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!
A Religious Cult Without Context, for Starters: The Many Annoyances of Ari Aster’s 2019 Film, “Midsommar”
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.
Dulce Domum, the Soul Returns Home: Last Night’s Fellowship of Isis Funeral Ceremony for Grendel the Cat
The reality is that grief from pet loss is not as easily ‘fixed’ as some would have us believe. It’s hard to live in grief that’s judged as unworthy. Grief is about love, and our animal companions often show us some of the most unconditional love we could ever experience. How often, despite our best efforts, do we absorb some of society’s judgments and think, I shouldn’t be grieving this much? Yet when we let these thoughts in, we betray our genuine feelings.
—Dr. David Kessler, You Can Heal Your Heart: Finding Peace After a Breakup, Divorce, or Death (Carlsbad, CA: Hay House Publishing, 2014), p. 136.
My role as cat midwife/cat mother has come full circle for my beloved Grendel: On September 21, 2007, I midwifed his feral birth in the woods behind my parents’ house; last night, June 11, 2019, I served as the death midwife who ushered him into the Spirit World after I made the heart-wrenching choice (given his Stage IV stomach cancer diagnosis less than 3 weeks ago) to have him euthanized at home sooner than I was expecting to. Continue reading
Calling all Kemetic and Sumerian Polytheists, Reconstructionists, Polytheist Pagans, Tameran Wiccans, ceremonial magicians, Fellowship of Isis (FOI) members worldwide, devotees of the Gods of the Fertile Crescent, and friends! All are welcome to the 26th Annual Fellowship of Isis Goddess Conference and Festival in Chicago! I’m very excited to announce that, for the first time in our FOI Chicago community’s history, the event will span multiple days: Thursday, October 3, 2019 through Friday, October 5, and will feature a Pagan Cabaret! The location this year is the city’s acclaimed Prop Thtr, located at 3502 North Elston Avenue on the city’s north side.
The first workshop I attended at Paganicon 2019, held last month in Plymouth, Minnesota, was a workshop on Traditional Witchcraft facilitated by a young Witch named Kelden, so that I was how I came to meet him and how I came to buy on the spot two copies (one for me and one for my BFF) of the oracle deck that he and his friend and deck co-producer, fellow Trad Craft Witch and artist and illustrator, Maggie Elram, just self-published: The Traditional Witch’s Deck (2019). I’m not surprised that an oracle deck has emerged that is exclusively dedicated to Traditional Witchcraft, given how popular the magico-religious practice has become within the landscape of today’s Paganism (chiefly as an alternative to Wicca); in the charming little paperback published book that accompanies the deck, Kelden explains that his aim was to “create an oracle steeped in history and folklore” (p.58). He and Ms. Elram have done a wonderful job!
Whereas Part 1 in this two-part assessment of my recent Paganicon 2019 experiences detailed the workshops I attended, the objective of Part 2 is to survey the rituals I actively participated in during the three days of the festival gathering: Friday, March 22 through Sunday, March 24, 2019. Continue reading