Death sandwich

A sandwich is a thing framed by another thing, with the thing in the middle being the part that matters when it’s being named:  it’s a ham sandwich, not a rye sandwich.  This is why I find the phrase “compliment sandwich” utterly nonsensical; it should be called a criticism sandwich, a putdown hero, an insult slider, or something of that sort.

I can say with confidence that the warm part of this year, for me, has been a death sandwich.

To begin with, my wife and I bought our graves.  It’s the most expensive thing I have ever purchased as a result of writing an article for the Wild Hunt.  Spending is in my nature, which is why I focus a lot of energy on saving.  I bought something pretty much anytime I went on a trip, and any number of items in my possession resulted from an interview I did, like the Hermes oracle cards I got after lunch with Bob Place, the stone divination set I picked up at Changing Times-Changing Worlds, or the steampunk belt with thigh holster I ordered after seeing one at Rites of Spring.  It was when I wrote about my friend Deana Reed, and learned that she was buried in a natural cemetery just one town away from my own, that I knew it was time to invest in some real estate.

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Not mine; looks like a neighbor is moving in.

My dear old dad used to say, “Just toss me naked in a ditch,” knowing full well that he had a guaranteed spot in a veterans’ cemetery which wouldn’t allow for that.  I’m not entirely sure he was joking, and regardless I find the idea appealing.  Certainly more appealing than embalming, or cremation (which can also include embalming), which are really quite nasty from an environmental perspective.  Now that we have the deed to two adjacent plots in the wooded natural burial section of this local cemetery, I’m that much closer to getting away with it.  Certainly I cannot be buried with any artificial fibers or plastic crap, and my only container options are a pine box or just a board.  If I outlive my wife, I think I can probably get away with naked, but it would certainly take careful planning.

A sandwich, I already noted, is a thing framed by another thing.  Purchasing a grave is not death, and even if it was this is the bread, not the meat.  The meat of a death sandwich is death.

I told my mother about my new purchase when we took our annual pilgrimage to my father’s grave around Memorial Day, when the flags are everywhere.  As was her wont, she looked at me like I had two heads, not for planning ahead (she’d planned and paid for her entire funeral some 15 years ago), but for my enthusiasm.  I was thinking her reaction two months later, when after a month of drifting back and forth through the veil, I was again at that cemetery to commit her mortal remains and rejoin them with those of her beloved husband.  I and others shepherded her as best we could in the weeks ahead, and I continued that work with offerings of tea with milk as she transitioned to being an ancestor.  She was ready to get to work in short order.

A death sandwich is death framed by another thing.  The thing which sandwiches death for me this year is the idea of death.  In the spring I purchased a grave, acknowledging death, and this autumn I acknowledge it again by inviting my co-religionists to honor Haides with words.

October 31 is when submissions open for The Host of Many: Hades and his Retinue, and it is long in coming.  I frequently see posts from Hellenic polytheists grumbling about portrayals of Hades in popular culture, or expressing frustration that his emerging cult doesn’t have a lot of historical sources upon which to be built.  This is an opportunity to change that.  At the same time, I know there are a huge number of underworld deities and spirits who might never see the cover of an anthology; they deserve honor, and I dearly hope to see as many submissions about these lesser-known gods as I receiver for Hades himself.

Do the research.  Write the paper.  Script the ritual.  Offer the prayer.  Help me finish making my death sandwich.

Real money magic: my vote matters, your vote matters.

The miasma which leads a sizable majority of Americans not to bother to vote is the idea, “my vote doesn’t matter.”  I know better:  I saw a local race decided by one vote, and the loser didn’t vote for himself.  My vote matters.

Received yesterday:  this sigil, which I then empowered to pull that cloud of miasma from the eyes of any who see it by conveying this message:  “my vote matters.”

Put this sigil on paper money.  Money is a very effective tool for political magic, as the present state of affairs should demonstrate clearly.  I’m trying to put it over George’s third eye, as well as the eye of the pyramid.  (I hope to get it better centered with practice.)

[Sara Mastros.]

A little to the left . . .

An invocation to use, if one is the invoking sort:

For the good of the polis,
may the mist be made clear.
For the good of the people,
see the vote, hold it dear.

The more this is shared, the more it is implemented, the more effective it will be.  Reblog, share, retweet, slap the image on Instagram or run it around Tumblr.  Social media shares are good for rousing individuals out of torpor, but actually putting it on money works the spell on a deeper level that addresses how equating money with speech has distorted our political system.

On the Wild Hunt

A few hours ago, I ended my time at the Wild Hunt after a number of months of reflection on, worship over, and seeking guidance about what nourishes me and serves my highest purpose.  While it might have appeared sudden to most people, as it’s none of their business, it was anything but.

However, complete strangers have since approached me, asking if I “lost my job” over the last article I wrote.  I did not.

For one thing, no one can be fired from the Wild Hunt, and anyone who claims to have ever been fired is either ignorant or a liar.  This is independent contractor work, not a job.

I did not participate in an editorial decision to replace that news article with an apology.  I was not told my services were no longer needed, and I was not asked to resign.  I am simply in need of change.

While I mourn the change, I also know it will open for me new possibilities.  I wish those who carry forth the valuable tradition of truth-speaking all the blessings of Hermes in their work, and the knowledge that bright Helios watches them.

A Mystic Guide to Cleansing and Clearing: a review

Genre: Wicca

Title: A Mystic Guide to Cleansing and Clearing

Author: David Salisbury

In this work, Salisbury draws on research into several traditions, seeking to distill the essence of cleansing practices for use in a Wiccan context. In that, I believe he succeeds. Moreover, based on the one tradition he references with which I am deeply familiar, I daresay he provides an accurate overview of how these practices are used, and is mindful of concerns about cultural appropriation which get raised more and more frequently in these cases. In five relatively quick chapters, the author touches upon tools used in cleansing, practices for cleansing people and places, how to deal with negative energy situations such as crossing and hexes, and his understanding of spirit entities which might be problematic.

Salisbury’s selection of tools is substantial, and I like the fact that he acknowledges what he’s used and what he’s simply researched. There is special attention paid to herbs, and the discussion around the usage of animal parts in a respectful and legal manner touches on one of those subjects we Pagans are trying a lot harder to get right. He observes that “bones are the gemstones of our ancestors,” and if harvested respectfully can be powerful cleansing tools.

The book also has chapters on self- and house cleansing, as well as one which covers hexes, crossings, and curses, and another focused on spirit entities. The author remains unapologetic about his Wiccan framework (the book is rife with clever rhyming couplets, for example), but that actually makes it easier to translate the techniques for another tradition. Specificity is strength. Far too many Pagan authors seek to be overly inclusive in their writing, making it nearly useless for anyone. This is not such a book.

Instead, the reader gets specific spells and recipes, and is not left wondering why any particular ingredient is included because the author has included that information. A lot of the books which came out before the turn of the century were either written with the expectation that the reader had a certain education in magical correspondences, or would simply accept the author’s mantle of expertise without question. Salisbury assumes nothing, and that makes him a stronger expert than any of the big names from the 1980s and ’90s. When authors make assumptions, readers do as well, and they’re often not flattering ones.

Nevertheless, this book might not be incredibly helpful to a reader focused solely on the practices from within a single tradition, unless that tradition happens to be the one the author practices. Since no such promise is made or implied, this doesn’t bother me one whit.

For those who are seeking to fill in gaps in their historic practices which have opened over time, as well as those simply interested in a comparative understanding, A Mystic Guide to Cleansing & Clearing is a decent beginner’s overview.

Title: A Mystic Guide to Cleansing and Clearing
Author: David Salisbury
Publisher: Moon Books
ISBN: 978-1-78279-623-7

Mysteries of the bull

Dear Poseidon,

This year’s vigil is at an end.  All that remains is to print out the rituals and hymns to preserve in my book of practice.  All that’s physical, at least.  There is much I need to ponder, as well.

I know you exposed me to some of your mysteries.  For a writer, that’s not difficult to discern; I tried writing down what you taught me, and then I tried to make sense of the words after the fact.  Curiously, while I recognize that nothing coherent can be made of what I scrawled upon the page, that gibberish rekindles the fire you lit in my mind.  The full understanding washes over me, triggered but not described by the letters I penned in the moment.  Perhaps that was the purpose of the ear of corn to initiates of Eleusis.

Not all you revealed slips entirely free of language.  I now have some inkling of your consort Posedeia, and recognize that her being all-but-forgotten may have been by design.  Others may know something of she who was lost to history, or the impossible child which she did — and did not — bear you.

[Michelle Young.]

Frankly, I expected none of this.  This is the Vigil for the Bulls, after all, and bulls are about which I was prepared to ponder.  On that topic, I am gobsmacked.

Well I know the myth of the Tauros Kretaios, the magnificent bull which Minos asked of you to ensure his kingship.  Had he but sacrificed it as he was expected, many significant events would never have been spun out by the Moirae.  Now I hold a new version of that tale in my head, one which adds depth to Minos’ betrayal, and a bittersweet dimension to all which resulted from his desire to own that beast, rather than cede it back to you.

I was led to believe that this is a vigil at the intersection of politics and practice, an opportunity to bear witness to the grief you feel over the terrible choices humans have made.  I did not understand that joining a god in grief opens pathways to other regrets.  I did not understand that to share your sorrow is to bear my own.  I did not understand that I might gain from this service.

The ocean is heavy, and the earth heavier still.  Never could I bear the full weight you carry, Poseidon; Atlas himself might shy from that burden.  That you allowed me to even glimpse the scope of what is upon your vast shoulders is both an honor and a challenge.  I pray I am worthy of both.

Your humble priest,
Terentios

Offering of the bull

I’ve been preparing for the Vigil for the Bulls for about ten months now, as compared to the week or two I’ve invested in years past.  I already know the vigil will have far-reaching consequences in my life.

Even as I was wrapping up last year’s vigil, I had a sense that I wanted to offer something more than my time, my energy, wine and incense.  A couple of months later I hit upon the perfect thing:  a bull.

a wooden model approximating a bull skeleton standing before a large, blue-bound book emblazoned with a trident

Book and bull.

Part of why I sit this vigil is because of the senseless spectacle of death which takes place in Pamplona each day after the bull run.  These are animals being chased through a screaming crowd to the corral from which they will face near certain death in the bullfighting ring.  It is essentially the opposite of the purpose sacrifice fills.

Sacrificing a bull in an ancient Hellenic city-state meant that there was a lot of meat passed around, mostly to people who didn’t get much of it.  The meat from a bullfighting victim is sold to high-end restaurants, and commands a premium price because of its rarity.  Moreover sacrifice is an offering — a big one — which is all about the gods.  Bull running and fighting is a spectacle designed to celebrate danger, violence, and bloodshed, and which is all about the people.  If a god dwells in those temples, the participants seem unaware.  Certainly no god is being given a share of these deaths.

These other bulls meet there end in a way which is anything but holy. By making a votive offering of a bull during the vigil, I stand for a right relationship with the gods, as well as with these animals and other beings.  Yes, the bull and I hang from the same food chain, but as an animist I seek a more respectful relationship, even with those beings I must eat.

This will be an offering that stands counter not only to bullfights, but to factory farms, and the unnatural disconnection from that food chain their presence has fostered.  When I burn it has yet to be determined; I’ll be staying in a hotel the last couple of nights of the vigil, and setting midnight fires in the courtyard might be frowned upon.

Mystic South workshops

It is my honor to be presenting this year at Mystic South, rubbing elbows with people far more learned than myself.

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On my slate is a workshop and two rituals:

  • Thrifty Pagan Workshop.  Spells, rituals, and prayers around money are incredibly common, but if they work, why aren’t all the people who use them wealthy? Some money magic just doesn’t keep it real because it doesn’t allow space to act in accordance with the will. Perhaps it’s difficult to act accordingly when it comes to money because very little is taught about how to handle and manage money in the first place.In this workshop, learn about the thrift. The word is now mostly associated with discount stores and boy scouts, but as a value it can provide a sound basis for money management and magic alike.
  • American Flag Blessing.  The American flag is a powerful unifying symbol for the United States, but that doesn’t mean it can’t use a boost from time to time. This ritual is intended to bless official American flags in the hope that all who see them will also see what they have in common with their neighbors and others who live in this country. Lore about the flag will also be shared.Participants are encouraged to bring American flags — any that has ever been the official flag still counts as one — for this blessing. Terentios will also accept flags which cannot be repaired for respectful retirement in a Pagan ceremony which will take place later this year as it requires fire, not a good fit with the inside of a hotel.
  • Quaker Worship.  In Quaker practice, no tools, rituals, or leaders are required to commune with the divine. Instead, they gather to worship in silence, which is broken occasionally when spirit moves someone to share a message aloud as vocal ministry. Join Terentios, a “convinced friend,” who will facilitate this deep and powerful form of worship.