My Experiences at Green Spirit Festival 2017

No matter how dedicated we may be in our service to our Deities and spirits, and the communities in which we live and serve, I find that it’s good to periodically take time out for a spiritual battery recharge. It’s all the better when that experience can be accompanied by a drastic change of scenery, one that squarely situates you in Nature’s nurturing bosom for a few days, allowing you to simultaneously connect with unfamiliar/non-ordinary terrain and with your own inner resources of flexibility/willingness to endure hardships, physical strength and stamina, and the commitment to be fully present in the moment. Those are the reasons why I like camping (in “primitive” conditions) so much, and why I couldn’t pass up the chance to attend this year’s Green Spirit Festival in southwest Wisconsin. Sponsored by Circle Sanctuary, this annual festival affords community celebrants the chance to create an intentional Pagan village for a three-day weekend, attuning to the land and nourishing the body, heart, mind, and spirit with educational workshops, nature walks, communal rituals and home-cooked meals, at least one handfasting, a major mugwort harvest, a concert from Celtic folksinger and comedienne Celia, Tailteann/Highland Games, a candlelit labyrinth meditational walk at night, and joyous socializing with members of your Tribe that you’d be hard pressed to connect with in person at any other time of the year.

This year’s Green Spirit Festival occurred from Friday, July 28 to Sunday, July 30. It was the spiritual battery recharge experience I was seeking and so much more. It’s taken me a full week to process my experience internally and to integrate its manifold benevolent effects spilling forth, Ace of Cups style, into all aspects of my life, giving me added reason to give profound thanks not just for this Sabbat season of Lughnasàd, but for the Sacred Time of celebrating my Kemetic Gods’ birthdays in that liminal period known as the Epagomenal Days in the ancient Egyptian calendar, that which divides the Old Year from the New.

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“The Dark Side of the Early Modern Witch”: Thoughts on Robert Eggers’ Film, “The Witch”

One impulse from a vernal wood

May teach you more of man,

Of moral evil and of good,

Than all the sages can.

–William Wordsworth, “The Tables Turned” (1798), lines 21-24

I judge the effectiveness and emotional relevance of a film, as I would any other artistic medium, by how much I keep engaging in dialogue with it long after my initial experience of it has ended. Is my overall curiosity not sated, but piqued, as a result of the cinematic experience? What elements–in subject matter, theme, mood, portrayal, technical composition–prompt me to seek discussion with others? Do I find that thoughts of the film, or my visceral responses to my emotional experience of it, intrude in my waking consciousness the following day? Do I want to see/reexperience the film anytime soon?

Robert Eggers’ 2015 directorial debut of The Witch, a 92-minute genre-bending historical/horror/dark fantasy film set in seventeenth-century New England (the subtitle of the film is A New England Folk-Tale), is going to be incorporated into my Top 10 list of all-time favorite movies–right up there with Kubrick’s The Shining (which Eggers acknowledged as a conscious influence on his filmmaking process for The Witch) and The Last Unicorn. It won critical acclaim at last year’s Sundance Festival. It’s even gotten an official endorsement from the Satanic Temple! 

My Bodacious Beau™ and I saw it last night, and when (mostly fellow Pagan) Facebook friends of mine saw my movie theater check-in post, they naturally wanted a succinct review from me afterwards. “Delightfully unnerving” was my two-word answer. And yes, it felt so good to come home to so many familiars afterwards! (Too bad I don’t have a black goat…not yet, at any rate!) Continue reading

Biljini Petak i Djurdjevdan: Vestiges of Serbian Paganism in St. George’s Day Celebrations That Welcome the Start of Summer

“…Gde Djurdjev hodit, tam vam polje rodit…”

“…Where Djurdjev walks, there your field gives birth…” –Old South Slavic folk song

While much of the Pagan world in Western Europe and North America–from London to Lexington, Kentucky–celebrates the well-known Celtic festival of Beltane, the “fire of the god Bel,” this first of May (which is Lei Day in Hawaii, incidentally; I wish a very happy Lei Day to my local kine friends and followers on Oahu–Hele mei hoohiwahiwa!) is special to me as a first-generation Serbian-American with more than a passing interest in my culture’s pre-Christian beliefs. The Friday before May 6, the fixed date of St. George’s Day, the traditional start of summer, has a lot of unique customs surrounding it that attest to very old and widespread pre-Christian beliefs preserved in rural as well as urban Serbian communities. This particular Friday that comes but once a year has a special name: Biljini Petak. The word Petak means “Friday” and biljini  is an adjective related to wild herbs and flowering plants; hence, Biljini Petak can be best translated as “The Friday of Wild Herb-Gathering Before Saint George’s Day.” The fact that this year’s Biljini Petak falls squarely on Beltane pleases me greatly, as there is a lot of overlap between Serbian/Slavic and Celtic observances that clearly hail from a Pagan past.

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Sleep Paralysis, Sitting Ghosts, and the Use of Words of Power to Undo Magickal Fetters

“That night the Baron dreamt of many a woe,
       And all his warrior-guests, with shade and form
       Of witch, and demon, and large coffin-worm,
       Were long be-nightmar’d.”–John Keats, “The Eve of St. Agnes” (1820)
I hadn’t experienced any night terrors in years. Between 12:30 and 4:30 CDT this morning, however, I experienced no less than a trio of related nightmares, all of which included a malevolent, shadowy being crushing my chest so that I was incapable of rising from my bed and helping whoever it was that needed help (my father in the first nightmare and Hela, my one-eyed kitten, in the third) and that horrible inability to scream when you really want to scream. I found myself incapable of articulating any semblance of words, not even “NO!” nor “Help!” nor my father’s nor my kitten’s names. My dreaming self/night-journeying, free-roaming soul/ka–whatever you want to call it–could neither move nor speak. It was truly as though an entity had placed fetters upon me, one of the most dire forms of binding magic that can be placed upon a person.

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Wight Power: Cultivating Right Relationship with Land Spirits

Winter is finally starting to lose its vise grip here in The Chi. Daytime temps have been hovering in the 40s and 50s since Sunday, tolling a death knell for the mounds of snow. It’s actually possible to see patches of grass on peoples’ front lawns and in public parks once again, and the faintest buds are beginning to poke through the tips of tree branches. And so last night, for the first time in months, my Bodacious Beau™ Dan and I went out for a leisurely stroll in our local cemetery. That unmistakable angle of the almost-spring sun receding behind adjacent rooftops in the west just before it plunges into its deep, egg-yolk hue at sunset warmed both of our hearts immensely. Sparrows, robins, and turtle doves warbled and cooed from the neighboring trees. Indeed, all of nature seemed to be ringing out a symphony of joy, and I felt delighted to be unhindered in my ability to leave offerings for the spirits of the land and our Dunning neighborhood’s dead. I clutched my slices of homemade banana nut bread (the Mother Squirrel–I’ve named her Ratatosk as a nod to Norse mythology–residing in the Hel-Tree in the cemetery would surely be pleased!) to my chest and Dan and I grinned at each other as we traipsed our way through the soggy cemetery grounds. Continue reading

“A Deed Without a Name”: Spirit Possession, Sacred Service, and Sedna–OR, I Get By With a Little Help from my Helping Spirits

“I don’t get it,” Dan, my Bodacious Beau™, said as we carefully stepped our way across city blocks of ice-coated Chicago Park District sidewalk prior to descending to our subway platform this morning. “I don’t see how this serves you or benefits Sedna. What I see as the outcome of this kind of ritual is the toll it takes on you–physically, cognitively–you’re worn out this morning. You’ve basically lost your voice again, your vocal chords are so strained, and I can tell you’re still not fully grounded. And it’s not clear to me what Sedna gets out of this. What’s an Arctic deity doing in Chicago? But honestly”–and here he came to a complete stop in our walk–“I just find the whole thing scary.”

I stopped walking also and gazed eastwards across the vast expanse of snowy terrain claimed by this particular Park District on the northwest side of the city. The sun, slowly rising above a silhouette of tall buildings, looked like a frozen egg yolk trying to crack itself in a relentless vise grip of winter gray. I noted how my breath issuing from my nostrils hung in the air like a dragon–like Fafnir! I whimsically thought. But the morning’s 14 degree F temps were like a balmy paradise compared to yesterday’s abominable -4 degrees daytime high. It was the coldest day of (this tediously long) season thus far.

Minus the buildings, this landscape pretty much looks like the fucking Arctic right now, so why couldn’t this be Sedna’s playground too? But I kept that thought to myself. Instead, I replied to Dan’s statement with a question:

“What was it like this time? Compared to the sounds you heard coming from the temple room last November?” I had a feeling I’d be able to anticipate his response, but I had to hear him say it. I needed the confirmation.

Dan’s eyes widened as he slowly uttered his choice of words. “Way more intense. Definitely more violent-sounding, with a different range of sounds too. I was actually very worried about you but I know you’ve instructed me to never interrupt you when you’re in trance.”

I paused as I carefully chose my next series of questions, fearing rejection or humiliation even though my sensible Virgo/C3P0-like logical brain told me I had nothing to fear. After all, my partner, a ceremonial magician himself, has been an unwavering supporter of my method of trafficking with spirits–alien to him thought it might be in practice.

“What if I told you…that I didn’t journey to Sedna’s Underworld last night at all?” I slowly began. “What if I told you that no sooner did I begin drumming than She shot up through the floorboards and took control of me immediately? And that I, as a shamanic first, literally puked on my own chest and pissed my pants [insert the sight of Dan wincing here] when She did so? That She also brought a whole troop of spirits with Her and they’re all there in the room–blammo!–for good? That She’s now something like the tutelary deity of our temple space?”

The quallupilluit, vengeful water spirits of the Arctic with a solid track record of kidnapping human Inuit children when they venture too close to the water's edge.

The quallupilluit, vengeful water spirits of the Arctic with a solid track record of kidnapping human Inuit children when they venture too close to the water’s edge.

“I’d say I believe you,” Dan said somberly. “And I’d also say that even though you’ve got big cojones, you’ve got to be careful.” Continue reading