Last September at Chicago Pagan Pride, I came across an old acquaintance in the Chicago Pagan community whom, I discovered, runs a weekly AM radio show (streamed online via Que4.org) called Magick Radio Chicago. I was asked about the idea of consenting for an interview with other Chicago Fellowship of Isis members to discuss the organization and our thoughts on Chicago’s Pagan communities (I prefer the plural term because the scene is highly fragmented). I tucked the show host’s business card into my pocket and told him I would get back to him in a few weeks…which turned into four months, when he, to my surprise, attended the La Santa Muerte workshop I hosted at Alchemy Arts bookstore last month and he brought up the idea of the radio interview again. The show’s host, named Drew, was under the false impression that the Chicago Fellowship of Isis community, which is comprised of active members grouped into autonomous and individual Lyceums, Iseums, and Temples, had a “senior officers” roster akin to the leadership found in esoteric initiatory traditions ranked in one sole group, but we don’t as our sense of organizational structure is very different (and much more minuscule). It’s really my Archpriestess-Hierophant friend Demetria (who heads the Lyceum of Alexandria-Mishigami) and I serving as the “mouthpieces” for the tight-knit stellium of small groups. Hence it was she and I who sat in the control booth for the live radio broadcast of episode 127 of Magick Radio Chicago on Saturday night, February 10. Continue reading
Seeking Submissions for the 2018 Spring Issue of Isis-Seshat Journal on the Theme of “People of Prayer”–Deadline: Friday, March 30
If meditation is the act of listening to the Divine, prayer is the art of speaking. It’s an under-discussed topic in Polytheistic and theistic Pagan communities, which is unfortunate, as it really is the most basic component of establishing and sustaining a devotional relationship to one’s Patron Deity or multiple Holy Powers. Many people who “come home” to a Pagan spiritual path may have an aversion to prayer because they associate the practice with the undesirable (Abrahamic) religion of their upbringing, but there are ways to overcome the negative perceptions and conditioning related to former religious experiences so that one can have a thriving, judgment- and distraction-free prayer practice that sustains the spirit. Those are the issues I’d like to explore in the Spring 2018 issue of Isis-Seshat journal, a quarterly journal of the worldwide Fellowship of Isis that is open to contributions from all theistic Pagans, Polytheists, animists, shamans, spirit-workers, and related practitioners besides FOI members (clergy and laity). Continue reading
Editorial Note: This is the transcript of a talk I gave at the 24th Annual Fellowship of Isis Chicago Goddess Convention, October 28, 2017, at the North Shore Holiday Inn in Skokie, Illinois.
Good morning and thank you all for coming to our 24th Annual FOI Chicago Goddess Convention! For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Anna and I’ve been proudly serving as legally ordained FOI clergy since 2012, though I have been active in Chicago’s Pagan community for 18 years and counting. I’m the executive editor of Isis-Seshat, a quarterly publication of the Fellowship of Isis, and I’m the founder of the chartered Iseum of the Rekhet Akhu, whose mission is to highlight the interrelatedness of the communities of the living and the dead and to cultivate transfigured spirits (akhu in ancient Egyptian) in human form.
So why did I choose this topic? We’re in the season of Samhain, the Celtic reckoning of the end of summer and the liminal time between one year and the next, and during this time our thoughts often turn to ones of our own mortality, as well as to remembrances of those who have gone before us. More than any other time of year, the honoring of the Deities and Spirits of Death is top of mind for most of us.
As a show of hands, who here honors a Death God or Goddess in their personal devotional practices? (Pause.)
I’m a Polytheist devoted to such Holy Powers, and I’d like to spend some time with you discussing three in particular: the Norse Goddess Hel, Mexico’s La Santa Muerte (the Holy Death), and the Nigerian Orisha, Yewa—Who They are, Why They matter, and how you can cultivate a devotional relationship with Them if you feel Their bony hands laying claim on you. What’s striking about these Death Deities of various cultures—northern European, North American, and West African—that I’m going to talk about is that They’re gendered female and They’re regarded as virgins, so we have a lot of intersectionality to examine when we focus on what we know about each Goddess historically and what we know about Them in contemporary worship.
But before we start discussing each of these three Cosmic Femmes Fatales, I’ve got a few thoughts I’d like to share on what significance gender bears as well as historical notions of the concept of “virginity” and how these impact the mythologies and the cultic practices surrounding the worship of Hel, La Santa Muerte, and Yewa.
Nine years ago today, my friend Maris made the tragic decision to take his own life; he was two weeks shy of turning 22 years old. He served active duty as a Senior Airman in the United States Air Force and was stationed at Hickam Air Force Base on Oahu, just blocks away from my former home at Naval Station Pearl Harbor. Maris was the middle son of Ray Butta and the Rt. Rev. Deena Celeste Butta, my former ArchPriestess in the Fellowship of Isis and founder of our Chicago-based Lyceum of Alexandria. In the fall of 2012, Deena herself was shockingly diagnosed with a rare brain disorder; in the 8 weeks remaining in her life after her diagnosis and the rapid onset of symptoms, Deena spoke often to me about how she relished to be reunited with her son–that she could literally feel his presence luring her towards the Mysteries on the other side of the grave.
Shortly after Deena’s funeral at Imbolc of 2013, I had a series of visitations from both her and Maris for several weeks and knew that mother and son were indeed together again in the Afterlife. The two of them would stand motionless at the foot of my bed, silently staring at me. Both had completely white hair. Deena looked just as I had known her in life: tall, beautiful, and elegant, her dancer’s training evident in her poise. Maris, however, had appeared as he must have looked when he was seven or eight years old–Maris as a child, albeit with the surprise of the all-white hair. Maris only ever appeared to me in that state and always with his mother, whereas sometimes I would have visions of Deena walking alone on a moonlit beach and I realized she was aligning herself with the energies of the Lady of the Lake, one of her favorite Goddesses.
The shock of Maris’ suicide rippled across the Pacific. There were no indications that he suffered from depression. Military service runs in the Butta family and Maris was proud to have served his country in the Air Force. He left no note behind, no clues. He took his life in a public location in downtown Honolulu and nearby security cameras captured everything, quelling fears that he may have been the victim of foul play. In the immediate aftermath, Deena asked me about my experiences with what I perceived as profoundly negative spiritual entities residing all over Oahu’s lush, rain forest-canopied leeward coast, where Maris and I both used to go hiking. Could any of those hostile spirits have driven Maris to suicide? I do believe that such a phenomenon could have been at least partially culpable. I had a horrible, heart-sinking-into-the-pit-of-my-stomach feeling that Maris’ spirit risked becoming earth-bound on Oahu and possibly subjugated to the more powerful, nonhuman entities that hold such sway over the island: as a result, a massive undertaking of repeated ceremonies of release, performed both on Oahu and in Chicago, went underway.
And all of it, of course, coincided with the energies of Samhain.
As it still does.
With the great gates of Scorpio swung wide open to usher in the season’s retinue of restless spirits in this liminal time between the ending of the ancient Celtic year and the beginning of the new, I take comfort in one of the maxims my Gardnerian coven used to say in ceremonies performed on behalf of the Mighty Dead: “May we meet, know, and remember, and love one another again.”
Tonight I will hail Maris at my shrine of my beloved dead. A Sagittarius in life, he wanders freely still–of that I’m certain. All I can do is pray that my love and prayers born of tremendous heartache can reach his spirit and the hearts of his living family members.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than twice as many Americans die by suicide each year than by homicide. Please seek help for a loved one in crisis or reach out for help yourself if you’re feeling suicidal: someone is waiting to take your call 24/7 at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Announcing the 24th Annual Chicago Fellowship of Isis Goddess Convention, Dedicated This Year to THEMIS
Calling all Kemetic and Hellenic polytheists, Pagans, ceremonial magicians, FOI members worldwide, devotees of the Neteru of the Two Lands, devotees of the Deathless Hosts of Olympos, and friends! All are welcome to the 24th annual Fellowship of Isis (FOI) Goddess Convention in Chicagoland! It takes place Saturday, October 28, 2017 at the Holiday Inn North Shore Chicago (Skokie Business Center), 5300 W. Touhy Ave., Skokie, IL 60077, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. (On-site registration begins at 9 a.m.) Plenty of room to move and to park as the hotel has, naturally, free visitor parking and a plethora of access points via mass transit. FOI members flying in from out of state are eligible to receive a discounted room rate at the hotel.
Sponsored by the members and friends of the Chicago-based FOI Lyceums of Eleusis and Alexandria Mishigami; the Iseum of the Rekhet Akhu and the Iseum of Hathor-Neith-MahaLakshmi; the Kemetic Temple Kheperu em Inu; and by Chicago’s Life Force Arts Center, this year’s Goddess Convention is dedicated to the Titan Goddess and Cosmic Law-Giver, Themis. The Main Liturgy to be performed is the Priesthood Alchemical Drama “The Riddle of the Sphinx”—the first ritual in the late Lady Olivia Robertson’s FOI clergy publication, Fortuna: Creation Through the Goddess. Continue reading
It’s been three years since I’ve inherited the mantle of executive editorship of Isis-Seshat journal, a quarterly magazine of the worldwide Fellowship of Isis, from my former Archpriestess-Hierophant, the late Rt. Rev. Deena Butta. The Summer 2017 issue–which is 80 pages long and features zero advertisements–has been released today as a result of much stellar international collaboration, and I have to say that this is among my favorite issues to date. My deepest thanks to all writers and artists who shared their content with me to make it all happen!
The theme, “Traditions Thriving in the Cross-Currents of Global Paganism,” elicited several thought-proving responses in essays, poetry, and photography regarding the issues of culturally specific spiritual traditions, cultural appropriation, identity politics, and whether or not one’s ethnic/racial heritage ought to determine to Whom one should devote their religious sensibilities and practices. Again, I want to thank my roster of outstanding contributors.
PDFs are available for purchase at $5 USD each on my Etsy site, JackalMoonDesigns.
I’ll be releasing my Call for Submissions for the Autumn issue, so stay tuned! It will be released in late November.
“Traditions Thriving in the Cross-Currents of Global Paganism”: A Call for Submissions for the Summer 2017 Issue of Isis-Seshat Journal
Seeking Submissions for the 2017 Summer Issue of Isis-Seshat Journal on the Theme of “Traditions Thriving in the Cross-Currents of Global Paganism”
Deadline: Monday, August 7 Continue reading