“Framing Savage Defiance in Her Lips”: Why the Goddess Tiamat Matters Now More Than Ever

It’s been an exciting week for me as a Fellowship of Isis (FOI) priestess, one filled with personal publishing triumphs–I’ve released the Spring issue of IsisSeshat magazine, the official publication of the worldwide FOI available to the Pagan public, adhering to the Earth Day launch I scheduled for myself (email me if you’d like to buy the hard copy or PDF of it; see my Gravatar profile for my email address) and official interfaith representation at the civic level. On Tuesday the 21st, I attended a faith-based women’s leaders “Salon for Solutions” hosted by the Chicago Foundation for Women (CFW), a prominent nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve the lives of Chicago’s women and girls through a tripartite platform of freedom from domestic violence, enhancing access to affordable healthcare, and fostering economic security.

CFW celebrates its 30th anniversary this September with a Symposium featuring Jane Fonda as its keynote speaker, and at that time CFW will launch a Civic Plan to Mayor Emanuel’s administration outlining its call to action for elevating Chicago’s women and girls. As part of formulating its Civic Plan, CFW reached out to several female faith-based leaders and social activists representing a diverse array of religious traditions and groups in this city. This past Tuesday, CFW hosted an afternoon “Salon for Solutions” at their downtown Chicago office; I’m happy to report that the Chicago chapter of the Fellowship of Isis was one of the groups invited, and my friend and current leader of FOI Chicago’s Lyceum of Alexandria, Demetria Nanos, and I attended. We were joined by my friend Rev. Angie Buchanan, the Director of Earth Traditions, as the “Pagan contingent” of the Salon for Solutions.

Also in attendance were Ms. Itedal Shalabi, the Executive Director of the Arab-American Family Services League, who discussed her campaign to raise awareness of domestic violence in Chicago’s Muslim community; the Rev. Nichelle Guidry-Jones, Associate Pastor to Young Adults at Trinity United Church of Christ; Wendy Witt, Associate Pastor at First United Methodist Church, who fought hard to get political leaders in Springfield to implement Marriage Equality; Ms. Lola Wright, the Executive Director of Bodhi Spiritual Center, a spiritual (not religious) organization whose mission is to “awaken individuals to live their inherent power and purpose”; and two social services case managers from the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago (who asked me not to name them).

A diverse chorus of voices, indeed! And folks, it was mighty sensible–and prescient–of the two CFW Salon organizers and discussion leaders to announce at the outset that, even though we were all united in wanting to improve the lives of women and girls–and by extension, all people in all of our communities–in the city at large as well as foster the spiritual development of the women in our respective groups, mosques, temples, and congregations, by no means do we have to agree with each other. Respectful disagreement was anticipated and of course it happened, pretty much as soon as I opened my mouth to introduce myself as a Pagan provocateur. I said the reason why I welcomed the chance to add my perspectives to the data CFW was gathering in preparation of launching its Civic Plan was because it’s my holy mission in this lifetime to address the collective soul sickness wrought by the twin moral bankruptcies of scientific materialism, which, since the era of Descartes, has taught us to view Nature as an inert commodity (or series of commodities) worth exploiting, and Abrahamic religious dogmatism, which has bequeathed us in the Western world with a legacy of rampant misogyny and phallocentric transcendentalism in the quest to eradicate the memory of the Divine Feminine from mass consciousness, thereby denigrating all life on the planet in the process–to effect, in other words, nothing short of spiritual matricide.

I paraphrased my favorite quote from the late author Merlin Stone, whose book When God Was a Woman largely informed my coming to ecofeminist consciousness as a late adolescent: “Take away women’s rites, and you invariably take away women’s rights,” I all but hissed at the eyes fixated on me from around the large conference table.

I felt my blood boil.

I felt my bitten-down-to-the-nerves fingernails transform into sharp dragon claws.

I felt Tiamat standing behind me, Her hot breath streaming from Her strange snout, curling the hairs on the nape of my neck because I could fully anticipate the keening that was to come, with wings outspread and claws fiercely waving. Tiamat, Mother of Monsters. Tiamat the Enraged. Tiamat, Who, in the Enuma Elish, one of the Creation Stories from ancient Mesopotamia, emitted great cries while “framing savage defiance in Her lips” (Tablet IV, line 72) because She objected to having first Her husband, Apsu, and then Her children, slaughtered by the hosts of the Sky-God Anu.

“Savage defiance” forms my ethos as a priestess. “Savage defiance” is what must be donned as armor in the battle against the myriad overwhelming ecological and social injustices of our time. Continue reading

The Implications of Today’s Astronomical Triple-Header: New Moon, Solar Eclipse, and Spring Equinox

My mother told me that she had the chance to talk to several of our relatives in the former Yugoslavia, Germany, and the island of Malta this morning (Chicago time). They’d all seen/experienced the total solar eclipse–their reactions?

“Terrifying,” Mama reported.

I understood such a response. On Tuesday, May 10, 1993, as I was preparing to leave my apartment to take my end-of-sophomore-year undergraduate Women’s Studies final exam at North Park University in Chicago, I experienced the eerie energies of a total solar eclipse around two in the afternoon. I decided to head out into my backyard and view the phenomenon, clutching a pair of welding glasses I’d borrowed from my father. As soon as I crossed the threshold between the back porch stairs and the door leading to the walkway in the yard, a full-throttle panic attack gripped me. I clutched at the center of my chest; the feeling of oppression was sudden and horrific. My heart rate: ridiculously elevated. And whereas earlier in the day I’d heard a full chorus of neighborhood birds singing away, the landscape–fences, phone wires, tree tops–was completely devoid of stirring wildlife. No sound whatsoever. My panic intensified; I’d broken into a clammy sweat. Now I see, my 19-year-old self thought. I can totally see why our ancient ancestors marked this astronomical phenomenon with utter dread. This is an Extinguishing, a Great Devouring. It seemed to me as though the time-space vacuum was somehow being sucked into itself, and that the very walkway I began to tread was going to crumble apart, leaving me with no choice but to tumble headlong into the Void from which all the Worlds were spun. The earth would swallow me whole. Continue reading

The Old Bone Goddess

"Bone Woman, Crone Woman" art featuring "a harvest of bones" by artist Joan Riise. Now in my personal collection.

“Bone Woman, Crone Woman” multimedia art piece featuring “a harvest of bones” by artist Joan Riise. Now in my personal collection.

 

Clickety-clack

 

Ah, delicious autumn,

I rattle its bones before your windowpane

Step outside in the shudder-filled evenings

Let your lungs lap up the sepulchral air

My nostrils quiver as I inhale and exhale

Lush, pungent smell of earth and old tombstones

I rise from the dolmen, and my children

Rise with me

Exiting my womb/tomb

This is the season of feasting

Let the Wild Hunt begin Continue reading

The Feast of Selqet: Hail the Mother of Scorpions, Mistress of Magic!

Stunning gold figure of Selqet found in the Pharaoh Tutankhamun's tomb.

Stunning gold figure of Selqet found in the Pharaoh Tutankhamun’s tomb.

In the Old Cairo Calendar, today marks the Feast Day of the great Goddess Selqet (or Serket), the scorpion-crowned protectress of the living and the dead. Like my beloved Patroness, Nebet-Het, Selqet is Great in Heka (Magick); She knows the ways of the pharmakeion, from noxious poisons and the venom of scorpion and serpent as well as their antidotes and healing herbs and resins. In the Pyramid Texts, it is written that when the Goddess Aset fled into the marshes to deliver Her son Heru, Selqet dispatched seven sacred scorpions to ward Mother and Child. She is awesomely apotropaic. Continue reading

Go to Hel, Part 3: Bound by Bone—Deepening My Devotion to Loki’s Daughter

The wallpaper on my work PC is a stunning 1905 painting by the German artist Emil Doepler. Entitled “Loki’s Brood,” I find throughout the course of any given workday that I completely lose myself in reverie as I look at Hel. It’s almost as if Her distant gaze, surely focused as it is on Other/Inner Worlds, mirrors my own as I gaze at Her and think on Her glorious Being. Is it possible to truly love—with all the inner reserves of affection and devotion that your heart is capable of squeezing out—a Goddess of Death? Continue reading

Go to Hel, Part 2: “Please, Don’t Squeeze the Shaman”: Journeying Deep into Helheim

It all began in August of 2013, when I moved into my first-ever purchased home: a cozy condo in Chicago’s far northwest corner—a neighborhood, unbeknownst to me at the time, notoriously known for its ghastly history and stupendously huge mass paupers’ graves lurking beneath my very subdivision and a large swath of the surrounding area! Continue reading

Go to Hel, Part 1: How My Polytheistic “Dark” Goddess Proclivities and Seriously Weird Wyrd Opened Wide the Gates to Hel

Theologically speaking, as a hard polytheist, I believe that the Deities I love and serve objectively exist and have distinct, independent personalities with likes and dislikes, preferred/time-honored ritual offerings, and unique bodies of lore surrounding Them. They are not mental constructs/Jungian archetypes drawn from some collective Unconscious well. Continue reading