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?”
“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