I’m a Newly Certified Death Midwife!

On March 13, after having been informed that I passed my comprehensive exam with 100% accuracy, I officially became certified as a Death Midwife. Continue reading

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The Road to Mana: Re-Membering Soul Loss, Restoring Forgotten Gods

What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from. And every phrase
And sentence that is right (where every word is at home,
Taking its place to support the others,
The word neither diffident nor ostentatious,
An easy commerce of the old and the new,
The common word exact without vulgarity,
The formal word precise but not pedantic,
The complete consort dancing together)
Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning,
Every poem an epitaph. And any action
Is a step to the block, to the fire, down the sea’s throat
Or to an illegible stone: and that is where we start.
We die with the dying:
See, they depart, and we go with them.
We are born with the dead:
See, they return, and bring us with them.

–T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets (“Little Gidding”), 1942. Section V

Epilogue, Part 1

Chicago, Illinois

Thursday, July 9, 2015

“Anna, my spirit guides told me this: ‘The place where this all started [Hawaii] is what’s going to heal her.'”

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?”

The quallupilluit, vengeful water spirits of the Arctic with a solid track record of kidnapping human Inuit children when they venture too close to the water's edge.

The quallupilluit, vengeful water spirits of the Arctic with a solid track record of kidnapping human Inuit children when they venture too close to the water’s edge.

“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

“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

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