I.M. Katsu Goto

A brief post about something that moved me today.

Hawai’i has a vital shrine culture. I came across this shrine by happenstance this afternoon. Even though this labor activist was murdered when Hawai’i was still an independent kingdom (1889), it had largely been taken over by American plantation owners by then (who instituted the coup a few years later that led to the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy and the occupation by USA). This young immigrant sugar worker had learned English before leaving Japan but was lynched on the Hamakua coast.


Counter what a small, if very noisy, subset of American polytheists would have it animism/polytheism is hardly the precinct of the Right. I am moved that Goto’s shrine is still lovingly and beautifully maintained.


The sugar plantations are gone, but corporate and oligarchic interests are still rife. But as the plaque says his spirit lives on! What is remembered, lives.



And apologies for the blurry photos—it seems that (and not altogether unrelated) smartphone cameras are designed to degrade purposefully to get us to ever buy new models.

In Honor of a Sacred King

This post got delayed due to the horrific massacre in Orlando.

There’s been some discussion here and there this year of sacral kingship, including something on this blog awhile back https://finnchuillsmast.wordpress.com/2016/03/30/sacral-kings-traditions-defense/ …. Here in Hawai’i, Kamehameha the Great is such a king who maintains a kind of guardianship over the islands to this day. On Saturday, June 11th, I had the opportunity to celebrate the king’s birthday (a state holiday). In the little town of Kapa’au stands a statue of this sacral king who spent part of his childhood in the vicinity. On his day, huge leis (20 feet long) are offered up to him, among other offerings early in the morning, followed by a parade and other festivities, including traditional chanting. Quite inspiring.




The statue itself has an intriguing history, having been created in Paris in 1878, put ona ship that sank off the Falkland Islands and was eventually salvaged and placed in Kapa’au in 1912. Kamehameha, who was born around 1736, unified the archipelago and navigated the kingdom through the treacherous waters of international relations during the late 18th century and early years of the 19th. Kamehameha authored the Kānāwai Māmalahoe, the “Law of the Splintered Paddle”, which protected rights of non-combatants in war. He is very much the object of reverence in various sites associated with his life. In a story reminiscent of other sacred heroes as a boy/young man he was able to lift a stone that prophecy could only be lifted by the would be king. The stone stands in front of Hilo’s public library today and receives offerings.

The stone in front is the stone the young to-be king lifted.

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.


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/

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




 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.

William Burroughs, Prophet

“If you intend to destroy an individual or a culture, destroy their dreams. This is happening now on a global scale.” So prophetic writer and master magician William Burroughs wrote back in 1987, and how that war has been amplified in the years since. What does it mean when a body/culture/species starts destroying itself on a macro-level?


Can we (some) make our way through the Western Lands? To prep for the journey cultivate your Imagination.


Tonight I poured a libation of whiskey for Uncle Bill on his birthday.


And I found this interesting music of Tiago Sousa inspired by the novel The Western Lands. http://www.restingbell.net/releases/rb030-the-western-lands




By Christiaan Tonnis (flickr)
By Christiaan Tonnis (flickr)



Interesting fact: Burroughs is an Ekklesia Antinoou sanctus.

Taliesin’s Feast Day

For Taliesin Radiant Brow, the great Bard of Wales on his Feast Day:


Bright-Browed, Wave-Bourne


One can float so long in the darkness

rocked softly, rocked violently,

in wet leather,

tanged with salt until

and at some point

a light rises

washing up as if from

some unknown abyss;

And snagged from fishing trap

you are exposed

into a new life

where wisdom and force

course through through your veins

and leap from your tongue

in flashes of poetic fire and prophecy!


Dragon of Cymru
Dragon of Cymru

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.


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.


Thinking of Sweeney

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


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


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


Here’s a poem from my book:


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


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




From The Prow Of Myth: Book Announcement

From The Prow Of Myth, a book of poetry by Michael Routery, is now available.

 Amairgen, Antinous,  Aonghus Mac Oc, Aphrodite, Apollo, Arduinna, Artio, Artemis, Belenos, Bóann, Brigid, Califia, Cernunnos, Cú Chullain, Cybele, Danu, the Dagda, Dionysos, Finntan, Fionn, Gaia, Ganymede, Eros, Hekate, Hermes, Herakles, Hermaphroditus, Hippolytus, Hylas, Iolaus, Lugh, Macha, Manannán, Medb, Miach, the Morrigan, Myrddin, Nuadha, Ogma, Orpheus, Pan, Persephone, Suibhne Geilt, Taliesin, Zeus…


You will find them all within the pages.  As well as Hadrian, Julia Balbilla, Sappho, and many more!

 The poems course through a magical geography: Ireland’s strand, the waters of an Egyptian oasis, the cliffs of Hawaii, the mountains of California, Diana’s woods, Sweeney’s tree, the trackless sea, the underworld’s gates, the pool at the center of the world…


Some advance praise:

 From the Prow of Myth boldly follows the strong and silvery bardic thread of myth that lives both in history and in the living earth – sea and desert, fire and water, flower and star.  Those looking for fresh hymns for a wonderful variety of figures in Celtic and Hellenic mythology will find a stirring and abundant wealth in these pages, as will those seeking the wonder of story and the dance of ancient themes in direct, visceral experience.” –Ruby Sara, Editor of Datura and Mandragora (Scarlet Imprint, 2010 & 2012)


From the Prow of Myth is divided into three sections. “Fire, Water, Words” which centers on Celtic mythology; “Flowers, Wine, Mirrors” which focuses on Greek mythology; and “Dancing on the Brink of the World” which draws upon the landscape of Routery’s California homeland for inspiration. As a Hellenistai, I was particularly excited to see poems for Hermes, Hekate, Apollo and many other Greek Deities (even rarely-acknowledged figures such as Ariadne, Erigone, and Hippolytus). Describing Artemis as the mystery at the heart of the wild gave me shivers. Hylas’ drowning at the hands of naiads –

spellbound by their beauty
he gazed unaware of the ache of his lungs
until they were bloated with water and
his place on the bank oozed with emptiness

– gave me an even more serious case of shivers.

The poems in the final section rival some of the best ecopoetry. “When Birds Are Gods” and “Spring on Mt. Tamalpais” are particular favorites.

I was surprised, though, at how much I enjoyed, and was affected by, the Celtic pieces; with the possible exception of Brigid, I have never felt particularly drawn to the Celtic Deities or their stories. Nonetheless, I was left goggle-eyed by some of the imagery of these pieces.

–Rebecca Buchanan at Eternal Haunted Summer.


 “The visceral and visual poetry of Michael Routery challenges mind and imagination. From Mount Olympus to the Hawaiian lava beds we are treated to splendid encounters with the natural world.  The poems are lyrical gems, hovering over the surface of our language.” 

–Neeli Cherkovski, author of Whitman’s Wild Children, Animal, and From the Canyon Outward.


 This collection of praise and invocatory poems is perfect for the devotional polytheist, the lover of nature poems, seekers of vision poetry, and all those admirers of Celtic and Hellenic myth.


Available from the Vindos Press e-store: https://www.createspace.com/4443944!

Or Amazon.


Top of Form



Pop Cultus Heroes: Consumerism Posing As Religion

I’ve followed a lot of the discussion about pop culture heroes, particularly those entries by Sannion, Dver, Christine Kraemer at Patheos, Galina Krasskova,and P. S. V. Lupus. It’s kind of daunting to wade in as it is such a complicated subject, and so much has been said. And to be honest I just can’t wrap my head around someone offering hero devotion to say Tony Stark or Superman. While some superheroes may inspire and remind us of heroes from ancient or more recent times, nevertheless they never lived and pose a number of significant problems.

To start with, I think there’s a huge lack of discernment, something I see much more broadly at large in the polytheistic communities, like with all of the people who claim the gods chit-chat with them about the most trivial matters. Our minds are powerful and have many usually hidden or unacknowledged dimensions. To say something rises from our subconscious is not to be dismissive, not at all—but acknowledge that is its source. But back to action figures and characters from Hollywood franchises and Marvel Comics, do these fans really think these characters have agency? That they actually can respond to them? I find that dismaying.

Some bring up the blurry line between traditional myth and fiction, and I grant that it is blurry. Cuchullain? P.S.V. Lupus asserts that this to some extent comes down to aesthetics. I know I do like mine well aged like a very fine wine; Arthurian figures might have scraps or kernels of old deities within them, but they were characters crafted by skilled medieval storytellers. However, Chretien de Troyes, Wolfram von Eschenbach, or Marie de France weren’t pop culture writers (there were no pop culture writers in that era, the populace was illiterate). Arguably pop culture, which is not the same as popular culture didn’t even exist before the advent of industrialism and mass marketing. However elitist many in today’s consumer society may feel about this, until a generation or so ago people were clear about the distinction between high culture and pop culture. Creations of high culture were crafted to be elucidative, ethical, aesthetic, illuminating of patterns of truth, as well as to be entertaining. Many writers working today in many genres still work for that, but pop culture franchises are designed around one purpose: to be high money making instruments for the capitalist economy. I wouldn’t at all deny that some of these franchise creations may have echoes of valid archetypes, but usually they are not made by people who are magical or religious. Intention (with knowledge) of the creator does matter, something by Alan Moore or Grant Morrison will certainly have more validity than something by Stan Lee.

Great artists create new myths or rework old mythic patterns for new times: think Tolkien and Joyce, maybe Gaiman. And I suppose this is a point to look at what we mean by the mutable word myth. Myth has different meanings for different segments of the population, it largely means lie or false belief in popular and official culture in the West. For pagans/polytheists, Hindus and new agers often it means narratives that touch on sacred matters, that give spiritual meanings and spiritual truths. The word meant very different things in different periods in ancient Greece. In Hesiod, mythos and logos are contrasted, but perhaps surprisingly to modern ears, the latter is associated with dissimulation, the former with truth—the usage will vary a lot over the course of Greek history but Plato definitively gave it the meaning of falsehood (see Bruce Lincoln in Theorizing Myth for a full history of the meanings of these unstable terms).


Fiction is another trickster word, (English is so poor in vocabulary dealing with non-empirical things) and deals with truths if it is good (and fiction is one of the best vehicles for communicating emotional truths we have) and we can and should make modern myths, stories that can provide guides to understanding life, and hopefully understanding spiritual matters, but we should not  confuse levels of being. A good character may echo or enact an archetype like Gandalf or Gollum, but these are not ontological beings with agency outside their narratives, though readers can invest them with power (readers are co-creators).

But let’s take the case of Iron Man again, as an example. The narrative might seem relevant as it takes place in a world that purportedly reflects our current geopolitics. It may offer a sense of empowerment for viewers. This is limited though, by the over-simplified black and white moral universe of the superhero genre, to say nothing of hidden ideological assumptions many of us don’t want anything to do with. Perhaps, most importantly it is part of a huge franchise and no amount of purchasing of posters, action figures, tied-in games, and costumes will allow for Stark to take on the reality of someone who actually lived in our middle world. And on some level, instead of opening onto the Other, instead of that extraordinary task of getting outside of ourselves, the fan stays within their own mind and maintains consensus reality (and makes it more difficult as they are constructing even their spiritual identity by brand allegiance). Getting out seems to be more difficult than ever in human history, and so more needed than ever. Yet as Dver has lucidly written much about at Forest Door, many polytheists seem to only see what they can get out of it, and I would add on the most superficial egotistic level of self, and as we look around at the way modernity is causing such untold destruction, is so distracted in pop culture trivia, and mightily maintaining its deafness to misery in much of the world, the demise of countless fellow species, depleted oceans, and rapidly changing climate, I can’t help but see this pop culture worship as being part of this myopia. Paganism/polytheism used to have a critical edge; is that gone, except in a few corners?

One other thing that raises my ire about fandom being mistaken for a religion and claims for hero cultus being claimed valid for superheroes is the implication that somehow it is uncool to actually consider people who have done great things recently as heroes, whether we’re talking about people who have dedicated their lives to human rights, environmental justice, reviving our traditions, or furthering peace on this troubled planet. People like Dian Fossey, Chico Mendez, Judi Bari, Benigno Aquino, Mahatma Gandhi, Harvey Milk, Isaac Bonewits, Alexei Kondratiev, people who were heroic and in most of these cases sacrificed their lives for something larger than themselves, pop to mind. If we want modern heroes there are many to choose from. I think it is sad that people find it easier to relate to cartoons than to real life heroes.

Finally, heroes are the Mighty Dead. They lived. They died. They may live on in various ways, in various abodes and they may have narratives and prophecies that say they will reawaken some day like Arthur or Barbarossa, but they have died. Superheroes for the most part don’t even die in their stories. There are so many inspiring heroes in our traditional lore, (for a good list of both traditional heroes and ones from the pagan revival, see Galina Krasskova’s website http://krasskova.weebly.com/our-pagan-and-heathen-heroes-and-martyrs.html ), but some are so locked into the ideology of the new, of ‘progress’, that apparently they find them boring. I’ll choose Scatach, Achilles and Dian Fossey any day over any superhero or cartoon character, even ones I really like.