Monthly Archives: July 2011

Start the War Without Me?

[EDITED:  As I sat through the day I realized that this post – hastily pounded out as soon as I woke up this morning – didn’t really convey everything I wanted it to.  It has been edited from its original form.  The changes are in blue, lest anyone accuse me of “covering my tracks”.

Like most people raised in this society (there are other societies that suffer this problem, but I can’t speak to them in the same way), my brain is contaminated with the idea of the End Times.  Some day – and probably soon! – there will be an epic struggle to determine the fate of the universe: the Y2K Bug; the Second Coming of Jesus Christ; 2012 and the Mayan Calendar; whites becoming a racial minority; the Islamic fundamentalist takeover of the world.  A guy I knew in high school had been “assured” by his “spirit guides” that there would be a race war in 2013.  My own delusions of the Apocalypse always revolved around a battle between the One God and the Old Gods – or their followers, at least.  I don’t believe this any more – consciously, at least – but I’ve spent too many hours contemplating this and other end-time scenarios to wholly resist the power of the meme.

Now we have the New Apostolic Reformation, which is flatly declaring war not just against the followers of the the Old Gods, but against everyone who opposes their uniquely American Protestant Free-Market-Is-The-Hand-Of-God Capitalism.  (No, I won’t link to them directly.  I can’t handle the troop-carriers of trolls that might unleash.  Use yer Google.)   Some pagans – and not just our own troll-warriors – are talking about fighting back.  Others are framing themselves as conscientious objectorsThis situation takes me uncomfortably back to the age of eighteen – except that back then I would not have hesitated to join the fray.

 

Politically, I’m a pacifist: I don’t believe that there is any justification for two groups of people to line up and do violence against one another.  Personally, though, I’m a believer in self-defense: if you come at me swinging, I’ll duck, dodge, hit you with a fucking chair until I can run away, then destroy you from a distance (I am a Scorpio, after all).  So … I’m sympathetic to both sides of the argument. 

But … Allison Leigh Lilly, in particular, makes a lot of good points. There’s a lot of creepy nationalism in the idea of nominating any deity as the God of American Freedom; choosing Columbia or Zeus over Jesus and Jehovah … doesn’t really impress me any.  The eliminationist language on both sides makes me uncomfortable.  Further, the DC40 campaign does not parallel with either scenario above: it is neither a direct person-to-person attack against me, nor a move by one state against another.  I don’t want the NAR/Third Wave to curl up and die; I just want them to go away and let me live my life somewhere else.  And they don’t necessarily want me to die: they’ll settle for a theocratic state that subjugates me to third-class citizenship, or perhaps outright slavery.  The DC40 campaign is maleficent magic aimed at motivating lawmakers to do their dirty work for them.

Fortunately, magic gives us options that are more nuanced that “let them hit me, run away, or hit them back”.  We can shield ourselves – build a magical bunker, if you will.  We can try to bind our enemies from doing us harm.  We can do our own enlightenment-bombing of the Capital  … or even the NAR, themselves (problematic, but better than trying to give anybody cancer).

Unfortunately, I’m about to leave behind my base of power.  I’m not just leaving Aradia and our space where we’ve built up so much power.  I’m not just leaving Pasiphae and Aidan, with whom we’ve worked with for much of the last two years, and Chirotus and D – with whom I disagree about more and more, but who I think I could convince to work with me on this one – and the KU Cauldron and all the other local groups and places of power I’ve worked with for most of my life.

I’m leaving the entire state of Missouri for a city and state where I have no relationship to the land or its people.  I’m going to be rebuilding from scratch.  My altar may not be able to make the move at all; at best I’m going to be able to pack bits and pieces.

So …

Working alone.  With no relationship to the land.  With half my stored power left behind.  Attending classes full time at a badass school (full of hardcore pacifist Quakers, I might add) which will consume more time and energy than I can really imagine at this stage (and be the magical equivalent of trying to build a ballista atop a sinkhole).

What is morally right? What is tactically feasible? What is the best long-term strategy? What are the odds that the answers to these questions are the same course of action?

What can I do?  What should I do?

The answers: I don’t have them.

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Belated Forays into Ceremonial Magick

I have always been simultaneously fascinated with and repulsed by ceremonial magic.  Fascinated with the elaborate props and ritual, with the finely tuned cosmology and infinite resources, and with the endless influence it has held over Western magical tradition.  Repulsed by the fundamentally Abrahamic roots, the seeming rigidity of rank and practice, and the endless hours of formal, repetitive work.

As a witch, my magical practice owes a great deal to ceremonial magic: Gerald Gardner based his infamous Book of Shadows on the rites of the Freemasons and the Golden Dawn, steeped in pastoralist poetry and (presumably) tempered by his own visionary experiences.  Many British Traditional rites (or so I am assured the scholar Ronald Hutton and by those who are willing to push the boundaries of their oaths to one group or the other) are nearly indistinguishable from those of the Golden Dawn, and many of those in turn mimic Masonic rites.

Even before I began studying Wiccan ritual as such, my first magical work was a variant of the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram.  That ritual – the bastardized one, found in some forum or FTP server; not the true LBRP – remains fundamental to my magical practice.

I have owned many book son ceremonial magic over the years.  Eliphas Levi’s Doctrine and Ritual of Transcendental Magic was my second occult book purchase, after the Simon Necronomicon (I was sixteen years old.  I didn’t know any better.).  I own Barret’s The Magus and Donald Michael Kraig’s Modern Magic.  I have owned and lost or sold a half-dozen other books on the subject over the years.  Most of them I never got around to reading, let alone doing.

My actual forays into ceremonialism began, interestingly, with Chaos Magic – borrowing Phill Hine’s Condensed Chaos from Chirotus Infinitum).  I have recently finished reading the much-lauded Chicken Qabalah of Lon Milo DuQuette, supplemented in interesting ways by Dion Fortune’s Sea Priestess and Aleister Crowley’s Moonchild.  Now, I continue with this much-belated portion of my magical training with a … somewhat less respectable source: Christopher Penczak’s Temple of High Witchcraft.  I will be supplementing this with Kraig, Barret, and Levi , of course, and with several blogs recommended to me by my friend Sthenno – observant readers will have noted the addition of several blogs to my reading list over the last few moths; Head For the Red, Rune Soup, Conjure Gnosis, and My Occult Circle are among her recommendations.

Frankly, If I’d realized that ceremonial magic involved so much visionary work, I’d have probably tried it years ago.

Because it is such a cerebral form of magic, I am reading the books ahead of time and will begin Penczak’s exercises on the 15th of August – as I begin settling into my new apartment in Far Eastern Indiana and wait for the Fall semester to begin.  I will journal rigorously, and will hopefully have many elucidating experiences to write about here.

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Farmhouse Séance (or, Baby’s First Circle)

After the wedding, Aradia and I drove south to meet and camp with Pasiphae and Aidan (and their two daughters) somewhat east of St.Louis, in the rural regions whence both Aradia and Adrian hail.  The weather quickly drove us back to Aidan’s family land – where we had intended to meet at some point anyway and fantasize about converting it to a covenstead-slash-commune.  Through a series of miscommunications and Great Moments in You Had to Be There, Aradia and I ended up at the farmstead almost an hour ahead of the others.  Though the GPS led us to the address without difficulty, the nature of rural areas made us uncertain that we were in the right place, and we approached the house with caution.

Aradia approached first, only to retreat in surprise: the house did not like her.  So of course I had to investigate for myself, receiving a similar rebuff: we were not the people who belonged there.  Though the house was unlocked, and nature called loudly, we waited outside.  It was only when a family member arrived to work on the plumbing and to show us in that the house accepted our presence.

When Pasiphae and Aidan arrived, the feeling of uninvited faded further – though Pasiphae confessed that she had always felt it, as well,  and Araida and myself continued to feel scrutinized.  Aidan gave us the grand tour of the house, the crumbling sheds, the barn with the fallen wall at the pig wallow where a town drunk had fallen in and been devoured in his grandfather’s time.  The feeling of being watched grew stronger.  Aradia and Pasiphae grew increasingly nervous, though for myself the strongest impression I got was one of “What the fuck?  These people can see me!”  There was talk of doing divination to see what was going on (or had gone on) with the house and the land.

I felt watched, bordering on leered at, as I showered in the basement.(1)  Later in the evening, Aidan and I went on a run for ice and beverages, leaving Aradia and Pasiphae alone in the house with the daughters, Things One and Two.  They were thouroghly freaked when we returned.  Pasiphae reported being watched from outside the living room window; Aradia reported that Pasiphae slipped into trances.  As we continued to discuss the events and possible options – divination, circle-casting, ways to protect the children’s dreams – a light bulb exploded in Aidan’s hands, which he took as a warning to “be careful what you say.”

The whole situation reminded me of my first exorcism; perhaps that explains was why I was as cautious as I was.  I took out my Robin Wood deck and began asking questions: What will happen if we try to contact the spirits of the house and land?  How much of this drama did we bring with us?  The first answer was unclear, but the second was crystal: most of it.

It seemed inappropriate to just say that at the time, though, so I spent the next few minutes talking everyone down to the best of my ability.  That done I suggested a plan of action: use one of the poker decks that lived in the house to ask a yes/no question, “Would you like to talk to us?”, before casting a circle to shield the girls and their dreams (to say nothing of ourselves and our own.)   The answer we received was a resounding “yes”, so I put on my ritual jewelry (including the recently dedicated bracelet) and we cast the circle.

Pasiphae sat on the couch, holding a sleeping Thing Two.  The rest of us sat on the floor, Thing One safely in Aidan’s lap.  As always, we cast the Circle hand-to-hand in silence.  Thing One sat there quietly, at first – willing to endure what was expected of her for the moment.  Then she started smiling.  She reached out, grabbed Pasiphae’s foot (which Aidan was also holding, as her one hand was on mine and her other was holding Thing Two), and Aradia’s hand.  The Circle suddenly had five points instead of four.  A shit-eating grin spread across her tiny face; she was so high on power that I could feel it over my own.

I got out my cards and told them to start asking questions.  I started again with the Robin Wood deck, but switched to Crowley Thoth almost immediately:  Aradia and Pasiphae have only ever used the Thoth deck, and I was being ridden too hard to help in the interpretation.  They asked questions, I laid out cards – one, two, three, or more as the spirits of the house and land moved me.  Occasionally I was able to offer input or clarification, but not often. 

Thank the gods Pasiphae took copious notes, because I don’t remember much of the details.  Those spirits rode me hard.  I remember that there were at least three of them: the house, a guardian of the land, and at least one other.  I remember that it was very clear that they were no ghosts: none of them had ever been human.  I remember that they were asking the wrong questions, but I couldn’t tell them what the right question was – “What would you like to say to us?”  Finally, I reached a point of exhaustion, and Thing One was starting to get twitchy.  They asked a question that I hoped was close enough – “What would you like to happen?” – and we closed the Circle.

Thing One didn’t want to ground.  She ate every bit of power we released as we undid the Circle.  Pasiphae and I did our best to drain her back out, but she hung on to as much as she could with that same shit-eating grin.  Within ten minutes, she was out like a light.

The whole farm house seemed much more calm.  Everyone was more relaxed.  The children were safely asleep.  We were proud of ourselves.  Aidan was securing the children in their beds; Aradia was having a celebratory smoke.  Pasiphae and I were still in the livingroom, and it hit us like a ton of bricks: I felt the energy like a punch to the spine, just a little above my One Point, and surging out to my limbs.  We both nearly broke down and cried.  I slid off my chair, grabbed the tarot deck again, and laid out a basic 10-card spread (which I almost never use, favoring my Two Pillars variant).

Here were the answers to the question they were supposed to ask.  The house and the land needed change.  They could not stand being abandoned.  They needed a caretaker.  And they were damn glad to have had the chance to talk to anyone.

We all slept shortly thereafter.

(1) Though I later concluded it was Frigga’s handmaidens (remember the wedding invocation?) ogling me, not the house or the land.

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My First Exorcism

I performed my first exorcism at the age of twenty.  I was still living with my parents.  My best friend, Aurvandil, and his lover were living in a strange, half-underground two-but-really-one bedroom apartment in the biggest apartment complex of our hometown.  They had a ghost.

They lived with the ghost fairly amiably for most of the year.  He’d slam the cabinets closed if they left them open, slam the sliding shower door open if they left it closed, and a few other things I can’t now recall.  He was easy to appease, and Aurvandil was (and is) a superstitious sort, so he let it be … until things went awry.

We never figured out what set the ghost off.  Aurvandil was sitting in his easy chair watching television, his lover was laying on the couch with her book.  He kept his “water pipe” by the chair, invisible from most angles, beside an end table where the ash tray and the TV remote lived.  Out of nowhere there’s a loud, glassy, CRACK, and the smell of bong water fills the room.  The ash tray has moved itself from the center of the end table to the center of the bong, which is now laying shattered in a pool of resinated water.

I was the only witch he knew.  Of course he called me.

I brought over my Tarot deck, cast a circle, burned some mugwort, and asked the ghost what was wrong.  It didn’t answer so much as give me the finger.  The ghost was mad, it wouldn’t say why, and it was pretty hostile.

I got scared.  Aurvandil got scared.  So I recast the circle, and pushed it to the edges of the house.  I pushed the ghost out with the circle, and anchored the circle to the walls.

No more banging shower door.  No more slamming cabinets.  No more exploding paraphernalia.

Aurvandil did tell me that he could sometimes hear knocking on the walls … coming from the underground side in the office-sized second bedroom.

We were young and dumb, and if I had it to do over I’d do it differently … but that’s beside the point.  We were both very pleased with the results at the time.  Looking back, though, I wonder what I might have done differently.  I know things now that I didn’t know then, but I think if I’d approached the problem differently, there might have been a more peaceable resolution.

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Wedding Under An Arch

A week ago today I officiated my first wedding:  uniting two friends in Chicago under Illinois’ new civil union law. 

To say that I officiated perhaps overstates my significance in the ritual.  It was very much their show.  The vows were deeply personal, drawing on traditional American structures with influences from their long-standing Celtic and Druidic practices as well as the Germanic / Troth deities they have been working with more recently.  Large swaths of the ritual were so personal that they were not even included in the script I was given.  There was even another “officiant”, invoking the Lady of Asgard and a few others of the Aesir.  My task was largely one of providing structure, of invoking certain gods – chiefly the Handmaidens of Frigga – and to provide my official seal as a ULC Minister.

I took it upon myself to open the archway under which the vows would be sworn, to cast (and banish) the circle in which the rite was taking place.  I took it upon myself to be the photographer before and after the ceremony (turning the duty over to another while I worked).  I have never worked with the gods of my blood-ancestors before – favoring deities of the cultures with which I more closely identify – and doing these things helped keep me grounded and open for the experience.

My key invocation, drawn from Raven Kaldera’s Weddings and Handfasting Rituals, went as follows:

In the name of Vara, may this couple take on this geas in full heart.

In the name of Syn, may they keep their boundaries strong.

In the name of Lofn, may they reach always for reconciliation.

In the name of Gna, we proclaim this promise to all.

In the name of Gerjon, may they be an example.

In the name of Eir, may they tend each other’s wounds.

In the name of Snotra, may they learn to work together.

In the name of Sjofn, may their affection be strong.

In the name of Huldra, may wealth flow through their hands.

In the name of Hlin, may their love survive even death.

In the name of Fulla, dear sister of Frigga, may they have always abundance.

The invocation struck me like lightening, running from the top of my head and into the earth.  I lost track of things for a moment.  I was wearing a newly-forged copper bracelet, the mate to my copper serpent-ring, which will henceforth be used only for channeling rituals.  The handmaidens were most certainly in attendance.

A few moments later, I was called upon to invoke the State of Illinois.  They, too, arrived as called:

IMG_3936Why yes, that is a police car on the left.  The lady on the right is laughing because they arrived precisely when I called for them … well, that and because the newlyweds were absolutely adorable.

Aside from everything else – my pleasure at being invited to the event in the first place; the honor of being asked to officiate; the fear and thrill of invoking new gods; my pride at performing the rite so well – this wedding re-confirmed what I have been coming to believe over the course of the last year or two.  I will probably never find a group with whom I can work and worship forever – I am too radical, too queer, too eclectic.  But I can serve and participate in the pagan community as a whole by helping perform rites with and for others who are likewise isolated.  Some of the rites I will be called upon to share will be, like this one, carefully orchestrated; others, like the blot and the vision quest at Beltane, will be spontaneous.  Regardless, this is the work I have been called to do.

Also, the fact that my first wedding was the civil union of two bisexuals, one of whom is mind-borkingly genderqueer?  Totally appropriate.

Thank you, Squirrel and Gingko.  Congratulations.  I was honored to be there.

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1000 Views

I have had 1004 pageviews as of this posting.  We crossed the 1K mark while I was on a road trip and AFK.

Thank you all for reading.

 

JSG

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