Archives For Druidry

Berlin RabenI’m almost completed the Bardic grade of OBOD.

Much of what changed in my world began a little before I started, soul-wrenching dreams and strange spiritual panics in the face of what I understood of the world changing around me. And there’s been this really…dark thread throughout it that I don’t look at much, waiting for myself to understand.

The Prison

For years, I’d have a repetitive dream of a massive subterranean industrial complex with no natural light.  I’d explore more and more of it each time I returned there, and the dreams would shake me far into the light of morning.  A year before I started Druidry, I’d taken to writing prisoners, a timeless leftist tradition.  I began a correspondence with a gay metal-head in a southern prison who quickly revealed he was a Heathen, and we’d began talking about Paganism.  The dreams I’d been having intensified while writing him, and I’d see more and more of this strange underground complex.

I had to stop writing him.  He progressively revealed to me his Neo-Nazi leanings, which we’d argue about until the day a letter arrived from him with a shirtless photo of him (he was an attractive bloke)…in front of a Nazi flag.  I was so nauseated I couldn’t continue writing him, regardless of the possibility that I might be able to show him he was being a fucking idiot.

I’d forgotten about him until now, and there’s something I forgot I realized, and something we should all fear.

The Elder and The Golem

Years before, a lover had found an uprooted elder in our alley, left to die.  He’d asked the women at the house if he could have it, and she called her husband on the phone asking if the neighbor’s landscapers could have the dying tree (we often got mistaken for not-belonging in the neighborhood we lived, despite having lived there years longer than those making such judgments).

For weeks, he and I nursed the tree back to life.  It lost its original living branches but sprouted new ones soon after, and so much love and life had gone into that tree that it became something more than a tree.  It became a guardian.  My best friend would leave offerings to the spirits there, I’d hang candles in its branches.

A few months after I stopped writing the prisoner, my roommate had done a ritual involving the tree and a golem and perhaps some not-so-nice magic.  For weeks, there was this…screaming in my head, incomprehensible, unintelligible.  I thought I was going insane.  All was relentless panic, and at the same time a relationship that had already begun to unravel suddenly became utterly intolerable to me, like I couldn’t look at him without hearing that screaming in my head.

Exhausted (I didn’t sleep well for weeks), worried by what was going on in my head, and perturbed by the statements of my lover that he’d been seeing a weird fleshy creature wandering around the room at night in his dreams, I found myself looking at the Elder tree and noting that it was dying.

I knew no magic or rituals or anything.  But I began digging in the dirt around the tree, extracting buried dark things (careful with your rootwork, y’all), giving offerings to the spirit of the tree and praying (to whom? I don’t know) and uttering a blessing as my body shook in some strange power I didn’t comprehend.

You should know something.  I didn’t believe in this.  At all.  I’d been reading Tarot for years and lighting candles on an altar with cool-looking but meaningless bric-a-brac for years (leaves, feathers, a bell, a gear, a brass chalice of water), but it meant nothing to me, just some nice thing that made my life a little more beautiful.  I’d been a functional atheist with whimsical ideas for most of the preceding decade.  If the gods were anything, they were great stories, archetypes, or all dead.

I watched the tree immediately get better and watched my roommate suddenly get so ill over three days that he collapsed on our living room floor, muttering incoherently about dreams of being choked by snakes and feeling that the elder tree suddenly hated him.

I didn’t know what I was doing, except that I’d learned it all in a book from a man in a dream when I was young, and the last time I tried to find out more about this I was pinned to the ground by some…thing…with charred skin.  What’s that mean, huh?

The Tower, the Candle, the Cauldron

Three years before all of this, I remember making a conscious choice to shut off my spirit.  I’d been having really intense visions that scared the fuck out of me, not that they themselves were frightening, but that I had them at all was terrifying to me.

One was of a white tower.  I still see it in my head, clearly.  I knew it, knew I’d encounter it, knew I was supposed to see it, and knew I couldn’t endure the sort of life I had to live in Seattle while having those visions.  So, I stopped.

Around Samhain of the year before I started Druidry, that same roommate made me a door-opening candle, as I was losing a job and had no idea what I’d do next.  My relationship with my lover was horrible at this point, and we were both close to being in abject poverty.

Door-opening candles open doors.  They’re just not the ones you demand.  As an aside, I’ll admit that I’ve had to swallow back a lot of vomit and bile regarding recent talk about magic and money.  I honestly want to shake every prosperity magician in the world and then take them on a tour of the homeless shelters I worked at for four years and say, “use your fucking magic to fix this, you selfish pricks.”

Doors opened everywhere and closed elsewhere.  A new lead singer for my medieval-rock band, which resulted in the end of my relationship with my lover.  A slow trudge through a pouring rain in a Seattle winter, most of my life in my backpack (I wasn’t homeless–I chose to give my former lover our place for awhile since he had nowhere else to go and I did).  A sudden brutal fuck between that singer and myself after tears and I’m suddenly screaming in a voice that doesn’t feel like mine, “I resist the goddess no more.”

Which goddess?  I didn’t know yet.  But there’d been the dream of the village in Bretagne.  I’m with the now-former lover.  We’re fucking with a third guy and I’m not really part of it because I want to be elsewhere and there’s this women staring at me as it’s happening, a look that beckoned, that said “come outside.”

So I did, and I’m walking towards a village where there are people who have power over me are gathered, and I notice there’s another path, a chemin, and so I try to walk up there and there’s an old woman barring my way.

She’s in front of a cauldron, and she demands I answer questions, and I do, and then she tells me I can now use these paths and none that would harm me can follow.

Those paths are dark, you should know.

Imbolc and the Well

I’d considered starting Druidry a year before I started.  It wasn’t time, or I made excuses.  This happens.

On Imbolc, two months after the end of that relationship, I am praying to Brigid.  I don’t realize it’s Imbolc, I’m such a mess.  No work, dwindling resources, alone, terrified.  My band’s lead-singer and I had a brief really intense relationship (brutally carnal, flesh-tearing soul-fucking) and then ended because it wasn’t good for me.  I needed to be alone, to go find something.

I pray to her.  I don’t really believe in her a few seconds before I start praying to her, and then I realize I don’t have a good reason not to believe in her.   I pray for clarity, some fucking peace, and some idea of what all of this shit I’d been seeing and going through fucking meant, what I was supposed to do, what it meant to have parted with that lover, whether I should try again with him or go my own fucking way.

A day later, I felt such brutal serenity, such feral certainty, such raging clarity.  I lived on the top floor of an old house with a massive balcony overlooking the Cascades and Lake Washington, and I stood outside, staring at the world, knowing something I’d hoped was true my entire life actually was.

She existed.  She was before me.  So were others who I couldn’t see yet.  And I laughed, realizing it’d been Imbolc.

I decided I’d do Druidry.  I sent off the money for OBOD, and that day ended up talking to someone who’d started it already, a powerful friendship.  The witch-roommate (of the candle and the golem) gave me Greer’s Druidry Handbook and I devoured it, and almost immediately, the dreams and visions got even more fucking intense.

One night, I’m at a well.  I know this well, I know where it is.  Two people are taking me on walks through the chemins, one at a time, teaching me something I need to know.  Each time we return to the well, and I wake, shuddering, terrified of an even greater darkness then I’d suspected.

The Others

740a2-editorYou didn’t really think things would get happier and more peaceful after this, right?

I’ve had a few close friends express jokingly that they’re envious of the preponderance of visions and experiences I’ve had since this all started.  And…I don’t understand.

Know what’s it like to try to walk to a Marian shrine to pray because you need some peace and have this overwhelming physical force push you back and say, “no.  It’s time to meet another god?

Or to be midway through sex with a guy and watch his face contort into the face of another god and then have wickedly intense visions of another goddess that you didn’t realize you’d known for years show up at the same fucking time?

Or to have a man roll off a bed, doubled over in pain, demanding to know why the fuck you “let” a giant punch him in the stomach and you really don’t know what to say except whisper “thank you?”  The same giant who was sorting through your head disapprovingly noting that you’d fallen in love with some atheist boy that wasn’t gonna fucking happen on Their watch?

Or to cry on top of a Breton druid mountain, exhausted, as a figure dressed in sea-foam derides you for not remembering how the fortifications of a temple are assembled? To have a necklace you spent a week assembling explode in front of a statue of St. Theresa and so you flee back on the Breton streets utterly unclear if anywhere is really safe ever?

To have multiple friends tell you dreams of your death?

To have The Morrigan show up briefly not to say something nice or helpful but to scare the bloody fuck out of you and make really certain you know that She’s watching and will destroy you if you fuck shit up?

I’m not complaining.  I used to.  I think that started to sound false, even as I meant every bit of that.  Then I realized that it wasn’t going to do me any good to complain, because this was happening and I should just fucking grow up.  I’m not entirely happy about growing up.  But I’m 37.  I guess it was pretty close to about time.

 

The Darkness at the Gates

Travel Journal Seven: Walled Cities, Walled MountainsI’ve tried to tell people about the stuff I see.  Usually, my throat seizes up or I get some really stiff warning that I telling anyone what I’ve seen is a bad idea.

But I think I can talk about the Gates.

You can scry the gates of the Wheel of the Year.  John Michael Greer’s The Druid Magic Handbook explains this quite well, and I recommend this book if anyone really wants to fuck up their mundane world.

I’ve been enchanting stones to use during grove rituals.  I’ve four now.  The first guards the gate of Lugnasadh.  It’s a stone I found at the sea.  There’s a hill past there.  Climb up it and you can see more than you want to, the march of time and how we’ve fucked something up really, really badly.

At the gate of Samhain, there’s the horror of what we got from Them and how we’ve used it to shut them out.  That one was really hard to see, and not because of all the dead.

At the gate of Imbolc, that story continues.  Something really horrible is coming.  That stone is from Menez-Hom, where I was berated for being so slow to learn how to defend a temple. I was surrounded by candles lit in my grove as I saw this.  My three year old nephew had a dream that same night seeing, instead a of man trembling at this knowledge, his uncle being licked on the nose by a she-bear.  Sort of wish I’d seen that, too, but it was enough to know it happened.

And at Beltaine, I saw the cliffs.  I’ve seen these cliffs before, as have others.  You can face what you have to do, or you can jump, and it’s not the death you think it is.  It’s a fucking living death, the choice to hide in madness, to shut that door, to wall out the Other, to climb the stairs of a tower and stare instead at a mirror, “to weave the mirror’s magic sights,” instead of stare into this darkness.

This is all I can say, I guess.  I have to go find a dead man, and find out what else this strange magical town wants me to know before I leave it to the next place.  I also wouldn’t mind knowing why the woman I was in a vision is a skeleton on a mural, and why being here is really like being chained to a 500lb piece of hematite. Should feed more crows.  Maybe ride my bike with the huge chunk of obsidian in my right fist like I did yesterday, feeling all black and red and glorious rage and then sip more tea and talk to my lover.

Then, probably more writing about how this gods-shit isn’t happy flowering garlanded find-your-own inner peace while the earth screams below us, the spirits wither and rage and comfortable old people shake their heads at us mad prophets with our twisted genders and seething anger at what they’ve failed to notice this entire time.  If I hear one more time that things are fine in the world or nothing can really change or all we need to do is to chant the drivel off a Dr. Bronner’s soap bottle, I won’t be polite any longer.

And, yeah, going on to Ovate after this.

Be fucking well.  I fucking am.

A rather dark period, but not an unhappy one.  You know what it’s like, certainly–those strange moments of tumult which you must pass through and, in the midst of them, forget that you know there is an end.

Things seem always to weave together.  I’ve been thinking heavily upon the dead and death, and thought it strange as it’s almost Beltaine until I recalled that this is not new to me, not during this time.  In fact, just before my initiation into Druidry at Beltaine last year, I stared at the stars and wanted them to swallow me up, take me in like an abyss below except I was looking in the wrong direction.

The lines from the initiation strike me now, particularly.  It asks “would you be fully born into all the sorrows and pain of this existence?” and then, “would you be fully born into its joys?”

Both questions, at that particular gate of the year, were awfully hard to answer.

At each of the gates, the rituals I do (a mix of AODA and OBOD work) involve “scrying” or meditating down the paths through that gate.  Following Greer’s Druid Magic Handbook, I’ve enchanted a grove-stone for several of them, starting Lugnasadh. I’ve three so far (Samhain, Imbolc) and am tempted to say will do the same for Beltaine “if I survive,” but that’s melodrama.

The Festival of Persephone’s return, too, and the Christian Easter all near the same time, and it’s strange after the light of Imbolc to encounter this new darkness.

Darkness, yes.  A kind friend has begun teaching me Welsh; my first course was yesterday and after it I found myself practicing outside, enjoying the sounds, finding a word repeating on my lips that we hadn’t practiced, one that took me aback:

Afagddu.

Ceridwen’s hideous son, for whom she travels to the Fferllyt to learn the recipe for wisdom, later stolen by the boy Gwion who becomes Taliesin.  Afagddu and older variants all refer to “utter darkness”, and there’s another version of his name which means big (or sometimes “black”) crow, Morfran.  “Fran” or “vran” is probably from brân, and I know another Brân (utterly tied to the underworld) and this fact is not lost on me.  The same? Aspects of the same? Related, probably, but beyond this I cannot say.  Robert Graves (his faults acknowledged) tied Ceridwen and Brân together as lovers, and though I reject this, there’s the Cauldron thread that weaves through them both.  The Cauldron of Awen and the Cauldron of Annwn.  Wisdom and Death.

Weaving this stuff together is tiresome when your heart is sore from trying to love, but there’s something there below it all that makes me realize that it’s precisely that soreness, that bodily ache which tethers the Other into the self.  Where I feel the dead is also where I feel that cautious desire–the same gate opened within the soul in order to love another (and likely risk loss) is the channel through which I feel the existence of the underworld in this one.

Those threads woven back in, then, are all of meaning.  I forget what it was like not to see correspondences, but it’s silly of me to think on this too often, for “as above, so below” is another description of love.

Also, more words. My new A Sense of Place post is up.  It’s about the Episcopal chapel and the Holy Week which made me Pagan:

The world was in darkness, and I felt it.  I felt myself the darkness.  The darkness of being gay, alone, scared, admitting everything I’d believed beforehand was only borrowed meaning.   I do not know if I was more alone or more terrified.   But this is a futile question.

Be always well.  I will too.

 

Fiction/non

March 7, 2014 — 6 Comments

You know I used to write fiction?  A lot of it?  But I haven’t really been able to write any new stuff since all this happened.  I wonder if others have this experience, where the world of fantasy suddenly makes no sense when everything you thought was fictional actually turned out to be true?

I wonder at this sometimes.

That being said, here’s the first piece of fiction I’ve written since everything exploded into brilliant meaning.  Part one of a four-part series on A Sense of Place in answer to the question, “What do we Pagans hope to build?”

The students looked at each other, discomfort and nervousness evident on their faces. “Uh,” said the woman after a long pause. “Our professor told us we should ask you about this place, about how banks become groves, and…” she shifted, quite uncomfortably. “How we used to clean our…um, anuses with paper?”

This never failed to make him laugh.

 

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.