As far as Sabbat celebrations go, Imbolc was always one of my favorites (I love liminal markers in the shift between seasons, especially between winter and spring), but the Imbolc of exactly one year ago, 2020, will forever be cherished in my heart as the most spiritually poignant one I’ve ever experienced. I had a moment of profound epiphany that any contemporary Polytheist, of any tradition, would recognize the same way I had: a moment of instantaneous transformation wrought from an encounter with an earthly avatar of a very Living Deity, a vibrant Holy Power Who will always command my reverence and devotion even though the Gods of the Celts have, largely, remained elusive to me despite my many attempts at reaching out to know Them. I know in my heart that in the second floor hospital room of Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Illinois, an avatar of Brigid knocked on the door and asked to be let in to comfort my suffering mom. And she came on Imbolc Day: February 2, 2020.
Alone, alone, all, all alone,
Alone on a wide wide Sea!
And Christ would take no pity on
My soul in agony.
—Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere, In Seven Parts” (1798), Part IV, lines 224-227
In my last post, I wrote about the beauty and the power of prayer and how it forms the core of my contemporary Polytheist devotional practice. But I certainly have had my challenges over the years in sustaining my practice, like any other religious person committed to devotional piety. Whether the span lasted for weeks or even months on end, the spiritual crisis known as the “dark nights of the soul,” a term first coined by the sixteenth-century Spanish Counter-Reformation mystic known as St. John of the Cross, was a dreadful phenomenon I’ve endured many times. Continue reading
As the Executive Editor, I’m very pleased to announce that the Autumn issue of Isis-Seshat, the quarterly journal of the worldwide Fellowship of Isis (FOI), is now available! Eighty pages–the longest issue to date–of stunningly beautiful (each issue is printed in full color on 80-lb. high-gloss paper stock) and theologically provocative essays, poetry, prayers, and original artwork from Polytheists (Kemetic devotees and others), Pagans, international FOI clergy, and U.S.-based artists delve into the subject of navigating “Dark Nights of the Soul.” Continue reading
Death. I’ve been acutely reminded of its omnipresence in many ways lately. Seeing the low angle of the sun at this time of year has begun to trigger my seasonal affective disorder. My nightly cemetery walks have been tinged with greater pensiveness and even despair. It’s a gloomy, cool day here in Chicago as the Sun gets ready to enter the eighth sign of the zodiac, Scorpio, herald of the mysteries of death and rebirth. I’m still processing the devastating news I received on Tuesday when I took my 11-year-old cat, Thor (a feral kitten rescue from Hawaii), to an emergency veterinary clinic for an abdominal ultrasound and other tests. My regular veterinarian had performed an X-ray on Thor to determine the cause of his misshapen stomach and elevated liver levels revealed from recent blood testing. The X-ray indicated a mass protruding from Thor’s liver–one so large it had actually pushed Thor’s stomach at a 90-degree angle. No wonder Thor’s lost 9 pounds in a little over two months. Was it a tumor? If so, could surgery be an option? I was referred to the emergency clinic, which is equipped with an advanced radiology department, to find the answers. Instead, the main veterinarian there stunned me with the diagnosis: advanced pancreatic cancer that has metastasized to his liver and lungs. And then those horrible six words, laden with the iron weight of finality:
“There is nothing we can do.” Continue reading
Isis-Seshat Autumn Issue Call for Submissions!
Ah, Autumn! What a delicious season it is here in my native Chicago, one that rattles fallen, decayed leaves like so many bones on the city’s windowpanes. Some may feel pangs of anxiety with the noticeable decrease of daylight, seeking shelter, companionship, and warmth to ameliorate the impact of the season’s omnipresent reminders of mortality. Others may treasure the call to hibernation and solitude, and like the lone figure in The Hermit Tarot card, kindle their lamps of inner wisdom to lead the way. Still others feel…stuck. Enmeshed in isolating feelings–exacerbated by the encroaching darkness and cold of the season–of depression, especially on a spiritual front. Why do I feel so disconnected? I can’t find it within me to pray. What do I do now? My beliefs are changing. To Whom do I turn? A spiritual crisis ensues, and the stuck ones are trying to climb their way upwards and outwards from the abyss many thinkers of a variety of spiritual traditions have labeled “The Dark Night of the Soul.” Continue reading
At twilight the lengthening shadow of the palm leaf hovers over my heart like a dagger
A pastel palette swirls behind cobalt clouds
I couldn’t ask to be murdered more gently Continue reading
On the walls
a maddening repetition in angles of ascent
tricolored rainbows flanked
by clouds Continue reading
T.S. Eliot, in his whimsical Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats (1939), informs us that “The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter/ It isn’t just one of your holiday games.” In a metaphysical sense, the naming of anything is a task fraught with great responsibility and power, for to truly understand the name of something—or understand the true name of something—is to have power over it. Continue reading