Monday, November 2, 2015

Banquete de los Muertos

Last night 14 lovely folks gathered at my home to share in a ceremony I call a banquete de los muertos; an ancestral potluck to honor those who have crossed over in the past solar cycle. Inspired by the Mexican dia de los muertos tradition that is observed by many of my neighbors in the Mission District, it is offered with reverence to people in my circle of friends who have experienced a sorrowful loss since the previous dia de los muertos. It was a beautiful evening of stories and delicious food from many traditions— Hawaiian poke and Lebanese mujadara and
rye bread made from a very old sourdough starter given to us by a friend who we were honoring*, and Swedish meatballs followed by sweet Turkish kunefe.

We opened the banquete by reading the names of the most recent members of our Beloved Dead, lighting a candle for each one, and ringing a bell, welcoming them to join us for this feast. We had more than 40 candles on the table, representing family, friends, community members, cats, dogs, and a horse. Most of the people gathered had never before met any of the others (there was even someone I had not met before!), and it was delightful to witness strangers becoming friends, laughing and crying together, embracing each other as we said goodnight. Our shared pain became shared joy, and this is the greatest gift of the Ancestors.

* Our friend, John, asked that he be not remembered by a funeral or a memorial. We have done our best to carry on without marking this loss in any particular way. My heart yearns for recognition of the beauty, passion, and formidable knowledge he carried in the world. Though it was usually his wife, Molly, writing the poems, he began to explore other forms of creativity when he could no longer wield a hammer at his smithy. Here is his poem:

my birthday is samhain- november 1st-
the stroke of mid-night on halloween,
i am daily living in samhain~
but still on the edge of the light.
& that narrow passage is enormous.
i feel like a star being pulled into a black hole
~soon atomized into biological oblivion~
not created or destroyed, just scattered and composted within the everything.
can data once created be destroyed? can thoughts be UN-thought or do deeds once done exist forever?
i've left a daily trail of dna since i was born, my hair, piss, blood, every exhalation... where is all that matter scattered now?
some think it is a rest like 'a long sleep', others a gateway to another human lifetime, still others a utopian paradise~an eden garden in the desert.
i don't know~perhaps it is more like samhain, a beginning and the end of a circle of seasons.
a high energy natural state like the force of tree roots growing down into the winter earth.
given enough time... plate tectonics and the eventual death of our planetary star,
you'll literally be finding my atoms among the rocks and gas explosions of galactic debris expanding ever outward in the universe,
but never to be a chimp again.
one thing is certain, it'll not be the me
i have been, soon.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

As the light and dark find balance…

It's been awhile since I've updated my progress in training to serve as a High Priestx within CAYA Coven. For those who may not have known—my father crossed over into the Great Mystery in June, and in the process of cleaning out his place in Lawrence, I found clues that led to me finally meeting my long-lost-and-was-he-really-real? brother, Adam. His profound eulogy to our father, illustrated by my photos, shows the magickal connection we have, as our stories begin to weave together. Seriously, you gotta read it. The guy can write!

My brother and I, cheerfully meeting for the first time at Mountain View cemetery in Oakland. I love him!

Yesterday was our father's birthday, and as my brother is teaching halfway across the world, and I cannot share with him the delicious cheesecake that I made, I wanted to share that bit of our story with you. Anyway, here's a picture of the cheesecake:

TWINS CHEESE CAKE: my mother's best recipe ever

And here is the latest report in my Advanced Wildflower training:

Dark Moon Practice: The practice continues to adapt and adjust to changes on all levels. I was kept at the gate for a very long time before being admitted into the garden. Then I felt tightness at my wrists, and realized snakes had wrapped themselves around my arms, and throughout the journey more and more snakes came to me, slithering around my body and entwining in my hair. It felt powerful. I felt powerful. I sat on my central throne before going to the Ancestor tree, and when I entered the sanctum of the tree, I saw the shadowy figures of my Ancestors along the edges of the light, which I had never seen before—only felt and heard. The pace was very slow and reverent and I saw many more details than ever before. I am coming to know my Place of Power more intimately, letting myself observe and absorb the nuances. I feel like a frightened creature who has finally settled down enough to Pay Attention.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

What is Metagender?

NOTE: I wrote this a couple of months ago and thought I had published it! Ooops! And now I have even more to say about the metagender and non-binary gender and drag identities all swirling around in me—so… here's chapter 1:

When I was asked to describe metagender at the evening session of Dee’s roundtable discussion at PCON 2015, I realized that in many ways I don’t have the language—partly due to lack of experience in discussing metagender with people, or gender identity at all—especially with people who are both gender non-conformists and pagan. Only later did I realize the opportunity I’d missed.

If there’s one thing I learned at PCon this year it’s “practice and be prepared.” Have my elevator pitch ready.

I want to try and say what I’d wished I’d said when I had the opportunity to speak amongst a gathering of Pagans of many non-conformist genders.

Until I’d read PSVL’s Transmythology, I really didn’t have a satisfactory term for my own relationship to gender. I’d very casually been trying out genderqueer for a few years and half-heartedly considered “they” pronouns. Queer has been my default identity on many fronts—sexual, gender, spiritual and just about any other part of my life that needed an adjective. All of the available terms fit me like off-the-rack garments from a discount store—parts of me did not fit into them and hung out awkwardly— and often shamefully.  I’ve been wearing a gender muumuu for years! I have also thought of myself as a drag princess—I’ve often felt like a gay man dressing up for campy fun. However, my style of drag is less RuPaul (entertainment) and more Leigh Bowery* (performance art)—I often don’t resemble something that came from this planet! Let alone “male” or “female.” Seriously, it’s like saying there are only two kinds of ice cream.

I’d read PSVL’s blog and knew e was metagender and used Spivak gender-neutral pronouns, but didn’t personally relate until I read the story of Paneros in eir book that introduces the Tetrad++. Born of a MTF deity and an FTM deity, Paneros is the first non-binary deity of the group. Meta means “beyond” and gender means “type.” (The character actors of the gender world, who cannot be typecast?) Paneros is much like a mirror to every individual e meets. Eir mother calls em “she,” eir father calls em “him.” Even the few who know what e is, such as eir grandfather Antinous, cannot speak eir name or pronouns until the child speaks them emself. Pushed to the edge and beyond, the child finally releases all forms of sex and gender hatred from emself while simultaneously freeing the antidotes into the world. E is Paneros: ALL LOVE. (my synopsis is so bare and stilted, please read the original!)

So I’m reading this on a packed plane, laughing and crying and kissing the book and frantically underlining and circling and drawing stars and hearts all over the pages. After years of inklings and doubts, I’ve finally got some language that clears the air like a thundercrack. Like Paneros, I finally know my name and my pronouns. I never knew what a difference that would make until it happened.

To me, metagender opens up uninhibited freedom to be myself; a one-size-fits-me label that is no particular gender but neither is it agender. It is a slippery gender that evades every attempt to define it, a trickster gender. (Every person in this conformist culture who does not identify with their assigned gender is forced in some way to become a trickster, even if they would not be otherwise. Metagender is trickster to the core.)

*In my teenage years (the 1980's, folks), strangers would come up to me and say, "Hey, look! It's…" A: Divine's daughter! B: Leigh Bowery! C: Genesis P'Orrige! D: All that and more!
Me at 19 years old, wearing trash bags and duct tape.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Advanced Wildflower Training begins

This past weekend— in our Festival of Joyful Vows— CAYA honored and welcomed our new Wildflower Ordains (Hive 1-5 is ALIVE!). We also recognized the commitments of three members of our clergy who had completed the highest level of training in our tradition, and who have earned the title of High Priest/ess, vowing to serve our community with a great level of devotion and accountability. It is this very same training I have begun this year, recognizing that this is a process with no particular end point. I could perform all of the tasks to which I have committed, and receive the title, but that's not really the point. As I understand it, the journey is the destination, and I am building my spiritual muscles for the lifelong practice of serving as a High Priest/ess.

 From my place of power, I speak my truth

This is the intention I have set for my Advanced Wildflower work, with guidance from Yeshe Matthews. Every month, I engage in a Dark Moon practice and offer my report to the Advanced WIldflowers. I have been encouraged to share this process with others, and decided to post my reports here in my blog. Here are my first three Dark Moon reports:
JANUARY: Again with Yeshe's guidance, I adapted and deepened a personal dark moon practice I've had for several years. It's a trance journey to a sacred place I call The Garden of the Well of my Wellness. Within its boundaries, all of my allies and deities have a special place, and I make monthly offerings of water from the depths of the well at the center (can you imagine how astonished I was when I first encountered TSW?!?!?). Nine deities currently have a specific place around the circle I water, starting with Lord Ganesha (of course) at the NE , then clockwise: Hermes, Yemaya, Durga, Kuan Yin, Hina, Paneros, The Horned God, and Hekate. A few allies meet me there, too, including Spider, Snail, Raven, Snake, Bee, and more plants and stones than I can list here briefly. The Ancestor Tree, which is at the foot of the mountain in the North, is an especially important place I visit each time.

My plan is to communicate with each deity in turn over the course of the year, asking for guidence in manifesting my intention. Yeshe suggested I make a place for myself to be enthroned, too. I knew this would be on the roof of the well, where I can see in All Directions.
Early Tuesday morning, as the Moon approached the Sun (I prefer working with exact astrological moments, if possible), I approached The Garden with the new intention to do my Advanced Wildflower work. Spider, who guards the gate, flung herself at my Third Eye and bit me, which she has never done before. I thanked her and entered. I was pulled rapidly to the Ancestor Tree and entered the sanctuary within. The Ancestors told me that Hekate had something for me. I looked on the altar— which for all these years has only held on it an Eternal Flame and a Wooden Chalice of Well Water— and it was covered with keys. One of them lodged into my heart. It was the Key of Silence. She had told me the day before, as I walked the Labyrinth at Land's End, to keep Silent. I had been struggling with that, as it seemed contrary to my intention of Speaking My Truth. She said it was only until the next Dark Moon, when I would receive another instruction. I knew I had prayed for Divine guidance, and it would be worse than rude to ignore it.

And that's all I may say. Thank you and Blessed be!

February Dark Moon Report

Going into trance, I crossed a rainbow bridge (it had never been a rainbow before) and approached the high, rambling brambles that serve as a boundary between my Garden of Being and the rest of known reality. The Spider ward above the driftwood gate showed me her legs, wriggling like tentacles, and the Snail would not move from the driftwood latch. This had never happened before. I was not yet to enter. I knew I was to sit and observe the gate.
Lord Ganesha appeared before me, transforming the humble gate into a splendid archway, gilded and adorned with jewels. I laughed, thinking it rather extravagant, but who am I to judge such fanciness? It was Ganesha's way to inform me that I was embarking upon a new journey, and I'd better pay attention. As with my previous Dark Moon work with Hekate, He had been appearing with greater frequency and intensity as the moon waned. He led me through a red and white poppy field —"Indonesian," He informed me—to the Ancestor Tree, which He had transformed from an evergreen into a deciduous. The branches sprouted from the trunk  just below my eye level. Usually it is so tall, I cannot see the lowest branches. He placed me at the center of the bowl of the branches and I sank into the womb of the tree. He told me, "When you sacrificed your womb, you vowed to be a Star Mother, so do not act so surprised that you have been called to do this work [to create the Rainbow Moon Circle]. You are the gateway for this work. Do everything you can to bring it to the world. Now dream." I fell asleep. In my dream the edge became the center after I had willingly let go of my most personal attachments for the greater good.
I woke up in the inner sanctum of the tree and picked up the chalice to do my water blessings at the Well of my Wellness. The first deity in this offering is always Ganesha. He sat grandly on his throne. I approached more closely than I had ever dared before. I crawled onto his lap and inhaled his earthy, sweet, spicy scent. As He held me, I wept, feeling the paternal affection I had craved since I was separated from my father at the age of 4. He laughed gently and said, "You can't be a baby forever. I'll gladly play your Daddy, but I don't see you as my child. You are a sexual being, and you need to let yourself grow up." He showed me all the practices I had developed and then abandoned before attaining mastery and confidence, especially piano playing and certain sexual explorations. He bade me return to these with devotion. He expects progress before the next New Moon.

I completed my offerings to all within the Garden and finally returned to the gate. I was stopped again. "Leave a place with the same mindfulness and intention with which you entered. Every gate is a sacred opportunity." I turned and bowed to the Garden and then the gate opened and allowed me through.

March Dark Moon Report:
In trance: I hadn’t even set foot on the ground before the garden gate when from above it, a sudden burst of enormous wings unfolding from an orb of nearly-blinding light lifted me upwards. Rapidly I shot into the sky, so quickly my heart raced and I felt frightened. Movement up up up! with no sign of slowing down. I saw nothing but shining silvery clouds.
I said, “Hermes, I don’t want to do this. My work at this time is not here with you.”
Suddenly I fell, plunging from a breathtaking height right down into the Well of my Wellness, splashing into the cool water and downward into the darkness as the temperature dropped. I kept descending and felt strong tentacles wrapping around me to pull me down further. I felt a little fear, but not as much as before.
I said, “I belong to myself, and I will do as I will. I am sovereign!”
The tentacles let go and I rose to the surface of the water. I climbed out of the Well and crawled, exhausted, up the hill to the Ancestor Tree.
I flung myself belly down to the earth, dripping water and crying tears onto the roots of the Tree, clinging to the trunk like a lifeline.
I said, “I can’t stay here forever, I have work to do.”
I entered the sanctuary of the Tree, offering thanks to the Ancestors and picked up the grail to fill at the Well. As I drew up the water, I sang
We need snow in the High Sierras,
Unexpected snow in the High Sierras
To end this drought that hovers over us,
And to bring water to the earth.
I began my offerings. When I reached the East, seductive Hermes was there, lazily draped over his throne with an amused grin.
He said, “You don’t have to see me this way. I am much more ancient than the Patriarchal images you’ve been fed. In me you can find a Grandfather… and a Grandmother. Look for me. Find a new old me.” I felt curiosity and hope.
I completed my offerings and walked toward the gate. The Spider ward was miffed that I had entered the garden without greeting her. She gnawed at my third eye. I apologized and assured her I would be more mindful. And then I returned to this Now.Top of Form
Bottom of Form

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Pronouns Are Incantations

Consider this, all ye Witches, Pagans, Shamans, Healers, and Magickal Workers of every name and practice, and of any and every degree of experience:
Words are tools that magickal workers wield, and more powerfully so if wielded with intention. This is true in any context. When one continues to employ an incorrect word after the correct word has been provided by the primary authority on the subject, one is intentionally manifesting some nasty consequences. I recommend practicing sincere discernment, including a rousing examination of one's own privileges.

Spivak gender neutral pronouns: e / em/ eir /eirs/ emself
A service I offered at PCon this year was to invite people to make their own pronoun ribbons. I carried a bag of blank rainbow ribbons and a variety of metallic pens and permanent markers. Most people got it right away and expressed glee and gratitude as they crafted one of their very own. I suppose it will shock few to learn that the folks who responded with blank stares or breezy dismissiveness turned out to be cisgendered men and women. I assured them that they, too, had pronouns. It was fun to see the light go on in their eyes as they realized this truth. It was amusing to see them struggle to figure out their own damn pronouns— and hopeful to see the the humility many of them experienced as they realized how challenging it can be to self-define, even for someone who has spent decades taking their identity for granted. Ribbon Lust as a gateway to wisdom!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Bee-lated 2014 Recap, Pt. 1!

Yoni yoni, burning bright! A magickal campfire moment.
 Sometimes I wish I were one of those people who could just post little bitty blog posts. Since I can't keep it brief, this one will be published in several chunks!

So, what has been going on in my witchy wanderings and ponderings—in between the sleepy recording of The Consent Song in June and that first batch of Pagan Pancakes in October?

As I have been dwelling 900 crow-flying miles away from the coven for and with which I serve, it seemed to me that a regular update of my Pagan practices and Public Priest/essing services would be a way of "showing my work" during my Ordination Service year. Since the only part of that intention I slacked off on was the actual blogging about it all (other than my Instagram posts), here is a slew of images and memories from the past 6 months that feel are the most significant, enlightening, reverent, and beneficial offerings to the Divine.

Summer in the San Juan Islands is a time for campfires, and camping out, and romping with my two fairy goddess-daughters and their families. I finally had the opportunity to send the kids to the camp I love so much, and we welcomed them back with a hootenanny at Heartland. While Hazel and Calliope were staying at my place, they met the two Furbies that have resided here for years. Playing matchmakers, the kids catalyzed a whirlwind romance led to the inevitable wedding. Days of rehearsal and elaborate preparations, including a kombucha gelatin reception with Hawaiian music, culminated in the ceremony and the honeymoon. I was honored to be the official photographer.
"Yummmm yummmmm." Ajay and Koko's wedding day, July 9.

At the end of July, I returned to San Francisco for a couple of weeks to get some in-person time with my covenmates at the Lugh Games and the Festival of Heart and Harvest, hosted by our Cauldron of the Celts group. We feasted and toasted and boasted around an enormous picnic table in Berkeley. On that trip, I was also blessed to participate in Sam Webster's Dark Moon offerings to Hermes and Hekate. I feel happy and welcome in that community, which seems like kin to CAYA Coven, and in many ways, we are—there is much overlapping in attendance of one another's rituals and gatherings.

My fancy birthday cake by Molly S-S.
Back on Lopez, it seems like at least once a week I have an online video date with folks from CAYA Coven. It may be a service track meeting, or a ritual planning committee, or a High Council meeting, or the monthly Distance Aspirants meeting. At the very minimal, there is Yeshe Rabbit's Tea and Chanting Sangha Online, which has become yet another spiritual community with which I feel a connection.

I will post this first part now, and continue with the rest soon!