Remembering Maris and Reflecting on the Sad Legacy of Suicide

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.

Maris

Senior Airman Maris Michael Butta, 1987-2009

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.

 

Postscript

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).

Advertisements

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

The Summer 2017 Issue of Isis-Seshat Journal Is Now Available

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!

Isis Seshat Cover

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.

Blessings!

 

Rite of Her Sacred Fires: Annual Global Hekate Devotional Ritual

While many practitioners of alternative spiritualities associate the full moon in May by annually commemorating the Wesak of the Buddha, I choose instead to light fires of welcome for my Patron Deity, the Goddess Hekate. Since 2010, the Covenant of Hekate has issued a global summons of Hekate devotees to participate in its annual Rite of Her Sacred Fires, which always occurs during the full moon in May.  Continue reading

The Spring 2017 Issue of Isis-Seshat Journal Is Now Available!

Isis-Seshat journal is the quarterly publication of the Fellowship of Isis, a worldwide religious community that celebrates the 41st anniversary of its founding this spring. I’m pleased to commence my third year of serving as its Executive Editor, a position I inherited from my late Archpriestess here in Chicago, the Rt. Rev. Deena Butta. I’m happy to announce that the Spring issue is now available as a PDF. Continue reading

Holy Powers, Holy Places, Sacred Spaces: A Call for Submissions for the Summer Issue of Isis-Seshat Journal

Seeking Submissions for the 2016 Summer Issue of Isis-Seshat Journal on the Theme of “Holy Powers, Holy Places, Sacred Spaces”–Deadline: Friday, July 8

From the mystae of ancient Greece walking the sacred way from Athens to Eleusis to celebrate the Mysteries of the Goddesses Demeter and Persephone, to modern pilgrims (Polytheist and Pagan as well as Roman Catholic Christian) in Kildare, Ireland, tying clootie rags on the hawthorn trees flanking holy wells to transmit their prayers to Brigid, to Brazilian Umbanda practitioners tracing the ponto rescado (sacred sigil) of Pomba Gira Sete Encruzhiladas with gunpowder or corn meal in the middle of a three-way crossroads in a cemetery, the association of Holy Powers with Holy Places is a natural one in the human brain hardwired for religious devotion. Whom do you honor, and where? Do you have narrative experiences to share of journeys to sacred sites? How were you transformed by your visit? What does it mean to demarcate Sacred Space at the outset of a ritual? Those are the issues I’d like to explore in the Summer 2016 issue of Isis-Seshat journal, a quarterly journal of the worldwide Fellowship of Isis open to all theistic Pagans, Polytheists, shamans, spirit-workers, and related practitioners besides FOI members (clergy and laity). Continue reading