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.

 

Do Magick Challenge: Beginner’s Mind Master Post

In the Beginning

I have intended to participate in Andrieh Vittimus’ Do Magick Challenge for some time.  My tendency to lose months at a time has resulted in me checking the web page days into each challenge and having missed the research period several times, now.  Including this month, actually, but Jason and Andrieh made it clear on the podcast that one could join at any time this month.  And so I did, posting my Statement of Intent on the second day of September and diving in head first.  I set myself a number of goals: daily meditation; magickal art three days a week; conjuring the Spirit Bune; and, finally and most importantly, the rediscovery of my sense of magical play.

Week One

On the first week, I opened strong.  On Day One, I sat down to meditate for the first time in weeks — it had been perhaps months, actually, since I last mediated outside the Esbat circle.  On Day Two I performed Andrieh’s Baphomet ritual, and then confronted the reality that the mundane world changes at its own pace.  On Day Three I made my first serious efforts at my goal to do more magical art, devoting hours to my Mask of Venus, then spent the evening in Esbat rituals attempting to rid myself of baleful influences.  On Day Four I did more magical art — working on both the Venus Mask and a number of apotropaic jewelry designs — and made myself a charm against the evil eye.  On Day Five I continued my mask-making and escalated my mediation practice.  On Days Six and Seven I coasted, only meditating, but I began to notice changes in my dreaming.  Additionally, on Day Seven Aradia began joining me for meditation.

Despite resting on my laurels the last two days, I feel like the first week was a success.  I did a lot of magic and a lot of art.  Coming from practically no meditation to meditating daily is an intense lifestyle change.  The depression and anxiety that plagued me before beginning the project did not, of course, vanish immediately.  In fact — an upside to journaling, I guess — they initially got worse.

Week Two

In the second week, Aradia and I added planetary invocations to our daily work, immediately before nightly meditations.  Days Eight, Nine, and Ten were slow days for most of my goals, but I continued to escalate my meditation times slowly and escalated the planetary magic from previous versions of our ritual by reading both the Thomas Tayor and Apostolos Athanassakis translations.  On Day Eleven I returned to my masks, and did some divination to help me decide how I wished to approach the spirit Bune, and on Day Twelve I went through with that conjuration.  Day Thirteen was meditation only and on Day Fourteen I strung myself a necklace for my Baphomet pendant but missed my daily meditation.

In this second week I continued to increase my daily meditation time and, in doing so, I began discerning changes in my energetic body.  I also particularly struggled to balance my mundane and magical lives.  I made my three days of magical arts and crafts, and achieved my goal of conjuring the Goetic spirit Bune, but failed at my goal of daily meditation.

 

Week Three

In the third week, my physical health failed me.  Day Fifteen was exhausting, and I barely managed my daily routine.  On Day Sixteen I turned a museum trip with my mother into a magical experiment, examining mummies with a magical eye, then collapsed onto the couch for the next two days (17, 18), though I was able to resume meditation and planetary rituals on Day Eighteen.  On Day Nineteen, I was feeling mostly better and went through with teaching a class on using the Classical Planets as a source of power for freeform energywork.  On Day Twenty I collapsed again, sicker than I had been yet; I went into work then needed someone else to drive me home.  On Day Twenty One I called in sick and spent the day on my couch, working on magical jewelry designs.

I managed only one day of magical art and missed a second day of meditation.

 

Week Four

I did my best to come back strong in week four, but my total collapse in week three left both me and my house in serious disarray.  It was struggle to resume even daily planetary rituals and meditation, let alone my loftier goals.  In retrospect, I pushed myself too hard, because I wasn’t really fully myself again until Day 28.

On Day Twenty Two I managed 22 minutes of meditation.  This would prove to be the peak.  It was also the second day in a row when I experienced intense sensory non-sequiturs.  See the daily records for details.  On Day Twenty Three I experimented with adding the Qabalistic cross and pentagram banishing to my daily rituals.  On Day Twenty Four I began designing and constructing a new set of house wards.  That night I gave up on my goal of escalating to 30 minutes of meditation by the end of the month and began setting my timer for 15 minutes.  On Day Twenty Five I decided to fumigate the house to clear out any lingering bad vibes.  On Day Twenty Six I meditated only, and on Day Twenty Seven I managed only my planetary ritual and meditation.  On Day Twenty Eight I succeeded in tracing an amulet gifted to me to a particular grimoire,

Overall, in that week I succeeded only at meditating daily.

Denouement

On Days Twenty Nine and Thirty, I concluded my Beginner’s Mind experiment by erecting the first two layers of my new household protective wards, invoking the Sun and Moon by Taylor’s Orphic Hymns and empowering the talismans with Picatrix invocations.  I meditated fifteen minutes each night.

In theory, I wanted to end the month of magic with a bang.  In the moment, though, I was just glad to have made it through.

In Conclusion

At the beginning of September, I chose a particular (broad) interperetation of the Beginner’s Mind challenge.  Where others cracked open grimoires,  or sought to master various forms of divination, I sought to reclaim a portion of my own mind.  Over the course of several previous magical experiments and programs, I have painted myself into various corners.  I miss the enthusiasm with which I once pursued and practiced the magical arts.  To that end, as detailed above, I set myself a number of smaller challenges.

I challenged myself to meditate daily, starting at five minutes and escalating to thirty.  I … mostly succeeded.  I meditated 28/30 days.  One day I missed in favor of a hot date.  One day I missed because I was sick as fuck.  I ultimately capped out at 22 minutes of meditation, then settled for a more achievable goal of 15 minutes.

I challenged myself to work on magical art three days a week.  I succeeded at that for the first two weeks, but failed abominably in the second two.

I challenged myself to conjure the spirit Bune.  I did so.  That conjuration has yet to receive results, but so far the spirit contact has proved positive and potentially fruitful.

I challenged myself to follow my magical whims.  They proved less, well, whimsical than I had imagined they might, but overwhelmingly succeeded in this.  I can recall only one whim I did not follow through on, and that was because the particular school of thought I wished to apply to a situation proved inapplicable in that moment, and then I forgot about it before the opportune moment arose.

All this with the ultimate goal of reclaiming my magical practice.  Of finding the fun back.  In that, I think, I succeeded.  I no longer feel so constrained by the schools of thought I have studied.  I feel like my magic is my own again.  And I’m excited to move forward with my art and experiments.

I am also reminded very viscerally of the value of daily meditation.  At the beginning of September, I was a depressed and anxious mess, despite how objectively awesome my life is.  During the first week, perhaps slowing down to confront those feelings, I actually fell down a little further.  In the weeks since, however, despite the physical illness I suffered in week three, I’m feeling incredibly better emotionally.  We can see some evidence of this, in fact, in this and my previous blog post.  I’m actually writing again, something I hadn’t done in a while.

The Do Magick Challenge came with its own requirements, chief among them daily public journaling.  The value of that has been demonstrated what I should have already known, which is the value of such journaling.   I don’t wish to spam my followers (or continue the particular self-censorship public journaling requires), so I must now challenge myself to do one of the important sorcerer’s tasks I have never quite managed before.

And with all this written up, I now look forward to the next Do Magick Challenge.  I’ll try not to be a stranger here in the interim.

Dabbling in Deomonolatry – Preliminary thoughts

I’ve spoken before on how, in the late 1990s and early 2000s when I began my magical career, conjuring spirits in any way was considered deeply taboo.  Nothing was more taboo than the point where the lingering echoes of the Satanic panic overlapped with Neo-Pagan respectability politics: Crowley’s Goetia(1) and the summoning of demons.  I, of course, confronted this taboo through juvenile art (tragically no longer extant), but I also worked very, very hard to enforce it in the magical circles in which I socialized.

So when Andrieh Vitimus proposed Beginner’s Mind as the theme of this past month’s Do Magick Challenge, the Goetia was one of the first things to come to mind.  I briefly considered devoting the whole month to the grimoire, but given that I was dragging myself out of a deep depression during which I had done relatively little magic, had skipped the research month because where the fuck did August go, anyway?, and would be diving in to the challenge two days late … Yeah.  That just seemed like a bad idea.  Instead I set my sights lower: to conjure a single spirit from the grimoire.  I, perhaps inevitably, chose Bune.  I would conjure him to bring me riches.  On a whim, having made the decision, I engraved his seal in brass.

In a sense, then, my first two weeks of the challenge were spent in preparation for that ritual.  In addition to getting my aura back into fighting shape, I needed to decide which approach to take in the conjuration.  I boiled my potentially unlimited options down to three: to perform the operation as described in the Goetia; to perform an alternate Bune ritual presented by Jason Miller(2); or to perform a ritual of my own design(3).  I turned to divination to help make the decision.  Drawing a card for each of the options, I got XIII Death, 0 The Fool, and 3 Disks “Work” respectively.  I interpreted this to mean that the Miller rite would be my best place to start, that the work would continue freestyle, and that I would eventually conclude with the Legemeton ritual.

On Day 12 of the challenge, at the Day and Hour of Jupiter, I conjured the spirit of Bune using Miller’s rite.  The ritual was very bare bones, so I made a few aesthetic alterations to account for the layout of my temple space — I made and donned the paper talisman of Bune as Miller described, and set the brass talisman in my triangle along with the obsidian sphere I use as a focus in almost all of my rituals.  I then performed the rite as Miller described, and the ritual worked as promised.

The spirit’s appearance was faint, but discernable; although I did not perceive him immediately, he made his presence known before I repeated the call.  I made my request of Bune – a sum of money from a certain source and within a certain time frame – and he (I believe) acquiesced.  I dismissed him and my circle.  I put away the brass seal in the box I bought for it.  I went about my day, flush with the afterglow of successful magic.

On Day 28, Bune appeared to me during my nightly meditations.  He informed me that by putting the brass seal in its box, I had limited his ability to act.  To quote my original notes:

He said that I had left his seal in a box too long to accomplish the task I had asked of him.  In order to procure my cash, he said, he needed his seal placed on my Jupiter altar and a candle lit for him.  I considered saying no, but part of the premise of the Miller invocation I had originally chosen is that you are building a cooperative relationship with the spirits, and that request is well within the boundaries of reasonable established by my other spirit-work.  I assented, and when I was done with my meditation I moved his seal and lit the candle as promised.  As an act of good faith, tomorrow I will put in the order for the copper seal I promised him upon his success.

I have since made good on those promises: the seal has been moved to my Jupiterian money altar, not one but two candles have been lit for him, and the copper seal has been ordered.  We’ll see how things come and go.


1 – Crowley, Aleister, and Hymenaeus Beta, eds. The Goetia: the lesser key of Solomon the King: Lemegeton–Clavicula Salomonis Regis, book one. Translated by Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers. 2nd ed. York Beach, Me.: Samuel Weiser, 1997. It should, I hope, go without saying that the volume is Crowley’s more by reputation than by fact.

2 – Miller, Jason. The Sorcerer’s Secrets: Strategies in Practical Magick. Pompton Plains, NJ: New Page Books, 2009.  Pages 139-142.

3 – Such a ritual would have probably been based on the conjuration circle shown to me by the spirits of Saturn.  I may yet perform it anyway.

Purification Ritual Draft

Last October I wrote a purification ritual in anticipation of Samhain rites and led it at the October Spirit Circle.  The original ritual was set up with participants encircling a raised altar.  The initial results were positive, but not really in line with the amount of effort it took to put on the ritual.  The following week, I adapted the ritual for an outdoor setting, encircling a bonfire.  The participants moved in and out of the center, each taking their turn in contemplation at each of the four elemental stations.  Participants were deeply moved, and the energetic results were spectacular.  Yesterday, I adapted the ritual for a smaller, more intimate indoor setting.

The ritual went smoothly, and all participants reported a feeling of weight being lifted from them.  I, myself, even as the facilitator of the ritual, felt strong effects in the moment.  After the ritual, I was overcome by a deepening sense of calm.  I slept well for the first time in weeks.  I felt fantastic in the morning, which is something that almost never happens.

I think it’s safe to say that the ritual is ready for wider testing.

Clever readers will recognize elements from a variety of sources.  The altar construction and layout has its roots in eclectic Wicca.  The blessings of the elemental components are adapted from Agrippa via Rufus Opus.  The magical Names and barbarous words are drawn from the Stele of Jeu.  The concluding meditation on the Light is drawn from Thelema and modern Gnosticism.  The decision to mix all these things together, of course, is rooted in my study of chaos magick.

Please check out the ritual behind the cut.

Read More

Beginner’s Mind

This month’s Do Magick challenge is the beginner’s mind.

For this challenge, you are to work with a new system, set of techniques, or use any new experience or hobby to force yourself into the beginner’s mind and use it.  Get excited about your magic again. Ideally you would use the new techniques or paradigm does as often as possible in the 30 days.

What, though, is the beginner’s mind?  What I hear in Andrieh’s choice of words and suggested activities is an attempt to return to a state Tarot describes as The Fool: curiosity in the face of the unknown, courage uninhibited by past failures or an overabundance of knowledge.

But my beginner’s mind was already full of fear.  I owned Crowley’s Goetia, but I was afraid to conjure spirits.  I had an emerging talent for clairsentience that outstripped my friends’ empathy or divination by hilarious degrees, but I was afraid of the things that I could know.  I got high weirdness effects out of goddamn Tarot readings, but never pursued them for fear of monsters.  I had an embarrassment of riches and did fuck all with it.  I had no hesitation to try things that no one else had ever heard of before, but staples of magical practice … well, besides Tarot, if it didn’t scare me too much to try it, then it was passé.

There are things, though, that I do miss about my beginners mind.  I miss how relatively few preconceived notions I had cluttering up my brain, leaving me free to invent forms of energy manipulation that I have yet to see in print and to perceive spirits and worlds with a clarity I recall now like a dream.  My home town was mine, and I could feel the pulse and flow of its life; synchronicity put me in the right place at the right time with a regularity that made it seem mundane until it stopped happening when I moved away.  Magic, in every instance but the very most terrifying in-my-own-home-apparitions,

Finding my way into this month’s Do Magick Challenge will be a bit of a challenge in and of itself: as a voracious reader, a giant art nerd, and a witch with twenty-one years of magical experience,  there is nothing left magically or artistically (which I currently know exists) that I have not put at least three months study or experimentation into already.  That’s hardly expertise, but neither does it leave much room for that uncluttered “beginner’s mind” we’re speaking of.

I’m late to the game, because I lost control of my life, but I’m going to play along at home anyway because … well, frankly, I need to.  I need to find back that uncluttered curiosity, that sense of play.  To do so, I will set myself several goals:

  • I will meditate daily.  I will begin at five minutes daily, escalating over the course of the month until I am meditating 30 minutes daily.
  • I will spend three days a week engaged in some sort of magical arts and crafts for at least twenty minutes each of those days.  Although I hope to produce many magical talismans and images over the course of the month, in particular I aim to finish my Mask of Venus and produce a photographic version of the Image of Venus as described in the Picatrix. (Anyone want to model for that one for me?)
  • I will conjure the spirit Bune to bring me riches.  In doing so, I will face my first great magical fear — the conjuring of demons — and make my first practical foray into the last major area of magic which I have studied but not practiced.  Goetia here I come.
  • Most importantly, I will rediscover my sense of magical play.  I will achieve this through magical art on the one hand, but also by giving in to every magical impulse that I possibly can over the course of the next thirty days. Decide I want something?  Make and fire a sigil on the spot.  Feel like electrocharging my lover with the spirit of Venus?  Hell to the yeah (as long as she, they, or he think it sounds like fun).  Has it come time to curse those bastards?  Let’s do it.  This building feels like it needs a little Lunar bombardment?  Let’s do some energy and breathwork and make everybody purple for the day.

This is me throwing my hat into the ring.

Today’s magical impulse coincides with magical art and the conjuration of Bune: while at work, I made myself a brass talisman featuring his seal.  Not fancy, just a hand-cut brass disk engraved using a ball but, but it’ll do the trick.  Now, let’s go meditate.

Light in Darkness: A Long Unanswered Call

The temple space was erected in my craft room: an altar flanked by couches and sitting cusions, air thick with incense, and lit only by candles.  I stand outside over a secondary altar, lighting a bundle of sage to fumigate each participant before entering.  A line is forming behind Aradia, awaiting my attentions.

I know all these people: they trust and respect me.  I began the night by returning to the Headless Rite.  I should be at the top of my game.  I am not.  Neither the fumigation nor the anointing packs the punch that it should.

At last, everyone is in the circle.  Aradia takes charge and we cast the circle hand to hand.  She has been feeling less than herself, as well, and asks the group for healing and purification.  As she takes her position in the center of the circle, all rise and reach out to offer what aid they can.

One by one, most of us take our turn in the center.  This is not my strong suit.  Somehow, despite a couple spectacular successes, I have never devoted any real time to energetic healing.  Mostly, I try to keep the energy level in the circle high, so that our less experienced participants are not draining themselves needlessly.

At some point, I, too, take my turn in the center.  I feel everyone reach out to me, feel them brush the edges of my energetic body.  I try to let them in, to do the work that needs to be done.  I can’t.

At last, all who feel the need for purification have taken their turn in the center and it is time to move on.

I put on a drum track and don my visionary mask and we all drift into trance.  Well, they do.  I go nowhere.  I cannot even find the Void or my own Inner Temple.  I drift, aimlessly, trapped in my own head.   Finally the beat shifts, signaling the end of the track.  I take off my mask and wait for everyone to return to themselves.

Now is the time for divination.  My guests pair off quickly, trading tarot readings while I sit dazed.  There is a song stuck in my head again.  It’s been there off and on for days.  This is something that almost never happens to me, but it has happened like this once before.

I have to wait a while, and end up ignoring too many of my guests as I remain lost in my own head, but I finally get a reading from Odyssia – one of maybe a handful of witches I have met in the KC metro whose skills are on a whole ‘nother level than Aradia and Chirotus and myself.  The reading covered a lot of territory, but one thing stood out: in the wake of my experience over the last five years, I am without a worldview.  I have no system of reference by which to contextualize my experiences.  I need a frame.  I need a direction in which to explore.

Looking for something concrete to give me, rather than simply affirming my laundry list of questions, Odyssia pulled a new trick from her bag: a pack of note cards she is drafting for her own oracle deck.  At last, a clear image emerges.  A name.  Melek Taus.

I laugh.

The Peacock fucking Angel.

That song, you see, has been stuck in my head before.  My senior year of college, it was there for more than a solid month before I realized what it was: an offer; an invitation; a call.  From the one Power I had never, ever considered.  I grew up in the Satanic Panic, you see.  I spent the first decade of my practice defending against accusations of Devil Worship.  And now Lucifer is reaching out to me?

And yet …

The Yezidi Peacock Angel (who may or may not be Lucifer) features prominently in modern Gnosticism.  I have been flirting with Gnostic thought for more than a year.  It’s all over my art, and half my favorite writers and thinkers have been flirting with it for years.  The alien God who made everything and walked away is hard for me to embrace, and the desire to root itself in Christian heresy is not aesthetically or ethically appealing to me.  But the Archons and the Blind Idiot God who rule over the hologram of the Empire and everything that falls under its shadow … yeah. I can see that in the world.

Melek Taus, I learned that night, also features prominently in the Feri tradition, which I have looked into on more than one occasion.  Just to make things interesting.  Because I need another source of queer art and power.  (Actually, yes, I really fucking do.)

So here we go.  Down the rabbit hole I’ve been dodging since 2014.  I wanted a direction.  Now I have it.

I’m giving in to the Luciferian Gnostic urge.  I will write my own gospel and live my own myth.

Let’s wage war against the world.  Awaken the sleepers.  Fistfight heavenly powers.  Engage in cosmological terrorism.  Set ourselves ablaze and be lights in the darkness.

I’m in it to win it.  Who’s with me?

 

 

 

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.