“The Devil is not so black as he is painted.” (16th-century French proverb)
This past Monday, January 20, my parents and I celebrated the highlight of the year in terms of Serbian Orthodox religious festivals: the slava, or feast day, of our family’s patron saint, John the Baptist. It’s a day when many ritual protocols have to be observed to ensure blessings on the family in the year ahead. This feast day is the third out of a three-day series where the focus is on the literal and spiritual washing away of winter’s miasma/spiritual impurity from people and their homes. Not surprisingly, blessed water plays an integral role in each day of the festival; the customs clearly attest to pre-Christian origins.
It’s not difficult to see the effects of this month’s heavy-hitting, powerfully transformative planetary transits and aspects given the alarming global news headlines. Australia’s incineration and the death of half a billion animal species so far. The build up of war between the US and Iran and the threat of a much larger conflagration in the wake of the drone missile assassination of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani. Great Britain’s Brexit mess. Ongoing anti-authoritarian / mainland Chinese government protests in Hong Kong.
It’s a jarring time and it can certainly fill one with a sense of acute anxiety, despair, and hopelessness. It’s as if we’re living out the horrors of W.B. Yeats’ nightmare chillingly depicted in his 1919 poem, “The Second Coming”:
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold,
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity. (lines 3-8)
Much of the chaos and confusion stems from the anticipated exact conjunction, slated for January 12, between structure-, law-, governmental-authority-oriented Saturn and Underworld-rooted, power-conscious, death-and-rebirth preoccupied Pluto. This conjunction is certainly a show-stopper on its own, but there’s actually a quadruple conjunction of planets in Capricorn happening on January 12, two days after a Cancer full moon eclipse! The scope of our narrative broadens. Journey with me into our space-time continuum, won’t you?
Happy New Year and may this new decade bring vibrant health, joy, prosperity, and love to us all! Per my time-honored tradition, before commencing my revels last night I sat in silent contemplation, reviewing my notes on the yearly forecast Tarot reading I did for 2019 to gauge my accuracy and then doing my reading for myself for this year.
It isn’t often that celebrated Reclaiming and Feri Tradition Witch, published author, and artist Gede Parma, who also uses the name Fio Aengus Santika, comes to the United States, but when they* do, it’s always a reason to celebrate! I have had the pleasure of sharing heart-centric ritual space in Traditional Witchcraft contexts with Fio during their last two Chicago visits in 2014 and 2017, respectively. They are a highly dynamic ritual facilitator and conductor of spirits. I’ve always left their workshops and delightful time spent socializing feeling elevated and transformed for the better afterwards.
I was ridiculously productive in the sweltering Chicago heat yesterday, making no less than 14 gemstone beaded necklaces in the span of an 8-hour workday; 12 necklaces have since been listed for sale on my Etsy site, JackalMoonDesigns. From devotional pieces intended to honor Deities across a swath of pantheons (Celtic, Kemetic, Hellenic) to my new and expanding line of Spirit Animals to more standard occult fare, there’s truly something for everyone in this diverse lot!
It was during an AMA on Reddit 13 months ago that American writer and director Ari Aster first announced that Midsommar would be the title of his next film and he was hoping to release it on Midsummer’s Day of 2019. He teased at its folk horror genre classification, revealing that Roman Polanski’s Macbeth (1968) and Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man (1973)—which, incidentally, happen to be two of my all-time favorite films—served as Midsommar’s two biggest cinematic influences. I was ecstatic upon hearing this news.
Coming hot on the heels of his powerful and bold 2018 debut film, Hereditary (you can read my review of it here), the bar for my expectations was set very, very high. I wanted to love Midsommar—I truly did. Unfortunately, though, in sharp contrast to the undoubtedly flavorful hallucinogenic teas consumed by the characters in the world of Midsommar, the film came across as grossly insipid to me. Far from elevating the folk horror (sub)genre, as one reviewer gushed, Midsommar flattened it, rendered it as non-engaging and as uninspiring as pieces of disassembled IKEA furniture spilled out of their cardboard box.
Worse, I worry about the potential social ramifications of backlash against Pagan communities in the U.S. and in Europe—when we’re not fighting for our rights to (re)claim ancient sacred sites for contemporary religious worship from countries where Abrahamic monotheism strongly imprints the laws of the land (look at the situation in Greece, for example), we’re constantly trying to disprove to our secular and monotheist- majority neighbors that any connotations exist between our autonomous, fragmented communities and established “cults.” The disturbing kinds of cults—Jim Jonesesque, Peoples’ Temple-congregants-offing-themselves-by-the- hundreds-in-remote-Guyana kinds of cults. In that regard, this film doesn’t exactly serve as a brand ambassador for contemporary Western (Neo-)Paganism.
Warning: My review is rife with plot spoilers!
Twelve years ago today, my best friend (who is an amazing priest and vitki in his cultic tradition) Richie and I led a public Heathen devotional ritual known in some contemporary Norse Polytheist traditions as a faining (distinguished from the more-commonly-known ritual of a blòt; the former is distinguished by bloodless sacrificial offerings). It was a glorious day at a Lake County, Illinois-based forest preserve ritual location that I have always regarded as inherently sacred and immensely powerful: it is a place that shimmers with the energies of so many welcoming and helpful forest spirits, prairie spirits, and water spirits (lake and river). In attendance that Midsummer’s Day were good friends and notable Heathens in the community, such as my friend Atheleas, who served as the Illinois Steward for The Troth at the time, and several of her kindred members.