Happy Beltane, Everyone!I know we have two days yet before Beltane proper, but my House celebrated it's Beltane this past Saturday. We had a lovely ritual wherein we honored Freya. You can see the a picture of the altar in progress two days before the ritual here
. The photo above was taken about two hours after the ritual was completed. She was festooned with offerings and that, as far as I'm concerned, is how it should be. I was very, very proud of my House: they didn't stint on gifting Her. We had a wonderful ritual, a good potluck, and an informative workshop. May your own Beltane be filled with blessings.
(This post is probably not work safe due to repeated use of one of my favorite words, among other things. )
Emphasis on the coming, folks. Beltane, or Walpurgis if you prefer is right around the corner…little over a week now and I hope y'all are ready. This is the time to whip it out, love your bits, and tap whatever and whomever you have in your life to tap. And do it with joy and celebration while you're at it too. Fuck fiercely, my friends and call on the Gods and Goddesses of sex, love, eroticism, sensuality, and pleasure when you do it. Those Deities, by the way, (Deities like Freya Who will be honored at House Sankofa's Beltane) are also Deities of abundance and wealth. Think there might be a connection?
Beltane is about sex. Well, ok it's not just about sex but it is about loosing creativity and readying the land for summer growth, and the explosion of life that comes with the turning of the seasonal year to spring. It's a seasonal festival all about fertility and fire, abundance, and rampant, unadulterated, unapologetic creativity. It's about coming and the burning in the loins, and the earth's seasonal orgasm that brings a flood of life into being as spring turns to summer and the land yields its bounty to the blazing beauty of the sun. In our parlance, simple creatures that we are, it's about fucking.
I used to poo-poo those who worked primarily with sexual energies. I really did. It's so terribly easy to get distracted by pleasure, to allow it to pull one from one's purpose rather than to harvest and channel those energies toward furthering one's ritual and magical goals. I suppose with anything one must be careful, but pleasure --specifically sexual pleasure--seemed particularly prone to pulling people away from devotion to the Gods. It's true, pleasure doesn't have the raw, brutal frankness that pain can bring, but it does raise a shit-ton of energy; and it's fun, and just as the darker, more brutal energies are important, so too is it important to embrace the energies of lust and life and love. Why? Because we live in a fucked up world, that's why. We live in a fuck-phobic world. We live in a culture so infiltrated, permeated, contaminated by prurient, anti-sex, fundamentalist (monotheistic) attitudes that it's no wonder we're ready to kill each other and do so every day. (Just turn on the news).
Our culture is amazingly anti-sex. I"ll go ya one further. Heathenry is amazingly anti-sex, or rather it's anti-interesting (non-vanilla) sex. I was, for instance, once all but forced out of a group not because of anything that I myself had done (although plenty of people objected to my approach and praxis), but specifically because of my *friendship* with a noted BDSM activist and educator. I routinely get harassed partly because I do ordeal work, but over and above that (and I'll admit to the non ordeal worker, ordeal can be discomfiting in and of itself) because my detractors automatically (and inaccurately) twin ordeal with BDSM and kink. Plus we talk about it, and unapologetically too. We don't shroud it in a veil of secrecy and shame, as though it's something dirty. I suppose it's ok for Heathens to have sex, but let's not actually enjoy it or bring the sacred into it. This is what happens when you draw your dominant demographic from white Protestant fundamentalism and never really do anything about that monotheistic influenced mental filter.You bring these same ridiculous attitudes right on into your new religion. But I suppose that's a discussion for another post. For those of you who would like an example of how anti-sex (and misogynistic) our fine nation is, check this shit out:
Doesn't it just make you proud to be an American? I swear when next I travel, I'm going with condoms and bondage gear in my luggage. Just. on. principle. Shit like this happens all the time. Women especially are penalized for enjoying their sexuality. Then, what to me seems even worse, I see people who are never touched. I'm not talking sex, i'm talking simple physical contact. I see people every day who haven't been hugged in a decade. I see people who are starving physically and emotionally for basic human contact. There have been scientific studies done proving that if infants are denied human affection--skin to skin affection--they can die. Why should it be any different for adults? Even if they don't die in body, they can wither away inside in their hearts and minds and spirits. Moreover, I see people who have never touched themselves and now I am talking sex and I think it a moral crime to fill someone with guilt and shame for the pleasure their own body can give them. We should love our bodies. We have to live here after all. Let's take some pleasure in that…in our own bodies and those of our partners' too.
Bits are great: lady bits, man bits, trans bits, in between bits, intersex bits, all variations of bits - and by bits, in case you haven't figured it out, I mean genitals. It's one of the things that mother Nature got fabulously right. And you know what? Let me self-disclose in the spirit of Beltane. I particularly love cock. Bring on the Maypole, baby. Let's just get that out of the way right now. I love the man bits especially. I love the fact that our bodies are capable of so much pleasure and I especially love how the power sexual activity raises can be used for our own health (I've a Tantrika friend who swears that an orgasm a day keeps miasma and sickness away) but also to challenge the dominant social paradigm. Sex magic, bitches. We has it.
I talk a lot about fighting the dominant, monotheistic filter, the lens through which we view the world, inculcated in us with the rise of monotheism, driven by the doctrine of discovery, and virulently protective of its hegemony. I believe there is a sentience there. I believe it to be malevolent to all creativity, spirituality, and life. I fight that filter with every ounce of my being, every day, with every bit of work that I do. Often it fights back. Those of you who've walked this road know what i'm talking about. Those of you who haven't seen it yet, haven't really come face to face with it in any conscious way, take heart, you can still fight it and some of that fighting can be done on your back (or your hands and knees, or quite a few other tasty positions).
You see, the filter isn't subtle. If one engages long enough in this fight, if one looks long enough at the field of battle it becomes readily apparent what some of our strongest tools with which to drive it back and break its hold on our world might be. It's told us time and time again throughout generations. You want to know the weapons to use to fight it? Look at what it proscribes. Look at what it condemns. Look at what it tells us not to do. (You think sex doesn't top that list? We have a nation permeated with monotheistic values and a world where 80% of the wealth lies with 20% of the people…and those numbers are a decade old, it's probably more imbalanced by now--and yet our politicians are bitching about abortion, birth control, gay marriage, and sex. Because you know, consenting adults having sex is more of a threat to our personhood, future, and nationhood than starving children and world peace). The filter tells us precisely how to fight it. All we have to do is pay attention.
So here's my little plan to fuck the filter right in its face. Here's a little something almost everyone can do, and some of it is even fun.
Step one: honor your ancestors. One of the first practices condemned when monotheism became the law of the land was that of making regular offerings to the dead. The spirits of our ancestors are our protection. They are our strength. They sustain and protect us and they are a wall of power and sense through which the filter has no purchase.
Step two: honor the Gods and Goddesses of your people, of your heart, of your land. Celebrate a multitude of Deities. Pour out offerings to Them, pray, honor Them in any way you can.
Step three: fuck like there's no tomorrow.
Yeah, you read that right. Enjoy yourselves. Feel. Allow yourselves to get into the guts of the experience and feel. Don't stay numb. Don't pretend. Don't settle for mediocrity--especially not in bed. Get down (go down) and enjoy yourselves. Suck the ..um..marrow out of life, and by doing so, celebrate it. If you don't have a partner, or don't want one, don't despair. You have your fingers. You have toys, lots of toys. you can still have a steaming good time and you can still work some powerful magic. For those a little more adventurous, (and a little more skilled in the ins and outs of magic), you can take the energy raised during sex and channel it to a specific purpose. This is sex magic.
Public service warning: ok now, all those fundamentalist Heathens out there who prove every day and in so many ways why birth control needs to remain legal, you might want to step away from your monitors now, go to another page, go drink some mead. We wouldn't want your delicate (WASP) sensibilities to be damaged. Sex and woo talk follow. If your'e jonesing for something to read, try Catullus 16. Go on, I dare you.
Innocent eyes safe? Ok then, back to our selected topic.
Sex magic is a powerful tool in the fight against the filter and there's no better time to get your "feet", yeah "feet", wet than at Beltane. Tap into the currents of erotic energies that the land itself is unleashing at this time. When you're having sex, feel the energy flowing around you and through you. Feel the energy building as you near orgasm. If you're bold and really want to work it, bring yourself right to the edge of orgasm but don't allow yourself to tumble over that boundary. Do that again and again and finally, when you're ready, when you feel like you've taken all you can there, allow yourself orgasm and focus that release into whatever working you wish. If you and your partner can climax at the same time, that's ideal but not necessary for this to be an effective means of magic.
The secret, by the way, to making the best use of every drop of power spilled, is to create the energetic and mental framework, the focus of the spell before you ever touch yourself or your partner. Have it laid out and set well in advance. If you work with sigils, have your sigil ready to go. Do not wait until the moment of orgasm to decide where you're sending the energy. You will be fucked. Literally and magically. All that good, sweet, energy will be wasted. It also works best if one partner is the power generator and the other the technician who focuses the power raised. Most relationships have their power dynamics whether the couple admits it or not. Admit it, acknowledge it, figure it the fuck out before you …you know, fuck for world peace, and get on with it.
For those wanting to do some off the charts sex magic, Beltane is the perfect time to do so. Want to celebrate the way some of your ancestors might have? Well, have a couple as part of the ritual process, go off and have sex, channelling all the energy raised to a previously agreed upon group goal. Have them perform what is euphemistically called the "hieros gamos," the sacred marriage. The couple chosen become embodiments of the dual energies of kundalini, the cosmic exhalation and inhalation, the thrust and moan, the push and pull, that form the pulsing heartbeat of the land itself at this time. Want to get fancy? Have more than one couple doing this at the same time. If you want to get really old school, do this out on the dirt, in your garden, in your fields and feed the energy into the land. have everyone else, while you've got your sacred couple doing this rite, go off and masturbate, right up to the edge but without tumbling over into orgasm. then have them go and work in the garden, work in the land, work in the dirt, feeding the energy that would have culminated into orgasm, into the rich lushness of the land, that the land instead might be readied, wet, and fertile. There are dozens of ways to do this type of working. If you have no goal in mind, feed that energy consciously in offering to one of your Deities. I've never found Freya, for instance, to object to a gift of pleasure. Energy is Energy. Power is Power and sex holds within it the power of transformation and creation and that is no small thing with which to work.
So bring on the lube. Bring out the whips and chains. Bring out whatever gets you hot. If vanilla sex is where you're at: great. Have lots of it. If you're kinkier than fuck, get down with your bad self and enjoy. So long as everyone's of age and everyone's consenting, have at it. Most of all enjoy it.
My advice for Beltane? Go off and have a fine fucking day. and I mean that. Literally.
Because sex is fucking sacred. It's ALL sacred and it's about time we remembered that.
House Sankofa had its spring equinox ritual this past weekend. It actually wasn't a spring equinox thing so much as a celebration of the Orisha Oshun. You see, being a mixed House, we try to honor all of our respective lines equally and since we'd just done a powerful Mani ritual and since Oshun's feast day is March 25, I decided that instead of a traditional Ostara rite, we'd have a ritual to celebrate this amazing, generous, and gracious Orisha.
We laid out a lush altar, all in Her sacred color (yellow). There were several different kinds of flowers and offerings of various food stuffs, honey (all tasted before it was offered---in one of Her sacred stories, Oshun was poisoned by Her favorite food: honey, so now it must be tasted in Her presence before being offered), candles and as part of the offerings made *during* the ritual, along with carefully written petitions and prayers of thanks, She was given jewelry, amber, perfume, and many other good things. I have a river running out behind my home and the end of the ritual, all the offerings were taken down to the riverbank, where a small shrine was made to Oshun. The offerings were then consigned to the waters.
Oshun has been so incredibly good to so many of us in the House and indeed to the House itself; it was a real joy to celebrate Her blessings in this way. She is very well loved in House Sankofa.
After honoring Ellegua as Opener of the Way, making offerings to the ancestors, we prayed and sang to Oshun. then everyone came forward offering their own prayers of thanks, their petitions, making offerings, etc. We made a traditional offering to Her: squash cut in half, hollowed out, filled with honey into which petitions and five shiny new pennies were placed by everyone making an offering. Usually we'd have used a pumpkin for this, but it's out of season for pumpkins so we went with the next best thing.
here is part of the prayer we offered (first in Yoruba and then English. I'm only typing the English here. This is actually a compilation of three prayers):
Hail the benevolent Mother Oshun,
She Who digs up sand, digs up sand
and keeps money (resources) there for Her own people.
help me accomplish mine.
The One Who resides in the deep,
and yet performs various occupations,
the Goddess of the river,
Oshun alters bad destinies.
Ladekoju, the One Who defends somebody's cause
the untiring defender,
the unseen defender,
the unfailing defender.
Hail the benevolent Mother Oshun.
Then, before we ended the ritual, I talked about the young Syrian girl Yana who was denounced by her own brother for being a polytheist, dragged from her home to be beaten, raped, and killed because of her devotion to her gods. I asked that Oshun help make the girl's passage to her ancestors sweet, that she strengthen her, and protect her and all those who are killed in this struggle to restore our polytheisms. We asked her blessings on our martyred dead and that She strengthen those of us who continue the fight.
Then final prayers and offerings were made, Oshun reverenced again and we ended the ritual.
At that point, everyone got to enjoy Wyrd Dottir's workshop on "Eostre/Ostara and Olvir of Egg". We always try to have good workshops after our rituals, because it's so seldom that everyone can get together in one place. Anyway, the day was successful. Ashe and may Her blessings flow.
With Imbolc a day away, I wanted to post something in honor of the Goddess Brigid, a Goddess so loved by Her people that Christianity couldn't get rid of Her (so they canonized Her!). I have a soft spot for Brigid in my heart as the priestess who trained me oh so long ago was, in part, dedicated to Her. She (the priestess) was a silversmith and when she was ordained, while her primary vows were to another Goddess, she offered her creative work to Brigid. So Brigid was one of the first Goddesses with Whom I became acquainted. Beyond that, I find that She holds a rather unique position with respect to Christianity: She was canonized and Her adoration was woven into the fabric of Irish Catholicism. This makes Her an excellent bridge for those transitioning from Catholicism to some type of polytheism--a transition that I have seen some find very scary. She has the power to embody the old, familiar, and known while at the same time gently leading one back into the arms of their ancestral ways. That is tremendous healing power and not to be underestimated. Conversion after all can be a type of emotional, psychic, and spiritual trauma. So I always make a point around this time to give a nod to Brigid. Truly She is a magnificent Goddess. This prayer is for my Celtic polytheist friends and others who happily honor Her all year round. :)An Imbolc Prayer to BrigidExalted One, Fiery Arrow,
Who teases beauty
from the burning flame,
Hear our prayers.
Giver of sacred waters,
We praise You.
We exalt Your name
with our creative endeavors.
Friend of women,
Who blesses birthing
and comforts the dying,
We offer adorations unto You.
Goddess of inspired speech,
Bard of Bards,
Poet of Poets,
We celebrate You in our rites.
of the Greenest of lands,
Who protects Your people,
We hail You.
Gracious Goddess, Who for love of Your people built a bridge across traditions, for You we sing, for You we bring gifts of fire and You we honor as our ancestors honored You in the green groves of Eire: with joy and delight, great Brigid. Hail the Goddess of the sacred fire! Hail the Goddess of the healing waters! Hail the Goddess mighty in words! Hail, Brigid. (The image here is one of my favorite of this Goddess. It is by Joanna Powell Colbert and may be purchased here: http://www.gaiansoul.com/shop/art-prints/print-brigid-at-the-forge/
It's time for another links round-up. There's quite a bit of interesting material having recently been written. First, isn't this a cool picture of the Goddess Brigid? With Imbolc, Her feast day right around the corner, I figured it's a timely and appropriate image. (It's a common domain image, but the artist wasn't listed so if anyone knows who did this, let me know and I"ll give credit). I like how She looks so firm and fierce and there's something about the association with fire, and the reds and golds used here that speaks of tremendous creative power. I had a friend who used to call Her the "Hammer of the Heavens" because when She decided to inspire a person, that's precisely what it felt like! Hail, Brigid, a truly magnificent Goddess (so much so, Christians just had to deal with Her and they did, by canonizing Her! This amuses me). Anyway...onto our links.
Check out this excellent article on polytheism by Elizabeth Vongvisith, author of "Trickster, My Beloved": http://twilightandfire.wordpress.com/2013/01/19/a-few-things-to-consider-about-hard-polytheism/
Another excellent article on polytheology, this time from "Anomalous Thracian". This is part ii, but you can access part I from the site too: http://www.witchesandpagans.com/Pagan-Paths-Blogs/on-the-backs-of-the-gods-part-ii.html
There is a new children's book out that I highly recommend, a charming tale called " Shango's Son." You can find it here: http://www.amazon.com/Shangos-Son-Dr-Winmilawe/dp/0983931801/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1358913788&sr=8-1&keywords=Shango%27s+Son
. We need more books like this for our children, in all our respective traditions.
my friend Sophie is doing a series on the Archangels. Her latest is here: http://sreicher.weebly.com/1/post/2013/01/56-adorations-to-uriel.html but if you check out her blog, you'll see several other posts about them too. Interesting stuff.
My friend E. sent me an interesting article on Groundhog Day customs: http://groundhog.org/groundhog-day/history/
. With Imbolc right around the corner this seemed timely.
Here's an interesting historical article on the Sacking of Vikings at Limerick: http://www.medievalists.net/2013/01/20/the-sack-of-viking-limerick/
Finally, here is another interesting historical article, this one on the remains of a feast to honor a dead shaman recently found in Israel: http://www.livescience.com/8522-remains-ancient-feast-honor-dead-shaman-discovered.html
. Imbolc is coming up in a week, and Charming of the Plough is not far away either. What is everyone going to be doing?
That reminds me, last year i wrote a series of Adorations for my Pagan and Celtic Polytheist friends, adorations to Brigid. For those who might be interested, here's that link too: http://krasskova.weebly.com/1/post/2012/02/for-my-pagan-and-celtic-polytheist-friends-72-adorations-to-brigid.html
Now, I really am done, though if anyone wants to share their Imbolc or Charming of the Plough plans, I'd love to hear them.
On Dec. 21st we had a fabulous Yule ritual. Now, in reality, Yule lasts from Dec. 20 through the New Year. I usually do something every night, and I encourage members of the House to do so as well. It's difficult for all of us to get together as a group each night though, so instead, we usually meet as close to the solstice as we possibly can for one good group rite. This year we were fortunate and the actual solstice occurred on the 21st and that day happened to be a Friday so that's when we held our House Yule rite.
In addition to House members, we had four guests --Yule being one of the open rituals that our House does throughout the year--and I think that they got a lot out of the ritual itself. Additionally, as things worked out this year, several House members who live in different states, far enough away that they're not usually able to attend, were present. That was a real gift for the holiday. This year's ritual was in honor of the ancestors (as usual) followed by a fire ritual, in honor --you guessed it--of fire (in previous years we've focused the ritual around Odin and several other of our Deities) so we told people to bring whatever they wanted to offer to the dead and to fire and then something for potluck. Before everyone arrived, I made offerings to the land, city, and mountain spirits, the house vaettir, and had a fellow House member pour offerings to Mani, Who was just too beautiful in the sky to ignore. Then I kindled a sacred fire.
We set up an altar on the floor (in front of my Yule tree lol) where we put offerings and pictures of our beloved dead. A fire pot (a huge cast iron cauldron in a stand and a second, smaller aluminum fire pit) was set up with a table of offerings outside. The ritual commenced at 8pm with a fire blessing (the Anglo-Saxon Weonde chant) to consecrate the space and then, we called to our ancestors. After I made the galdred call honoring them, people came forward to tell their stories, speak their names, and lay offerings. This whole part of the ritual took about an hour. After everyone had a chance to hail their dead, we moved outside.
I hailed fire with an extensive verbal invocation, fire spirits that succored our ancestors, allowed them to cook their food, kept them warm, kept them safe, allowed them the gifts of craft, carried their offerings to the Gods, and taught them respect and awe of the Powers. We honored their beauty, power, ferocity, and their passion. Offerings of fruit, sweets, tobacco, incense, fish (one person brought salmon), alcohol, flowers and many other things were given to the flames. We also had several items that needed to be disposed of by commitment to consecrated fires and we took time to do this as well.
This also took about an hour after which the Powers were thanked and the rite concluded. Folks proceeded to the potluck, chatted, etc. We'd taken time to explain protocol and format to our four guests prior to the ritual and afterwards they were given a chance to ask any questions they might have, having participated in the rite itself. Then, as a fire worker, I did a fire blessing and cleansing on two attendees who asked. A fellow House member, having just had her second fire initiation also assisted with the cleansings. It was a good ritual, a good evening, a good Yule.
Our next open rite is Feb. 2. This will be a day of rituals, as several festivals and feast days fall around this time. Happy Yule, folks.
Well, I can hardly believe that it's less than a week until Samhain/Day of the Dead, which is when my House holds its winternights celebration. I almost feel like I've been remiss in setting up the altar, though common sense tells me I have plenty of time. In fact, that's this weekend's task.
Our celebration is going to be next Saturday. Some of us, celebrate from 10/29-1/3, I know I will as I also have an important ancestral birthday falling in that span of time (my father was born on Nov. 1) but the main group ritual for the House will be Saturday, as it's most convenient for people's work schedules.
Anyway, what this means is that I start setting up the shrine and altar for the rituals this weekend. It takes a couple of days to get it just right. The picture here isn't mine, it's a common domain photo of a typical day of the dead offrenda, or altar. This is what i aim for and the style of ritual altar that I usually set up this time of year--much, much more elaborate than the norm, even by the standards of my House.
My work starts early tomorrow. I'll be cleaning all of my own ancestor altars (my house has already been cleaned) and then taking offerings to the five cemeteries around my home. I'll speak to the dead there, check in, spend some time with them and see what, if anything, they need. Then i'll be making a major shopping trip and when i get home, I'll be setting up the shrine. I may need to call in some help, as it's multi-tiered and fairly complex. It's worth it though---it makes the ancestors happy and it is a beautiful centerpiece around which to focus our rituals.
Over the next few days i'll be paying special attention to my primary ancestors: my adopted mom, my dad, my paternal aunt, my maternal great grandmother, grandmother, and others. This seems to be a time when the female dead are especially vocal but that may simply be that I have very strong female Powers within my ancestral House. Either way, I'll be put through my paces. ^_^ On an especially joyous note, I'll be installing my biological mother into my ancestral House. This is not a difficult procedure, but I was taught that it's important to wait at least a month after someone dies before engaging with them. it's a journey, a transition, and the newly dead need time to get settled. It's been over a month though since my bio-mom died and high time to get her situated.
In the meantime (not a lot of time: a handful of days) I'm starting to think about what foods I"ll be making for next weekend's ritual. It seems each ancestor has their own favorite dishes. I'll post more between now and next Saturday but in the meantime, what are some of the recipes your ancestors like? :)
With the autumnal equinox behind us and the days taking on the blessedly chilly cast of a proper fall, it's time once again to turn attention to ancestral feasts and paying special homage to the dead.
I'm not someone who restricts ancestor veneration to Samhain, Winternights, insert holiday here. In fact, I think a deep, ongoing, consistent practice of honoring the dead is the first and most basic essential for a strong, healthy spiritual practice. That being said, I do think that the time between the fall equinox and Yule is a particularly potent time for connecting to one's dead and it's a perfect time to honor them with rituals and feasting beyond the ordinary scope of devotion.
Last year, I held a Day of the Dead party. Granted, it snowed (first snowstorm of the year) and that put a damper on the human end of things---most people had to cancel though i did have a small, festive turnout despite the weather--though the dead had a ball. I set up a traditional altar and festooned it with sugar skulls, four huge decorative cakes, cookies, candies, flowers, and several images and carvings of skeletons. We honored our dead, celebrated them, ate, drank, told stories of our ancestors, shared good music, movies, dancing and had a great time.
These three months (Oct-Dec) leading up to Yule are also the time my House increases the number of communal ancestor rituals we customarily do. We tend to visit local cemeteries, make offerings, clean them up if needed, and make sure any dead who might be hanging around are in healthy condition. We also give our own ancestor shrines a thorough cleaning and reorganization. We all make sure, by whatever proper means are at our disposal, that we're each in right relationshp wtih our own ancestral house. Whatever we can untangle and better tend, most of us at least try to do so. This time of year is a good reminder, a moment's breath before the turning of the year after Yule to
As I start preparing for this year's major ancestor rituals, I find myself wondering what everyone else is doing. What do you all have planned between now and Yule to honor your dead?