I love being a morning person. I’m not one to sleep in past 6 a.m., even on the weekends, so I’m up and walking my dog, L’il T-Man, very early in the morning. Our first destination is the paupers’ graveyard near my home. It’s a treat to witness the dawn of a new day from the vantage point of standing in one of the commemorative concrete circles, each of which bears bronze plaques that honor a different demographic group buried on the premises (e.g., John Doe Civil War dead, John and Jane Doe victims of the 1871 Chicago Fire, Cook County Asylum for the Insane patients and their children, etc., over 38,000 total bodies).
And in the past 7 years of living in this far Northwest side Chicago neighborhood, the paupers’ graveyard has been my focal point of clean-up efforts every Earth Day. With today being the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, and it being the Dark of the Moon at the time of this writing (the New Moon at 3° Taurus will occur tonight at 9:25 CDT), I am dedicating my clean-up efforts in a wider context of spiritual service to one of my Patron Deities, the ancient Anatolian-Greek Goddess, Hekate Khthonia (Hekate “From Inside the Earth”).
April is National Poetry Month. As a former college English instructor, a published poet, and an ordained Priestess, I honor the legacies of artists whose works have transcended the boundaries of their artistic mediums, and the vagaries of the times in which they lived, rippling out with profound spiritual force to affect so many people today. American poet Sylvia Plath (1932-1963) is such an artist who has had an incalculable effect upon my developing spiritual consciousness from my adolescence onwards; I go so far as to hail her in the ranks of my Mighty Dead, my spiritual forebears in Witchcraft.
Three years ago, I began to meditate on the idea of Plath’s poetry as a vehicle for encountering Dark Goddess energies and the need to harness those energies in a public Pagan ritual format. I knew I wanted to weave together the strands of my academic analysis of her work (I taught American poetry at the undergraduate level for 3 years as an adjunct English professor on Oahu), my Priestessing skills in generating energy and directing it towards a specific purpose to benefit a group of participants, and my own personal religious devotion to specific Dark Goddesses (e.g., Hekate, Nephthys, Hel). Art served as the medium of inspiration, as it often does: not just Plath’s poetry, but my artistic interpretations through acrylic paintings of some of Plath’s most famous works.
The following chronicles my process and its eventual public ritual outcome: an evening of tribute to Plath’s genius through the ritual encountering of Dark Goddess energy, recitals and discussions of Plath’s poetry, and a shamanic journey facilitated by the use of my 2017 painting An Homage to Sylvia Plath’s ‘The Moon and the Yew Tree’ as a portal into the Otherworld. My goal was to have ritual participants surrender to the “blackness and silence” of the Dark Goddess, as described in Plath’s inimitable voice, and experience the transformative gifts of the Shadow.
In this era of social distancing amidst this pernicious COVID-19 global pandemic in which we find ourselves, focus on how your solitary spiritual practices can not just grow, but thrive. One helpful method of personal spiritual battery replenishment takes its cue from the swelling Traditional Witchcraft current in contemporary Paganism, whose tenets include, among other things, establishing a dynamic relationship with the spirits of your local landscape.
This is a holy season for many religious traditions. Last night at sundown, the Jewish New Year or Rosh Hashanah (L’Shanah Tovah to all my Jewish readers and friends!) began, kicking off the period of the High Holy Days that culminate with the Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur on the evening of October 8; this new year is the year 5780 in the Hebrew calendar.
Yesterday also began, for the 1 billion+ adherents of Hinduism around the world, the 9-day Festival of the Goddess Durga known as the Navratri. These are among the most auspicious days of the year in the Hindu religion, and while the whole country of India celebrates the Navratri, the festival is celebrated with a particular fervor in the Indian states of West Bengal (home to the Kali-centric city of Kolkata) and Gujarat.
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
Alone, alone, all, all alone,
Alone on a wide wide Sea!
And Christ would take no pity on
My soul in agony.
—Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere, In Seven Parts” (1798), Part IV, lines 224-227
In my last post, I wrote about the beauty and the power of prayer and how it forms the core of my contemporary Polytheist devotional practice. But I certainly have had my challenges over the years in sustaining my practice, like any other religious person committed to devotional piety. Whether the span lasted for weeks or even months on end, the spiritual crisis known as the “dark nights of the soul,” a term first coined by the sixteenth-century Spanish Counter-Reformation mystic known as St. John of the Cross, was a dreadful phenomenon I’ve endured many times. Continue reading
As long-time readers of this blog will know by now, I did not enter into Polytheistic Paganism with a seething hatred for the Christian denomination (Eastern Orthodoxy) in which I’d been raised.
I am reeling in shock, having received word that my beloved first cousin Milica, whose 52nd birthday was yesterday, died last night of an apparent aneurysm in her stomach’s blood vessels, just hours after my mother and I spoke to her at length on the phone. Continue reading
It’s been a little over a week since I appeared on Magick Radio Chicago as the sole guest invited to speak about Contemporary Polytheism (episode 134). Hosts Drew Prince and Alicia Nell Mitchell (a.k.a. “Galaxy Goddess”) asked me questions and we had a lively two-hour discussion, ranging from the 10-fold criteria I see as essential to a Polytheistic Worldview, to the points of commonality and difference between Polytheism and the broader Pagan movement in the West, and so much more.
Here’s the MP3 file for your aural pleasure!
It’s not often that I begin my day composing a Facebook post asking for pensive responses to a theological question of mine, but that’s how my morning started. Twelve hours and 100+ comments later, I’m reflecting on my musings, my Facebook friends’ insights (to the ones that overlap as readers of this blog, thank you for your input!), and it’s time to craft a blog post around it all. This was my inquiry for discussion:
Serious theological question for my fellow devotional Polytheists: Do you believe that the Gods you serve are limited in Their ‘outreach’ based on geography? Case in point: during my years in Hawaii, my contact with worlds-wandering Hekate and the Kemetic Deities I serve never abated (the Latter Group loved Hawaii, from my experience), but, try as I might, neither Odin or the Vanir were accessible to me out there. However, whenever I visited Chicago, my ‘line’ to Them was instantly reestablished. Upon returning to Hawaii, the spiritual phone line ‘went dead’ again until I moved back home permanently.
What have your experiences been with Gods and spatial/temporal boundaries?