Pray to the Moon when She is round,
Luck with you will then abound,
What you seek for shall be found
On the sea or solid ground.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

What He Said. (About the Value of Everything.)


-- from Alchemical Psychology: Old Recipes for Living in a New World by Thom F. Cavalli
-- from Alchemical Psychology: Old Recipes for Living in a New World by Thom F. Cavalli

Although I take some issue with his definition of "animism" & I have never perceived myself as a panthiest (also not quite exactly a panentheist, although much more the latter than the former), the premise that somehow from the perspective of "Nature" or the "Universe" "No one thing is any more important than another..." makes me want to say, "Yes, exactly." For us, as humans, there certainly seems to be some strong desire to adjudicate, classify & valuate by form, function, aesthetic, but isn't that what gets into so much trouble?


Sunday, March 22, 2015

What he said. (About Animism.)



"'That's the principle that governs all things,' he said. 'In alchemy it is called the Soul of the World' ...He also said this was not just a human gift, that everything on the face of the earth had a soul, whether mineral, vegetable, or animal -- or even just a simple thought." -- Paulo Cohelo, The Alchemist (emphasis mine)

 Yes. Exactly what he said.


Friday, March 13, 2015

Baladi Moon: Another Homecoming


Moonrise over Nevada. Photo taken on the road home.
Moonrise over Nevada. Photo taken on the road home.

Baladi (Arabic: بلدى‎ baladī; relative-adjective "of town", "local", "rural", comparable to English "folk", with a lower-class connotation) -- Wikipedia

Perhaps I neglected to mention yet another migration. Nowadays, our shifting of location is regulated less by the seasons & more by the heartstrings. Thusly, we adapt.

It seems to me that there was no mistake when my dance instructor chose to direct my studies toward Baladi just as we return home -- to my home, the land of my birth & the house I loved at first sight. I am, despite a liberal education & a small degree of worldliness, still a desert rat at the core. 

And don't I know it.

As part of my dance studies, I was given an assignment to document the sounds of my environment. I struggled with this in our Alaskan city's muffled winter... traffic, jets, the humming of the bathroom fan, the sounds of my children sleeping... I felt I couldn't discern much & most of which I did seemed unsatisfying.

And perhaps the truth is that I often don't have the quietude within myself to listen while I am in an urban environment, even one as idiosyncratically wild & magickal as ours. 

But my first day here in this obscure, rural outpost in the high desert I wrote:
"Sounds from my home (the home of my birth, the one from which my blood is made): cattle maaawing at sunrise, wild turkeys cackle like a gang of drunken comedians, the collared doves with their sad-sounding cries, the occasional diesel engine of a truck loaded with hay, or dogs, or children... and SILENCE."
Silence. Silence is the key. Absence of input makes the sensory experience more refined. When the constant drone of the hive is replaced by silence, sounds become staccato -- they are rendered pure. This makes all the difference.


The rest of the family notices these perceptual, perhaps qualitative differences too. Depending on who they are, they mention how the food tastes better, the toys are more engaging or the Sun is brighter & warmer. In this rustic environment, everything moves at a much slower, more relaxed pace & despite the overwhelming amount of work to be done, the sense of pressure is minimal, while the work is somehow more satisfying. 

And the Moon, oh, that Moon! She is always at Her finest. There is nothing, nothing at all like the Moon slung low over the desert, cradled by a Night sky that bears stars that not only can be seen, but are too plentiful to count. 

Baladi Moon. How much more sense it all makes from this side of the journey. All the pieces, they just keep fitting together. Perfectly even. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Rite of Oneiric Insight, Part 3: Reflections

Some quick notes on the Rite of Oneiric Insight (for the files).


"Dream Drawers" in varying stages of production. A project initiated & further inspired by the Rite of Oneiric Insight.
"Dream Drawers" in varying stages of production.
A project initiated & further inspired by the Rite of Oneiric Insight.

It is all in the intent.


I attend a dream circle led by a very astute & intelligent attorney who has been journaling & doing dream work since the early 1990's. During a discussion of dreams, dreamwork & how we understand, interpret & relate to our dreams, the attention turned to me. All eyes in my direction, I gestured as though I was placing a hat on my head & said, "Time to put on my crazy hat..." And I offered perhaps a more candid explanation to that group of relative strangers than I would to people closer to me. I had expected eyebrows to raise, or faces to glaze over, but instead the response was, "It is all in the intent."

And so there we have it. I just needed to say it.


A few reflections on the inaugural Rite of Oneiric Insight:

My people:
My (deliberately) small group was comprised of four participants, plus myself as officiant. The group was diverse with ages ranging from approximately 30 to over 60, three women & one man, representing multiple ethnic backgrounds, occupations & spiritual leanings. Two have inclinations toward shamanism -- one modern or "neo-shamanic," one vis-a-vis culture/heritage. One participant has a proclivity for Hellenic practice & the another is a seasoned dream worker. Everyone had their own understanding/interpretation of this journey & everyone had wonderful reflections & energy to contribute.

The Cards Don't Lie:
One of my participants was feeling leery about attending & waffled hot & cold over the week, primarily because of the elixir -- having a sensitive disposition, she was nervous about consuming it. I told her she could participate without drinking it & she agreed to this condition. Since I only had three drinking horns, I told her that was convenient & I would make her some chamomile tea instead. But, when she arrived, she had changed her mind, as she is wont to do & decided the elixir would be fine. I replied that since she is so fickle, she didn't get a drinking horn this time. She also neglected to bring her hearing aids, so she missed much of my introduction, the ceremony & basically all of the visualization despite my careful placement of her head nearly in my lap. 

When the time came to draw cards, she was the only participant to draw a Gate of Ivory

I sent her home with the script for the visualization journey & she recorded it for herself, repeating the journey using headphones, with more success (I hope). 

An Inspiration from Offering:
My personal offering was a small apothecary chest which had been fashioned as an advent calendar. I planned to convert the chest into a small, portable shrine for dream ceremony-ing, painting it with a simple black exterior, maybe putting it on feet. I felt the simplicity of the shape & design allowed the personal imagination to operate uninfluenced by specific iconography, with the drawers representing the multitude of possibilities in the dreamworld & also functioning as containers for offerings amassed over time.

The night of the rite, I dreamt of images on the drawers of the chest, each representing various themes, landscapes, concepts one might encounter in the dreamworld. Thus, a new variation on the shrine was born -- the box will probably remain a night sky black while the drawers will each bear a different symbolic image. I also considered using each of the first four people who participated with me as muse for a drawer face. (The drawer with musical composition in the image above was inspired by one of the participants.) 





Monday, March 2, 2015

Poetry for the Esbat: Baladi Moon (Again, It's Personal)


The Creative Centre & Essence of Baladi Dance Image passed from dancer to dancer to dancer... Credit: unknown. (Leave a comment if you know this artist.)
The Creative Centre & Essence of Baladi Dance
Image passed from dancer to dancer to dancer...
Credit: unknown. (Leave a comment if you know this artist.)

Baladi (Arabic: بلدى‎):
"The word Baladi (you may also see it spelled balady, beledi, beledy, etc.) can mean several things: 
1. My country, of the country or of the people.
2. It can be used a complement as the balad are considered the salt of the earth or a slur when referring to somebody as unrefined, like calling somebody a hick.
3. In dance it refers to the dance of the everyday people, raqs baladi as opposed to raqs sharqi.
4. In dance it can also refer to a particular music and dance construct, also called baladi taksim, or ashra baladi.
5. In American belly dance and in the Levant it also sometimes used to refer to a particular variation of the rhythm masmoudi saghir." 
-- from Egyptian Baladi and the Baladi Taksim, by Shems 

I generally tend towards the outside world & bioregionalism when I share Full Moon poetry, but of course the protracted Alaska winters tend to provoke a turning inward. The end result then, is that inevitably some winter Esbat poetry winds up being more personal. This is one of those times.

Since just after midwinter I have been quite preoccupied by dance studies with a new instructor/mentor (I have mentioned her before). This is an exhilarating, expansive & somewhat terrifying experience. I have completely thrown myself into the fire this time. On purpose.

***

This week we began "Baladi studies" in earnest. 

And this is only some of what she has to say about Baladi:

"...It´s all about the FREEDOM of speech – literally – but not a mental speech made of ideas and stored data in my brain – it´s a HIP speech...HIPS CAN TALK...

After watching, teaching, correcting, stimulating thousands of dancers from different nationalities, it´s obvious that most women are totally disconnected from their hips (and the organs, muscles, creative energy, sexual impulses, LIFE inside it). It´s a problem if you wish to dance a mean, juicy, (im)proper baladi piece but it´s an even bigger problem if you wish to enjoy life and use all your potential as a human being. 
Here´s what I call my hips: “MY BELOVED POWER HOUSE“. They expand with time – literally and metaphorically speaking – and are the source of my power, inspiration, love, passion, drive, ambition, dreams, pleasure and and and and. And then some. My hips are queens, goddesses, mother and father as well as their children; my hips sustain me when everything seems to go down the toilet and are a fountain of endless joy, discoveries, strength and divine pleasures. 
If your hips could talk, what would they say?... 
...Women who are disconnected from their hips (or carry around a hate relationship with them) cannot be fully creative and alive – they just can´t. One thing – love for your hips – leads to the other: the FIERCE willingness to be yourself and move ahead in life outpouring love and pleasure..."
-- Joana Saahirah, Hips don´t lie (we agree, Shakira!) – BALADI DELUXE

But this dance is so much bigger than even all of that -- with cultural context & nuance to grasp, technique to study, vocabulary to build, rules to learn & then break... To add to it, there's a unique musicality to be understood as well.



Gasp.

And in the end, it is about getting down to the essence of your being, feeling & communicating your raw, honest truth through the art of movement we call dance. 

***

Today I was asked to dance an improvisational Baladi for her. She told me to dance with gratitude for something I really love, really enjoy, letting my hips speak for me.

So I did. As I danced, I forgot about being under pressure with her eyes on my every move, every moment, because I was dancing with gratitude for wild mushrooms in cream sauce. My wild mushrooms... mushrooms I picked, cleaned, dried, soaked in wine, sautéed & bathed in butter & heavy cream & maybe some fontina or...

When we reached the end of class, she told me (not aware of my particular gratitudes) that I had indeed just danced my very first Baladi.

And it made me wonder: what could I create if I danced Baladi for the Moon?

Hence, the Poetry for this Esbat. (I do love successful multi-tasking... or is it syncretism?) When I read this poem, I said to myself, "This is about a Baladi. A Baladi for the Moon."


Moon Dancer 
By Spencer Kluesner
(poem inspired by the painting "Moon Dancer" by artist Julia Watkins)

She dances to the drum's rhythmic pulse.
Until we are entranced.
Until we begin to feel as if we were with her
A part of her
Living through her
Anticipating her next move

And she twists
With an instinctual certainty
An aquarian dream
An ancient dance to the female cycles of the moon
Knowing her next move without thinking
Feeling her next step while dreaming

I want to be her
I want to feel the infinite forces of energy
Flowing through my being
I want to let go into that space
As only a women can

And I may
But if my body can't dance
My spirit still can

And I'll connect to the infinite
To the nothingness that is really the everything
The whole of our existence
The energy of all that was
And all that will be.


Blessings to you this Esbat, my friends.



Rite of Oneiric Insight, Part 2: Cartomancy & Visualization


Cards used for divination in Rite of Oneiric Insight (Gate of Ivory, Back, Gate of Horn, respectively) Gate designs by artist Amanda Kiefer.
Cards used for divination in Rite of Oneiric Insight
(Gate of Ivory, Back, Gate of Horn, respectively)
Gate designs by artist Amanda Kiefer. 


Notes on a couple important details for "The Rite of Oneiric Insight": 

Cartomancy:

In Duncan Barford's Rite of Morpheus, he employs a divinatory technique which involves blindfolded attendees choosing to walk toward one or another corner of the room & then revealing to them which Oneiric gate the corner signifies. I hesitated to follow this technique for several reasons, one of which was the simple fact that I had set the room up in the form of a large bedspace & it would be a hazard to try to have people stumble about blindfolded in loose bedding. The other primary reason is that I placed a great deal more emphasis on the visualization portion of this rite & I didn't particularly want to rouse people so abruptly after a long guided meditation.

Instead, I created a deck of cards which contains only two faces: Gate of Ivory or Gate of Horn. All the backs are identical, of course & I laminated them for longer wear. I gave each attendee a muslin pouch into which they would later put a clary sage steeped cloth & mugwort herb, but before that, they needed to select one of the two cards I had placed in their pouch. I did not dictate how they should do this, only that they should consider carefully their forthcoming dreams with great focus. Some selected right from the bag, others took them out, shuffled & spread them. The result were quite incredible, but I will save that story for "Rite of Oneiric Insight Part 3: Reflections." 


Visualization:

The verbiage used for the visualization's beginning & ending, that is, the relaxing entry into a meditative state & the gentle reentry in to the waking world was borrowed & adapted from several of Jody Whiteley's sleep hypnosis videos & scripts including, but not limited to:

Sleep Hypnosis Hypnotic Bedtime Story for Self Confidence Self Esteem
Sleep Hypnosis for Lucid Dreaming a Free Hypnosis Script
Morning Meditation by Jody Whiteley
Sleep Hypnosis for Self Confidence (newest version)
Sleeping Under Red Eleven (Google Drive)

The body of the dreamwork visualization, or the "Journey to the House of Sleep," I composed using excerpts from a variety of sources including:

Metamorphoses Book XI:573-649 The House of Sleep (A. S. Kline's Version)
Homer, Odyssey 19. 562 ff (trans. Shewring)
Charles K. Dillaway, Roman Antiquities & Ancient Mythology for Classical Schools (2nd ed)

The Orphic Hymn to the Oneiroi found within the visualization I adapted from "Dream" by Kimberly Nichols as published in "The Sacred Songs of Orpheus IV: Ares to Death," in Newtopia Magazine.

The text of the visualization (journey body only) is below. Please note that I have omitted the meditation entry & reentry out of respect for Jody Whiteley & her work. My adjustments to her compositions was minimal -- only small to adaptions for context & sequencing of events were made.


"Journey to the House of Sleep" 
A Visualization for Rite of Oneiric Insight

(Relaxation/Meditation Entry Omitted)
"...you can see where you are going now is some place darker and more mysterious and you can hear the faint sounds of ocean breezes and see a twilight sky and the starry cloak of mother Nyx closes over the scene above you until you are looking at the canopy of Night’s heavens and you come to rest upon the soft earth amongst a swath of tall grasses and wildflowers… and as you land, the wispy, green undergrowth, rustles and scratches the sides of your bed that bumps softly twice and it lands to tamp down the foliage to one side, maybe its your left side, there is a path roughly carved into this bluffy landscape and a door has opened beside your bed to invite you to take a little stroll down this path which leads away from the ocean, bending up over a rise, out of sight and you are curious about what you might find across this meadow so you get up out of your bed or your chair and take a walk along this path… 
big gap… 
The trail is very slightly sandy and feels soft and warm beneath your feet and it is slightly damp, but the air is dry and comfortably cool, not chilly. You near the top of the rise in the path and as you do, the sounds of the sea become a little bit quieter and you notice that the breezes have begun to ebb, slowly and softly disappearing into stillness. 
You keep walking in the dim light of the starry sky and when you reach the crest of the hill, you are amazed to see the Moon has broken over the horizon to highlight a wide, low valley, bathed in blooming poppies and sleepy herbs, drowsy plants from whose juices dew-dappled Night gathers sleep, and scatters it over the darkened earth… at the center of this blanket of ethereal, luminescent flowers is a hollow mountain with a deeply cut cave… 
As you begin your descent along the path into the valley, you notice that the sounds of the world around you have disappeared…  
And you become aware that you are now approaching the House of Sleep, a place where perpetual stillness reigns, no noise being heard but the soft murmur of a small fork of the river Lethe, which creeps over the loose pebbles, and invites you to slumber… 
Here, in Hypnos’s sanctuary, silence dwells. In this place of complete peace, you will find no guardians…
No waking cockerel summons Aurora with his crowing,
no dog disturbs the silence with its anxious barking,
no geese cackle their sharp alert…
No beasts, or cattle, or branches in the breeze,
no clamour of human tongues.
Only the flow of Lethe’s stream, murmuring and calling you to drowse…
 
As you come closer to the cave entrance, clouds mix with fog, and shadows of the half-light are exhaled from the ground, and through the soft haze, perhaps in the corner of your eye, you think you might see two grandly adorned gates, fading in and out of the shadows. And you remember that somewhere, sometime, someone told you about these gates, these gates somewhere beyond the North Wind… the Gate of Horn and the Gate of Ivory, from which Dreams emerge…

And you know, somehow, in some way, that there are no doors in this palace and that beyond the mouth of this open cave, if were you to travel through the mouth of this cave, lies a tall bed made of ebony, a downy nest, spread with a dark-hued coverlet, where the god of Sleep himself reclines, his limbs relaxed in slumber… his head surrounded by fantastic visions…
 
But you have not come here to have an audience with the drowsy god, you have come to meet the Oneiroi, the dream spirits who gather round him and lie, here and there in the soft, quiet darkness of his bedchamber… uncertain dreams, taking different forms, as many as the ears of corn at harvest, as the trees bear leaves, or grains of sand are strewn across the shores… 
Standing a few yards from the entrance, you pause for a moment and observe your surroundings… could this place be a dream? And this is when you remember why you came here… Yes, to honor the dream spirits that rest here and depart through the spectral gates to offer their visions while we sleep… You reach into your pocket and find a paper, a paper with a hymn printed upon it… It is Hymn to the Oneiroi, and you take a deep breath, filling your nostrils and your lungs with the heavy scent of Sleep’s landscape, and you begin to recite… 
Swift-winged dreams, Oneiroi,
messengers of the stars,
oracles to the human mind,
in the sweet silence of sleep
you arrive without a sound
speaking to the soul…
Whispering, you rouse the senses,
in our slumber you reveal to us
the will of the Blessed Ones.
Sincere souls that take the honest way
of devotion to the divine,
you silently show
glimpses of distant tomorrows.
Good wins every race
in mortal minds.
Good leads our lives
to anticipated pleasures,
and relieves our suffering
so the spirits can reveal
the mysteries of Their domain.
The sincere always end more sweetly,
but the insincere remain blind,
pensive with fears,
their respite from pain is never revealed.
In all things bring us closer
to the noble path.
Reveal the concealed
signatures of fate.
Let no strange apparitions
show us signs of ill omen.
We call to you, beloved Ones,
show us the will of the gods.
 
In the tranquil silence of the Moonlit landscape, you sense a stirring from within the very heart of the mountain. This stirring you sense from within, with your intuition, your second sight, because the cave is too dark, this place too quiet for you to discern the movements with your well-used senses. Fixing your eyes on the mountain’s yawning mouth, you wait… 
And with a sudden, silent rush there emerges a flood of airborne creatures, a surging wind of dark forms on the wing… birds, bats, or angels of the Night sky — how many ways can we know Them? They surge into the fog, and if you look, not with your eyes, you might see them leaving through the gates, a fluttering, torrent fading into the shadows… 
The softest breeze brushes your cheeks and flutters down your body and you know this sensation must be the passing of some of these dream spiritits, making their passage into the the realm we call the unconscious… 
Something tells you it is time to return to the path and begin your departure from this sleepy valley, but before you turn away from the House of Sleep, you look once more at your hymnal page. You notice it has changed. Take a moment to trace that page into your memory so that you may carry it back with you to a place of wakefulness…"
(Closing/Reentry Ommitted)


One final note: The Ceremony Pamphlet with Hymns, Outline & Credits in  printable PDF format is available HERE via Google Drive.









Sunday, March 1, 2015

Rite of Oneiric Insight, Part 1: General Outline

"Greek Dream" by Jacqueline Kurfürst of DeviantArt.
"Greek Dream" by Jacqueline Kurfürst of DeviantArt.

It is nothing but incredible that I (somehow, by some providence) made this happen before the deadline I set (in a vow of sorts) arrived.

And because I am in the habit of bogging down all my ceremonial documentation with colossal amounts of detail, I am going to begin with an outline of pertinent bits, lest I lose track of things in a rabbit hole along the way... 

The short version of the story is this: there is nothing in the ancient calendars to follow if one wishes to observe a special period of observation for the Oneiroi. So I decided that National Sleep Awareness Week, as established by the National Sleep Foundation was just perfect. Last year it was March 3-10 & I just flailed. Or wasn't ready. Or something. So I vowed to get it figured out by this year.

And here we are. National Sleep Awareness Week: March 2-8, 2015. 

Last night I hosted the first of many (I hope) ceremonies I entitled: "Rite of Oneiric Insight" which I confess isn't the most imaginative name, but it gets to the point. 

This rite has two purposes: 1) to offer respect & gratitude to the gods/spirits of the House of Sleep & their mother Nyx & 2) to request their favor in the form of illuminating &/or prophetic dreams. 

I borrowed ideas from a slew of sources including Duncan Barford, Jody Whiteley & Robert Moss to name a few. And, if I get to the details, I will give all the various sources their due recognition. But for now, just the essentials (my actual rough outline/recordkeeping for this rite):


Rite of Oneiric Insight

General Outline:

Guest arrival & briefing.
Cleansing. (Wash hands and face)
Light lamp or candle, recite Orphic Hymn to Nyx. (Translated by Apostolos N. Athanassakis, 1977)
Light incense.

Make personal supplications &/or thanksgivings.
Libation & hypnagogic tea/elixir.
Visualization with Orphic Hymn to the Oneiroi. (Adapted from Kimberly Nichols, 2013)
Cartomancy.
Closing & direction for Personal Sleep Ceremony.
Extinguish lamp or candle.

Direction for at home procedure:

Personal Sleep Ceremony: 
Light candle.
Recite Orphic Hymn to Sleep. (Translated by Apostolos N. Athanassakis, 1977) 
Extinguish candle.
Morning journaling. (Communication, if desired)

Preparations:

(4) Face towels & washcloths w/soaps, moisturizer
Candle, incense & offerings
(4) Small (approx. 4 oz.) Drinking Horns 
Hypnagogic “Elixir” (herbal formula prepared in advance)
Visualization script
Deck of cards for divination — 2 faces: Gate of Horn, Gate of Ivory
(4) Dream Journals
Pamphlets containing Orphic hymns & ceremony outline
(4) Extra sheets with Orphic Hymn #3 to Nyx
(4) Muslin bags to contain: Clary Sage steeped cotton squares, mugwort herb (optional) 
(4) Beeswax & poppy seed offering candles

Music:
Foretold in the Language of Dreams, Natacha Atlas (during introductions, preparation, pre-visualization)
8 Hours Relaxation Music Sleep Study Meditation and Good Dreams, Jody Whiteley (during visualization/guided journey)

Set/Setting:
I used the living room of the Agora, our community center (a community-funded single bedroom apartment). The setting was intentionally cozy, my partner called it "opium den-ish." There was no "shrine" or "altar" proper, per se -- only a ribbon candle & an offering bowl. (I consciously decided not to bring my statue of Nyx because I didn't feel that imposing my own image of the goddess was appropriate to this very individual experience. I later received the feedback from one attendee that she would have liked to have had the icon present.)

Attendance:
The number of attendees was strictly limited. Everyone who attended was "prescreened" as it were, by a letter stating the expectations & intent very clearly. This was my way of getting around the concern that people might attend out of spectator-desire versus a genuine interest in dreamwork &/or developing a relationship with the House of Sleep. 


Images of the pamphlets can be found below. I will make the printable PDF file available via Google Drive in the near future. I will also post images of the cards used for divination, the visualization script as well as share my reflections... time willing. 


"Rite of Oneiric Insight" pamphlet, outside panels
"Rite of Oneiric Insight" pamphlet, outside panels


"Rite of Oneiric Insight" pamphlet, inside panels
"Rite of Oneiric Insight" pamphlet, inside panels


Now, to dance.


Friday, February 27, 2015

Minor Rant: That Big Umbrella & the Confusion It Brings...


Community Mandala: Many individual visions manifesting  (Within distinct boundaries -- not a picture of reality)
Community Mandala: Many individual visions manifesting
(Within distinct boundaries -- not a picture of reality)


I haven't had a good major rant in a long time, but after expressing my irritation to a friend/mentor, she suggested that I consider not expending too much energy pointing out what I do not like as it gives those things more power, draws attention to them & strengthens them all the while wasting my own energy...

Hence, the minor rant.

I signed on to help recruit speakers for, let's call it, a "spiritual symposium." I made a whole bunch of assumptions about what symposium means. I also made a great many assumptions about what "spirituality" & "religion" mean. I really thought I had a grasp of what I needed to do & I became excited, perhaps overly so, about helping make this event happen. I aimed for passion, experience, expertise & diversity. Among the presenters I had approached &/or secured were: 

  • A Sifu/Qi Gong & Kung Fu Master, to discuss some of the basics of Qi Gong energy work
  • A Master Shibari Artist, to speak about the magickal use of fiber art throughout history
  • A Hellenic Devotional Polytheist & published author, to discuss the basics of the Greco-Roman pantheons & modern Hellenic practice
  • A Hedgewitch/Herbalist, to present local wortcunning information & demonstrate making tinctures & salves
  • A Goddess-centric UU Minister & seasoned women's circle leader, to speak about Modern Goddess worship
  • A Wiccan Priestess, to present an introduction to Faery Magick
  • The Bodymaster for the local O.T.O. encampment, to give an introduction to the O.T.O. and the A∴A∴: & their relationship to/role in the history of Thelema
  • A modern shamanic practitioner & Reiki therapist, to provide instruction about basic meditation or journey work...

And there were several more, but I am going to stop before I get disgusted to this becomes a major rant because all this was ultimately rejected by the event Organizer because:

  • "People" (whoever these "people" are) are not interested in learning about things that they don't already recognize & know something about
  • "People" also find the "theoretical" topics & lectures (i.e., the spiritual & esoteric subjects) boring or perhaps even intimidating & therefore will not attend an event with too much "intellectual" content
  • These same "people" do not have the attention span to tolerate any presentation that approaches or exceeds an hour in length
  • And "people" are not interested in lectures anyways, they "want to make stuff they can take home & put on their altars" or really, just anything they can make...

Along with all this was the redundant, tiresome assumption that anything about "green living" = pagan. And, that all people who identify as "pagan" have "altars" they like to fill with stuff.

Since I do not have an altar (there are some assumptions there I don't think I need to point out), I am not into just making (or buying, collecting, accumulating, etc. which is one of my ways of "being green") stuff for the sake of having stuff & I was pointedly accused of being "more intellectual" than the "people," I had to (graciously) withdraw myself from the project (ironically, I had already completed my part which was presenter recruitment) & cancel all but two of the presenters above. 

I had to excuse myself anyway because somewhere in the last meeting I cast aside my muzzle & shared my opinion.

Which made for some awkward moments.

And a follow up apology.

But, such is the Catch 22 of the big "umbrella" where we have people who identify as some form of "neo-pagan" or alternative spirituality, revival religion, or Earth-based whatever... The spectrum is then cast from the Earth-worshipping Eco-hippie, to the Daoist/Vedic/Heathen/Celtic/You-Name-It Druid, to the secretive Trad-Witch, to the most narrowly particular of devotional polytheists to far-flung neo-shaman, to the most eclectic CUUPS member, to the "Crafty Craft-ers" who get their spirit on making crocheted Cthulhu dolls. Oh, & there is everything in-between & un-decided.

And usually I revel in the diversity. But this week, not so much.

Or, maybe it's that I don't appreciate it when other folks cannot appreciate it.

And make assumptions.

Which, admittedly, I did too. But at least I feel good in making my assumptions on the side of diversity, education and not grossly underestimating the "people."

And I could whine about all the wasted time & effort that took me away from more important things (like writing!), but I won't because I received some valuable instruction on the troublesome habit of assuming. (I never seem to nail that one.)

And I could now go on & on about people who thump on their "green bibles" yet drive the largest vehicles on the American market (with no commercial or practical reason for that size rig) or people who think pagan = Wicca or that magick is only effective if performed "their way," or those who never want to get deeper than the "tools," or, or, or...

But I won't.

Because, as I said, this is a minor rant. 








Wednesday, February 4, 2015

"It's a gift..."


"From her to you to me to you ..."

http://theopengyre.tumblr.com/post/108442926870/nox-mandala-4mf-jr-04-02-15
Nox Mandala, a gift of gratitude from The Open Gyre, 2015.














A gift of gratitude, added today to the Devotional Gallery dedicated to Nyx.

It's interesting. 

The most beautiful, exotic & unusual gifts I have received in the last months have all been for Nyx. 

A bracelet of Venetian glass, hand-picked & carried back from Italy, 
A black medicine pouch of suede & dentalium shells, made by an Alaskan Native artist, 
A shimmering mandala of teeth, coins & poppies, 
A brilliant, pink, chunk of salt excavated from the Salar de Uyuni... 
All of them, so beautiful. 
All of them, for Her.

Humans married to their rational skepticism or religious dogmas dismiss the Old Ones, but those of us who have been touched, cherish Their Wonder. 
And it shows.



Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Poetry for the Esbat: Step Forward or "Take This Train, Dear" Moon


An Ice Leopard (Alaska's Leo) Steps Forward.
An "Ice Leopard" (Alaska's Leo?) Steps Forward.

Today I received a message from my dance teacher Joana, an impressive, intuitive & inspiring (if not a wee bit intimidating) Lioness of a creature which began with the words, "Take this train, dear...

"This Train" is the Full Moon in Leo; apparently a prime window to find the courage to make vital changes, develop goals, follow our hearts, express ourselves, free our Spirits. Not being well versed in astrology, I will take her word on this. My sense is she has her own grasp of the Moon & the skies & everything else which Works in Wondrous Ways, so I take this message to heart.

Everything has been out of balance -- many priorities, particularly my own expressive endeavors (like writing, photography, art) as well as my my partner's favourite things (like love of reading, sleep, etc.) have been swept aside by the fray of daily life & the desire to facilitate the passions & dreams of (mostly) our people. I have overlooked this until now because there has been so much growth & success in these (mostly external) arenas.

Ah, but what a toll, what an unbalanced mess it has become. As I cast my gaze over the bits of our life strewn across the hours, days & weeks, I see a disjointed assemblage of disorganized, un-prioritized activity. Spinning, spinning, spinning from one event, meeting, social, class, meal, errand to the next.

I haven't even had time to get depressed by the dark & frigid Winter...

It is social overdose. (On so many levels.)

Where went the quietude of the Esbats?

***

I recently purchased myself a children's book about the Full Moons, Long Night Moon, by Cynthia Rylant. I think it was the stillness of its pages that attracted me. The book tells me that this is the "Snow Moon." My child's school lunch menu tells me differently: it says the February Moon is the "Bone Moon" or "Starvation Moon." Funny, for a lunch menu. 

Either way, both ideas imply a spartan atmosphere, a cold, quiet landscape. A time & place where we find & cling to only the most precious & essential things... to ensure our survival.

New snow, 
a clean slate,
a place from which to step forward...

And so, with this sentiment in mind, the poetry for the Esbat, simple, ancient, meditative, reflective. Like the Moon.


Full moon --
stepping through the snow
the sound of the stones.

Chiyo-ni (1703 - 1775)




Stepping forward. Where will you find your priorities? Your Bliss? Your Self?
Stepping forward. Where will you find your priorities? Your Bliss? Your Self?


Blessings to you this Esbat, my friends.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Euthanasia: Priceless Gift from the Gods.

Yes. I said it.


Copperplate Nr. 21 from John Flaxman's Iliad, 1973. Hypnos & Thanatos carry the body of Sarpedon.
Copperplate Nr. 21 from John Flaxman's Iliad, 1973.
Hypnos & Thanatos carry the body of Sarpedon.


I don't pretend to have any answers regarding the "True nature" of the gods. I simply choose to relate in my own personal, often very private way. 

Besides, I am not so sure it really matters much, as long as we are true to how we hold Them in our hearts. 

Whatever They may be -- spirits, ideas, incarnate beings, constructs, archetypes or concrete entities -- there are times when my gratitude for the gift of Their existence (regardless of Their "True nature") is so immense I find myself at a loss for words, gesture, offering.


❤︎ ❤︎ ❤︎


Fear & Suffering are my biggest hangups.

I cannot bear either. I can bear them even less when someone I love is in Fear or in Suffering.

When the condition of Suffering becomes permanent & incurable, having the option of calling upon the merciful intervention of the children of Nyx, the brothers Hypnos & Thanatos (in that order) is nothing less than priceless. 

Why do we withhold this from ourselves when we give & gain so much relief & comfort from employing Their temperate, humane skills for our beloved nonhuman companions? 


❤︎ ❤︎ ❤︎


I tell a friend that I have just helped the Skeleton Cat die -- in my arms -- because her hindquarters were wasted & she could not walk, or use the bathroom without assistance while an aggressive tumor was working its way out in several directions from behind her eye. Yet her wits were still 100%... my little fighter. 

I could not bear it.

My friend tells me, "That's what happened to my dad. It was hell.

Dad had to live on in Suffering.


❤︎ ❤︎ ❤︎


Whether we choose to recognize it or not, the choice to die at the right time, as each individual deems it, is a gift. (It ought to be a right.)

"Drugs are bad," our culture says -- yet we force our people, our beloved ones, to live their last days, weeks, months, years dependent on opiates & other narcotics because we will not permit them the final dignity, the gift, of choice, of mercy, of endings. 

In the refrigerator we have a pharmacy bag filled with tiny, abandoned syringes, each one bearing a Skeleton Cat sized dose of feline-formulated morphine. They will never be used -- she has left them behind.

❤︎ ❤︎ ❤︎


This is obviously not a casual decision. Making this call on behalf of my beloved, my best girl, was traumatic & one of the most crushing tasks of my lifetime. But it was still a gift

She was a gift. 

Her merciful death was also a gift, not that I would choose to trade. 

Except that I did. 

For her welfare, for her dignity & because I love her enough to give her that immeasurable & unpopular gift. 


❤︎ ❤︎ ❤︎


I very rarely petition the gods, but I made two special requests this past month: First, I asked Mother Nyx for Her ancient, dispassionate wisdom. "Please, please help me recognize when it is the right time..." I asked, fearing my emotions would cloud my judgement. Second, when I knew it was the right time, I asked that Hypnos & Thanatos kindly guide my baby girl into the soft, quiet Darkness of the Abyss.

What ensued, on all accounts, was a gracious, waveless series of events culminating in the uncomplicated, compassionate end of my beautiful friend. How do I thank the gods for this?


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

ASMR: The Only Reason Smudging Works (for Me)



"ASMR" by illustrator Joanna Krótka. Website: http://www.joannakrotka.com DeviantArt: http://asiulus.deviantart.com
"ASMR" by illustrator Joanna Krótka.
Website: http://www.joannakrotka.com
DeviantArt: http://asiulus.deviantart.com



"Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) is a neologism for a perceptual phenomenon characterized as a distinct, pleasurable tingling sensation in the head, scalp, back, or peripheral regions of the body in response to visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, or cognitive stimuli. The nature and classification of the ASMR phenomenon is controversial, with strong anecdotal evidence to support the phenomenon but little or no scientific explanation or verified data". -- Wikipedia

Since I was a child, I have always had this peculiar experience when someone approaches me from behind & speaks softly over my shoulder. This is the sort of thing that occurs on occasion in a traditional Western classroom setting where students are expected to work quietly & independently while a teacher &/or assistant moves about the room... looking over their pupils shoulders. I vividly recall watching someone who had come to help in our 3rd grade classroom move down the rows -- speaking to each child softly -- with great anticipation. I knew she was working her way towards me & it would soon be my turn. She would whisper something about my work, it didn't matter what & then...

As a child it did not occur to me that this might be unusual. I only wanted that feeling.

That feeling is what many people refer to as ASMR -- Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. I had no idea it had a name or that anyone else ever had this experience until I found mention of it in one of Jody Whiteley's videos. (See ASMR Stats. I have discussed Jody Whiteley in some detail in Sleeping with Jody.) Some people describe the sensation as "tingles." I find that the response varies from trigger to trigger. With a softly spoken phrase over the shoulder comes an almost numbing sensation that begins at the front of my skull & rolls back like a wave down my neck & spine. Other triggers evoke a more tingly, even ecstatic, full-body, slightly out of control sensation, one of which I will mention later.

I remember asking my mother about this once. She worked in psychiatry the majority of her life & I thought perhaps she knew something about this experience. She didn't. (This isn't surprising really since there seem to be very little clinical information about this phenomena & that which exists is very recent.) She also said she didn't recall having these experiences herself. I realize I never asked my dad, or my sister, or any other family member for that matter, but it might be worthwhile -- perhaps there is an inheritance to be found here.

Jody Whiteley's blog & videos sent me off on an exploratory mission across the ether. Here I found forums, articles, videos, music, etc. all describing or promoting that feeling I recalled so well (yet wasn't sure I had felt in a very long time). In the course of this ASMR hunt, I discovered the videos of Maria GW at GentleWhispering. Here, I made a fascinating connection. In the following video, you will see Maria (beginning at approx. 10:20),  using a 3D stereo microphone, blow/wave an oil burner around her audience:


Total trigger.

And doesn't it bear an incredible resemblance to "smudging"?

I thought about this at length. Smudging, particularly when someone waves a big, fat, smelly wad of White Sage around my face does not do much for me & honestly, I have always found the process somewhat counterintuitive. (That is, its efficacy as a cleanser or as a deterrent to spirit-beings is dubious to me, unless they are mosquitoes.) But, I go along with it because I am a social animal. On the other hand, I have had always had a fondness for the 'ghetto-fabulous' mode of full body smudging (even self-smudging) with charcoal or a joss stick & feather, simply because it gives me that feeling

I have begun to wonder if some of the "magic" of the smudging ritual & how it "works" to put us in "that space" for ritual, is because it works on a sensory response like ASMR, or perhaps it is ASMR. If that is so, is there a tendency for people with stronger ASMR affinity to be more attracted to certain types of ritual, particularly immersive ritual with soft sounds, smudging, tapping, etc.?

It would make a wonderful research project, particularly as a survey of the pagan & metaphysical communities.

It might also be an incredible basis upon which to formulate ceremony.

I have been meaning to write about this for nearly a year now, but Life, you know... However, I felt a renewed desire to make it happen because I recently made yet another connection. When I am immersed in specific music, especially if I am dancing, the ASMR response can become nearly overwhelming. My entire body will tingle, I become covered in goosebumps, waves of sensation roll across my scalp & occasionally I even experience irregular breathing... doesn't this bear an incredible resemblance to ecstasis?

For me, it seems to happen most often with electronica (although that may just be a matter of habits), particularly with dubstep drops -- & apparently I am not the only oneThere's a great deal more to say about all this, but for the sake of brevity, I will leave off here. But not without an offering. Below is the song which prompted this writing. If you are of the impatient sort, the first & biggest drop begins shortly after 2:20, but I suggest taking in the music in its entirety, especially if you know you have ASMR. The anticipation makes it that much sweeter. 





And if you have ASMR, or think you might & want to leave me a comment or send me a message about your experiences, please do! I would love to hear from you. 


Saturday, January 10, 2015

cRaZy Fool. cRaZy Alive.


Consider the last event which called to your attention the basic reality of being ALIVE.


Moma Fauna, on Ice.
Moma Fauna, on Ice.

Was it an extreme sensory experience? One of great trauma or pleasure? What is it that brings us pause, muzzles the monkey-mind & reminds to treasure this basic gift?

Consider the most spectacular Sunrise on the Turnagain Arm, a sliver of Alaska's larger Cook Inlet. The temperature is 6º F/-14ºC, but the winds along the steep slopes & water-turned-ice make for a more chilling sense of cold. I am standing on the beautiful & very frozen ocean below the very bluffs from which we had such hopes of seeing the Northern Lights. I am here to take a photograph of myself with a book -- a book written by a woman I admire enough to perpetrate this act of sheer madness. 

I am wearing a crocheted dance halter, complete with beads, fringe & a full makeup & jewelry compliment. I am also wearing tall, baby-blue Sorrels, knit fingerless gloves & stocking hat complete with ear flaps.

It is nothing but cRaZy. 

If you think about it, it is the precise costume of The Fool -- dressed for adventure, yet painfully ill prepared. I am stepping off the bluff into the abyss...

This entire production lasted perhaps 30 minutes from beginning to end, my time of extreme exposure even less. But it was enough time for my large ring made from a bent silver spoon to freeze to my finger. It was enough time for me to have to ask my partner to press my phone screen for the last few shots because the phone no longer registered my touch as among the living.

No longer registering as among the living. How quickly, how easily this can happen.

Yet there was no terror about this -- it was in fact, exhilarating. Framed by the sweeping, impersonal majesty of this Landscape, bitten by the cruel, unyielding climate, I felt more alive than I usually do when I resister as living.

The Fool tells us to take the plunge, experience the consequences & ride the Arc of Zero anew, back around, full circle. Do it again. Again.


When did we fall off the Circle onto the straight line?







Monday, January 5, 2015

Sage Moon, Silly Me


Waxing Moon, January 2015.
Waxing Moon, January 2015.

Lessons come, whether we knowingly seek them or not.

I did not make offerings this month, primarily because I was annoyed. Annoyed at the Moon.


Moon: fixed, bewildered, "Where are the offerings?"

Me: petulant, accusatory, "Where are the Lights, Ms. Moon?"


We have been fruitlessly chasing the Northern Lights across Anchorage for the past couple years. With a sudden coldsnap came crytal clear skies & the promise of their spectacle. The Aurora Borealis; heavenly, spectral rains emitting galactic silence. They are among the most incomprehensibly surreal things I have ever seen & not heard. 

At the advisement of our Aurora Alert app (oh, those insipid smarty-pants phones...) we geared up & set off for the bluffs overlooking the mouth of the Turnagain Arm. Blustery as always are these bluffs -- this visit, their blustery waxed bittery thanks to the chafing, stinging cold. The children, such troopers, were driven onward by the promise of finally experiencing what they have only seen in pictures -- a sky filled with solar ribbon candy, sheets of sparkling, coloured stardust falling to meet them. 

But, THAT MOON.

Aurora chasing.
Aurora chasing.

Standing on the bluff, tediously nipped by the winds, we could see the futility of our foray & everything else, thanks to THAT MOON. 

Moon-tans, maybe Moon-blindness in the making.
Moon-tans, maybe Moon-blindness in the making.

Gah! That Moon!


But the next morning She humbled us with Her gloriousness, so much so that Hubby felt compelled to drag me from bed in the darkness of the 8 or 9 o'clock hour to witness Her night's finale as She drifted behind the neighbor's house on the much-further-than-opposite side of the sky from which She rose...






And in Her descent, She was ferocious.






And yet the lesson was not yet over. (Over the years, I have realized this is how She works, yet I always seem to forget.)


This morning in the gloom of daybreak, She persisted even until the Sun's tendrils tentatively felt their way over the mountainous horizon. There She was, fat & sassy, slung low over the airport for everyone to see. 

Moon: Fat & sassy as seen from the hoarfrosted edge of Lake Hood.
Moon: Fat & sassy as seen from the hoarfrosted edge of Lake Hood.

And despite the insanity of trying to perpetrate photography in the mannerless cold, I felt an irrational desire to chase Her further.



Still dissatisfied, I parked in a government lot at the furthest point of the lake shore drive to get one last series of shots. But as I stepped out of the car I saw it.




Wonderland.







There was no way to capture the resplendence of this fleeting place with a lens made from inorganic matter. A row of hoarfrost laden Birch in the earliest dawn -- perhaps more akin to twilight -- illuminated by high pressure sodium lights anchored at the strangest angle. It was like being inside a hanging garden of ice-bound fractals. I felt dwarfed & lost among them. And I wished I could fly, not like a bird, but like a moth...

However, had I been a moth I would have frozen instantly.

I could have lingered indefinitely on the ground in the crunchy snow surrounded by that fantasy land, forgetting myself, save for the fact that the cold was seeping through my jeans into my knees. So I reluctantly made my way back to the car & there She was, bold & almost blood red, as if to emphasize that Her point had been made.

Shivering like mad, I set the camera on the roof of the car & willed my frozen fingers to push the button.




Yes, Lady Moon, you too are worth chasing.

Every damn time.


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