Happy Navratri: Blessings of Durga-Ma!

This is a holy season for many religious traditions. Last night at sundown, the Jewish New Year or Rosh Hashanah (L’Shanah Tovah to all my Jewish readers and friends!) began, kicking off the period of the High Holy Days that culminate with the Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur on the evening of October 8; this new year is the year 5780 in the Hebrew calendar.

Yesterday also began, for the 1 billion+ adherents of Hinduism around the world, the 9-day Festival of the Goddess Durga known as the Navratri. These are among the most auspicious days of the year in the Hindu religion, and while the whole country of India celebrates the Navratri, the festival is celebrated with a particular fervor in the Indian states of West Bengal (home to the Kali-centric city of Kolkata) and Gujarat.

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Shining a Spotlight on Dark Nights of the Soul

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

“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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