cries.
I give thanks to Dionysos, for all the friends and lovers he has brought me while I walk his path.

I give thanks to the Lady of the Moon and the Lord of Death and Resurrection, for sharing their secret names with me, and for reminding me that the value of the secret is in the discipline of keeping it, not in the hoarding of knowledge.

I give thanks to Melek Ta’us for giving me what I did not ask for, showing me what I did not want to see, and reminding me that harsh love is still love.

I give thanks to Ghede, whichever one you are, for helping me to laugh at horror and make allies of the monsters I meet.

I give thanks to Freyja, teacher and lover, for her patience and the lessons she teaches in small, subtle ways, and for the gift of her priestess.

I give thanks to my ancestors of blood, for the very breath I have, and for every heartbeat.
I give thanks to my ancestors of blood, for the things they taught me when I was young, good and bad, for without them I would not be who I am today.

I give thanks to my ancestors of spirit, for the world they built and left for me, for the words they left behind, the examples that inspire me to my own acts.
I give thanks to my ancestors of spirit, for all the mistakes they left behind for me to fix, for the challenges that force me to grow.

I give thanks to my lovers, for the caresses and sighs, for the pleasure and the pain, for awakening my passion.
I give thanks to my lovers, for the arguments and the leaving, for not letting me get away with being less than they deserve.

I give thanks to my friends, for the time spent talking, and the time spent silent, and for opening doors to aspects of life I would never have thought to open on my own.
I give thanks to my friends, for the times apart, for the disagreements, for the distances that ache and echo, for these things teach me what I really value.

I give thanks to my son, for making me his father, for the smiles and the laughter and the rebellion by not rebelling.
I give thanks to my son, for the three in the morning colicky crying, the fragrant diapers, and all the other things that helped me appreciate the value in hardship for love’s sake.

And I give thanks to all whom I have forgotten, all the gods and ancestors, all the friends and lovers and family I did not have time or room to name. All of you have given me who and what and where I am today, good and bad, and I would not trade such gifts for anything.


More Voices, More Passion

More folks with comments on the events surrounding and highlighted by the Ferguson grand jury decison.

Thorn Coyle writes: “I pray that we remember: We are responsible for one another’s well being,” in An Open Letter to White America

Morpheus Ravenna writes: “The thing is, property is what this society values above all else. Thus, it’s destruction of property that gets heard. This is why looting happens.” in The Violence From Below

Brennos writes: “Peace without justice is oppression and battle for justice is the only route to peace,” in Social Justice and a Goddess of Sovereignty and Battle

This is all much bigger than one cop shooting one kid. Too many people are content to frame each crime as an anomaly, as unconnected crimes by bad individuals. The alternaive is to bear the pain of being aware that they are part of a system of domination, a system that grinds them down, too.

I am not surprised that these protests (and make no mistake, it’s not just happening in Ferguson) include violence. All I am surprised by, is that anyone is surprised.


There is No Natural Justice

Last night, the grand jury in Ferguson returned its decision to not prosecute Ferguson officer Darren Wilson for the death of Michael Brown. Justice is not served.

I’m not really surprised. Justice hasn’t been served in this since long before Officer Wilson shot Mr. Brown. Long, long before. Better historians than I have traced the roots of current racism and back to slavery and reconstruction, and wiser commenters than I have discussed how the current troubles are at least as much about white anger at progress as they are about black anger about racism.

When I first heard the decision, I wasn’t surprised, but I was very angry. I still am, and will be for a long time to come, but at first it was the kind of anger that involves questioning the power and justice of the gods. That questioning led me to revisit the understanding that there is no natural justice.

We cannot expect the gods to give us justice. Oh, there are gods of justice. Among the Olympians, Dike is the goddess of justice. Her father is Zeus, one of whose responsibilities is law and order, and her mother is the titaness Themis, who is said to have first taught law to mortals. Other cultures and pantheons have their own deities of justice.

Yet we still cannot expect the gods to give us justice. If we could, the prosecutor arguing before the grand jury would not have been a man who raised money for the defense of the accused. If the gods could just give us justice, then Darren Wilson would have gone to trial, and either incarceration or exoneration, months ago.

The gods cannot give us justice, not in a way we would like. Myth is full of tales of gods punishing injustice, but there are few stories of the gods preventing injustice. When the gods do step in, the results are painful and messy, and collateral damage seems to be quite high. The gods don’t get directly involved until the situation is so far gone that whatever they do can’t make things worse.

Justice, on a human scale and human terms, is what happens when we mortals make it happen. The gods may assist and advise, but in this (as in so much, it seems) their powers are limited. We have to make room for them to enter the world, when and where we want them to enter, to be the vehicles by which divine justice can manifest.

I’m not suggesting anyone should take revenge in the name of the gods, or that people should feel that any expression of rage or violence against the perceived enemy is a holy act. Dike is not Nemesis, and the Horai (Dike and her sisters Eunomia, good order, and Eirene, peace) are not the Erinyes.

Justice is not revenge, or at least, not retribution alone. Justice is re-balancing the scales, giving comfort and redress to the victims as well as punishment to the perpetrators. Focusing just on the survivors of Michael Brown and on Darrin Wilson and those who helped him evade justice is not enough, however, because the current injustice is bigger than that. Justice here means also working to dismantle the system that perpetuates, encourages, and rewards this kind of crime. Justice here means also working to give aid, voice, and comfort to all who suffer under that system.

We cannot expect the gods to simply give us true justice. We must make justice through our own actions, in harmony with the gods and with their blessings on our actions.

We must make this right. No one else will.


Shifting Frames

What methods of inducing altered states of conscious does your tradition have?

Pondering this question aloud, I said something like, “Well, my current practice doesn’t involve much in the way of trance.” To which Ember quirks one eyebrow. It’s a very eloquent eyebrow. It should have its own sound effect. But I digress…

The point is, I do use trance fairly regularly. It’s just not the formal, high-ritual trance induction that I first learned as a baby witch years back. What I do now–just this past weekend, in fact–is the kind of low-level trance where one doesn’t lose contact with the world, but there’s a sort of other-world overlay. Not so much a visual, like a psychic head-up display, but more a feeling like high air pressure or some just barely sub-sonic vibration. I know it’s there, I feel it, but it’s not focused any one place, except maybe in the head and at the altar.

Inducing that trance is a matter of repetition. A simple chant, over and over. A simple drumbeat, over and over. If there had been room, there would have been a simple dance step, over and over. As it was, I stood in place, rocking back and forth and shaking my thyrsus staff, over and over. Twenty some-odd people, chanting the chant and beating the beat, over and over.

And, a bit of alcohol. This was a devotional for Dionysos, after all. Not much for any one person, not enough for even the lightest lightweight to feel. Just take a sip from the bottle and pass it on, even a small amount can be a cue that consciousness is changing, that it’s time to swap the grounded-in-reality eyes for the other-world-eyes.

The repetition gives rhythm to a world that’s mostly random noise. The words that are repeated are really only language for the first couple of rounds. For those rounds, they bring images to the conscious mind, identifying the power being called. After, they’re still there, but they’re sinking in, deeper and deeper. They start as words, become pictures, then become feelings. And those feelings set the tone of the vibration that’s not focused any one place, except maybe in the head and at the altar.

The world becomes a bit like fiction, given structure by the repeated rhythms that life doesn’t normally have. Something somewhere between the surface of our skins and the core of our perceptions shifts and folds, psychic origami given structure by the repeated rhythms, a new set of relationships into which to file our perceptions. We’re still in the same house we were, but it is now completely different because everything now relates to every other thing by the structure of the repeated rhythms as well as by what we know of their ordinary-world uses. For just a little while, feelings that are no longer words bind common things into uncommon meanings.

Then, the chant is done, the drum is still, the bottle is empty–I’ve seen to that, personally. People get up, move about, start talking to each other. The ritual part of the evening seems to be coming to a close, and the party part of the evening is getting started. The trance persists, the new rhythm of the world shapes the way people move and talk and feel, for just a little while. Interactions that seem ordinary are completely different because everything now relates to every other thing by the structure of the repeated rhythms.

The point is, I do use trance fairly regularly. It’s just not the overtly ritualized trance of the devotional. I don’t lose contact with the world, I just focus more on one part and less on another. Not visually, but more as a feeling, a change of atmosphere. The filter shifts behind my eyes, focused in my head and at whatever I’m working at.

Inducing this trance is a matter of selective attention. A slight re-arrangement of furniture from one pattern to another. A new playlist on the music box. A shift into a new room, a set of simple tasks repeated day after day.

Pondering this question, while writing, I realized that my whole life involves one form of trance or another. One pattern of relationships or another, giving form to a world that seems like random noise unless one learns to listen for the rhythms.

My lover Ember and I have decided to go through Galina Krasskova’s Devotional Polytheist Meme questions together, over the next several months. We encourage our friends to follow along, and welcome links to other people’s answers in our comments, as well as your thoughts on our answers.
Ember’s answer can be found at her blog, Embervoices.


Soul Retrieval

Earlier this week, I had a dream that continued beyond waking.

In the dream, I was exploring a strange landscape with a few friends. There was a low-key vibe of epic quest, if that makes sense; a feeling of weight and importance without an aggressive string section or bombastic drums.

The trip was some kind of magical training, a way of learning ways of being in the world. We were on our way home when we stopped at a sinkhole for one last exploration, into a labyrinth. We had to learn to change shape to navigate the twists and turns.

This is the bit where I woke up, winter sun poking me in the eye through an evidently too-thin sleep mask. But the dream held, and in it I encountered an ex of mine. The meeting was nervous, but not fearful. I looked at her and knew that I had left a piece of myself with her, and that here was an opportunity to take it back.

When she first appeared in the dream, she looked as she had when we were dating, years ago. I took her into my arms and gathered her in, willing myself to feel her as she had felt then. Still holding her, I stepped back, pulling my memory of her with me, into myself, and looking upon her and seeing her as she now is–or at least as she was the last time I saw her, several weeks back.

I told her what this was about, just before allowing myself to fully awaken. There were ways of being, of feeling, of exploring that I allowed myself when I was with her that I had not allowed myself since. If we are meant to learn things from our relationships (leaving aside for the moment the important question, “meant by whom?”), I learned things about myself with her that I associated so strongly with that relationship that I locked them away when we broke up.

This dream-act was my will to reclaim those parts of myself from the time/place in which I’d buried them.

First thing I did upon getting out of bed was to write The Black Heart.

The Black Heart of Innocence is a Feri thing, described by Victor Anderson, so:

How beautiful is the black, lascivious purity of small children and wild animals

I didn’t fully grasp it, when I was actively studying Feri. I could describe it; I had the intellectual definition down. But I didn’t know what it felt like, not until I retrieved a key piece of understanding it with this dream.

And thinking about it, this is what Melek Ta’us was giving me that time He stepped inside my skin when I was warding for someone else’s magic. I’d thought He was using me to get to her–and He was–but I did not appreciate what He gave me in doing so. I was so afraid of what I felt, even as I was going with it and giving in to it, that I did not see what He was opening in me, only what He was giving to her.

So much locked away in memory, buried treasure with only a fixation on the past to point the way.

What I learned of Feri practice was the cultivation of the Black Heart and the balancing of self so that it can safely manifest in life. I need to get back to that work.


The Black Heart

I want to reach out
Touch with hand trembling
With yearning hungry passion
I want to look out
See with infinite black eyes

To want and be unafraid
To bear a raw heart

I want to be filled
With need
Not emptied by fear
Full of hunger
That is not incomplete Self

Innocent of shame
Free of fear of falling

Wide open black fire
Burning dark in day
Swallowing all the world
Finding it pure
Silver and crystal and sweet water

Lascivious desire
Wide-eyed madness

Demanding nothing of her
But that she be fully
What she is
Asking only of myself
That I be fully
What I am

To take without hoarding
To possess without enslaving

I want to be seen
In my passion
And need
And hunger
And be seen to be whole

O Raving One
O Roaring One

Be You my mirror
In whom I see
My Deepest Self
Without the terror
I will see nothing at all


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