Beltane 2017: Fire and Darkness

Beltane.

In the imagination, the very word conjures images of fire and dancing, of May Poles and bonfire jumpers.  I dream of a feast of lovers, come together to share our sacred joy in flesh and intimacy.  My body aches for wine, and for warm sun that the Midwestern climate might deliver or deny at any moment.  At this moment, I am denied all these things, and coffee will have to do.

I want to share images of luxuriant, lustful flesh, but my friends who would model for such images are few and all far away, and I have been too impoverished to hire professionals.  I want to announce the precise date when my novel will be available — when my first “child” will be “born” — but the last edits are going more slowly than I had hoped, drug to a crawl by conflicts in other corners of my life, to say nothing of the miasma of exhaustion and depression which has lain thick over everything for the last six weeks.  I want to be reborn in the sacred fires of Beltane, but in this moment I do not know either who I am or who I want to be.

The fire in my heart has guttered, and the embers have all but gone cold.

All that remains is the fire in my belly: hungry and wrathful, a beast with many enemies, few friends, and fewer qualms.  That beast has devoured my life before.  It stalked my childhood, baited and provoked and trained by monsters that I mistook for my friends, until I did not believe that love or friendship were things that existed outside of fiction.  It reigned over my Failed Life in Saint Louis, devouring one relationship after another.

I know what needs to be done.  I must reignite the fire in my heart.  But the fuel it burns is in short supply, and all the harder to find in the darkness.

Fuel for the other fire, by contrast, glows in the dark.  It’s practically self-igniting.

So I stumble through the darkness.  I strive to remember where I came from and where I’m going, even as such thoughts fade into shadows, themselves.

Who am I?

Who do I want to be?

How do I get there from here?

How do I find the answers before the fire in my belly devours the questions?


* Some asshole will surely read this and try to tell the “Native American story” about two wolves and which one you feed.  That asshole can fuck off and die.  First off, Billy Graham came up with that shit.  Secondly, I use the fire metaphor for a reason: once lit, a fire burns so long as there is fuel and air, and if those things exist in the environment, it need not be “fed”.  If you can look at the world and not see a fuel-rich environment for rage, then you are a fool.

Developing My Teaching Style

Last month I took my second turn teaching at HSA Spirit Circle.  My first round, in October, was a reiteration of my Spirit Conjuration workshop that I ran at Heartland last year.  This time, I tried something new: a class focusing on elemental energy and circle-casting.  The course built on my oldest work – energy manipulation of that style that everyone I know from the 1990s learned somewhere, but which I have seen mentioned in few books and really explored in only one – and then intense elemental experiences of the rituals my crew and I designed and led for HPF 2015 and ’16.  It was a really great class, and I’ll probably write about it in detail eventually — maybe after I run it a second time at HPF this coming year — but that’s not actually the interesting part to me in this moment.

The class on spirit conjuration went fairly well, and the purification ritual I did after was reasonably received (and exceptionally potent when I re-wrote it as an outdoor ritual a couple weeks later).  But there was a …. dryness to it.  I was definitely speaking from an academic place.  It was a lecture not a class, and I don’t think anyone went back out into the world more ready to conjure spirits than they were when they came in.    Which, on the one hand, makes sense: I’m an academic as much as I am anything else.  All the very best classes I’ve taken were lectures and discussions.  My hands-on training was all much more informal, and over longer periods of time.  But the Kansas City Pagan and magical communities are … not academics, by and large.  And while the particular individuals who attend any class I’m teaching are probably not the anti-intellectuals causing so many problems in the community, it does no good to talk over their heads.  Also, I was super nervous and it really showed.

The elemental energies class, however, was a different matter entirely.  Rather than teaching from a place of expertise and authority, I came from a place of nerdy enthusiasm.  Instead of giving a lecture on a subject about which I was knowledgeable – though there was a citation-heavy introduction – I ran a hands-on class where I showed a half-dozen people how to do this thing I do.

It went fucking splendidly.  We cast circles.  We conjured the elements.  We passed around orbs of magical power.    People were engaged.  Lively.  There was laughter.  No one even tried to sit out the hands-on portions.  New friends were made.  It was a struggle to kick everyone out at the end of the evening.  Aradia thinks it was one of the very best Spirit Circles we’ve done, almost if not just as good as Shauna Aura Knight’s chanting class and full moon ritual.

In the process, I (re-) learned a thing as well.

I am large and hairy.  I have a resting bitch face that borders on serial killer visage.  I have been accused (perhaps fairly) of arrogance.  I don’t send the signals Pagans want and expect.  These are facts.  Teaching from a place of authority emphasizes all of that in all the worst ways.

Teaching from a place of enthusiasm, however, seems to mitigate all of that.  Even when my enthusiasm strays into the citation-heavy academic side of things, people are less put  off by it.  As an added bonus, I seem to have more fun, as well.

For much of my life, I have prided myself on my adaptability.  When my behavior was not achieving my goals, I changed it.  Tragically, that is exponentially more difficult at 36 than it was at 16.  But this change … this change I think I can make.

Success! Now the work.

Success!  Now the work.

If you have been living in a hole or otherwise not seeing my posts across various media platforms for the last 30 days, you may not know that I had a kickstarter running, trying to raise funds through preorders to publish my novel.

That campaign was successful, and I am excited and thankful beyond words.

Forty-five people came together to support my project, and pledged a total of $2284, with an average pledge of $50.76 per backer.  Thank you all for bearing with me as I focused on promoting that rather than producing content for this blog.  Thank you doubly if you are one of the eight backers that I’ve never met in meatspace, or one of the four who know me only as a Kansas City magician and priest.

If all goes according to plan, The Mark of the Wolf, the first volume of the Book of Secrets, will be available for purchase via major online dealers by the end of May.

In the meantime, despite festival preparation heating up, I will hopefully be able to return to producing actual content for this blog.  I just taught a class on Elemental Energies that I have a lot of post-facto thoughts about.  I just did a witchcraft photoshoot with a friend of mine, and have finally secured a model release for the shoot I did back in January.  I have things I want to tell you about the upcoming festival, and all the fun you’ll have if you come.  I hope you’ll join me for the ride.

Settling In and Going Big

Well, friends, it’s been a wild ride these last few weeks.  Some of it is good stuff that I’m proud to share, some of it has been a rampaging nightmare of social politics and conflicting interests about which I will never speak publically.  As for the latter, please raise a toast and pray for my strength.  Regarding the latter, however …

Firstly, I am pleased to announce the opening of my campaign, where you can support my art and bribe your way to first access to literally all my art and writing projects, including blog posts here.  Monthly support will also free me from a lot of the financial stress that’s keeping me from writing.

Secondly, I have also launched acampaign to raise funds to get my first novel, The Mark of the Wolf, in print.  The novel is done, ready to rock, but starting an LLC publishing company, securing consecutive ISBN numbers for the sequels, and actually getting printed copies is somewhat beyond my current means.  You can support me with as little or as much as you want, but $20 or more is preordering a copy of the novel in either paperback or hardcover.

And, yes, because these are the End Times, the inaugural post here at the new address is me begging for money.  But I promise you’ll get your money’s worth.  And that the blog will continue to be free, and — as an added bonus — no longer advertise anything but me.

 

Relocating Soon

Hey, friends –

I apologize for my long silence.  The holidays ate me alive worse than usual, and I’ve been sort of reassessing everything re: my web presence.  The good news is that I’m not going away.  Hopefully I’ll be MORE here.

I have purchased my relevant domain names – jsgroves.com, mundusoccultus.com, and journeythroughtheobsidiandream.com – and web hosting.  In the short term, what that means for you all is a new site to follow, and a disappearance of all 3rd-party advertisements.  In the long term, I hope that this will be an exciting journey for us both.

See y’all on the flip side.

JS Groves

Satyr Magos

Witchy Vibe

I had the opportunity to shoot some photos with a friend of mine last week, which was a great deal of low-key fun, particularly after my NaNoWriMo victory.  A couple of them turned out a little witchy, so I thought I’d share them here.

Presenting Lottie Dha:

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dis/integration

I began this blog in November of 2009.  My adventure into public occultism began under my own legal name, and on blogspot, and it’s been a hell of a ride.  A lot has changed since then.  I’ve taken a pseudonym that sort-of-no-really turned itself into a magical name.  I’ve migrated to wordpress.  The blog has been personal and political and experimental by turns, and at its best is all three at once.

When I started the blog, I was doing little enough in the rest of my life that it made sense to talk just about my magic.  When I started pursuing a career in academics, it made sense to cordon off this portion of my life in the name of respectability, and to that end I obscured my identity and location with poetic pseudonyms.  I was so little known, at the time, than anonymity frankly improved my credibility in the occult community.  But things have changed since then.

I have given up my dreams of professional academia – if not, perhaps, my dreams of some day, in a different cultural and economic climate, of continuing to educate myself in a formal setting – and no longer fear my private life being a professional concern.  Even in my day job, I no longer work for squares: I now work for Kansas City’s premier New Age book store and jeweler.  Respectability politics … well, they will always be a hobgoblin that haunt my life, but I’m now being judged by wholly different criteria.

Now, by this point, you all, my highly intelligent readership, will suspect that I am going in one of two directions: I am either going to re associate this blog with my legal name, or possibly burn it to the ground.  You are neither wholly right nor wrong

I am also now doing a great deal more with my life, today, than I was seven years ago.  I have published my first novellas and am attempting to publish my first novel.  I have taken up art photography.  I am now a public leadership figure in the Heartland Spiritual Alliance, stewards of the annual Heartland Pagan Festival.  I have nothing to hide and, if I may say so myself, quite a lot to show off.

My dilemma, then, is how to show off all the things I do in one place, because I am frankly not enough of a coder to create however-many interconnected “standalone” websites — one for the novels, one for the photography, one for the masks and jewelry, one for the occult, and all somehow feeding into one blog.  (Because I’ve tried it and i know that I can’t keep up with multiple blogs.)  More to the point, the question is how to do so with the least disruption to either myself or my readership — because I love y’all and I don’t want to lose you.

Toward that end, I am actively soliciting suggestions.  What is the best way to integrate my various projects?  How do I migrate the blog without an epic shit-pile of off-site links (like I’ve still got knocking around, linking back to  blogspot)?  What is the most graceful way to integrate my online presences into  something marginally cohesive?