Archives For Brigid

A Litany For The Fire

March 28, 2016 — 5 Comments

And like her, I will add more fuel upon the hearth. And like her, I will laugh.

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There, the Dance Is

May 19, 2014 — 7 Comments
The World

(C) Will Worthington, from The Druidcraft Tarot

Before I left Seattle for my pilgrimage (and subsequent journeys, which I’m suspecting comprise even more of the pilgrimage than I’ve quite suspected), the one card which would show up repeatedly in my Tarot readings was The World.

There are all the usual meanings of the card–completion, fulfillment, travel, the end of a cycle, etc., but the card, more than anything, has made me think of these lines from T.S. Eliot:

At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless,
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.
I can only say, there we have been: but i cannot say where.
And I cannot say, how long, for that is to place it in time.

Those words came to mind after a friend asked me to look over some (really good) writing he’d done regarding Polytheistic Monism, or what he calls Polyvalent Polytheism.  To be clear, I’m not a monist, but not because I believe there’s no underlying unity beyond the apparent singular existences of each entity.  Actually, I find it rather likely there is, but I find it doesn’t matter.

I mentioned to him my understanding of this, and I’ll reprint a bit of it here, less because it’s relevant to the matter of monism in general (and you should really consider reading his essays, as they’re quite good), but because they’re relevant to the way I understand my own existence.

In the Eternal, which is not just “outside time” but is what all time is as an unfolding, all experiences (or becomings) of a god then compose that god as a part of the whole. An underlying one-ness cannot be known except in moments of the eternal, but the moment the mystic or poet returns to the temporal the one-ness is technically not-true. That is, every Brigid and every worshiper of Brigid throughout all of time composes together what is meant by Brigid, despite each of those worshipers and Brigid Herself being distinct. The sum total cannot be known except in an unknowable and unattainable state of all-time, or the Eternal.

That “of what we’re all composed,” then, while true on the mystical level, is utterly useless when actually becoming part of the thing which composes everything. That is, we must live in time in order to fulfill eternity, because time can be said to be “unfolded” eternity. Those mystical moments typically give us a glimpse of something that more confirms our direction, like poking one’s head up over Rumi’s great ocean and seeing it’s all ocean. Like pulling oneself out of a sexual experience in order to analyze it, or taking a photo of a sublime moment, both which in essence end the thing being observed (like the photon question) by withdrawal. Being-both seems impossible for the human mind.

Put more simply, “Rhyd” is everything that I have been, am, and will be, as well as every other being’s experience of Rhyd throughout time.  The “true” Rhyd at any point is only a fragmented glimpse of all which composes Rhyd which is utterly unknowable to me while I live.  Ancestor worship relies heavily upon this notion, as well–the dead continue to be experienced and continue in an existence which is not-living yet still fully unfolding.  My grandfather died, but is still becoming through my acknowledgment of him, as is true of every ancestor before him, and will be true of me upon my death.

That being said, I still suspect there’s a sacred, inviolate being called Rhyd (or, more precisely, the full name I was told in a dream), and it’s that Rhyd that I am always attempting to become.  He’s probably the sum total of Rhyd which is knowable to me at this present (despite him being also future-Rhyd), and I can only experience him through glimpses in my becoming, particularly at mystic out-of-time moments, or what Eliot called “The Still Point.”

Becoming

I’ve been thinking a lot about who I’ve become and whom I’m becoming lately.  That last two gwersu in the Bardic grade of OBOD focus on this, but I’ve been thinking about this even before getting there (another way in which OBOD tends to be synchronous as all bloody-hell).

Besides the dark threads I’d mentioned in my previous post, there’s been so much fucking light it’s nearly unbearable.  Brigid is considered the Mother of Bards, at least within some Druid traditions (and it’s not lost on me that Arianrhod is seen as the Initiatrix and Ceridwen is the Mother of Awen…that the three goddesses I worship are so intrinsically linked to the Bardic tradition, and I didn’t necessarily seek them out, fascinates me).  And more than anything, the metaphor of re-forging works best to describe what the fuck has happened to me since this all started.

800px-Depuis_le_Ménez-Hom_vue_1I remember trudging up Menez-Hom, the druid mountain in Bretagne with an expectant trepidation.  I knew I would find something that I would return with, that even if I didn’t find answers to why I’d been led there in the first place, I’d at least have an idea of what sort of questions I should be asking.

What I hadn’t expected is that I’d lose something.  I’d written in my travel journal the following, just remembered when I condensed them for A Sense of Place last week:

After the night on Menez Hom, a resounding inquiry voiced itself: “What are you going to do now, without your fear?”

The experience on that mountain, asleep under the full moon without a tent, the dreams and visions and whispers ripped me from my fear, and, to be honest, I sort of miss it in the way that one might miss an abusive lover or a gilded cage.

Tracking what else has been reforged looks to be a rather long task, one that I’ll probably be doing for quite some time.  That being said, I’ve been wanting to talk about the strange wheel I found myself in during Beltaine.

This involves several apparently unrelated stories.  Bear with me, if you would.

This journey began in the ashes of a life and a relationship, nigredo as the Alchemists would have it, the blackening, akin to St. John of the Cross’s Dark Night of the Soul.  The life I built and knew and loved in Seattle had come to an end, as had a relationship that we both needed out of.

The Hearth-Keeper

I’d had dreams of Brigid before that ending, and the one I mentioned previously had been quite profound, her calling me “outside.”  After I started this, I’d had another dream.  I was in an old wooden building, making food for people who desired each other.  I was “in-between” their desire, neither the cause nor the obstacle, just merely there, in a sort of still point.  I wasn’t Brigid, but I was somehow in Her place, doing some work for Her, and it ended well.

The Caffeinated Messiah

14 years ago, when I moved to Seattle, I stumbled on a coffee shop run by a Radical Faerie.  Besides being absurdly cool (part goth, part hippy, full of Sunday-School kitsch and punk-drag), it’d also been one of the meeting places for radicals involved in direct-action against the WTO in Seattle.  I found the place 3 days after I arrived, and I can trace pretty much every fantastic and meaningful thread of my life there from events which occurred in that coffeeshop.

I met my first long-term partner there.  I gave him a quarter to put into the slot in the bathroom which turned off the lights, turned on a disco-ball and made “Disco Inferno” play on repeat for a minute.  We were together for almost 10 years after that.

Another man I met there haunted me for a decade later, a beautiful, feral looking punk-twink whom I crushed over hardcore.  He became a caretaker for a Rad Fae sanctuary and I never saw him again until a few weeks ago.

The Elder

When my recent partner and I ended, a man had a vision during a Naraya ceremony.  He was told that my former lover would be in pain and would need help.  When he returned from the ceremony, he offered him a place in his home.  One of my greatest fears upon the end of our relationship was that some addiction issues that my lover had faced would become more profound after the end of our relationship, and being taken in by that elder pretty much negated all of my fears and made it much easier for what we’d both hoped would come out of our end, a continuation of the close friendship on which our relationship had been built.

That elder, I should mention, is the same man who started that coffee shop.  One other thing you should know–he traditionally cooks the largest meal during Beltaine celebrations at the Radical Faerie sanctuary, for 200+ people.

She and He and They and I

The figure dancing in the World is an androgyne, and this has a particular meaning to me beyond the general alchemical unity and oneness, though that’s part of it.

If you’ve met me, you’ll know that I have a rather low voice, a clumsy stagger, lots of body hair, and a general, oafish-male persona.  No one guesses I sleep with men because I’ve none of the affectation of a stereo-typical gay male.

But even if you’ve met me, you may not know that I have never quite come to grips with being “male.”  Or better put, being “only male.”  I don’t talk about this much for several reasons, the largest being that my experience of being both male and female doesn’t compare to the experiences of many of my friends who have experienced gender disphoria and thus chosen to alter their physical body to match their gender.  I don’t feel embodied in the “wrong” gender; rather, I feel embodied in only one of them, and have always found it jarring when people react so severely to my male presence without also noting my female-ness

This is what the “Mystical Marriage” is said to be about–the unity of both the male and the female in the same existence, symbolized (but only symbolized, not actualized) in the sexual union of male and female.  Coming to an embrace of both my maleness and my femaleness wasn’t fully possible for me before Druidry, and not until this most recent Beltaine.

Brigid in The Barn

"The Barn"

“The Barn”

Back to the circle.

I’m sitting in a circle, actually, as someone is asking for a volunteer to make dinner for 200+ people the night before Beltaine.  I’m raising my hand, and the person looks relieved.

“We know each other,” this person says.  “You knew me by another name.”

It’s the feral punk-twink I’d crushed over a decade before, now a feral looking bear.  But they’re different, but so am I.

“I was here last year, too, but we didn’t recognise each other, because I was a woman.”

I learn their story.  They’d become a woman not long after I’d last seen them as a male, and because of, medical complications, they then had to stop the hormones and become, in essence, male-embodied again.  And they’d been fearful about the dinner that night, because the person who normally would have made it was away.  And also, they’d always had a crush on me, they said.

So, it’s Walpurgisnacht, and I’m in “the Barn,” which is the old wooden building where all the dinners are prepared and eaten at the sanctuary.  I’m “topping” (that is, directing) the 200 person dinner that night, and just before I begin, I pray to Brigid, dedicating the making of that dinner to Her as an act of devotion

It goes very, very well, but that’s not the point.  I’m making dinner as a devotee of Brigid for people gathered because of desire (it’s a queer pagan gathering–almost everyone’s slathered in desire).  I’m in an old wooden building doing so, and I suddenly see what the fuck it is I’ve just done, what I’ve just fulfilled, and I’m laughing.

ryan ragleAnd I keep laughing.  The person who normally makes that meal each year? The Elder I mentioned.  And he’s not making dinner because he’s initiating a man before a fire elsewhere.  That man he’s initiating?  My former lover.

At this point, every apparently loose and unmeaning thread in my life weaves itself into one great tapestry.  The next morning, the spirit of a nearby stream appears to me, both male and female, and that night, in the back of that same barn, I’m wrestling naked with that man who was a woman who then became both, and I’m a man and a woman and both, and we’re surrounded by men who became women who were in essence both, keeping a silent, beautiful watch.

This was a Still Point.

The World, The Fool, The World

Stories don’t end, of course.  Some stories become fulfilled, just as some journeys are fulfilled.  The World means both fulfillment and ending, both wholeness and the crossroads.  The next card is The Fool, a new journey.

During this last Beltaine, despite being amongst so many beautiful people, my heart and mind kept longing elsewhere, outside the sanctuary towards a man who’s quickly gonna get embarrassed by how much I want to write about him.

This first journey started in the ashes of a life and a relationship, and here I am at the beginning again, deeply in love with a man and likely about to return to the city I left.

There’s an underlying unity to all of this, yes, a constant return.  But we’re never the same who return, or the same who leave.  Every bit of this story writes itself into the past and the future, and every bit of my life is a relentless act of becoming, each singular act a re-weaving of all that was and is and will be, each fulfillment a dance at the still point of the turning world.

 

 

 

Hi, Dionysos

May 14, 2014 — Leave a comment

Don’t write poetry when you’re drunk, I’ve said, and yet it all weaves and wends, like under the tree where I still don’t know what they re-wove.

He’s there, smiling again, back, like the time He was on another’s face, and then another’s.  The time I sat there, writing about the clothes the gods wear, and He’s hitting me over the head with another man’s cock and I’m smiling. I keep typing.

So much left to do before then, He’d said.

And it’s then.  And I’m in just my boots, and there’s no one here but a man elsewhere, nearby but very far.  Growls like the howls of the satyrs just outside the circle of light from the hearth, and I’m hearing that same music, and I remember:

Each page I tore and read before committing to flames.  And I laughed, and it wasn’t just my laughter, but She at her hearth.

She said I’d see his death, which became mine, the scythe which bloods, and Dahut drowns the city out of joy.

Summon the dead, and the Wanderer, and ask them what this is about but you know the answer already, because it’s the answer to everything, and the cause of every question ever asked.

Gods and Radicals

March 6, 2014 — 17 Comments

I’m a part of what weaves my story, but there are sudden bursts of searing insight which remind me that I am not the only who weaves it, nor are my choices ever only my own.

Shall I explain? How can I, really, except to impart fragments just as I view them–not shattered, but patch-work glimpses of glittering reflections strung along by fascinating threads.

First of all, did you know gods-worshippers are a fantastically radical lot?  Not just strange or queer, but good gods do they seem to exist with a burning fire ready to torch the darkness.  And funny, as I forgot this of myself, that what I want to tear down is a hedge between here and Other.

I met a particular person today, an occasional Pagan writer, a gods-worshipper, and a ferocious activist whose whole form and persona vibrated with what could only be called a sort of divine delight.  Her work is known to many, including enough people where she lives to find her personal life and impending move to another city mentioned in the local alternative paper.

This person, Alley Valkyrie, mentioned the same goddess had demanded social justice from her as who has done so for many others.  A goddess who demands those who worship her go out and fight injustice, particularly related to the homeless.  That is, a radical goddess.

Against the (Paralyzing) White Light

A topic in our conversation particularly fascinated me.  We’d spoken of a certain passivity within Paganism when it comes to matters of environmental damage, war, and other human calamities.  That is, “meditating” for peace or carbon reduction; similar to another thread of thought that suggests “changing oneself” will change the world.

I read a post by another Brigid-worshiper awhile back regarding how certain tendencies within Paganism are not only unhelpful but actually tend to result in harm to victims of very real things.  There is a kind of optimism which isn’t optimism at all, but rather a denial of human suffering which sustains injustice.

I intend to track a bit more of this in my book, but this sort of thing isn’t Pagan at all, but rather a colonization of a certain Capitalist/Liberal logic within Pagan which cripples its revolutionary potential.  It’s parallel to why certain folks find discussions of tolerance revolting, which makes them sound unfortunately reactionary.  It’s also why our discussions of privilege are going nowhere.

Liberal discourse defangs radical acts and discourse by offering itself up against a great void, presenting itself as our only hope against the throngs of witch-burners, fag-haters, fundamentalists, and totalitarians, and it does so by giving us inadequate tools to understand our oppression and un-freedom.  Amongst these is one of the more preciously-held tenets of Paganism, an inherited Universalism that we’re all, essentially, out for the same truths on our own individual paths and therefore all worthy of respect and affirmation.

The defense contractor, the multi-national banker, the polluter, the small-minded local business tyrant, and the gay-basher aren’t worthy of respect, affirmation, or tolerance.  Nor is meditating for world peace or an end to homelessness anything more than a pathetic masturbatory exercise.  I say “may there be peace in all the realms” during my druid rituals, but I’ve no illusion that my words alone change anything, anymore than voting changes anything.

This is why the position of so many gods-worshippers is a radical one, a severe one, an awfully serious one.  Sacrifice and actions matter more than words or intent.

Radical Gods

Some might know of an earlier dispute between some gods-worshippers on the necessity of social justice, and now that enough time has passed over the issue I feel it’s worth mentioning something that didn’t seem to get addressed.

Some gods are out to save the world.  Some aren’t.  But I think both sorts of gods benefit greatly from the acts of the followers of each.  It’s seems so obvious that it’s probably awfully easy to miss: both sorts are doing precisely what their gods demand of them.

Those of us who worship a gods and goddesses who demand we do stuff in the world for them need the ones who worship those who demand contemplation, ecstatic worship, and ponderous ritual.  It’s from them that we even have any clue what other gods are up to in the world, and they’re the ones developing for the rest of us tools and oracles and methods to interact with our own gods and the spirits around us.  They’re the mystics (whether they see themselves as such or not) who sacrifice an awful lot of their time to the gods so the rest of us learn how to.

And on the other hand, the mystics need the ponderous intellectuals who are working on the larger implications of what this means, or the valiant and whimsical street-warriors to bring the gifts, given by their gods to them, given then by them to us, to wreak upon the realm of the material and social the will of the gods we all revere.

If gods are real (and they are), then they affect the world.  And what’s particularly fantastic about their effect is how they do it, how they wield some of the most glorious, fantastic tools to enact their wills into the world.  Some tools are pretty useless at some things but perfectly suited for others.  I’ll a pretty decent writer, but I’ve got a two-beer limit before I take my clothes off and really can’t get ecstatic for the life of me, so my mystical communions are pretty limited to walking myths and occasional visions.

But I’m okay with this, as there are others doing it damn well and teaching methods to help the rest of us.

Likewise, I’m pretty good at politics and fighting on behalf of others, but good gods I’ll never quite be like the fantastic person who bought me tea this afternoon.

Neither of these are excuses for not trying, and trust me–the folks I know whose devotion is staggering do nothing but inspire the fuck out me, be they the activists or the mystics.

I mostly bring this up to point out that us gods-worshipers are a pretty fierce, burningly radical lot, are united by our physical, very-real actions for our gods, and are rather likely to reforge the world, precisely as our gods intend.

And this makes my radical, god-worshiping heart pretty damn thrilled.