Brownies and Invisible Friends

I thought I’d post this excerpt From Martin Martin’s A Description of the Western Islands of Scotland (published in 1703). A fascinating glimpse into the enchanted world of the Scottish Isles in the 17th century, even if through Martin’s Protestant at times pejorative framing. That these are said to have been laid aside show the Protestant determination to disenchant at work.

My division of one paragraph into two.

They had a universal custom, of pouring a Cow’s Milk upon a little Hill, or big Stone, where the Spirit call’d Browny was believ’d to lodg: this spirit always appear’d in the shape of a tall Man, having very long brown Hair. There was scarce any the least Village in which this superstitious Custom did not prevail. I enquir’d the reason for it from several well-meaning Women, who, until of late, had practic’d it; and they told me, that it hasd been transmitted to them by their Ancestors successfully, who believ’d it was most attended with good Fortune, but the most Credulous of the Vulgar had now laid is aside.

It was an ordinary thing among the Over-curious to consult an invisible Oracle, concerning the Fate of Families, and Batles, etc. This was perform’d three different ways; the first was by a Company of Men, one of whom being detach’d by Lot, was afterwards carry’d to a river, which was the boundary between two Villages; four of the Company laid hold on him, an having shut his Eyes, they took him by the Legs and Arms, and then tossing him to and again, struck his Hips with force against the Bank. One of them cry’d out. What is it you have got here? Another answers, A Log of Birch-wood. The other cries again, Let his invisible Friends appear from all quarters, and let them relieve him by giving an Answer to our present Demands: and in a few Minutes after, a number of little creatures came from the Sea, who answer’d the Questions, and disappeared suddenly. The Man was then set at liberty, and they all returned home, to take their Measures according to the Prediction of their false Prophets; but the poor deluded Fools were abused, for the Answer was still ambiguous. This was always practiced in the Night, and may literally be called the works of Darkness.

Yes, divination and prophecy tends to be ambiguous,–I’d say by nature.

Eucalyptus Standing

It’s been quiet here for a bit. Lots of work stuff, and life thrown us a difficult blow recently. But time to share a poem. This one came while I was writing prose about reenchantment. The eucalyptus tree, while originally from Australia, is a signature part of the California landscape. Some people would like to see them gone, saying they are fire traps. I’m rather fond of them myself.


The bee came at me and then buzzed away.

I stand here:

belladonna plants

tall dried mustard, purple flower kind,

the ground is sandy,

the log imposes

pale and catches attention

pulling me in to investigate.


a low key compelling, behind is an altar shaped log

and alongside silvery green eucalyptus shoots—

they are growing out of one that was axed;

genetic clones they must be

but the big tree looms behind.

Sometimes it lurks in there

not quite taking a face.

Beyond the bison’s graze today. But one

framed in primordial horn

looks at me and

I look too.

I offer tobacco leaves, and flowers,

dried, from my indoor plants.

They make lovely lime green scenes,

haunting green stars press against the glass.

A trio of crows calls.

Dogs are being walked. Fox tails are

scratchy if you’re not careful.

Eucalyptus, long settled in,

reaches out to me in aromatic exhalations

entering my lungs. I inhale deeply.


Walls, Taxonomies, Spills

Boundaries are often good things, walls sometimes, sometimes not. Walls are much in the US news of late, with a would be demagogue loudly proclaiming the need to build a wall between the US and Mexico, and another would be president imbecile saying it’s worthwhile to explore building one between the US and Canada. Which leads to the thought if the inhabitants were completely walled in, wouldn’t that be a prison?

Staking out claims, carving out territory, specifically for those whose theological stance is definitely polytheist has been and continues to be a necessary action, when larger communities have proven so often that they want to redefine our polytheist stances into their own—or to disregard ours completely. But it works both ways, an obsession for taxonomy doesn’t necessarily lead to a healthy practice. It easily leads to this is the ‘right and true way’ to do Polytheism.

One aspect of this makes me at times feel like I’m caught in one of those awful European tortures of centuries past (drawing and quartering), being pulled in more than one direction. This is the notion that Paganism (that poorly defined rain protection device) has various ‘centers’. These are said to be the Gods, Nature, the Self (not the ego), and Community. I orient in a general way within the Druidic Three Kindreds practice. That is the Gods, the Spirits (conceived as spirits of land, sea, sky, that is lowercase nature) and the Ancestors. That my practice is largely deity-driven and focused doesn’t in any way preclude my animism, devotion to the spirits, seen and unseen. And all of these drew me to paganism in the first place.

I agree with John Beckett that it is very important to have that vocabulary of fishes (; if I want mahi-mahi I certainly don’t want to end up with a plate of perch. But I might want to order that seafood medley the next time around (I still want to know what’s in there but the grouping might offend your taxonomy, though*). Boundaries and definitions (and they are very important in a time when people want to make words mean whatever they feel like—like the Atheopagans now saying they have a ‘theology’ and a ‘creed’), yes, but let’s note we are setting our taxonomies up, they weren’t cargo dropped from the Sky by the gods, and we need to be careful we don’t set up high walls that only keep us in—or worse dismember our bodies and minds. My core tradition (Irish) is full of overflows, spills, gushes, after all. Defining things needs to be strategic and conscious and strategies have to be able to be changed. Walls can be undermined, or bored through or overflown. Nomads have much to teach. And we oughtn’t forget walls/borders are built across indigenous territories in colonial architectures devised to divide and rule.

My religion includes trees, gods, stones, demigods, ancestors, lakes, creeks, ancestors, more gods, animals, heroes, the sun and the moon, deified humans, the stars… and if it’s not clear, I will say it: all are persons with agency.


*An obsession with taxonomy can be found in the Book of Leviticus.

Becoming Placed, Part I

Some asked me to put my notes from my presentation at Many Gods West up, so here you go. This text is something I talked from.

I have to preface this with a note that since the conference I have seen some bloggers (let’s just call them humanists) using disenchantment in a diluted metaphoric way, specifically making claims like ‘enchantment does not require gods, spirits, magic’ and the like. The word enchantment literally means using song/chant to magic. Let’s not lose this term, which has a long history in pagan and polytheist discourse and a key role in historical studies of the transition from feudal Europe to early modern Europe and the radical change in social/economic relations called capitalism. Sociologists and historians specifically used the word because of the people of western European countries losing their ‘beliefs’ and relations with non-human others, certainly including of the ‘invisible’ kinds: fairies, hobs, trolls, demons, and a myriad more, and was part of the process of making the modern world of objectified resources, all freed for exploiting. This is a case where reenchant/disenchant/enchant do have a vital core meaning.

Becoming Placed: Imagination and Reenchantment

Part I: Disenchantment or How We Became Unplaced

As this is a huge topic, I’m focusing a lot on one key player in the western history of disenchantment: Francis Bacon (1561-1626) because of the enormous impact he had and central role in the development of science.

To understand Bacon and his thinking it’s necessary to understand his historical context, including religious struggle, his Puritan sympathies, the backdrop of technical skills, poor laws, etc. His father had benefitted in the great upheavals of the closing of the monasteries and the seizing and redistribution of the vast lands of the Church under the Protestant monarchs. This was a time of enclosures of common lands and resistance against them. As the subsistence economy of feudal times began to be disrupted and broken up large numbers of displaced people were on the roads, the vagabonds. This is the world he grew up in, what Max Weber called the Protestant Revolution and the birth of capitalism. Bacon flourished and was in government under James I (James VI of Scotland) who in his younger years was paranoid of being harmed by witches, and even thought he had almost been drowned by them during a voyage with his bride from Norway to Britain. The king wrote a famous tract on diabolical witchcraft, the Demonomanie. Bacon was very aware of the investigations and procedures that were used at the time on the bodies of women in witchcraft investigations, and the rhetoric of that will permeate his scientific work.

Bacon had some of the strongest influence on the development of modern science, and his rhetoric is especially revealing of his disdain for the natural world and how it must be violently interrogated. He also saw himself very much at odds with the Renaissance magus or with the alchemist. And his rhetoric also shows his acute awareness of witchcraft interrogations and torture.

A few quotes from the ‘great man’:

“The magus was wrong in thinking his effort was to assist nature.”

James I, his patron and book on witches referenced below:

“For you have but to follow and as it were hound nature in her wanderings, and you will be able when you like to lea and drive her afterward to the same place again…..Neither ought a man to make scruple of entering and penetrating these holes and corners, when the inquisition of truth is his whole object—as your majesty has shown in your own example” (Merchant 168).

“For like as a man’s disposition is never well known or proved till he be crossed, nor Proteus ever changed shapes till he was straitened and held fast, so nature exhibits herself more clearly under the trials and vexations of art (mechanical devices) than when left to herself.” His rhetoric of the womb is particularly revealing: “There is therefore much ground for hoping that there are still laid up in the womb of nature many secrets of excellent use having no affinity or parallelism with anything that is now known…only by the method which we are not treating can they be speedily and suddenly and simultaneously presented and anticipated.”

Bacon believed man could recover the power over nature that had been lost when Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden of Eden (Merchant 170).

More thoughts on female Nature:

“She is either free and follows her ordinary course of development as in the heaven, in the animal and vegetable creation, and in the general array of the universe; or she is driven out of her ordinary course by the perverseness, insolence, and forcedness of mater and violence of impediments, as in the case of monsters; or lastly, she is put in constraint, modeled, and made as it were new by art and the hand of man; as in things artificial. 170

Nature would not come on her own—she had to be bound and forced. Miners and smiths Bacon thought were the pioneers. People should forsake “Minerva and the Muses as barren virgins, to rely upon Vulcan” (171). Alchemists should throw out their books. Go completely empirical and material, in other words.

The new system of investigation, that is modern science, would combine mechanical technology and the new method of science, a “New Organon”. It aimed “to endeavor to establish and extend the power and dominion of the human race itself over the universe’. Bacon believed this was a divine bequest to man.

And so a new objectivity was made: the role of observing. As Ran Priur, a green anarchist has written: “To observe something is to perceive it while distancing oneself emotionally and physically, to have a one-way channel of “information” moving from the observer thing to “self”, which is defined as not being part of that thing” (Green Anarchy 59).

And so Bacon’s most ambitious book was New Atlantis published in 1627, a year after his death. Here he envisions a utopia with research facilities that eerily foreshadow contemporary laboratories. A highly scientific and Christian (Protestant, of course) culture is revealed in the remoteness of the southern reaches of the Pacific, a small continent named Bensalem. It is governed by a patriarchal scientific body called Solomon’s House. The narrator of this fiction was on a ship that had been traveling from Peru to Asia but became adrift in the infamous doldrums—and for such a long time that its stocks ran perilously low. But at the time of their direst need they saw clouds piling up on the horizon, a sign of land. Soon it turns out that they have been sighted and a small boat comes up to them and escorts them into the harbor of this land. There they are quarantined. The oddest think about this scientific nation is that they are unknown to Europe and Asia and the rest of the world but they know about every nation, having been surveilling them for centuries, basically. They are aware of current events as well as the history of the various nations. Solomon’s House practitioners seem to know all, casting a scientific gaze across the planet. Its agents have long disguised themselves as members of various cultures and passed among them incognito. Then they return with their reports and surveys. The governor who visits the sequestered men from the ship questions their selected elite and some questions but not all and reveals the history of this hidden nation. Long ago their nation had been better known and they reveal the tale of how Bensalem had converted to Christianity via the descent of a mysterious pillar of light which rotated on the nearby sea, and which revealed a box containing the Bible. In the ensuing years a blend of science and religion had proliferated; the eye of Bensalem, as the country was called seems like a colossal and haunting eye that is able to veil itself (some mythic resonance there!). A vision of science as invisible itself, yet always gazing on a world that it has penetrated, is a trope that would play out tremendously in centuries to come.

Nineteen hundred years previously, this Atlantis of the Pacific was governed by a kind of Platonic philosopher king named Solomon who founded the Institute, called both Solomon’s House and the College of the Six Days’ Works. The governor related to the men that the House was named for the Hebrew king and that it held the book of Natural History written by that wise king—a work that had been lost to the rest of the world, and that through familiarity with this text and cataloguing the Biblical God’s works had come the other name of the College. This shows the heart of Bacon’s ideology, that namely the earth had been created for Man, and that it was time that men learned how to use all of the resources that god had provided that lay in wait; in utilitarian fashion all species and aspects of the planet inherently existed for human exploitation and with the new scientific method were ripe for the taking.

“The end of our foundation is the knowledge of causes, and secret motions of things, and the enlarging of the bounds of human empire, to the effecting of all things possible”.

The governor goes onto describe Solomon’s House and some of its key projects: it is an amazing document with Bacon being quite prescient about many things to come. There are deep underground mines and chambers where various experiments are carried out as well as high towers up to half a mile in height with observatories. There are establishments which sound remarkably like places for genetic engineering. “We have means to make…diverse new plants, differing from the vulgar. “By art likewise, we make them greater or taller than their kind is, and contrariwise barren and no generative; also we make them different in color, shape, activity—many new kinds….We make a number of serpents, worms, flies, fishes, of putrefaction, whereas some are advanced(in effect) to be perfect creatures, like beasts or birds, and have sexes, and do propagate. Neither do we do this by chance, but we know beforehand, of what matter and commixture, what kind of those creatures will arise.” Sounds like a manifesto for Monsanto! Bensalem’s shadow could be the plastic continent now arising in the eastern Pacific, the so-called Great Garbage Patch.

From such vision the laboratory science of Robert Boyle could be grounded later in the century (which has set the tone for lab science all the way to today). This new science would be stamped with a Protestant character…sober and chaste as technoscience remains. Science historian and theorist, Donna Haraway writes of the knowledge produced that was, “constructed to have the ground-breaking capacity to ground social order objectively, literally. This separation of expert knowledge from mere opinion as the legitimating knowledge for ways of life, without appeals to transcendent authority or to abstract uncertainty of any kind, is a founding gesture of what we call modernity.” Immeasurable violence was required for its founding.

A breather: there was so much resistance to the enclosures, the draining of wetlands and loss of common lands, the deprival of rights to use woods for sustenance, etc. at the times. Some inspiring examples of this comes from the Fen Dwellers of East Anglia, whose tavern protest songs display a life lived in deep relationality, and heart-breaking loss as early agribusiness interests drained the fens. Here is a song:

Fen song

 Come brethren of the water, let us all assemble,

To treat upon this matter, which makes us quake and tremble

For we shall rue it, if’t be true, that Fens be undertaken,

And where we feed in fen and reed, they’ll feed both Beef and Bacon.

The feathered Fowls have wings to fly to other nations;

but we have no such things, to help our transportations;

We must give place (oh grievous case) to horned beast and cattle

Except that we canal agree to drive them out by battle (Merchant 60).


Newton and Descartes on Space


Descartes was most interested in measurability. For him, place was a subordinate feature of matter and space, parasitic on res extensa. For Newton place becomes nothing but a means of measurement. Place is dissolved into absolute space, place at best becomes a marker. Places are conceived as mere parts of space; the geometrizing of space that occurs there belongs properly to mechanics, that is to laws governing material bodies at rest, or in motion….the aim of Newtonian geometry is measurement. “Therefore, geometry is founded in mechanical practice,” says Newton, and is “nothing but the part of universal mechanics which accurately proposes and demonstrates the art of measuring.” But the basis of measuring is precisely the regularity, the homogeneity of the space to be measured. In this way, too, the triumph of space over place is assured, given that implacement, moving into place asks merely to be experienced or perceived, not to be measured…” (Casey 147).

This radical predominance of Space occurs in the zeitgeist (and its corollary of measurability) of the early capitalism of the times….It can hardly be accidental as a new economic orientation, capitalist relations for which everything was resource to be used, measured, sold for profit that the absolutism of space which dissolved all places reigned. All while place after place was being conquered, and peoples decimated and enslaved in vast new worlds, whose wealth needed to be measured and sent to Europe. Even those illimitable regions of the sea were lined with longitude and latitude. All must be measured, quantified and made open, after being stripped of qualities.


After having just transited through three airports I brought up airports as de-placed spaces. Edward Casey quotes philosopher Lassiter on such interchangeability that has become ubiquitous in modern life: “for the modern self, all places are essentially the same: in the uniform, homogenous space of the Euclidean-Newtonian grid, all places are essentially interchangeable. Our homes, even our places for homes are defined by objective measures.” And flying is the quintessential modern activity. Great point was brought up by an attendee: airports, and these other deplaced sites can be mythologized as the sci-fi writer J.G. Ballard did brilliantly.

The ocean is also for the westerner (but not at all for the Polynesian, or Micronesian for example), a nearly endless emptied out SPACE, devoid of place, an abstraction of the Newtonian world.

In consideration of all this I keep wondering why do Pagans always talk about SPACE, creating sacred space and so on, but not much about PLACE?


Francis Bacon. New Atlantis.                                                                                        Edward Casey. The Fate of Place: A Philosophical History.                                   Donna Haraway. Modest_Witness @ Second_Millennium.                                 Carolyn Merchant. The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology and the Scientific Revolution.                                                                                                                  Uncivilized: The Best of Green Anarchy.               

 Max Weber. The Protestant Ethic And The Spirit Of Capitalism.

Some Antinoan Matters

I wrote and offered this poem for Hadrian on August 11, a date the Ekklesia Antínoo marks as the Accession of Hadrian. Hadrian had climbed Mt. Casius at night, a sacred mountain whose local deity was syncretized eventually with Zeus, desiring to see the sunrise from the summit. Today the mountain is in southern Turkey near the Syrian border.

Baal Hadad had long protected that

mountain on which the sailors depended,

his lapis place striped with silver dispensing

heaven’s brightness,

a summit that would draw

Hadrian’s interest during the waiting game when

Trajan, his great uncle, was dying. Years later,

sacrifice, the Graeculus, would offer beside Antinous

in the high and sacred place

where the sacred rock sat in open temple’s embrace.

Storm gathering the peak

had been since immemorial ages past,

long forgotten Hittite lords had here come

and now he who held the

imperium of Rome,

came with attendant and victim,

treading up the mountain, reaching

summit as ferocious storm

launched itself,

the sky a theophany of lightning,

the dark abyss of night

illuminated by

thunderbolts hurling

Zeus Kasios.

The emperor and beloved were unhurt,

the victim taken and the attendant too; but

Hadrian knew sovereignty was still his in that dawn.

On August 13th we celebrated the Birthday of the goddess Diana (Dies Natalis Dianae) at Lanuvium West. Hippolytus, the young man she deified, was honored too. Here are some photos:


Important holy days are upcoming on August 21st and 2nnd: the Lion Hunt and the Festival of the Red Lotus.

I’d like to point out this commemoration of a lion hunt for a human-eating lion in the 2nd century CE absolutely in no way condones lion hunting today! We live in a very different world and today’s trophy hunters of endangered species are some of the vilest people we are unfortunately sharing our planet with.

And here are some photos of my Antinous shrine in the grove:


These are Steven Postoff images from The Sacred Antinous..
These are Shawn Postoff images from The Sacred Antinous..
The Antinous Tree.
The Antinous Tree.

The Wind Is Rising

The wind is rising. Haze hangs over the Golden Gate from fires far to the north in the Trinity. The world is burning. It’s been burning for a long time, but more and more it burns. The land of California, the land of the goddess Califia, is so parched the mountain forests are dying. The temperature is rising. Black and transgendered bodies lie on America’s streets, citizens slaughtered like cattle by the blue. Pain and suffering everywhere. In light of these times a new tone is taken today.


The underworld powers are hungry, denied so long. The Dead are restless. Our animal and plant relations are dying. Our rivers and lakes are dying. The coral reefs are dying. We live in the Sixth Extinction. Feed the Powers and open the gates for Them!


One thing I know is that polytheism in western society breaks holes in the general programming of the OGU, the One God Universe of control and capitalism. Polytheism is relational, and it is generous. It is embedded in gift giving. These practices don’t go together with that social relation which converts all, including our own bodies, into resource, into capital, for further monetary gain and accumulation, and which is not released but reinvested or hoarded. Unfortunately, the programming that this is what human life is for and about is so deep that many have internalized it so deeply to where they view everything in economic terms. We can see forces seeking to defend the OGU in surprising places in the so-called Big Tent: they often call themselves atheists, atheist Pagans who do much to decry the magic and reality of the gods. (After all, the One God can be renamed Reason or the Almighty Dollar.)

We need to be ready. Manannán mac Lir, may You open the gates so we hear the messages of the Shining Ones in our time of need! Janus, Wepwawet, and Hekate may You do likewise!


The Many Gods West Report

First of all it was a powerful experience to be at Many Gods West, an environment where I didn’t feel like an outsider, as I so often do even at pan-Pagan events. The Governor Hotel, the site of the conference, is an interesting place with a sense of distinctive, and at times intense, local psychogeography. The current one was built in 1971 but hotels have been on the site since the mid-nineteenth century. The hotel is across the street from a tree filled park that marks the center of Olympia with a handsome, old government building on the far side. On the back side a block or two down is a shallow lake. I will say that on my first night (Thursday) the Hotel did seem to have its ghosts, and it was probably a good thing that a procession called the Furious Revels led by River Devora occurred the next day to keep any disruptive influences at bay. I soon learned that the lake had once been an estuary but was dammed and thereby flooded a shantytown that had existed on the site, apparently built in the Depression years, that was said to have housed, among others, a number of sex workers. I made offerings in the park and at the lake before the conference started and I know some others did too.

The conference formally began at 1:30 Friday afternoon with an opening ritual that I found very moving. So counter to the generic Neopagan rituals that I’ve experienced at pan-Pagan conferences before or even at Pagan Prides. First of all conference attendees had been asked to collect water from their locales and also to gather soil or a rock or such and bring it for the Opening Ritual. So often I find Pagans talk about practicing religions of the Land, yet I can’t gather anything particular or concrete of their places when I listen or talk to them. They say Earth and Water are elements they use in their rituals and such, but that’s pretty generic. At any rate, each individual had a chance to bring both their soil and their water and say where it was from and then deposit into a large bowl for soil and another for water. It was so moving to do this and listen to all of the particular places that people named. Our places have names, that is so important. Then there was a focus on ancestors, ancestors of all kinds including gender-diverse and spirit workers and warriors. Names of Native peoples were called out and the local land thanked for hosting us. Hosting, guest-ship, and hospitality and its responsibilities were a key theme at the conference. PSV Lupus had carved ancestor figures from madrone wood, and these were passed around, so each person could hold them and commune with ancestors. Again, this was very powerful. Next came the gods. Each person could come to the altar and bring a deity image or symbol (or for some of us multiple ones) and place them on the communal altar. I know some have issues with commingling but this was a god party as Lupus explained, a place where all of our deities could be honored and given the due They so deserve. I found it moving to see and hear names of deities who hark from Europe, Asia, the Americas, the Middle East, and Africa. This really set the mood for the conference, a time that was devoted to the Gods, the ancestors, the spirits, a place for deep devotion. Photos can be seen here:

Local First People.
Local First People.

That evening, Morpheus Ravenna gave the keynote address wherein she discussed discerning archetypes from the deities but with the interesting notion that the archetypes can be used by the deities to communicate with us; this all done through the metaphor of a cathedral with stained glass windows, the artistry of the stained glass windows being the archetypes, which can be filled with colors and illuminate us as the Sun –the light pouring form the multitude of the gods—lights up the colored glass. The text can be read at

After this I went to a talk by Rhyd Wildermuth entitled “What Do They Mean?”, which basically was about construction of meaning, of how truths are relational…He started by riffing off some of the meanings various people tried to establish around the recent Charleston white supremacist-perpetrated church murders, including the astonishing-to- me one that it was about an ‘attack on Christianity’, this apparently set forth by some evangelicals. A key word of the talk was his discussion of the notion of the jetzzeit, a concept of Frankfurt School critical theorist Walter Benjamin on ‘now moments’, those points in time that greatly alter meanings, like September 11, 2001. This could well have held interest for a longer time slot than the conference set up allowed for; as a colleague said to me, a smaller group with plenty of time for a discussion would have been great. I didn’t agree with everything presented, like his definition of anthropomorphicism, but it was an engaging and, dare I say, meaningful talk.

The next morning Lupus led Antinoan mystes in a pre-conference prayer and ritual for Antinous. The first officially scheduled event that I attended was Sarenth Odinsson’s “Calling To Ancestors”. Sarenth had a lot of good things to say about working with one’s ancestors and led us in a short ritual that was quite effective; I received several surprising communications.

Next up on my schedule was Heathen Chinese who presented on “Chinese Polytheism and Millenarian Movements”. This looked at the relationship between Chinese millenarian movements—much broader and more interesting than in medieval Europe—and various Chinese rebellions, and related social unrests ranging over a vast period of time all the way from the Han dynasty to the Boxer Rebellion at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th. This included the peasant movement of 3 BCE which worshiped Xiu Wang Mu, the Queen Mother of the West, and whose chaotic ‘unrest’ was noted in royal chronicles that rarely noted religious practices of peasants, and was viewed as a portent that the country was being mismanaged and showing that the emperor may have lost the Mandate of Heaven. Famine and drought were associated with these. He also spoke of the Yellow Turban movement led by a Daoist faith healer which brought the downfall of the Han dynasty (220 CE). Similar revolts kept occurring from time to time. In the 14th century the White Lotus Society appeared under whose name rebellions would occur all the way up to 1804. A secret society that combined Buddhist and Daoist elements, it maintained radical sexual equality and had women fighters. The Boxer Rebellion held religious aspects that were never noted in my world history classes, that’s for sure. It was a polyvalent movement; one impulsion was a response against the Christian missionaries that were disrupting local communities with their conversions, which caused converts to break off ancestor worship. There was am element of Luddism, and outrage of how church spires disrupted feng shui. As in previous Chinese millenarian movements women played an important role: girls between 12 and 18, called Red Lanterns from the red lights they carried, claimed magical powers and were believed equal to the male Boxers. He drew subtly out the thread of drought and its obvious applicability to those of us in the US West (Washington is experiencing drought too) and thoughts on connection between human(dis)order and cosmic powers. This was all very well organized with lots of powerpoint slides, and definitions. Impressive. It would make an interesting book.

Then it was time for my talk on “Becoming Placed”. Several of us had our presentations at the Columbia Center, which was some blocks away, a pleasant setting itself but it did require walking through some intense heat (mid-90s). I was glad a decent amount of people turned up. I probably will post some notes separately, but I talked first of all of how we got to the place of disenchantment, focusing especially on Bacon and Newton and the ‘dissolution of place in space’ in modern thought within the context of the great shift to capitalist relations, before moving on to thoughts on reenchanting place.


On Saturday night the onset of the Bakcheion provoked an aura of mystery and a large crowd lined up to be prepared for entry. Sannion and the Backheion Crew put on an amazing ritual that engaged all the senses in devotion to the Ecstatic Lord, including dabbing with a compelling oil made by Aridela, the taste of black grapes and dried figs, and freely flowing wine, of course. I must say Dver is an amazing ritualist. I had an expectancy as to see what would personally transpire, as I’ve gone through a kind of fallow period with the Lord. Very slowly I was taken in and after quite a while I was compelled into the center of the room in front of the altar, transported by the music, and the wine and the revel of Dionysos and Ariadne: I was in a space where communication came. That is all I will say. My great gratitude for all who put on this rite. For awhile that room in the Governor Hotel was truly transported….

Sunday morning respect for my body demanded sleeping in. But I was up for Anomalous Thracian, whose talk on “Religions of Region” was like an alternative keynote address. Terms of Service was his key term and came from a dream while at the hotel. Anomalous is funny and was waving a bottle around. Yes, there is a Thracian Mystique. My notes are funny too: flotilla, god phones, not the best term; Dented cups (prompted my Denton CUUPS, where John Beckett is). The Ds: definitions, yes, definitions are Important! distinctions, differentiations, all those things. And relations. Watersheds. Definitions—we need to find better ways to talk. Jesuits and discernment were talked of too. Regions: what places do our gods come through to us, epiphanies of place, these are distinctive and will be important in future. But everything kept coming back to his term of service dream—protocols, requirements…. A great talk, but I guess, you had to be there.

Rev. Kirk Thomas (ADF ArchDruid) gave a talk on “Sacred Gifts” that was informative, funny (he is very funny) and full of good storytelling based on various Indo-European cultures. Guests, hosts, gifts, hospitality, a thread that ran throughout the conference. Among others, he told the story of Philemon and Baucis, a story of hospitality and the gods that was one of my favorite mythic tales as child and made a big impact on me, whichever grade that was when Greek mythology was first studied in elementary school (I wonder how much that one stayed in my subconscious?!). Thomas was quite emotional telling the story, which impressed me. We need a lot of heart in Druidism and sometimes it’s sadly lacking.

John-Bernard Restout, 1769.
John-Bernard Restout, 1769.

The ritual for the Matronae, “Reweaving the Fabric of Connections”, presented by the Hearth of the Blessed Web with oracle River Devora and priestess Rynn Fox was another very powerful one. This collective of Celtic/Germanic goddesses was called forth and spoke through the oracle. Sometimes these types of events can seem staged and inauthentic, but River Devora is the real deal. However, it seemed the Oracle was carrying most of the weight of the rite, and a Sovereignty figure could have stabilized things, (as a friend received very strong communications regarding in the rite). I was taken again into ancestral communications and insights and learned I have much work to do in this area. The coming of a Storm was prophesized.

There was a closing ritual that basically mirrored the opening ritual and the community altar was taken down. Dinner was had at the atmospheric McMennimin’s (apparently also known as the Spar) and later a few of us met in a hotel room for a short CR ritual to Iuchar, Brian and Iucharba, the Three Sons of Brighid the Poetess. “Take back the sun, Bring the Rain…” Yes, indeed.

And in restaurants, hotel rooms, and at the end of events and rites important conversations took place, where important ideas were turned over and communitas cultivated: I especially note those with C. Lee Vermeers, Disirdottir, Xochiquetzal Duti Odinsdotir, Sarenth Odinsson, Owen Cook, Silence Maestas, TurningTides, Lon Sarver, Ember Cooke, besides people already named in the event coverage.

Some levity: River's unicorn
Some levity: River’s unicorn

It was a bit arduous getting to and out of Olympia, but it was a pilgrimage. The heat wave was difficult to deal with, the main event room at the hotel had no AC, just a couple of fans and even the AC in the rooms was feeble. But I supposed it added to the liminality (even the nights were hot). It was interesting to see several threads run through so many presentations like hospitality, importance of regions and place, critique of capitalist relations, etc. All in all I feel this was a historic event, and the dedication to the gods, and polytheist practice was soul-satisfying. I’m still processing and probably will be for quite a while….