“Tending to the Ancestors”: The Winter 2018-2019 Issue of Isis-Seshat Journal Is Now Available!

It gives me great pleasure to announce, after several days of intensive copy editing and graphical layout, that the 48-page, full-color Winter 2018-2019 issue of Isis-Seshat journal has officially been released! With its theme of “Tending to the Ancestors,” the issue features various Polytheists’, Pagans’, and Witches’ perspectives on the importance of  cultivating and maintaining ancestor veneration in their daily devotional practices, how they do it, or why they abstain. Hailing from no less than 3 different continents, this issue’s contributors reflect a world of culturally contextualized traditions, from the Heathenry/Teutonic Polytheism of Northern and Central Europe to West African and Afro-Cuban Diaspora religions. I’m so deeply thankful to the gorgeous and deeply personal original works of art, poetry, and essays that were sent to me as submissions! This issue would not have been possible without so many peoples’ support.

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TENDING TO THE ANCESTORS: A CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS FOR THE WINTER 2018-2019 ISSUE OF ISIS-SESHAT JOURNAL

Seeking Submissions for the 2018-2019 Winter Issue of Isis-Seshat Journal on the Theme of “Tending to the Ancestors, Propitiating the Dead”—Deadline: Friday, January 18, 2019

“Iba se Eggun.”
(“I pay homage to the spirits of the ancestors.”) — Start of a Yoruba prayer recited in Ifá at the outset of certain rituals

I paid a visit to my Oluwo (Godfather in Ifá) last night and we had a chance to catch up on the whirlwind of life events I’ve been experiencing since my father’s cancer diagnosis two months ago. We consulted Ifá, and the voices of my own Orí (Destiny/True Will) and my Eggun (Ancestors) resonated strongly in the oracle’s spiritual prescriptions. The restless spirits of the dead, teeming hordes of the Eggun Buruku, were also vying for my attention, a fact confirmed by my lived experience of increased spirit activity at both my home and my parents’ house, where I recently (and totally by happenstance, and during a thunderstorm, no less!) made contact with the spirits of a young woman and children that had drowned in the river marking the northernmost boundary of my parents’ property. By their clothing, they appeared to have lived during the mid-nineteenth century. The children (blond-haired fraternal twins aged about seven or eight years old), unrelated to the young woman, were lost and crying out for their parents. The sight of them made my heart ache. But I couldn’t focus on them as I quickly realized the other spirit posed actual danger.

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A Strange Dream of Deity Possession

It’s been a while since I’ve experienced any disturbing dreams but the one I woke up from at 5:05 this morning (it’s still pitch black at that time in Chicago’s late-winter skies) still has me reeling and viscerally experiencing its effects in my chest: there’s a sensation of tightness and literal heaviness in my heart chakra area and I’ve got an elevated heart rate (116 BPM). I dreamt that I had gotten possessed by none other than the goddess Kali-Ma; the scene switched from its original location and had me in my living room of my childhood home, where my dead grandmother on my mother’s side was speaking to me until she saw my possessed state and became terrified of me and backed herself up against the south wall of the living room, screaming in horror. I was horrified because the part of me that was still “me” in my consciousness was incapable of stopping any of it.

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Samhain 2015: Hailing the Mighty Dead

“Learning to live with one’s own mortality is the most universal of educations in reality.”

–Harold Bloom

According to noted grief expert David Kessler (I highly recommend his book, co-authored with Louise Hay, entitled You Can Heal Your Heart: Finding Peace After a Breakup, Divorce, or Death), a person can be said to be healthily coping with the loss of a loved one when heartwarming memories of the deceased outweigh the pain of the loved one’s absence in the physical world. But the loving connection with the deceased is never severed, Kessler asserts, and the spiritual relationship between the deceased and the person grieving her or his loss on the physical plane takes on a new level of intensity.

That “intensity” is pretty much what the Samhain season represents for me and devotional practices to what we in my former Gardnerian coven used to call “the Mighty Dead” or “the Hidden Company” take center stage in my home and at the public Pagan rituals I attend at this time of year. Those who have gone before us, those who have made us the walkers of the crooked path that we are today, are rightly honored, remembered, given thanks and praise, and in many cultural traditions, literally fed. They may be ancestors of blood and bone or ancestors of spirit, mentors to whom you’re not physically related.  I am glad that at this Samhain season, the loving counsel of those who have gone before me and helped make me the Witch and Priestess that I am today is as near to me as the rustling wind ushering fallen maple leaves, or the moon-kissed shadows that slink across the walls of my home in this season of encroaching darkness. Continue reading

My Goddess Sculpture Makes Its Debut in a Chicago Art Gallery in 11 Days!

This is definitely going to be a September to remember for me, and I’m very excited that my activities are located in the intersection of Art and Spirit. My latest terra cotta sculpture, a replica of a Neolithic artifact dating from the Vinča Culture of the prehistoric Balkans (c. 8,000-5,000 B.C.E.–actually, the very figure I made a replica of was unearthed by the late archaeologist Marija Gimbutas in the 1960s in the vicinity in Serbia where my mother hails from), will be making its debut at the upcoming exhibition The Spiritual Power of Art: Myth, Religion & Mystical Experience at the Life Force Arts Center in Chicago. The opening reception for the exhibit is on Saturday, September 12; it runs through January 5, 2016.

My piece is entitled Velika Maijka, which is Serbian for “Great Mother.” Isn’t She cute?

She's more than clay to me...

She’s more than clay to me…

She’s currently adorning my household shrine to my female ancestral spirits. I’ll be bringing Her to the gallery on my birthday, September 8, as I’ll be helping out to install the artwork for the upcoming exhibit with other volunteers.

This is the second sculpture of mine to be making its public debut. As with the first (also a goddess statue, incidentally), Velika Maijka won’t be for sale. I feel that, energetically, it’s important for pieces like this to have a dialogue with the public at large. As a newly appointed Artist in Residence at the Life Force Arts Center, I’ll be working in the year to come on bringing art-centric Pagan and polytheist rituals to life for anyone and everyone to enjoy and to help raise their vibrational levels while honoring specific Powers. I’ll be devising a ritual in particular that has Velika Maijka as its focal point, so stay tuned for details!

Thank you, Jupiter in my Sun Sign, for expanding my creative horizons! Thank you, Ancestors of mine from the Land of the South Slavs, for instilling me with your wisdom and the call to safeguard our Mothers, the sanctity of soil, and the fragile blue planet we’re inhabiting! Živeli--To Life!

How I Got Rid of an Eggun Buruku: Or, African Witchcraft: It WORKS!

In the cosmology of the West African religion of Ifá, as in other African Diaspora Religions (or, indeed, many traditions rooted in animism), physical sickness and ill fortune in the home may often result from the interference of malevolent spirits. The spirits’ presence would be determined through an Ifá divination session. I had such a session two nights ago, when I went to see my godfather in Ifá (my oluwo) for a consultation on the recent surprising break (towards the end of May) of my Hand of Ifá idé: a yellow-and-green beaded bracelet worn on the left wrist that denotes my initiation in the religion and my relationship to Ifá, the orisha of divination (His colors are yellow and green). Inbetween the breaking of this vital apotropaic talisman and this past Wednesday’s divination session, I’d attended a drum ceremony (bataa) for the spirits of the dead (eggun) at my godfather’s Ifá house. As I’m one of those “empath” types that seems to attract spirits of the dead, I knew I had to take serious precautions before showing up for the bataa: drum ceremonies almost always involve spirit possession, and the last thing I wanted was an unwanted spirit clinging to me. So I warded myself by drawing certain sigils using cascarilla on my feet, legs, and nape of the neck (that last part is tricky)–the vulnerable parts of the body woeful wights are said to “jump” first when they want to attach themselves to the living. Continue reading