Announcing the Mark of the Wolf (Book of Secrets Vol. I)

 

When Margaret is attacked by what she believes to be a werewolf, her life is turned upside down. Confused and afraid, the only people she feels safe going to for help are the strange goth kids that everyone says are witches.

Dominic and Aaron are Pagans, not fools, and smell a trap. But Jacob insists they take her seriously. When they agree to help her, they – and all their friends – are swiftly drawn into a larger world of monsters and magic more dangerous than they had ever suspected was real.

This is the 90s nostalgia novel every queer and witchy horror fan as been waiting for.

After ten years of drafting and three years of editing, my debut novel is finally here.  The kindle edition is already out, and the paperback is coming very soon (shortly after the final print proof arrives on my doorstep, actually).  I’m diligently working on getting all the preorders out to my kickstarter backers.

The book (and the series to follow) and the world in which it is set are what I hope you will agree are an artful blend of genre tropes, folklore, the Western Mystery Tradition, and thematic innovation.  I think you, my readers and fellow occult nerds, will find it particularly interesting.  The characters will be painfully familiar to anyone who was practicing Witchcraft in the Midwest in the late 1990s.  The setting will be hilariously familiar to anyone who has spent any amount of time in Lawrence, KS.  And the story, I think, will be excitingly fresh to anyone who has spent any amount of time in the urban fantasy and occult horror genres.

Proof of Life

I am not dead.

I have not quit.  Well, not quit this, at any rate.

I apologize for my absence.  There have been shenanigans.  There has also been a great deal of artistic productivity.  I’ll be talking about the latter a lot.  It’s good stuff, y’all.  I’ll only be talking about the former a little, and that probably more than I should.

There’s also been a bit of magic, and I’m going to be talking about that almost as much as the art.  It’s been exciting and, wow, y’all, have I got some stories to tell.

 

Meditative Acts: Day 10: Baphomet 1

Tonight’s meditations opened up the second phase of my meditative acts: devotional ritual and prayer to the distinctly post-modern god/dess Baphomet.  If linear time were a thing, we would say that the god Baphomet began as an accusation whispered against the Templars — possibly a French bastardization of “Mohammed”.  The goat-headed androgyne we recognize today was first attested by Eliphas Levi.  (See Wikipedia for the short version; enjoy your conspiracy-greased rabbit hole of choice thereafter.)  Levi was, in fact, my first encounter with Baphomet — Doctrine and Ritual of Trancendental Magic was one of the first magical books I ever bought — but, like much of the world, my relationship with the god owes more to Peter Carroll’s “Mass of Chaos B”, as presented in Liber Null & Psychonaut.

I built the altar slowly over the course of the day, but I inevitably found myself fussing with it throughout the evening’s meditations, trying to attune it so as to best please the god.

As I had planned from the outset, I opened my week devoted to Baphomet by returning to Carroll’s “Mass…”  The effects were, in some ways, less spectacular than the last times I performed the rite.  At the same time, I think my magickal voltmeter might be calibrated somewhat differently since then, and I now have an established relationship with the god, making a dramatic reveal on zir part somewhat unnecessary.  The rite completed, I lit my candle and sat to listen.

Four things stood out.

Firstly, Baphomet’s presence in the room was far more immanent than that of Dionysos.  Not that the god was closer, per se, but perhaps that zie had less distance to travel?

Secondly, I was informed that tomorrow night’s meditation is to be a return (again) to DDRH’s Baphomet Ritual.

Thirdly, I as I was meditating I became acutely aware of the attention of the other magical masks hanging in my altar room.  I’m really really not sure what to do with that.  Hopefully clarity will come with time?

Finally, sitting still for that lone is getting much easier very quickly.  So, something of a victory there.

Meditative Acts Day 9 — Interlude 1 : Candlemaking 2

Tonight’s meditative act consisted of pouring the candles for my second week of devotional prayer, which will be devoted to Baphomet, god/dess of Chaos Magick and fucking queers.

My first round of candles I poured in a single stage.  Research in the interim has revealed that other kinds of wax don’t take that well, but because I chose soy it worked out mostly fine.  I say mostly, because I did have trouble with the bottoms of the wicks drifting to the sides of the jars.  In four cases, that only resulted in scorching the glass a little; in the fifth, it resulted in the bottom of the jar blowing out.

With that in mind, I poured the wax in two stages: melting a little in my pot, pouring just a finger’s worth in the bottom of each jar, and then carefully lowering the wicks in to the center of the cooling wax.  By the time I’d melted enough wax to add any substantial amount to the jars, the bottom layer had cooled and I was able to pull the wicks taut and center.

While I waited on the wax to melt, I chanted the name Baphomet incessantly and channeled as much energy as I could into the melting wax and the vessels.

As a full time artisan, it was so easy it almost felt like cheating.  That’s not to say that I had no intrusive thoughts — lovers, present past and prospective; holiday drama; shit, don’t light that on fire — but the Zone, toward which all artists strive, is only a half-step from meditative trance even under the worst circumstances.  I find the Zone very easily, particularly while working on magical arts.

I think, though, that it was the correct choice.  Following a week-plus-one of the intense spiritual and emotional labor of prostrating myself before the god I’ve been courting off and on for the last decade … it was both soothing and cathartic to take a lower-stakes route to meditation.

Do Magick Challenge: Meditative Acts Day 8: Dionysos 8

Last night I completed the first week of the December Do Magick Challenge.  In doing so, I completed a week of prayer to and meditation with the god Dionysos.  I have poured wine, drank wine, burned frankincense, and offered long-burning votive candles.  I have read Homeric hymns, Orphic hymns, modern hymns.  I have played music, and I have sat in silence.  I have felt both the presence and the absence of the god.  I have been numb, and I have been reamed out, and I have been brought to outbursts of both tears and laughter.

I have been so overwhelmed by the Christmas Holiday that I lost count of the days and doubled up on the fifth without realizing it.  So today was my eighth day of Dionysos.  But I think I needed it.

The intensity of the experience built quickly, with each of the first four days being much more intense than the last.  The next three days were less and less intense, but more and more lucid.  So much so (on both counts) that I found myself doubting the experiences, as they were, in many ways, too much what I hoped for an expected.  Tonight was the natural culmination of that arc, with the god saying clearly what it is that he wants and expects from me.

There are so many bits and pieces.  So many stories I could tell if only I had the words.

On a somewhat technical note, I have determined that, of the hymns I’ve found so far, the ones that move me best are the Orphic Hymns as translated by Apostolos N. Athanassakis.  In particular, I adore hymns 30. To Dionysos, 42. To Mise, and 45. To Dionysos Bassareus and Triennial.  Together, these three hymns invite the god to show up in his/her two mixed-gender incarnations, attend the initiates, and bring the party.

Probably the most interesting to people who are not me is Dionysus’ claim to the patronage of all the arts I pursue, not just the “theatre” of my storytelling.  I have always looked to Hephaestos as the patron of my jewelry arts, so this gave me a bit of pause; the ever estimable Jack Faust pointed me toward the Kabeiroi, sons of Hephaestos who were both master craftsmen and Bacchic revelers, as an intercessory force in that regard.  The notion of Dionysiac photography is more interesting still — very much the exploration of myth, ritual, and identity that I aspire to pursue.

Less interesting, but more personally relevant, is the question of my relationship with the god.  As someone who has very little personal background in worship, but a great deal of background in sorcery, I have often been at a loss for what the god might want from me in return for his blessings.  The last two nights the answer to that has been a vague but (in theory) reassuring “what you’re doing is great.”  Anyone who’s ever had a boss knows that’s not a phrase you can trust.  Tonight, though, the image was made more clear.  My role in this relationship is simply to worship … to drink wine, and make art, and make wine, and laugh and love and dance in his name.  Dionysus does not want or need me to be a priest or a temple-keeper or an evangelist or even a satyr.  I am a Maenad.  I don the mantle.  I perform the rites.  I live and laugh and drink and dance and fuck for Dionysus.  And when he moves on, I go back to my life until he returns.  That is to say, he is content with our relationship as it stands, and to maybe dial it up a notch or two.

I also got an interesting sense of approval that I will be moving on from Dionysos to Baphomet.  They share currents, it seems.

 

Do Magick Challenge: Meditative Acts: Day 1: Dionysos 1

Do Magick Challenge: Meditative Acts: Day 1: Dionysos 1

 

Re-Introduction:

Having lost a week to a hand injury, and a bit more time to playing catch up (plus some personal turmoil, just for spice), I actually considered backing out of this month’s challenge.  As you can see, I have perservered and finally begun

As you all may recall, one of the central tropes of my meditative acts is DIYing novena candles for each of the four gods I’ll be honoring.  Below are the four images I ultimately settled on.  An Attic black-figure, an Attic red-figure, a Roman tile, and a devotional image of my own.

From the moment I first set this course, I have been struggling to decide whether the ritual — the casting of the circle, the offerings, the prayers — counted as part of the 30 minutes of meditation.  Ultimately I decided that they did: the theme of the month’s challenge, after all, is “Meditative Acts“.  With that decision made at about 8.30 this evening, I finally began.

The Altar:

I finally began building the altar for my first week of prayer this past Friday, when I no longer needed the altar room for this past week’s photo shoot.  It’s fairly simple, at least to start.  Having met me, it’s likely to grow to overtake the main altar.  In the mean time, y’all should be proud of me that it’s not more over the top from the jump.

The Ritual: 

I washed my hands and face in preparation, then changed into the all-white costume I have been using intermittently for my esbat celebrations.  Cleansed and dressed, I cast a circle, conjuring each element by attunement.  At the last minute, I felt called to add my chiton and wear it so that it was draped over my head as well as around my body, as many pottery images indicate was done in some Classical rituals.  So prepared, I lit the charcoal and burned frankincense tears and poured the first libation, calling out “Io Dionysos!”  After that, I read the three Homeric Hymns to Dionysos aloud, pouring out and throwing back another libation after each hymn.  Once I was done with the  hymns, I poured and drank a second-to-last libations, and lit the first of four seven day candles that I prepared over the last week.

The Meditation:

Reading the hymns and making the offerings took about fifteen minutes, leaving me half of the allotted 30 to sit and listen.  The moment I sat down, I felt endued with power, as though I were doing magical ritual of an entirely different sort.  The sensation grew, quickly accompanied by a growing ringing in my ears, but never quite crossed the line into the sensation that Dionysos, Himself, was present.  I had a very brief vision of a paridisal forest I took to be Nysa, though, which … given my background in Lack Of Prayer is actually a pretty strong start.

Because I am terrible at meditation, I only made it about 11 minutes before I began to grow restless and impatient for the alarm.

Preliminary Thoughts:

Given the week/month/year I’ve just had, I feel good that I was able to sit down at all.  Given my lifetime of Not Praying, I feel pretty good about how that portion went as well.  Beyond that … well, frankly, this is just the beginning.

 

Meditative Acts – Research 3: Forced Idleness

My original plan had been to begin my meditations Monday by making the first round of candles, which would be dedicated to Dionysos.  Unfortunately, Sunday night I cut my hand badly while doing dishes, and that plan was immediately scrapped.  I can’t make candles or build altars without reopening the wound at this stage.  Taking this as something of a sign, I spent yesterday coddling my hand, reading actual printed words, and living life unplugged from the internet.

I type this post, now, entirely left handed, still full of peace from my first day of real leisure since … I don’t remember when.  I spent all of yesterday reading, and half of today.  Depending on how quickly my hand heals, and how far behind I get as a result of this setback, it will be the 11th or the 18th before I start the Do Magick challenge.

Sitting still for a day felt so good, though, that I cant quite bring myself to be upset by this delay.  I think that my meditations will be improved by the slowdown.

In the meantime I will continue my research.  I’ve ploughed through Detienne and bookmarked both the Homeric and Orphic hymns, but Otto and Burkurt yet await.  And I still have a lot of art to dig up.

Meditative Acts — Research #2: Candles

Aradia and I have been talking about making our own candles for a while now.  In particular, though not necessarily relevant to his conversation, we have some interesting ideas regarding Imbolc and Valentine’s Day and recycling candles to light new fires for the coming year.  So, when I started thinking about devotional meditations, in part inspired by folk saint rituals, it wasn’t much of a leap to DIYing the candles.

Candle making, at its basic, is simple.  You need wax, wicks, and a couple vessels.  A weight for the bottom of the wick is handy.  So’s a clip to hold the wick still while you pour the wax.  You need one vessel to melt the wax in, and another to pour the wax into.  You can add dies, scents, glitter, and a variety of other things to make end result prettier, the process more involved.  And I may do that as I get down the “don’t make a mess” part.

The wax and wicks arrived a couple weeks ago.  In my first test pour I discovered that while the vessels I have to pour the wax into – reused novena candle containers – work just fine, the vessel I have to melt the wax in and pour the wax from – a Pyrex measuring cup – is not quite as large as I need.  The larger wax melting vessel should arrive in the mail today, along with some wick clips just to make life a little easier.

When the wax has cooled, I’ll stick each candle with an image of the divinity to whom it’s being dedicated.  It should surprise y’all none that between my own art and what I’ve found on the internet, I have a lot of devotional to bring to the occasion.

I’m still trying to decide, from a ritual standpoint, whether it’s better to make the candles in advance and come into each week prepared, or to make making the candles the core of the ritual for the first night of each week.  From a logistics standpoint, obviously, it’s easier to make them in advance.  And the candle making doesn’t fit really well into the “meditative acts” frame of this months’ challenge.  I suddenly remember, though, that 4 weeks =/= 30 days.  There’s room for a prologue and an epilogue.  That day at the beginning gives me time to make a lot of candles and keep to framework I’ve already established.

Meditative Acts – Research #1: Contemplation

I have known since September that I wanted to participate in the December Do Magick Challenge.  I know that meditation is one of my greatest weaknesses.  When the full details of the challenge were dropped at the beginning of November, it did not take long for me to settle on the nature of the meditation that I wanted to do.

As I discussed in my previous post, I don’t have much in the way of personal history with prayer.  So it took me a while to figure out what that aspect of it might look like.  In discussing the matter with Aradia, she pointed out that I had been doing weekly-plus offering rituals to the land spirits at the Sunrise Temple and, “What do you think that was?”

Oh.  Yeah.  Duh.

Over the  course of November I also had the opportunity to listen to a couple people talk about their rituals involving folk saints — inevitably, Santa Muerte in particular.  Those rituals tend to revolve around seven day / novena candles.  Now, I’ve spent some time looking for prayer candles with images of my gods.  They’re available, but … wow$er.  I can do that shit myself.  As an added bonus, doing it myself adds significance to the candle.  Plus Aradia and I have been talking about making our own candles for quite some time, anyway.

So, yeah.  That.

Inevitably, given two of the gods I have chosen – Dionysos, Rhea – there will be some pouring of wine.  I can’t decide if Lucifer or Baphomet would prefer coffee … or whiskey.  Whichever way that lands, there will be libations across the board.

Between these three points — Jason Miller’s Rite of General Offering; hand-made novena candles; libations — I think I have the basis of a solid ritual.  I just need to work out the details.

Do Magick Challenge: Meditative Acts – Declaration of Intent

Sitting still is a challenge.  I’m a pacer, a fidgeter.  I tap.  I draw.  I stim.  Stillness makes my skin itch.  My mind whirls in spirals of rage and anxiety.  When I sit down to write, I have to have music or movies going in the background to occupy my monkey brain.  For September’s challenge, I set myself to meditating 30 minutes a day by the end … I didn’t make it.  I capped out at 15, though my previous practice had made it as high as 20.

Prayer is alien.  I was raised with a television sort of Christianity, where prayer was like a desperate bargain, or the sort of thing that puts the “psycho” in psychodrama.  It was an identity marker with no action – as a child, no one I knew personally went to church; as I grew older, the churchgoers I met did not obey they teachings.  My pursuit of magic began in rebellion against that vision of Christianity, of any conception of god or gods which was compatible with such hypocrisy and inaction.  When I eventually began to hear the call of the gods, I had no framework from which to begin that exploration, no context with which to process the experiences I had in seeking them.

For the December challenge, I will be confronting those issues together.  I will be spending the 30 minutes of daily meditation in devotional prayer. I will light a candle, burn incense, pour libations, and say a prayer (or three).  Then I will sit quietly and listen.

As I approach December, I am going back to the Classical Studies section of my research library.  I am beginning by re-reading Dionysos at Large, by Marcel Detienne and Dionysus: Myth and Cult by Walter F Otto.  (Note that both these books have translators.  What is it the Anglophone world has against good Dionysiac research?)  Burkert’s Greek Religion will also feature prominently.  I will post some results from that research in the coming days.

Week 1 – Dionysos, Bakchos, Zagreus, Iachos, Eleutherion

My first love among gods, I literally wrote my undergraduate thesis on Dionysos.  He was there for me at my initiation, and has blessed my drinking and my brewing in abundance.  I have found solace in him when madness took me, his presence grounding me when I was adrift.

And yet, for all that, I have too often felt that he was … aloof from me.  I have never felt the ecstasy that so many feel in his worship.  And this saddens me.  So I will begin my month of devotional meditation with the god who convinced me that gods were cool.  I will devote the week to Dionysos.

I will read ancient hymns.  I will read modern hymns.  I will drink wine.  I will breathe frankincense and myrrh.  And I will sit.  And I will listen.

Week 2 – Baphomet Thanateros

I have been drawn to the image of Baphomet since very early in my magical practice.  The first magical book I ever bought was Eliphas Levi’s Transcendental Magic, with his iconic image of Baphomet on the cover and frontspiece.  I found him in occult-themed art on the internet, was drawn to the implicit bisexuality of his hermaphroditism.  I met him again, more formally, when I began studying Chaos Magick and performed the Rite of Chaos B.  He calls to me.  Sometimes I know how to answer.

It’s worth noting that I say “he” as a matter of grammatical convenience.  I see myself in Baphomet: a combination of genders and a rejection of them.  He.  She.  Xie.  All of the above and none of the above.

As far as research for this section goes, I don’t know what there is to be done in that direction, really.  Baphomet is … sort of a new god.  Half-formed.  Or perhaps re-emerging with a new face and name.  I will be digging up modern prayers to him, of course, including my own.  And art.

I will begin my devotions by returning to the Mass of Chaos B, re-dedicating the mask that has served as his idol on my alter, and awakening the statue I have just purchased.  Then I will continue with devotional candles and libations and fumigations.  And listening.  So much listening.

Week 3 – Whoever is calling me from that Luciferian current

Like most of us who got our start in eclectic Wicca, I swallowed a double dose of respectability politics and was always leery of anything that smacked of Satanism.  And yet … sometimes I hear that call.  One year, while I was away at college and keeping the Sunrise Temple, I got a song stuck in my head.  That doesn’t happen to me.  Except there it was, for a fucking month.

The day I acknowledged that it was Someone calling to me, the song went away.

The call began again when I returned to Kansas City.  In particular, it returned when I heard Peter Grey speak of Lucifer Princeps on the Rune Soup podcast.  It was slow building, at first, but peaked in July.  I’ve wanted to answer the call, I’ve promised myself and the world that I would … but I haven’t really known how.

In all honesty, I don’t know who, exactly, it is that’s calling me.  I’m hoping that if I sit still and listen, they’ll let me know.  Is it that Lucifer, arch nemesis of That One God?  Is it Malek Taus, as suggested by a particular divination earlier this year?  Is it some underlying emanation of the Promethean current that runs between them?  Some other figure I cannot even name?

This section will be the hardest to research.  How do you even start?  I will be acquiring Lucifer Princeps.  A friend has offered me her copy of Evolutionary Witchcraft, though we have not managed to connect since then.

Week 4 – She Below

The first deity I made contact with was not one I went looking for.  That encounter, and those that have followed, have haunted me at times.  Rhea, along with Dionysus, made her presence known at my initiation.  I have kept her on my altar for years, I have attempted to recruit for her.  But I have never … followed through the way I should have.

Above and beyond the simple need to continue the work, there is also the lingering damage done to me by the ceremonial experiment.  My Gnostic experiments are fruitful, and valuable, but they remain tied to the same reified astrotheology that burned me out.  I can’t just live in my head and in the Void.

Witchcraft is on the earth, of the earth, and below the earth.  I need the earth.  I need to stay grounded, and visceral, and alive.  I need that first goddess who reached out to me from Below.

The research for this oddly both among the most and least difficult.  Little is known about her cult, save for the incarnation favored by the Roman Imperial elite.  Much of what is known is contaminated by 19th century archaeology.  At the same time, though, there are through lines between the cult practices of the Theoi, and Dionysus is her initiate … I cannot imagine that she will refuse the rites he accepts.

I will light candles.  I will pour libations.  I will burn offerings.  I will read hymns both ancient and modern.  And I will sit.  And I will listen.