Satire, Divisions, the Hound of Ulster

I’m saddened to see all the divisiveness that seems to be spilling over in our communities. Polytheism really doesn’t need the increasing fractiousness that’s taking on almost farcical proportions this year. We all will never agree on everything, but do people really want to tear apart our interconnected communities as they have been growing for the first time in many centuries? A few nights ago I was dreaming of ways to make going to Many Gods West in Olympia possible this year; I had written it off as completely financially unfeasible, but there I was online looking at airfares to Seattle. Dionysos Chthonios! Then I learned about the fiasco that had occurred and the cancellation. If you haven’t heard Dver gives a very good background to it all here:{edited: she’s removed her post}.

 

While I don’t think one could possibly do polytheist practice or any kind of religion without a political context (with the possible exception of if you are doing a private solitary rite and it’s only between you and a god(s) and you never share anything about it with another human), the fact that people are being labeled and excluded is very disappointing. I have long enjoyed Sannion’s satires (to say nothing of his enormous contributions), even if not necessarily agreeing with him. Again we have an example of how American society has less and less ability to comprehend satire as well as inability to avoid polarizing thought. Since satire is a sacred art in my Irish tradition, this is even more greatly a cause for concern to me.

 

On to more positive things: Today is a day when I celebrate Cú Chullain and I wrote this little poem as devotion this morning.

IMG_0635

Cú Chullain Has Taken Up Arms!

Bearing 3 heads, hauling a

stag in the back of your chariot,

after a day of monster slaying,

trailed by a cloud of swans that

light the sky around you

signaling the virulent turmoil of your ‘fury’,

your ríastarad, your warp spasm,

as you returned successful to Emain Macha—

who’d ever seen or will see such a

taking up of arms, O hero of Ulster!

 

 

 

And it is also the Liberalia, a day I find good to remember Ovid (who has also fallen afoul of political divisiveness in at least one elite US university).

From last year: https://finnchuillsmast.wordpress.com/2015/03/17/liberalia/

Polytheist Book Recommendations

 

I like making lists, keeps my mind form chaos. Here’s a list of some good polytheist books I read this year. These were either published in 2015 or 2014.

 

 

Dance of Oak and Wren: Rites of Draiocht by Robert Barton. The author is a leader in the Gaelic reconstructionist community of Sinnreachd. There are a lot of Druidist books out there, but not a lot grounded in a reconstructionist foundation. This one is, and is a worthy interpretation of recon Druidism for our times.

 

 

The Treasure Book of the Tuatha De Danann: A Pocket Book of Irish Myth by Morgan Daimler. Includes, the Tain Bó Regamna, The Morrigan’s Satire, Berba—The Story of the Morrigan’s Son, Oenghus’s Dream, and the Taking of the Sí. The author has both Irish originals and her own translations (impressive). A Miscellany of little bits from the lore about the gods and the holidays. A lovely little book.

 

Irish Paganism: Reconstructing Irish Polytheism. Moon Books (Pagan Portals series). Another one by Morgan Daimler. A good, if short, introduction to an Irish Reconstructionist practice, something people have been waiting a long time for. Includes a pronunciation guide.

 

Enchanting The Shadowlands by Lorna Smithers

A beautiful book of landscape poems (and short stories) and evocations of the Brythonic god Gwynn ap Nudd and also to my delight, of Nodens. Post-industrial landscapes (in Lancashire) and their forgotten spirits along with buried rivers are called forth, as it were too. Some of these poems give me shivers.

 

Ephesia Grammata: Ancient History and Modern Practice by P. Sufenas Virius Lupus. Red Lotus Library. The Ephesian Letters are fascinating magical formulae that were associated with Artemis of Ephesus. This little book gives historical background about their uses and how to use them for divination. I have found them a very interesting divination set to add to others in my toolkit.

 

Thunderstruck with Wine: The Hymns of Sannion by H. Jeremiah Lewis. Nysa Press. As the subtitle says, 31 hymns to bring us closer to the God. As the blurb says “…they are Keys that open the Labyrinth”. If you’re a Dionysian, get this one!

 

Komos: Celebrating Festivals in Contemporary Hellenic Polytheism by Sarah Kate Istra Winter, (aka Dver). Winter’s main focus is on Hellenic festivals, but what she has to say is applicable to other polytheist traditions, including Celtic. She writes that the record even for Greek festivals is spotty, most of what is known is Athenian, and even there the details are often spotty. For Irish we have so much less that the Hellenic record seems rich. But I think developing new festivals for deities and heroes that fit our local situations is an important thing to do. As Winter says it’s a both and, meaning doing traditional ones and creating new ones within the spirit of the old ways. An excellent read, full of useful ideas.

 

I find myself thinking, as I rounded them, these are small books, and there is something good about that! Easy to carry, among their other virtues.

 

There are so many winter holidays coming up, (and books are such good cheer) and I’m sure most of us celebrate at least one, if not many….

 

 

Oh, and From The Prow Of Myth is still available and makes a nice gift. J

https://www.createspace.com/4443944

Nietzsche & Dionysos

This is an essay that will be in a collection that I will publish next spring/summer.

 

I feel Friedrich Nietzsche has been sadly neglected as a pagan/polytheist precursor, he who did so much to lay open avenues for pagan developments, among others. Many misunderstand his death of God statement and see this as a proclamation of an ideological atheist, rather than a clearing and the insight that the Abrahamic god was dead, at least in as occupying the center stage that he had held for so long in western culture. His trenchant analyses of the negative influences that Christianity had on European cultures, especially in terms of its cultivation of what he called resentiment, the resentment of those who identify spiritually as victims, and the nihilistic pessimism of the passive approach to a life so cultivated and the goal of living as life’s negation, which he explored in books such as Beyond Good and Evil and the Anti-Christ, retain much of value in today’s world (I find this especially obvious in the assertions so often made today that one should not critique Christianity, even in its most regressive forms and institutions, often under the banner of “inter-faith”). But for our purposes his Dionysianism is central. In his passionate weave of Dionysos and the Heraklitean philosophy of becoming, life-affirming (but not shying from the tragic) resources for pagan/polytheistic theology can be found.

 

The son of a pastor, Nietzsche had an interest in paganism from his earliest years. As a child, living in the small town of Naumberg after his father’s death (1850) Friedrich and his sister constructed an altar for Wotan. As quoted from Zarathustra’s Secret by a German academic, Joachim Kohler, Elizabeth Nietzsche said, “We happened to hear that the nearby hill called the Kirchberg had originally been a place of sacrifice, so we collected stones and fragments of bone and built an altar round which we erected a pile of bones and wood, then set fire to it. When our goodly pastor, attracted by the strange smell, came to see what we were doing, he found us striding solemnly around the altar with burning torches held aloft, chanting a kind of hymn to the words, “Wotan, hear us!” (22). Elizabeth went on to horrible things* but we can only wonder how much Friedrich’s imaginings and contemplations of Wotan was a formative element. He remembered an eagle answering their call who had screeched out the name of the god. In this period he wrote his dreams down faithfully, and an important figure was a cloaked gamekeeper with “wild, glowering” features who seems to echo the Wild Huntsman. A few years later, his diary reports, ”’Finally, we reached a valley,…surrounded by wild undergrowth. Suddenly our companion took a whistle from his pocket and blew a shrill tone. At once the forest came to life, torches were to be seen here and there and we surrounded by men in masks” (24). This sounds like the spirit of the Wild Hunt. But it would be Dionysos to whom the adult Nietzsche would be dedicated; it is relevant that Dionysus also has an aspect as a leader of the dead and other spirits in a procession similar to the Wild Hunt.

 

Nietzsche often described himself in the role of a healer, a physician diagnosing the illness of Western civilization, and in his early book The Birth of Tragedy, the diagnosis was that the Dionysian aspect of life had been suppressed and neglected in Europe under the reign of Christianity and what he saw as its world-denying regimen. The Apollonian was just as important but had been given much greater due. There was no art form so vital in his view as Greek tragedy, that pure form of dramatic poetry that had been developed as part of the Urban Dionysia, the great Athenian festival dedicated to the ecstatic god. The tragedy grew out of the dithyramb, the enthusiastic choric form of poetry chanted and danced to Dionysus. He wrote that “Dionysus never ceased to be the tragic hero… all the famous figures of the Greek stage…are only masks of that original hero Dionysus. Nietzsche was himself a poet, though many only know him as the philosopher who wrote in a poetic style. He wrote a book of dithyrambs, which any lover of Dionysus should have, entitled, Dithyrambs of Dionysos. A German/English bilingual edition translated by RJ Hollindale and published by Anvil Press is an easily accessible one. He wrote the nine poems from 1883 to 1888, before his mental breakdown. A short poem that inscribes the beginning of the book is written as Dionysus:

In as much as I want to do mankind a boundless favour, I give them my dithyrambs.

 

I place them in the hands of the poet of Isoline {meaning Nietzsche}

The first and greatest satyr alive today—and not only today…

Dionysus

 

Nietzsche’s most famous and complex work, Thus Spake Zarathustra, presents a pagan vision of life. The philosopher T. K. Seung has written a hermeneutic work on Thus Spake Zarathustra entitled Nietzsche’s Epic of the Soul wherein he argues for the epic nature of the book, specifically that is as an epic journey of the soul. He situates Nietzsche as a pantheist, and in the lineage of Spinoza, a walker on the sacred earth, a climber on an epic quest, which parallels some of the writing of the book, which took place in the mountains of Switzerland as well as on the Mediterranean coast of Italy. Spinoza dealt with the problem of the deterministic material universe, the endless chains of causality, and how to create human joy from this seeming impasse of free will, and this would be one of Nietzsche’s concerns as well. One of the thorniest problems in interpretations of Zarathustra over generations is what Nietzsche meant by his doctrine of eternal recurrence; Zarathustra proclaims that seemingly impossible doctrine that everything will be repeated over and over, our lives in all our minutiae. Seung interprets it to be Spinoza’s chain of causality, the endless connections of our material lives and of the universe we are part of. The scientific universe whether of Newton or Einstein is this determined reality and the notion of the sovereign individual unleashed in this cosmography presents a basic contradiction. The laws of nature can’t be overcome. Seung states, “As long as these two ideas are kept apart from each other, there is no problem. But they generate an intractable problem when they are placed together. How can the individual be a creative master in the deterministic world?” (xiv). For post-medieval western philosophers the medieval theological debate over Adam’s free will versus predestination became one of free will vs. nature. For Seung this is Nietzsche’s ring of the eternal recurrence, a metaphor for the situation of the would-be sovereign individual within the laws of nature.

800px-Stort_bål_sankthans

Photo by Maylene Thyssen, Denmark.

 

But why not take the Dionysian Nietzsche at face value, and examine the theology of eternal recurrence? Carl Kerenyi in Dionysus: Archetypal Image of Indestructible Life wrote, “in the union of the two archetypal images, the divine pair of Dionysos and Ariadne represent the eternal passage of zoe into and through the genesis of living creatures, this occurs over and over again and is always, uninterruptedly, present.” Nietzsche had named himself the “last disciple of Dionysos” (Twilight of the Idols 563) and had found a precursor for his thought in Heraclitus: “The affirmation of passing away and destroying, which is the decisive feature of a Dionysian philosophy; saying Yes to opposition and war; becoming along with a radical repudiation of the very concept of being—all this is clearly closely related to me than anything else thought to date. The doctrine of the ‘eternal recurrence’, that is of the unconditional and infinitely repeated cyclical course of all things, this doctrine of Zarathustra might in the end have been already taught by Heraclitus. At least the Stoa has traces of it, and the Stoics inherited almost all of their principle notions from Heraclitus” (Ecce Homo quoted in Lukacher 7).

 

Nietzsche traced the eternal recurrence back through the stoics to Heraclitus, and his sense of the world eventually ending in a great conflagration, the ekpyrosis. In Heraclitus 45: “This kosmos, the same for all, none of gods nor humans made, but it was always and is and shall be: an ever-living fire, kindled in measures and extinguished in measures” (Curd 45). Life, fire, destruction, continual becoming are interlinked, indissolubly (as in ever-lasting: àeízöon, composed of zoe and aei, eternity). Stoic allegorists saw that the ever-living survives by dying, and Chrysippus said, “that all gods die in the last conflagration of the world, except for Jupiter” (Lukacher 10), we may hear an echo in the Norse Ragnarok. But for Nietzsche the god who survives the end of the cycle of the great year is named Dionysos. Regeneration in fire would always be world renewing. And Nietzsche theorized in 1883 that the Mysteries taught such eternal recurrence. Many die too late and a few die too early. The doctrine still sounds strange: “Die at the right time!”…I want to die myself that you, my friends, may love the earth more for my sake; and to earth I want to return that I may find rest in her who gave birth to me.

 

Like Heraclitus, Nietzsche did not see Being and Appearance as an opposition. There was no static Being but an ever-continuing coming to be and passing away without any closure of resolution. Like for Heraclitus, the strife of the world was not negative but something creative, in fact an overfullness, like a pregnancy near term (Ullers 9). Life is a process of renewal though its own destruction, something essentially Dionysian. The phenomena rise and pass endlessly, the forms broken like the tragic hero, the pathos of the will of the Heraklitean joinedness of opposites, of suffering and ecstasy at the heart of nature, an insight captured in the Dionysian theater, in the intoxicated god. (see Ulfers)

A Dionysian theology/philosophy can be discerned in this pain and ecstasy of becoming, one that has much potential as an alternative to the Neo-Platonist ones that have so much popularity these days, one rooted in pre-Socratic insight and the immanence of unlimited life and with potential for various polytheisms.

 

 

 

 

 

References

Curd, Patricia. Ed. A Presocratics Reader: Selected Fragments and Testimonia. 2nd Ed. Indianapolis: Hackett, 2011.

Kerenyi, Karl. Dionysos: Archteypal Image of Eternal Life. Princeton, 1976.

Köhler, Joachim. Zarathustra’s Secret: The Interior Life of Friedrich Nietzsche. trans. Ronald Taylor. New Haven: Yale, 2002.

Lukacher, Ned. Time-Fetishes: The Secret History of Eternal Recurrences. Durham: Duke University, 1998.

Ulfers, Frierich. “Introduction.” The Dionysian Vision of the World. Minneapolis: Univocal, 2013.

 

*Elizabeth Förster-Nietzsche became a notorious racist, fascist, and anti-Semite.

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: https://finnchuillsmast.wordpress.com/2015/08/05/many-gods-west-pictures/

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 Polytheist.com.

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.

Olympia.
Olympia.

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….

Many Gods West Pictures

I will be writing more extensively about the conference, but for now here are some pictures. The conference was a deeply meaningful array of experiences. It was such a welcoming place, and the need for such dedicated polytheist time was profoundly felt. My gratitude to PSV Lupus, Niki Whiting and Rhyd Wildemuth!

Many gods, spirits and ancestors.
Many gods, spirits and ancestors.
The Community Altar.
The Community Altar.
Central image above altar is of Baal of Palmyra.
Central image above altar is of Baal of Palmyra.
Sabina, Antinous and Hadrian
Sabina, Antinous and Hadrian

IMG_0620IMG_0629IMG_0634

Paneros
Paneros

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 the Three Brighids, Ogma and some hazelnuts offered.

the Three Brighids, Ogma and some hazelnuts offered.
Cu Chullain!
Cu Chullain!
PSV Lupus in fabulous ceremonial attire.
PSV Lupus in fabulous ceremonial attire/regalia.

Craic, Colloquy, and Poison (PantheaCon)

It looks like I can only muster a brief note on this year’s PantheaCon, perhaps there will be more later, perhaps not.

Really, I’ve had more trouble than usual in trying to wrap my thoughts into words about the 2015 PantheaCon. It was a brief ‘Con this year for me, as I was only able to attend from Saturday evening to late Sunday night. The time I spent there was definitely about the craic and the colloquy, the important conversations and nourishing dialogues with friends from far away, and of people I only see at PantheaCon. Murtagh an Doile, of Nemed na Morrigna, one of those doing proto-CR back in the 80s, and head of the Pagan History Project; big hearted Oggie of El Paso; PSV Lupus; the Anomalous Thracian; and Duffi McDermott, were among these. It was good to meet the very knowledgeable Thenea of Pandemos, a South SF Bay Hellenic group, the marvelous Jaina Bee, and Alley Valkyrie who gave me some wonderful honeybee patches and an anti-capitalist zine (thanks!).   And a few good rituals were had, including the Ekklesia Lupercalia in which I participated, and a rite to Dionysos Hestios.

Although San Jose is relatively close for me, I live too far for it to be a daily commute. Also the Con is held in one of the most expensive locales in the US (Silicon Valley) and even a sad-sack room for one night in a so-called nearby “budget” motel cost me over a 100 dollars. A usual accommodation had fallen out, and I use medical equipment for sleeping (yes, a C-pap machine).

I had had some apprehensions before I arrived, which quickly dissipated after running into some of the aforementioned friends, but at one point I almost went to the Pagan Scholar’s suite but noticed on the board that Atheopagan was soon be making a presentation, so I headed toward the elevator. I do work to avoid unnecessary stress and negativity in my life. Unfortunately this was unavoidable for other attendees, especially those of color. Much has written about a stupid unofficial bulletin put out by an anonymous group that apparently finds racism comical (read Aedicula Antinoi for a thorough treatment of this). But there was much more. I was only briefly able to stop by the Pagans of Color hospitality suite hosted by Elena Rose, Xochiquetzal Duti Odinsdottir and other fine folks,but was horrified later to hear that people had been walking down the hall there making verbal harassments. Some felt physically unsafe walking around.

I’m just…almost at a loss of words that this level of racism/white supremacism is going on at PantheaCon. I’d really like to know what the planners have in mind to better the situation in the future. It really is scary, and I am left wondering about the future of PantheaCon.

Also see:

http://paganactivist.com/2015/02/17/racism-and-activism-at-pantheacon/#more-1512

Weaving Winter Holidays

I have to push myself to share personal practice, but friends say it is important to do so, as we grow our polytheistic traditions. So here is a brief account of my weave of winter holidays, of which there have been so many: Solstice, Yule, Christmas (which yes, I do celebrate in a secular and family way), Devotions for Dionysos, Antinous, the Brigids, Nuadha, CúChulainn, all the Shining Ones of the Gaels, the ancestors, and many more. No big (Druid grove) ritual this year for me, but many devotions, and small celebrations and rites. And so we weave the sacred into our lives.

Some of what I did: two days of Solstice/Yule, a home dinner, offerings to the Gods and ancestors and a local land spirit, whiskey for CúChullainn whom I offer to around the 21st, chocolate for Antinous, and a gift for Dionysos—a beautiful piece of metalwork of grapes and vines that I bought at the Berkeley holiday craft fair on Telegraph for his shrine. On the last day of Saturnalia (Sigillaria) I walked out to the park where I have long celebrated Antinous and Diana. A big storm had blown down a large part of one of the cypress trees that makes an entry into Diana’s Grove. A few boughs were gathered; one is on my Antinous shrine (where I honor other deities associated with him in Ekklesia Antinoou practice also) and another sent to an esteemed colleague.

For years on Christmas Eve I’ve made a kind of Mother’s Night offering for my blood ancestors, especially the female, Germanic ones. They get cookies, cake, and rich organic milk/cream. One of my great grandmothers and her sister have become a focal point on my ancestor shrine which is in the dining room, an appropriate location I feel. I used to offer drink to the werewolves on this night also, but the last few years have been unable to as I currently have no neighborproof outdoor space. At my home we do celebrate a secular Christmas, a family day. Early on New Years’ I made small offerings –poems, incense, candles, and prayers for Janus, Hermes and Antinous at my Antinous shrine. My partner makes a beautiful and magical traditional Filipino (his heritage) New Year’s table, with fruit and bowls of coins to bring luck and the good stuff in the new year. Subtle magic.

ancestorShrine Ancestor

Later we walked on the beach under the sandstone cliffs; spirits were showing everywhere. An offering was made to Ogma and an ogham divination done. Later I did my usual saining, purifying the flat completely with smoke of juniper and cedar.

Funston

I love the still quiet time…though, especially now at the beginning of the new year, with all my work completed for my job and some time ahead for my own projects, plenty of reading (I got some great books this Yule! including Detienne’s The Masters of Truth In Archaic Greece and Page duBois’ Out of Athens and the fascinating Steven Mithen’s After The Ice: A Global Human History 20,000–5000 BC, a mini-course in prehistory in itself), and some trance/journey work. But simply recharging is so vital. I notice after I’ve been off work for awhile I start remembering my dreams more often, and some of them have been pretty intense. In the quiet time my spiritual vision kicks in stronger. I’m more likely to be aware of spirits. Ancient calendars were designed with the wisdom of the intercalary between times, though most moderns just see it as their lack of scientific precision. Yesterday was the day I honor the ancient Druids, a day some of us call The Festival of the Three Druids or Feis Tri Druad, which is sort of a repurposing of Epiphany or Three Wise Kings Day (for more on this see https://aediculaantinoi.wordpress.com/2012/01/06/a-dies-mortis-sancti-and-a-feis/), a big holiday in Catholic countries. I think one can come up with one’s own triad (or triads); for me this year it was Bodhmhall, Tlachtga, and Fedelm who received the honors, but I also have widened it to be a Festival of the Ancient Druids in general. And so also of my own aisling contacts and guides. Offerings were made at my home shrine as well as a night walk to a grove of evergreens at a spot high above the Pacific. The day brought quite an epiphany of sorts too.

This round completes my midwinter holidays, which this season were also blessed by rain. El Niño please bring more!

Land, Sea, Sky
Land, Sea, Sky

I’ll close with a great quote from a Yanomamo (Amazonian) leader/shaman named Davi Kopenawa.

On western cities

Their cities are beautiful to see, but the bustle of their inhabitants is frightening. People there live piled up one on top of another and squeezed side by side, as frenzied as wasps in the nest. It makes you dizzy and obscures your thought. I can never think calmly in the city. People constantly ask you for money for everything, even to drink and urinate. Everywhere you go you find a multitude of people rushing, although you do not know why. Whenever I stay there too long I become restless and cannot dream.

ww.theguardian.com/global-development/2014/dec/30/western-living-yanomami-shaman-brazil