Above the Clouds

It’s been quiet around here (it seems with the gloom of the US political situation, prepping for a new job, and my mom being hospitalized my ability to write has been stopped up), but before the newness of the year is gone I want to spill out a few words here. The old year sputtered out with an occasional remaining fit of coughing and spewing. A new one has come in with the energy of a careening freight train, will the rails hold, or if not what might be down there at the end of the line? Some will say years are arbitrary but they are astronomical realities. Sure, it’s a cultural thing where they’re said to start and to end and begin again but we are symbolic animals and psyche is as real as soma.

 

For many in the northern hemisphere it’s winter, but here in the tropics day and night are the antinomies, but the nights have at least cooled off. At the end of the year I had the opportunity to journey up to a high summit (just under 14,000 feet) where winter is reigning. Plenty of snow on the amazing mountain of Maunakea. The effects of high altitude, of low oxygen can easily induce light trance-like states, and the otherworld can more easily communicate with this one at these heights, I have found. Whether via literal heights or those we can reach in our imagination, in “interesting times” it is important to get above the clouds from time to time, above the light pollution of the media (including social media). Of course, one can go underneath too, but that is a different journey.

 

I do have a few announcements to make:

 

I will be at PantheaCon in San Jose in February and presenting a class on filidecht practice on Feb. 17th, “Cauldron Work: The Cauldron of Poesy” (9PM). Here’s from the program:

 

The Three Cauldrons are discussed in the medieval Irish text: “The Cauldron of Poesy”, attributed to the mythical vision poet (fili) Amergin. We will talk about the nature of the whirlpool-like cauldrons and their turning in this wisdom tradition, the importance of our emotions in this tradition (which can turn the cauldrons), and techniques to scan for personal knowledge. To turn the cauldron of wisdom upright, even if momentarily, brings mystical insight. We will discuss the key technique of incubation as well; poetry, art, song, knowledge, wisdom are fruit of this work.

 

The devotional book The Dark Ones, published late last year by Neosalexandria has my poem for the Cailleach, along with a lot of familiar voices. Ordering info here:

https://neosalexandria.org/bibliotheca-alexandrina/current-titles/fiction-anthologies/the-dark-ones-tales-and-poems-of-the-shadow-gods/

 

The new issue of A Beautiful Resistance is available for pre-order and will be out next month. I have an essay there about the left-hand sacred, an important understanding of the sacred earlier developed by Emile Durkheim, Marcel Mauss and Georges Bataille and very relevant for 21st century pagans/polytheists. https://godsandradicals.org/2017/01/01/left-sacred-presale/

Here’s a lovely meme with a quote from the essay made by Rhyd Wildermuth:

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Finally, a quote from an inspiring essay by William Hawes:

“Each of us must find the strength to light their own flame, find their own inner strength and sacred fire, and use their passion and creativity to change the world. By using our collective brilliance, a new space could be opened up for a new kind of Earth. Reviving our communities one-by-one gives us our only chance to confront and defeat the many tentacle monster of international capitalism and US imperialism. There is an alternative: but you won’t find it by watching your TV, or playing on your smartphone.”

https://godsandradicals.org/2017/01/16/lighting-a-flame-in-dark-times/

Imbolc is coming! May Brigid’s flame inspire us.

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Extinction Remembrance Day

November 30th is Remembrance Day for Lost Species. I believe commemorations like this can be channels for the grief that any authentic living in this time must confront. Definitely a good day to mark for those with an animist bent.

More information can be found at this website.

https://www.lostspeciesday.org/

I’ve also found valuable thoughts from Lo (Keen) on extinction on this blog: https://rotwork.wordpress.com/

I’ve written a couple of poems and tributes to the lost birds of the Big Island of Hawai’i for this day.

A distinctively human consciousness arose in Paleolithic

linguistics and painted its wrestle with abyssal animal mind,

staving guilt of hunt and anxiety separation

with ritual’s diplomacy:

ochre and feathers

and sorcerers dancing on the edge of worlds,

occasionally falling off into the pit of bones.

now centuries of the rites cast aside,

suppressed volcanoes of grief wait unaddressed

and sedimentary layers of numbness press on our continents—

a society looks for the forgotten

who peek occasionally from sedated dreams,

in pixar and pokemon-alert smartphones

(the children were out in August—I hadn’t known there were any,

but there they’d gathered near where the stream gushes by the supermarket unseen)

while outside barely known

the Sixth Extinction rages on.

We the truly lost species as tectonic plates grind on.

Here on the island of Hawai’i there are at least ten species of bird that have gone extinct since the arrival of whites in the late 18th century. There are many more if the entire archipelago is included. Hawaii has suffered more extinctions and more endangered species than any other US state. The majority of these lost species are of a group of birds called Hawaiian honeycreepers that underwent diverse speciation as they adapted to a multitude of island environments much like the finches that led Darwin to theorizing evolution. In many cases their habitat was destroyed by sugar plantations and cattle ranching; also the introduction of rats, mosquitoes and the diseases they transmit (there were none before the Europeans came), mongooses and cats have led to the demise of others.

The Hawaii mamo, Drepanis pacifica, last seen in 1898.

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The greater Koa finch, Rhodocanthis palmeri. Last confirmed sighting in 1896.

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The lesser Koa finch, R. flaviceps, 1891.

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The Kona grosbeak, Chloridops kona. 1894.

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The Hawai’i o’o, Moho nobilis, last seen in 1934.

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The ula-‘ai-hawene, Ciridops anna, extinct at the latest by 1937.

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The greater ‘amakini, Viridonia sagittirostris, last seen in1901. Lost to sugar plantations destroying its habitat.

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The lesser ‘akialoa, Akialoa obscura. Last seen in 1940.

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The Hawaiian rail, Porzana sandwichensis. 1884 or maybe 1893.

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The kioea, Chaetoptila angustipluma, 1859.

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All images Wikipedia, public domain.

 

An Elegy

before the cattle, before the sugar,

before the mosquitoes and rats

brought by whalers’ ships,

before the plantations

how much richer the island life—

when the lost birds could be heard cracking

the naio fruits, flitting in gold epaulettes and black dress

among the ohia trees,

opening the seed pods in the koa groves,

sheltering from fierce noon sun and plundering

nectar with long curved beaks. Your flights

haunt, a lost net of sorrow.

.

Gods & Radicals

As the US roils with turmoil, a rising tide of hate crimes and a promise from the Strongman the Electoral College put into office that the US will pull out of the Paris Accords, I take stock of my religious communities. This has been a divisive year in many ways, in so many layers. Many things have changed. One of the bright constellations in this depressing year has been the growth of Gods & Radicals, and its publications, including the magazine A Beautiful Resistance. A re-membering of the radical nature of being pagan in a capitalist-dominated world, something many had forgotten in the mainstreaming, especially in the US, of paganism/polytheism, is called forth. The roots of paganism have sent up new shoots. The ensuing year further revealed that publisher Rhyd Wildermuth’s exposes were real and of great import: that in our pagan/polytheist communities the alt-right had put their envenomed tentacles down. There was much hew and cry about how dare such accusations be made, but then we saw how many revealed themselves as White Supremacists, along with those who would give them passage and cheer, and who knew no integrity in their campaigns against those that they felt threatened by. A year ago, I thought the alt-right were but a tempest in a teapot. I was wrong: now a major voice of this new revised version of fascism has been given a top job in Drumpf’s White House, the head of the horrifying Breitbart alt-right ‘news’ website. A year or so ago I was told a Storm was coming; it has arrived, taken the capital and frightens the planet. An informative background on the alternative right: https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/ideology/alternative-right

 

G&R offers a wide variety of writers and perspectives (although its detractors claim otherwise) from Alley Valkyrie to Christopher Scott Thompson, the Hunter S. Thompson-esque hell-raising of Dr. Bones to the beautiful poetry of Lorna Smithers, the eco-wisdom of Sean Donahue, the spirited politics of T. Thorn Coyle, Yvonne Aburrow, Wildermuth and so many more compassionate, intelligent voices. Such voices are needed more than ever in these times of descent into neo-fascism. Please contribute to their fundraiser! It runs till the end of the year.

https://godsandradicals.org/solidarity/

There are plenty of cool perks too!

Seasonal Reportage

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night-blooming jasmine

So last night, we celebrated our household Samhain. As usual, I cooked salmon but it was hard to find wild salmon in the local markets. The finches and doves had gotten all the land spirit offerings by the time I got up this morning (as they should). We did a Beloved Dead altar on the 31st, but very modest, as a lot of things are still in boxes in a shed, and my energy has been limited.

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The night before I had vivid dreams of unusual intensity. In one a horrifying super-wasp kind of creature, which was buzzing about the room, it was many segmented and had a bit of the centipede to it as well. I went after it and had a hard object with which I repeatedly smashed it, but every segment had to be squashed as it could grow appendages and revivify from a segment, hydra-like it was. Full of a virulent goo. But I triumphed, (as far as I know). In dream the sacred approaches us. In many forms.

On Saturday we went up to the Maunakea summit again with a group of international exchange students, to that place of deities above this world. Again the awe. You can easily walk into the Otherworld there.

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The last few days I’ve seen unusual birds, one by the shore that looked like a great blue heron, though I didn’t know they lived on the island, and an owl which flew right above my car at twilight, a good sign according to Hawaiian lore. Rainbows too.

I write this in a night of unease in the long-occupied nation of Hawai’i as the debacle of the United States election brings more instability and turbulence to our world. May the gods help us all.

A few seasonal images:

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A druid walk

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Incubation & Surrender

With Samhain approaching, on Friday I went out to one of my favorite places anywhere. At the end of a remote road on the North Kohala coast lies a deep valley. Pololu. A steep trail zigzags down to the wild beach. This is a favored place for my visionary filidecht practice of incubation. Beach huts make nice incubatory chambers. The sea itself induces light trance. I am the sound of the sea. I am the wind on the sea. The waves of the deep.

 

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Beach huts make nice incubation chambers

 

Deepening. Down, down, down, I went. The Cailleach is a deity that has surprised me in her importance in the work, as least in my practice of it. I feel she laughs with amusement that after my being cast into the sea in her cold waters I washed ashore on this remote tropical coast. And an island that could only be Otherworld from the point of view of the ancients.

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This has been a year where much was about letting go, surrendering; it has not been about my will, my ‘self’, which I think Paganism in its modern from has heavily overemphasized (I’m sure a part of our modern western notions of the absolute importance of the individual). Old ‘selves’ die, are shed, decompose, new selves sprout and grow, if one surrenders to the work of visionary traditions. It comes with pain, mutilation, as well as ecstasy. Such is sacrificial work. Consider the Shining Ones burning their ships when they landed on Eire’s shores. Did they not have great longings from whence they had come? I am told.

 

Perhaps a true sovereignty comes from overcoming the boundaries of the daylight self, the ego, of its puncturing and laceration, of the waters overflowing its dam, as French philosopher Georges Bataille suggested; that overcoming of self that happens when we really come into intimacy with the sacred.

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CR/Gaelic Polytheist Community Boost

If you are interested in Celtic Reconstructionist paths, a Gaelic Polytheist or interested in the Irish/Scottish outsider warrior paths, and you don’t know the work of  Saigh Kym Lambert, you should. She was the first to use the term Celtic Reconstructionism in a religious sense in print and has long been devoted to the Irish War Goddesses,  and has written the best of the pagan scholarship on the Morrigan (Check out some of her articles on Air-N-Aithesc). Saigh has a pack of canines and a small herd of horses (some rescued) on a mountain homestead. Animal health care, just as human, can become overwhelmingly expensive and she is currently running a fundraiser with various interesting items, and an offer for vouchers for future workshops in fennidecht (the Gaelic outsider warrior tradition, think Fionn MacChumhaill, and Scathach). Info about what these workshops would entail can be found here: http://www.dunsgathan.net/feannog/workshops.html

Here’s a link for the fundraiser itself.

https://fundrazr.com/surgery-for-gleann?fb_action_ids=10154570835282299&fb_action_types=fundrazr%3Astory_update

So please help, if you are able to do so.

 

And on just a general note, we really need to be building community in these unstable times.

Standing Rock

Many of you are aware of the protests and violence happening in North Dakota, I’m sure, but there are aspects of what is happening I’m not seeing much talked about. I’ve written a fair amount about the Dead—and here we had a desecration of the Dead occurring on the Land over the Labor Day weekend, a desecration of native burial and other sacred locations in North Dakota just north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation on Sioux/Lakota Treaty Lands (Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868).

 

An appalling attack made by hired oil security with badly trained (abused?) dogs biting and bloodying the Protectors of the land and water, a violence that carries long shadows of the long history of genocide in the Americas. “This demolition is devastating. These grounds are the resting places of our ancestors. The ancient cairns and stone prayer rings cannot be replaced. In one day, our sacred land has been turned into hollow ground.” -Dave Archambault II, Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2016/09/04/manning-and-then-dogs-came-dakota-access-gets-violent-destroys-graves-sacred-sites-165677

 

Dakota Access Pipeline pushed through in its bulldozing, using info that had been provided in court by the tribe regarding locations of burials, using it for the counter-purpose of destroying sacred sites and burials when they thought the outside world wouldn’t be looking (even though there was an injunction).

 

Something I find of note is that this is magical warfare, the attempt to demoralize the ‘other’ by destroying their most holy places and destruction of graves of their ancestors (a very ancient practice).

 

A crude attempt at erasure and violence but the Protectors are standing strong and prayerful at Sacred Stone Camp. But a federal judge has now denied the request to stop the pipeline construction even though it would have 200 river crossings. What now? And what of the Dead?

 

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Map from Wikipedia.

A positive statement today from the Office of Public Affairs (source: justice.gov):

The Army will not authorize constructing the Dakota Access pipeline on Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe until it can determine whether it will need to reconsider any of its previous decisions regarding the Lake Oahe site under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) or other federal laws.  Therefore, construction of the pipeline on Army Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe will not go forward at this time.  The Army will move expeditiously to make this determination, as everyone involved — including the pipeline company and its workers — deserves a clear and timely resolution.  In the interim, we request that the pipeline company voluntarily pause all construction activity within 20 miles east or west of Lake Oahe.

“Furthermore, this case has highlighted the need for a serious discussion on whether there should be nationwide reform with respect to considering tribes’ views on these types of infrastructure projects.  Therefore, this fall, we will invite tribes to formal, government-to-government consultations on two questions:  (1) within the existing statutory framework, what should the federal government do to better ensure meaningful tribal input into infrastructure-related reviews and decisions and the protection of tribal lands, resources, and treaty rights; and (2) should new legislation be proposed to Congress to alter that statutory framework and promote those goals.

“Finally, we fully support the rights of all Americans to assemble and speak freely.  We urge everyone involved in protest or pipeline activities to adhere to the principles of nonviolence.  Of course, anyone who commits violent or destructive acts may face criminal sanctions from federal, tribal, state, or local authorities.  The Departments of Justice and the Interior will continue to deploy resources to North Dakota to help state, local, and tribal authorities, and the communities they serve, better communicate, defuse tensions, support peaceful protest, and maintain public safety.

 

Plenty of info at Democracy Now:

http://www.democracynow.org/topics/dakota_access

How to help:

http://sacredstonecamp.org/faq/#howtohelp

http://standingrock.org/