A Wonderfully Wyrd, Spiritually Synchronous Spring Equinox Weekend (Or, “Look, Ma! I Got Engaged!”)

What do you get when you combine a romantic weekend getaway at an out-of-state B&B (a getaway that you planned for your partner’s 32nd birthday); supreme hospitality and welcome from the genii loci as well as the human residents of a place you’re visiting for the first time; the energies of the Titan goddess Hekate; the energies of the Inuit goddess Sedna; the energies of All-Father Odin; the energies of the particular Elder Futhark runes Dagaz, Ansuz, and Gyfu; an amber ring; and the supremely potent cosmic “reset” button energies ushered in by Friday’s whopper of a total solar eclipse Spring Equinox? YOU GET ENGAGED, THAT’S WHAT! Continue reading

“Love’s Magic Realm”: The Venusberg of Wagner’s “Tannhäuser” and European Witch Lore

Und dunket mich, wie si gê zuo mir dur ganze mûren, ir trôst und ir helfe lâzent mich niht trûren; swenne si wil, so so vüeretvsie mich hinnen mit ir wîzen hand hôhe über die zinnen. Ich waene sie ist ein Vênus hêre.

Methinks she comes to me through solid walls, her help, her comfort lets me nothing fear; and when she will, she wafteth me from here with her white hand high o’er the pinnacles. I ween she is a Venus high.

–Heinrich von Morunge, quoted in Grimm, Teutonic Mythology, Vol. II. (1844)

This past Saturday night, my bodacious beau and I experienced an unforgettable Valentine’s Day at the Lyric Opera production of Wagner’s Tannhäusera three-act opera, first performed in 1845, based on a medieval German legend that Wagner treats with a bombastic Romantic libretto, some of the best choral singing in any opera ever (the famed “Pilgrims’ Chorus” in Act II), and the thematic treatment of the human inner struggle as Wagner understood it (in a Christian schema) between the lure of carnal desire and the quest for spiritual redemption (the Id vs. the Superego, if you want to page Dr. Freud about it). This theme would find greater development in Wagner’s later operas of Lohengrin (1848), Tristran und Isolde (1859), and especially Parsifal (1882), works that are also steeped in medieval lore that commingles Pagan and Christian characters and sensibilities.

Experiencing Tannhäuser as our epic date night seemed all the more appropriate considering that the goddess Venus (sung in this production by the stunning German mezzo-soprano Michaela Schuster) is not just a principal character, but Tannhäuser’s lover. This is made unequivocally clear before any singing takes place at all; it’s during the dizzying Prelude that the audience is treated to the stunningly hypnotic, stupendously athletic, and sexually explicit Bacchanalian dance choreography (brava to choreographer Jasmin Vardimon!) that introduces the concept of a loving and lavish Venus doting on her mortal amour, the wandering singer Tannhäuser (sung by acclaimed South African tenor Johan Botha). Who better to see and hear on stage on Valentine’s Day than the sea foam-born Roman Goddess of Love? However, it didn’t take long for my Pagan Priestess PowersTM to discern that Dark Goddess currents were swirling about, ones that would contextualize Tannhäuser’s fall from grace amidst his peers and society squarely within European witch lore. Would Tannhäuser have been shunned the way that he was–especially by the pope during his pilgrimage to Rome–if his “sin” was merely sexual congress with the Goddess of Love?  Of course not. He is shunned by his peers because they know–in a feat of dramatic irony audience members might know not if they’re not versed in Teutonic mythology–who the Goddess Under the Mountain really is. She is none other than Frau Holda (or Holle or Hulda), the Chthonic Goddess to whom German witches were said to journey to during their Sabbat rites (Ginzburg, The Night Battles 55); the Goddess who leads the Wild Hunt or the Furious Horde, die wütende heer (Grimm, Teutonic Mythology, Vol. II, 268)Hence by having stayed with Her in Her Underworld for several years before returning to, as Venus in Act I scene ii calls it, “the cold world of men,” Tannhäuser returns from the Land of the Dead, a feat that would have been unthinkable outside the pale of Christian Grace. Continue reading

“We Will Enter Thy Realms Gladly and Unafraid”: Samhain 2014

I know I’m not the only Reconstructionist Pagan who owes her vocation of service to the Gods to an experiential tapestry whose oldest threads of personal magickal practice are Wiccan. As my friend Tamilia observes in her excellent WordPress blog, Wandering Woman Wondering, Wicca is “the gateway Paganism.” I consider myself particularly fortunate, however, that my involvement in Wicca and my earliest magickal training came at the hands of Chicago’s oldest, most lauded, and longest-running Gardnerian Wiccan coven, the Temple of the Sacred Stones, founded by the late Donna Cole Schultz and her husband, Robert Schultz.

Donna set the bar high for a High Priestess, whatever the Pagan denomination: she was an arduous teacher who extolled discipline and exuded Taurean tenacity and patience; she was equal Kabbalistic pillars Severity and Mercy. She ran the Temple of the Sacred Stones like a tight ship–none of this “Pagan Standard Time” tomfoolery. 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

Whispers of Pele: Musings on Death and Rebirth During My Hawaiian Honeymoon, 2004

Whispers of Pele

 

The overpowering sulfur dioxide fumes that had been our constant companion since we’d entered Volcanoes National Park had certainly affected my respiratory system by three in the afternoon, making me wheeze with each intake of air during this, our third straight hour of hiking makai (towards the sea) as we neared the end of Chain of Craters Road. Continue reading