This is Not an HSA Blog

This is NOT an HSA blog.

This is the (occasionally drunken) ranting of a satyr magician.  This is the place where I tell stories about shennanigans I’ve been up to.  This is the place where I share the results of my experiments, both magical … and occasionally social.

Now, with that said, you’re probably going to hearling about the HSA a lot.  The Heartland Spiritual Alliance takes up more of my time and energy than anything but my novels.  My work for the HSA overlaps significantly with my spiritual and magical practices.  And I have … thoughs on Pagan leadership and Pagan culture.  So my work with the Sacred Experience Committee and Board of Directors is going to come up.  But from this platform, I am NEVER speaking in an official capacity.

I feel the need to say this, explicitly and in writing, for three reasons.  Firsly, three of my last six posts have been related, at least tangentially, to my work in the HSA.  Secondly, in speaking privately with other current and former HSA staff members, some have felt that their words are always heard in an official capacity.  Thirdly and finally, we hope to have an official HSA blog up in the relatively near future, and I want to be 100% clear with the world that this is not it.

The Journey Through The Obsidian Dream is, always has been, and always will be my personal soapbox and public journal.  The opinions expressed here are my own, and soley my own, and subject to change as I grow and learn.  They have, in fact, changed before, and will change again.

 

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Ancestors for the Alienated: First Contact

At last Thursday’s Spirit Circle, Shauna Aura Knight’s Full Moon included an invocation of the Ancestors and the Descendants – either literal or figurative.

As I mentioned fairly recently, I’m SUPER UNCOMFORTABLE with the notion of ancestor work because, as a white person, there is no clear differentiation between my biological ancestors and White Supremecy.  The descendants part was more uncomfortable for reasons that ar much more personal as a child-free individual who may or may not ever take students or produce work whose influence might be equivilent.

But one of the things about rituals led by other peope is that they sometimes go places you weren’t 100% prepared for.

In this case, at least, I was about 50% prepared.  I didn’t expect it to come up in the moment, but I had names to call.  In that moment, two particular names came to mind.

I called out to Aleister Crowley and Pamela Coleman Smith as my occult progenetors.  My mental image was, in case it’s relevant, drawn from the most common pictures available of them.

Contact with Crowley was … ephemeral.  Neither positive nor negative.  Further experimentation needed.

Smith, on the other hand, responded warmly.  Positive contact.  It was a fleeting moment.  No terms were discussed.  But the mother of the modern tarot is open to further contact.

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Corn Moon Musings I: Recovery

altar-4

I’ve come at it sideways from more angles than I can count, and have probably even said it outright once or twice before, but: I have been struggling.  Since I closed down the Sunrise Temple and moved back to Kansas City and began backing my way out of the rigorous but ultimately toxic-to-me ceremonial pracctice I had there, I have been wounded and flailing and desperate to refind my path.  Without the rejuvination of ecstacy, the majority of my magical work was dedicated toward material prosperity, and it was exhausting.

Moreover, culminating in March, I enchanted myself out of a job.

And, it’s worth noting, into a new one — one which pays only half as much, but has left me with the time and energy to puruse my writing more seriously than I have done since the first months back from Indiana.  And the time to promote my photography, if not the money to pursue it.

But the ice-bath of sudden and unexpected unemployement left me shocked and twitching   Combined with some structural issues with my house, and some mental health issues …. well, I’ve been limping from one crisis to the next, barely keeping up.

Last Thursday, though, as one of my many duties with the Sacred Experience Committee, I hosted and participated in a chant workshop and Full Moon Ritual led by Shauna Aura Knight here in Kansas City.  An hour and a half of light trance followed by an hour long group ritual of singing ecstacy, with someone else doing the heavy lifting so that I could have my own experience.  The ritual’s central conceits were seeking healing in the Sacred Well beneath the World Tree, and then descending further into the underworld to find and recclaim our power.  Despite the public forum, I was able to go deeper and clearer than I have in months.

I was brought to cliff where my astral temple used to stand — shattered and burned more than a year ago now (have I ever told that story?).  I called the Well up to the center of where my temple used to be, and the Well moved the landscape to suit its purposes, drawing the cliff face down into the earth so that what had once been a mighty bastion of stone overlooking the astral sea now stood only as a low wall against a high tide.  The borders of the realm collapsed, or perhaps moved outward beyond my sight.

I submurged myself in the waters of the Sacred Well, let them fill me and wash over me and run through me.

The next two days were a hard crash.  Friday I was hung over like I’d been on a whiskey bender, not participating in a ritual.  I was sick to my stomach, weak and light headed.  Saturday I was hit hard by depression and anxiety.  I felt useless and alone.

Yesterday, though, despite getting up early to help with some heavy lifting, I felt increasingly myself throughout the day.  Private, custom jewelry commisions started falling into place: I expect at least two down payments within the week.  I meditated last night without having a panic attack.  As I examine my aura, now, I find I am more stable, more full, than I have been in months.  There’s a …. spot on my back that may need help from a more practiced healer than I, but it may also sort itself out if I can re-establish a daily practice.

For the first time since coming back to Kansas City, in general, and since losing my old job in March, in particular, I feel genuinely ready to face the world.  There are enough irons in my fire that it is time to stoke the forge, and to begin striking as the irons grow hot.

The lesson, here, is threefold:

  1. Yes, sometimes you fuck  yourself up doing magic.   Particularly when you are getting results.
  2. More magic can be the solution.
  3. Even knowledgable, practiced witches, sorcerers, and magicians benefit from letting others take the helm.  Speaking for myself: I believe that I need a great deal more of that right now.

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Hymn to Baphomet

baphomet

A new hymn for a god/dess of witches, sorcerers, and madmen.

 

Hymn to Baphomet

Io Baphometos!

 

Strange god!  Gnostic god!

Creator and destroyer!

Friend to the alienated,

lover and beloved

of artists and magicians!

 

You who reconcile false dichotomies:

mortal and divine; man and woman;

human and animal; of the Earth and of the Air.

You are of the Dark Moon and the Light.

Solve et coagvla.

 

You are the Sabbatic goat!

Winged, and crowned in horn and flame,

sacred hermaphrodite;

Thyrsus and caduceus, thy tumescence.

You are the Mysteries made flesh.

 

O you Hidden One!

You are ancient yet unfinished!

You are many formed, many natured!

Panphage pangenitor!

You are All-Father, All-Mother, All-Lover!

 

Io Baphometos!

All hail Baphomet!

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Ego Trip

Sometimes it is nescessary to remind ourselves of our cosmic insignificance.  At other times, it is nessecary to remind ourselves and those around us of who we are, what we’ve done, and what we are capable of.

The following is a personal meditation.  Perhaps others might find value in making one of their own.

Ego Trip

I am the Satyr Magician.

I am an explorer of four worlds,

charging wildly into madness,

with a machete in one hand

and a jug of wine in the other.

 

I have lain with the Heart Encircled by A Serpent.

I have been seduced by both the Moon and the Sun.

I have seen visions of the Cosmos and of Elder Ages.

I am an initiate of the Seven Spheres

and of the Underworld and the Four Realms.

 

 

I have battled ghosts and Shadows.

I have been adopted and abandoned both by familiar spirits.

I have been assaulted by Guides and rejected by my ancestors.

My flesh has been home to goddesses and demons.

I have crafted new life from fragments of my soul.

 

I have survived every enemy that has arisen before me.

I have been both lover and beloved,

and I have survived those endings, as well.

I have built myself up from raw earth

only to burn myself down again for fun.

 

I am the product of both my experiences

and my ambitions.

I am the Obsidian Dream.

I am Teiresias of Dionysos.

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Nullification

I am, by constitution, suspicious of narratives that center around the dissolution of “the Ego”, or (worse yet) explicitly one’s sense of self.  One might make an argument that this is a product of my Western individualism, but it owes as much to my suspicion of any programme so clearly open to abuse by a charismatic leader.  This is one of the reasons I  just can’t love Peter Carroll as much as many of my friends do: what they read as “become more malleable” I read as “become the perfect victim”.

Conversely, on the other hand, we space ghosts – witches, magicians, sorcerers, psychonauts, et al. – spent quite a lot of time conceptualizing ourselves as the center of the universe.  My refusal to give up my individuation is not an endorsement of megalomania.  I, for one, take great comfort in my cosmic insignificance.

The following meditation serves as a reminder of that insignificance.  A grounding before or after ritual, or when the pressure of our obligations to the larger world become too much.  As a note: the phrases “ouden eimi” and “nemo sum” are Greek and Latin, respectively, and mean “I am no one.”

 

Nullification

Ouden eimi.

Nemo sum.

I am no one.

 

I came from nothing.

To nothing I shall return.

I am forged of dirt.

I am a sack of meat.

 

Ouden eimi.

Nemo sum.

I am no one.

 

My mind is a morass

of lies and memes.

My soul is enslaved

by the mad godling Demiurge.

 

Ouden eimi.

Nemo sum.

I am no one.

 

I am made of starstuff.

So are cockroaches

and brain-eating amoebae.

So are gods.

 

Ouden eimi

Nemo sum.

I am no one.

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Pagan Leadership: What I Have Learned So Far

Where is the line between “being a leader” and merely “playing a leadership role”?

For most of my life, I imagined that Pagan leaders were somehow exceptional.  That they were magically gifted, or brilliant geniuses, or touched by the gods, or (occasionally) deft predators.  Somehow, they were in the right place at the right time and were anointed by the community.  I could barely imagine myself among their number.  Although I have, often, fantasized about starting a coven or order, I largely kept to myself and practiced only with my partners and closest friends.

For most of my life, I have alternated between hanging out at the back of various Pagan groups, following along without offering suggestions, and forming small working groups where we all fought to balance our own visions with the objectives of the others in the group.  Until very recently, I disdained the explicit pursuit of any public title or acknowledgement, keeping only this blog as as my billboard to the world, and waited for my following to appear.

Then, in July of 2014, Aradia and I finally joined the Heartland Spiritual Alliance.  We were accepted into the Sacred Experience Committee and quickly took charge of the ritual crew.  The senior members of the committee had a certain vision for what they wanted the rituals to accomplish, but the language, the choreography, and (in the end) the performance were ours and the people we brought in with us.

In July of 2015, I was elected Chair of the Sacred Experience Committee, and Aradia took Public Relations.  By January, we had both been asked to join the Board of Directors.  When the Chairman of the Board called a meeting and asked if anyone had a vision for the future of the organization, Aradia and I furnished a five-year plan which was well received by the Board, recommended by the Board to the Membership, who in turn voted the Plan into place in March.  In April, when the Vice President announced her intention to step down before the end of her term, Aradia was asked to take her place after the festival.

In the wake of this year’s elections, Aradia and I still hold our committees.  Aradia has been formally elected and installed as Vice President of the Heartland Spiritual Alliance, and I have been elected Chairman of the Board for the 2016-17 festival year.

By rational analysis, I believe that it is probably reasonable to say that  we have crossed the line, and could fairly consider ourselves “Pagan leaders”.  But … the imposter syndrome is strong.

I am not, I think, exceptional in any way that qualifies me for leadership. I am not particularly charismatic – or, at least, not among Pagans, were we all bear some benefit of the magician’s charisma – or a natural leader.  I am better educated than many, and have been on wilder adventures than some, but my credentials, such as they are, bear little weight in the community.  Although I have been attending the festival for many, many years, I have largely kept to myself and was little known in the community of either attendees or HSA members before I joined.  Now that I am better known, I am certainly not well-loved by all: I am, at best, an abrasive personality, and even when people agree with me, they do not always like me.

In the weeks since the beginning of the new member year, I have already heard the first cry of, “Who IS this punk?”  I’ve been expecting it for a while, honestly.

I just showed up one day.  And then I did the work.  It probably helps that attendees have loved the rituals my crew and I put together, and that the members I have recruited have integrated well with the rest of the organization.  Certainly not everyone agrees with my vision, and I have even been accused of being a part of the hated “inner circle”, but I do not believe that there is any doubt my dedication to the festival … though, because I am so abrasive, there are those who don’t believe that I am good for the community.

So, this is what I have learned in the process of becoming “a leader” in the Pagan community.

  • Pagan leaders are people.  They have lives and ambitions outside their leadership roles.  They have personalities that may or may not be comparable with yours.  Each and every one of us is in it for a different reason.  Whether it’s a calling, or you’re in it for the glory, or you just showed up with your friends.
  • Leadership is work.  Thus it requires professionalism.   Maintain professional relationships with those you personally dislike.  Fire the abusers and the slackers.  Do the work.
  • “Leading Pagans is like herding cats” is a disavowal of responsibility.  Stop saying that.  Herding cats is easy.  You herd cats by providing something they want at one end of the trail, and following along behind to redirect those who get distracted.  (So, yes, I guess that leading Pagans IS like herding cats, just not what people mean when they say that.)  Do the work.

The future of the community is being determined right now, even as we speak, by those who show up and do the work.  I am unworthy, but I am here.  I am doing the work.

Paganism is a movement, not a product for sale.

If you share my vision, show up.  Bring your friends.  Do the work.

If you disagree with my politics, show up.  Bring your friends.  Do the work.

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Ancestors for the Alienated

On the subject of ancestor worship, I find myself deeply conflicted.

Its provenance, of course, is undeniable: it is attested across the whole of the world and the whole of human history, from some of the oldest archeological sites to cultures across the world today.  There are those who see its traces in the roots of all religion, though that is always a bold and, from a scholastic standpoint, unprovable claim.  Its efficacy, also,  as both magic and religion, is well attested in both ancient and modern times.  As Gordon White has said, and others have said before him, who among the Otherworld could care as much or as well for human affairs as those who have, themselves, been mortals?

And yet … I find the notion of ancestry … troubling.

To lay the facts bare: I am a witch from a family of Christians.  I am queer from a family most of which I never felt safe coming out to.  I was assigned male at birth and, for all that I am both more and less and other than that, look the part enough that I am generally ascribed the privileges associated with it, and know first hand exactly what sort of monster men are trained to be.  I am white in a world where white supremacy has brought low every people and nation it has come across, all in the name of profit and purity.  I am not proud of the people I come from, nor should I be.

The one attempt I made at “ancestor work” (for lack of a better word) was a visionary journey undertaken at Heartland Pagan Festival 2009, my first with Aradia.  I was only at the beginning of my visionary studies, then, but visions of that strength have remained few and far between.  The drumming began, and I entered the trance.  When the time came to leave my body, though, things went awry: a column descended from the sky, squares and circles and triangles and other shapes stacked one atop the other, all scribed in bright blue light, poured down and pinned me where I was.  The message, I feel as strongly now as I did then, was clear.  “You are not wanted,” it said.  “Do not call upon us.”

And yet … one without a past has no future.  And witches and queers alike have always sought strength in both the facts of history and the mythic past.

Who are the Mighty Dead that I call upon come Samhain?  Who are the ancestors of the alienated?  Several names come readily to mind.  Doreen Valiente.  Gerald Gardner.  Margaret Murray.  Pamela Coleman Smith.  Aleister Crowley.  Frieda Harris.  Frida Kahlo.  Margot Adler.  None of them perfect people, of course.  But … I wonder.  Would they answer if we called?  We, their spiritual heirs, those who draw strength and inspiration from their life’s works?

I could have the answer to that.  I have tools for divination.  And yet …

Frankly, I fear the answer.  I am, as I said, deeply uncomfortable even with the notion of ancestry and, by extension, ancestor worship.  And then there’s the part where necromancy has a certain (perhaps undeserved) reputation, which was ingrained in me deeply early on.  And, were I to ask, and be told “yes, you may call upon us” … then I would be rather obliged to follow through.

And then there are the basic logistical questions: what do the rituals look like?  Having been raised in the heart and soul of White America, a land where Protestant Christianity has done its best to scrape all the ritual and ecstasy and tradition from even its own religion, I have no native rites to turn to for inspiration.  Nor do I wish to engage in any appropriation of others’ cultures: I am seeking to undermine my ancestors genocidal legacy, not participate in it.  Perhaps the dead, themselves, might instruct me.  That would be the best option, but it still leaves me floundering for a place to begin.

Who are the ancestors of the alienated?  What are their rites?

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In Pursuit of a Queerer Witchcraft

For those who haven’t caught on yet: I’m fucking queer.  This shapes my experience of magic every bit as much as it does my interaction with the rest of the world.  Sometimes positively.  Sometimes negatively.

I live in Kansas City, where the Pagan community is “cool” with people like me  …  just as long as we never complicate their gender binary, or challenge the gender dynamics of their power structures.  Sunrise, Indiana, was worse: excepting Sannafrid, they had that awful Viking vibe of aggressive heteronormativity.  Lawrence, Kansas, where I come from originally … well, honestly, it’s hard to say.   I was pretty closeted and ignorant back then, and the world ten and twenty years ago was a very different place.  Although I have known a variety of other LGBT witches, pagans, and sorcerers in my time, barely a handful  of them have been politically queer, and most of those from the …well, to be blunt, from the anti-radical cis gay political end of things.

Literature has largely failed me, as well.  The things I have found in print largely pigeonhole Pagan queers: speaking exclusively to cisgender gays and lesbians, and framing them guides and teachers for the pagan community at large, a teaching tool for others but of no value to or in themselves.  They also tend to be very appropriative, stealing language from First Nations peoples, and poorly researched in terms of the ancient peoples they point to for comfort and inspiration.  There are some explicitly radical and trans-positive Pagan ebooks available in the world (interestingly: almost all anthologies) but I find it increasingly difficult to read from a screen, and strive to spend most of my digital time producing content rather than consuming it.

I know  that there are,  in the world, traditions of witchcraft more friendly to queer ethics and politics than any I have seen in person or in print.  I hope, someday, to find a teacher.  A coven.  A community.

In the meantime, however, I must write the book I want to read.  I must create the community I wish to find.

What does it mean, to me, to be a witch?  What does it mean, to me, to be queer?  What does it mean, to me, to be a queer witch?  I have been asking these questions for fifteen and twenty years.  So far my answers are still ephemeral, less than satisfactory.

Witchcraft is both a being and a doing: to be a witch is to practice witchcraft.  Not all forms of magic are witchcraft, though, and sometimes it’s hard to say what is and what isn’t.  Often, it’s a sort of “I know it when I see it” sort of thing.  But what I can say is this: it is transgressive.  It is an explicit rejection of one’s assigned place in the world, particularly with regard to sanctity and blasphemy, but also with regard to class and caste.  It is movement outside the boundaries.  It is reaching too high, and stooping too low.  It is addressing gods as equals and cavorting with forbidden powers.

To be queer is likewise to transgress the boundaries assigned by society.  To be queer is to reject traditional limits of masculinity and femininity.  To be queer is to engage in forbidden loves and lusts.  It is to take your identity into your own hands – and, by doing so, often putting your life at risk, as well.

To be a queer witch, then, is doubly transgressive, doubly marginal.  It leaves practically no area of my life safe from public condemnation.  I cannot be a model minority.  Even if I were to otherwise submit utterly, the very fact that I exist is a challenge to the system.

I am Outside.  I am Other, even among Others. Everywhere I go, I find … “No, not this, either.”

And yet … what I am not is an unsatisfactory exploration of what I am.

I must clear new paths, pave new roads, perform new rites, write new books, dedicate new temples.

But it’s so, so hard to travel alone.

I am one mad, damaged queer.  My vision is insufficient to tear down the edifices of the Patriarchy.  These two hands are not enough to destroy the gender binary.  Alone, even with my friends and lovers, I cannot find or create new gods adequate to the new age which we must build together.

Our predecessors walked away from the One God.  They found a new Goddess and her Consort.  They found that the Old Gods had never truly left.  But our peers are too complacent, looking too much to the past and the present.  We must look to the future.  We must be transgressors and innovators.  We must complicate witchcraft.  We must queer it.

So I beg you: come forth, and follow with me. Lead me, if you will.  Let us make witchcraft a wilder, stranger place than it has ever dreamed.

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Unveiling The Sorcerer’s Workbench: Talismanic Jewelry Design Prototypes

I’ve had a lot of great opportunities come my way lately.  One of them has left me in a position to begin making jewelry that I want to make, and take on clients of my own.  Mostly I’m doing repairs for friends, so far, and (if all goes well) one significant piece of custom work.  But I’m also putting out my own line of magical jewely.  Some of the designs are my own art; some of the talismans come to me by gnosis; still others are inspired by the grimoire traditions.

The first, and the one most likely to see some revision, is pure art: when I started Project Null, my Chaos Magic study, I wanted a pretty picture to go with it on the blog.  So I took an ourobouros I had drawn, and Levi’s Baphomet, and a Chaosphere, and mashed them all together.

projectnull-EditIMAG0936_1

The second is a Solar talisman, based on the Sun Mask I made some years ago, and has already proven itself an excellent access point to solar currants.

solar mask image 3IMG_20160713_081102

The third Is an image of Venus, formed by combining two of the images described in agrippa: a bird-headed woman with eagle’s feet, and a maiden with a comb and an applet.

talisman of venusIMG_20160712_131323

All three pieces are 1.5 inches in diameter.

They are available as copper talisman disks (shown) for $25 +shipping.  They can be made wearable with a silver bezel and bail for $45, or cast in sterling silver (with or without a bail) for $75.

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