Monthly Archives: May 2011

She Below

As I ruminate on the subject, I realize that my first contact with the divine came well before the events that make better stories.  I can’t actually find the event in my journals, so I am uncertain as to the exact date.  I know it was the Spring Semester of 2008 or 2009.  It was a beautiful day: the sun was shining, the grass was green, and I was meditating on the lawn at Maple Woods Community College – trying to balance myself between Earth and Sky.  I felt something move beneath me: female, more spiritually massive than anything I had ever encountered before, and waiting for me.  I didn’t fall over, but it was a near thing. 

All my life, I have sworn that I would honor any divinity that deigned to seek me out, and I will confess that I was somewhat concerned as to how I might be held to that oath.  I felt that presence several times – always patient, always waiting, inscrutable and distant beyond my ability to comprehend or express – before the definitive encounter in November of 2009.

That encounter came at a workshop Aradia and I attended at the local New Age bookstore.  A lecture on Qabalistic thought and the 10 Sephiroth concluded with a guided meditation to the Sphere of Malkuth.  Oddly, this involved first ascending to Yesod before descending back to Malkuth.  Perhaps this is simply the best way to do things – either in general, or in the case of an open workshop where many are unfamiliar with the Qabala.  Moreover, it has been suggested to me by a Chirotus that there is a second Tree of Life, inverted below the first, and that I somehow descended to that lower Malkuth.  I wouldn’t know: my ignorance of High Ceremonial Magic is vast. 

Ultimately, the mechanics of the experience are a little bit beside the point.  I descended to the underworld, where I was led to a sacred grove and a pillar of light.  I rode the pillar of light up, then down.  And down.  And down.  And someone was waiting for me. 

A gigantic queen reclined before me, gloriously nude except for her crown, flanked by lions.  I had done some research in the preceding year, regarding goddesses of the deeper earth: I knew the iconography.  Even had I not, her name echoed in my mind.  Rhea.

I do not know how to describe our exchange, precisely.  My notes record that I petitioned for her patronage*, but it would be as accurate to say that she claimed me for her own.  Either way, a bond was forged – my first formal bond, though I had served Dionysos and Hephaestos in word and deed for years.  Then she sent me on my way, long before the others were done with their journeys.

Since then, she has made frequent appearances in my explorations of the Underworld.  When I journeyed in preparation for my initiation, it was to her temples that I was led.  Later, she instructed me to inform an Earth-worshiping friend – a monist, actually, who has expressed discomfort distinguishing individual deities – that she was waiting and that it is to be my task to introduce them. 

Despite all this, I have not yet succeeded in incorporating her into my ritual practice.  I need to find or make an idol, sooner rather than later.  Fortunately, the Magna Mater is patient beyond mortal comprehension.

*”Matron” might be more literally correct, but that word means something else in English.

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Gods of Earth and Sky – First Contacts

I want to write about my experiences with Dionysos and meadmaking.  Which of course bring to mind my experiences with jewelry and Hephaestos, and with the upperworld journey that deposited me at the feet of Apollo – to our mutual surprise.  I want to write about my experiments with my Kouros and Cycladic figures, and my attempts to reconcile my fundamental queerness with the archetypal Divine Masculine and Feminine.  But, because I’m crazy, I cannot tell these stories out of order.  In order to tell these stories I must first tell about the first times I felt the direct hand of the divine.

My first direct, personal contact was with a god I have yet to put a name to, in Thoth’s Grove at Camp Gaea, on Beltane of 2009.  There was a lot going on that night, apparitions the like of which I had never seen.  But that touch in that grove … that was about me.  I performed my dedication that night at his behest, utterly abandoning the ritual I had been planning and simply letting go.

The next direct contact was late November of the same year: a Tree of Life meditation at a public workshop led me further down than it was intended to, into the den of the Magna Mater.  She had been waiting for me.

Each of these deserves a full post of its own, and will get one. But it’s interesting to sit here for a moment, to look back through my journals, and recall – and in some ways realize for the first time – the way events in 2009 set so many changes into motion.  My dedication.  My initiation a year later.  The Name I tried to give up and the Name I took tor replace it.  The gods who have come into my life, the powers I have navigated and been transformed by.

I am no longer the person who retreated from St. Louis, let alone the person who left Lawrence for St.L in the first place.

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Persephone’s Gift of Mead

I bottled a lot of mead over the weekend: my first five-gallon batch, the gallon I made for the upcoming Heartland Pagan Festival, and the batch my magical group helped me start last Midsummer.

The five-gallon batch is my second/third attempt at pomegranate mead.  The first was fantastic – my best to date.  The second I started (but which I won’t bottle until October) was for Samhain.  This one I started in December and bottled last Thursday.  It’s not as good as the first batch, but it’s very, very tasty.

Ingredients:

12 lb honey (used Sweatheart honey this time from my brew store)

4x32oz. pomegranate juice (I favor the Odwalla brand over Pom)

juice of 1 lemon, 1 orange

1 1/2 tsp tannen

2 1/2 tsp pectic enzyme

5 tsp yeast energizer

I ultimately added another 60 or so ounces of pomegranate juice as I racked the mead.  The color and the flavor weren’t strong enough for my taste.  The ultimate outcome, for some reason, was never as bold and red as the first, or as richly flavored.  Maybe the Pom brand juice is dyed  and therefore contributed a stronger color (disturbingly likely and all the more reason not to use it again).  We’ll see how the flavor develops in the bottle, it might be just as good as the first batch in another few months.

This is the label I made:

label_persephonesgift

The colors label didn’t scan very well, I’m afraid, but it looks good on the bottle.  I’m very pleased to say that, uncolored and without any kind of label, my mother – who is not a witch of any stripe or even much of an antiquarian – was able to identify the figure as Persephone.

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A Darker Shade of Beltane

This past weekend was Beltane.  Aradia and I celebrated out at Camp Gaea with all the madness that usually entails, and a little bit extra besides.  Last year, Beltane (along with Heartland Pagan Festival, 28 days later) coincided with a Full Moon.  This year the Moon was Dark, and the differences were … interesting.

Beyond the sacred/ritual nature of the entire weekend,Aradia and I participated in four distinct rituals:  the public ritual, a ritual toast, an underworld journey, and our ultimate ritual with Pasiphae and Aidan.  Each was stylistically and thematically distinct.  Half of them were purgative.  By the end of the weekend, each of us – myself, Aradia, Pasiphae, and Aidan – had injured ourselves in some way.

The first ritual was the public one on Saturday night.  More than two dozen people gathered in the Old Way ritual space – several entire families were present, and at least a half-dozen children.  Aradia and I were there early, of course, and volunteered to light the torches.  In the process, we also cast the first layer of the circle.  (We’ve gotten very good at that.)  The ritual itself was done in two parts.  In the first part, the children raised energy by running in circles, then channeled that energy into a chalice full of seeds to be planted on a newly rebuilt berm and led out of the circle to do so.  The second part of the ritual was for the grownups.  We talked a little about our passions and art, then raised energy by singing tones.  I wish I’d brought my drum.  Then, without a closing of any kind, we were sent out in the world to “do something” with that energy – the ritual leader warned us, though, that she wouldn’t be held responsible for any consequences of that action. 

Why, yes, I did go promptly drop that lust-bomb on the unsuspecting Cauldron.  Did you even have to ask?   Dionysos and Pan are very good friends, and it is for very good reason I have been more than once accused of serving the latter. I also charged my thyrsos with it and saved a lot of it for later use.

The second ritual was the ritual toast – a blot (trigger warning for rugged masculinity and associated memes) – performed at the behest of an Asatru gentleman we met while unpacking Friday night.  The rite was simple and straightforward: each participant makes an offering to the sky and to the earth, then makes a toast; the others repeat the toast, then each offers their own toast (shared by the others) in turn. 

The Asatru gentleman offered his toast to his mother, who had recently passed, and later returned to our camp with a bewildered look on his face.  “I think that blot was the whole reason I needed to come out here,” he told us.  He had fallen off his practice and his gods were calling him back.  Though I did not particularly like him – he was the sort of person you might expect a self-identified redneck, knife-dealing, kinkster to be – I was honored to have served him in that fashion.  If I am to serve the neo-Pagan community in the ways I envision – helping with rites, putting on traditions as masks for solitaries and disconnected traditionalists, among other things – I must be prepared to answer to individuals and traditions that make me uncomfortable, so long as they do not outright violate my ethics.

The underworld journey was semi-spontaneous.  I had planned on doing one over the weekend, but when I felt called while watching the post-ritual fire and dancing in the Old Way, I also invited the nearby folks from the KU Cauldron to join me.

To my surprise, six of us wandered down to Thoth’s Grove (after nearly getting lost in Key Pass).  We started by casting the circle in near-silence, hand-to-hand.  “Visualize East,” I told them.  There was a struggle, briefly, as everyone tried to find the “same” east, but once we chose it, all the other points were synchronized.  The circle cast, I opened a portal to the underworld and introducing them all to the World Tree.  My own journey was … fruitful, but I did not find what I was looking for.  Most of the Cauldron didn’t speak of what they saw, but I was later told that they had all found the experience to be meaningful.

The fourth and final ritual was performed with our regular ritual partners, Pasiphae and Aidan, who were only able to make it out for that one night.  We had two major ritual goals we wanted to accomplish: I wanted to dedicate my Kouros figure, the male half of the goddess/god duo I have been experimenting with; and to purge ourselves of our accumulating troubles, symbolized by the too-old  and unlabled herbs from our magical pantry.  The first went well:  I felt Him awake with a sort of quiet humor.  The second went even better, evolving spontaneously into a shouted litany of “Fuck you!”s as we pounded an ounce or so of whole cloves into dust in Pasiphae’s iron cauldron/mortar.  Each of us ended up taking a second turn, and a new Beltane tradition was born.

As I mentioned at the beginning, the Dark Moon Beltane was of a somewhat different character than the Full Moon.  Besides the purgative rituals and underworld journeys, everyone in my intimate circle ended up giving flesh to Gaea.  I was bitten by a blackthorn branch I never managed to find, and reinjured my shin while hobbling about camp.  Despite her best efforts, Aradia got a vicious sunburn, numerous bugbites, and reinjured the foot she wounded while traipsing about Nashville and Chicago with me last month.  Pasiphae and Aidan were both attacked by the fire – he burned his hand, and an ember landed right under her eye.

Finally, though it didn’t play as significant a role in this years rituals as it did last year, I cannot leave out the mead.  I bottled last years a week or so ago, as you may recall.  We drank most of it over the holiday.  It was awesome.  I started another gallon for next year.  It, too, will be awesome.

Despite the unintended blood-sacrifices, I declare the festivities a resounding success.

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