Holy Tree

I love it when by happenstance I come upon a natural shrine or altar somewhere in nature that other people have been drawn to. Here is a redwood tree from a beautiful grove in the Berkeley/Oakland hills that has attracted devotion.

My partner and I added our contribution and prayers.





One of my favorite poetic works is Seamus Heaney’s translation/version of the Buile Suibhne (Sweeney’s Frenzy) Sweeney Astray. In his introduction Heaney writes “…the literary imagination that fastened upon him as an image was clearly in the grip of a tension between the newly dominant Christian ethos and the older, recalcitrant Celtic temperament. The opening sections which recount the collision between the peremptory ecclesiastic and the sacral king, and the closing pages of uneasy reconciliation set in St. Moling’s monastery, are the most explicit treatment of this recurrent theme. This alone makes the work a significant one, but it does not exhaust its significance. Fore example, insofar as Sweeney is also a figure of the artist, displaced, guilty, assuaging himself by his utterance, it is possible to read the work as an aspect of the quarrel between free creative imagination and the constraints of religious, political, and domestic obligation.”


Ah, yes, the recalcitrant Celtic temperament. Suibhne who is traumatized in battle goes off into the woods, the archetypal outsider poet, where he lives like a bird, sharing in the beauty and joys and the terrors and discomforts of such a wild existence. Bright and dark is the wisdom of those who wander the liminal places of imagination, otherworld and wild earth. I’ve written about him before: http://finnchuillsmast.wordpress.com/2013/01/10/sweeney-orpheus-rimbaud-accursedblessed-poets/


For the Catholic Church this is a day for St. Moling who gave Suibhne last rites. Some of us CRs instead honor Mad Sweeney now.


Here’s a poem from my book:


I flew in nightdark
over city to a remnant beach
littered in driftwood
above which stood
offering rest.
A proper lookout it was,
above that tangled spit
covered in berry brambles—
a forager’s paradise.


If you know the East Bay (San Francisco Bay) maybe you can figure out this place.






Goats munching on ivy I have to call an epiphany,

a new understanding these happy workers

trimming the park’s verge, a goatsong

full of meanings, implicit and explicit, I will chant.

Who else but goats find ivy tasty, I think, as I see another

reach for a sprig of cypress needles.

I can only metaphorically eat such fodder myself,

such chthonic fare, but I reach for memory of You

in that colossal hall where You hold forth with the Queen of the Dead—

some say she is your mother, I would that she is one of Your mothers

for one womb only could not contain You and of course there was that

thigh pouch of your divine father too.

And let’s remember how Demeter hid her daughter

in a Sicilian cave to keep her virginal, yet the celestial dragon,

Zeus, coiled in and brought fruitfulness to her womb

in that dark recess of the earth. In stillness of deep caves

You who have known such suffering


Prepare and offer the cups of relief


How peaceful is the sleep in the house of Persephone

How restful are the beds of Persephone

How cool the ivy, that double spirited plant.


But Your epiphanies always recur:

The ivy and the vine are always with us, God of Nysa.

At Eleutherai you appeared as black goat, You of the black goatskin

they called you, Dionysos under the earth.

Goats were sacrificed to the Ecstatic Lord too, those tireless munchers

prizes for the best goat song. On this bright day of the sun,

the wine put aside, I am brought to mind of the chthonic always

ready to break forth like that seizure that occurred at Nysa long ago to

Demeter’s daughter; the tales, the epiphanies, the meanings, just keep looping

round and round like a May garland, like the growth of ivy and vine,

tendrils and tendrils, tendrils twining and reaching.



Up and Down the Stairs of Time:

A Praise Poem


The lustre of flares in water,

The teeth of lions spread on the meadow;

A cauldron simmering and ever full;

A star bright night on mountain forest;

The mist plays at veiling the sea

But the waves still thunder.

Rain falls on a hot afternoon, amid bright flashes;

Cattle graze peacefully on the lush grass;

The grapes are pressed for next year’s vintage;

A sword flashes naked truth in its gleaming;

The acorns lie deep on the wood’s floor;

A beautifully crafted chain of words flows;

Sculptures perfectly formed, red lotus garlanded;

Ravens, oystercatchers, hummingbirds…

I sing your praises Shining Ones

On this pale shore, on this golden isle,

On this meandering pathway

Up and down the stairs of time.


Perhaps you can discern some of the Ones being thanked?

Regarding Abuse

{Stepping out of the usual programming on the Mast}

As most of us know, the heinous crime of child sexual abuse (and abuse of adults too) is rampant in all religious and non-religious communities in the United States (yes, I repeat all). The US has the highest incidence of child sexual abuse in the ‘developed’ world.

The Enough Abuse campaign is a group that is doing something about this. Check them out. A good resource for leaders to know about.


Earth Day 2014


The Sixth Extinction: A Conversation With Elizabeth Kolbert

Humanity’s “most enduring legacy” will be our effect on the rest of life on Earth


“You write that we’re putting other species in a double bind: forcing them to move by changing the climate, and at the same time making it harder for them to move.

Pretty much everything now is on the move or should be on the move. I think it’s 30 feet a day you’ve got to be moving, toward the Poles or upslope, if you want to track the climate. Some things are moving very fast; some things are not.

In the past we know that some species have survived pretty dramatic climate swings by moving. But now you have the problem that where you might need to move is either bisected by a road or completely occupied by Los Angeles or São Paolo. So you’re bringing both of those forces to bear.”



This book is on my wish list. We’re living in the sixth mass extinction on this planet, and one supposedly conscious species is involved, and truly one portion of that species that has inflicted its madness, its hubris upon the rest in this so-called ‘global civilization’. If this is not an apocalypse, I don’t know what could be. Yes, we are living in the middle of the apocalypse. Western, industrial capitalist civilization has embodied the apocalypse in its drive to escape embodiment.

Each year the Ekklesia Antinoou does a contest on this date called the Megala Antinoia. Here’s a light hearted poem I wrote for it.


The Banquet

We’ll assemble where Antinous hangs out with Hippolytus

By Diana’s grove in Lanuvium above the Pacific.

But what would Adolph Sutro that

Philanthropic Jew who made it in silver

A new world immigrant and progressive mayor

Of San Francisco and builder of marvels

Think about all this devotion in his garden?

I think he might rather like it actually.

Let’s reach for the holy bough, let’s invite Frazier

To this party, (atheist that he was notwithstanding)

And Winckelman of course, he would surely like to attend, and

Wilde and Yourcenar, quipping and quaffing,

And there will be P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, naturally enough.

There will be miner’s lettuce for starters to clear the palate,

This will be a many course banquet I can assure you.

For there is so much to pick from: The Citharoedic Hymn of Curium,

The Antinoieos Flower of the Tebtynis Papyrus or the Oxyrhynchus Poem

And many more. I’d sure be happy to drink wine from a cup,

Whether rhyton, kothon, kantharos or a seemly kyliske

(It will be a symposium too!) and read aloud Pancrates’

Poem of the Lion Hunt and the Animula Vagula Blandula.

Oh, there are so many tidbits just like the endless scraps that

fall from Athenaeus’ banquet table. When shall we begin?


This needs a bit of a key. There’s a grove in a small San Francisco park overlooking the sea from a height. It was originally the home and gardens of Sutro, a very important person in local history, and great benefactor of the city and its populace. Local pagans have long worshiped Diana here and you can usually see flowers and other offerings at her statue. Some of us have done Antinous devotion here too, invoking the memory of Lanuvium, Italy where Diana and Antinous were worshiped together. The kothon was a drinking cup of Spartan origins, the kantharos was a deep cup used in symposia, but some thought they were too deep, while the kyliske was more like a saucer, very modest in what it could contain. Animula Vagula Blandula is a poem written by the emperor Hadrian probably not long before he died. Miner’s lettuce grows there in the spring, a plant associated with the gold rush. We once ate some in a spontaneous ritual gesture.


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