Mabon with a Rökkatru Flair

As we cycle our way through the harvest season, we move on to Mabon, the holiday marking the middle of the harvest cycle. Traditionally this is a feasting, reaping, and thanking mother earth, and often include foods such as apples, root vegetables, squash, and pomegranates.

Last time we celebrated Jord as the Fertile Earth and Angrboda as the Mother of Monsters. Now, as we move through the harvest season, it seems only fit to turn our eyes to Gerd, wife of Freyr and goddess of the Walled Garden.

Screenshot_2019-09-04-10-13-17-1.png

Much like Jord, Gerd is closely associated with the earth. She is theorized by many scholars to represent the frozen soil in the myth of her “courtship” by Freyr (which looks a lot more like a coercion to our eyes, of course) while Freyr is theorized to here symbolize the return of the summer sun’s fertility. The heat of the sun, therefore, warms the frozen earth and brings her back to a state of fertility.
Gerd is associated with the earth and soil in a much different way than Jord, however. While Jord represents a more generalized version of Earth — in her fullness, roundness, and original wild state — Gerd is more closely associated with the soil of farms and gardens. She has been called the Lady of the Walled Garden, and for many has a strong association with cultivated herbs in particular. I myself had a lovely altar set up to her in my garden at my old residence, where she oversaw my strawberry patch, huckleberries, kale, tomatoes, green onions, and a fig tree.
Screenshot_2019-09-04-09-31-03-1.png
Given this background, it seems only appropriate to honor Gerd this Mabon day. As with the other holidays, I recommend doing a small ritual or blot to go with whatever other traditions you might hold. Additionally, if you have the space and ability to do so, dedicating a small patch of earth or even some windowsill planting pots to Gerd makes a good devotional gift.
If you are able, holding your ritual or blot in a place where you touch the earth is ideal. Bringing Gerd an offering of a share of the day’s feast as well as a serving of mead or wine can serve as the central focus of this ritual. If possible, sourcing this meal from local farmers via a farmer’s market is ideal — not only does it support independent, local agriculture, these farms are often more sustainable than those that produce the food bought in your average grocery store. Both of these elements are good and viable ways of honoring Gerd. And, because Gerd is wed to Freyr but not often seen as having aligned with either Æsir or the Vanir yet isn’t often paid much heed by those honoring the jötnar either, taking this time to acknowledge her jötunn nature and blood might be especially courteous and powerful.
0
Even those of us who honor the old, primal gods of nature have come a long, long ways away from the the wilderness and the close relationship with nature that our ancestors had. Meditating on Gerd’s jötunn nature as a goddess of gardens and horticulture can provide an interesting look into the transitional areas between the primeval and society: how and where the wild can be tamed or befriended for mutual benefit, and ways in which “darker” and wilder forces creep in and encroach upon spaces we might otherwise think of as light and tame. Perhaps this is one of Gerd’s mysteries — the value and necessity of this mingling, something I think many Rökkatru can attest to and appreciate.
As always, I am interested to hear how your Mabon goes, especially if you try out these ideas for centering your celebrations around Gerd. If you try something else or have other ideas for how to adapt Mabon to Rökkatru, feel free to comment and let me know.
Skål.

Responding to the Crisis in the Amazon

As we hopefully all know right now, the Amazon Rainforest is burning. The vast majority of the fires have been set intentionally. Some of them were set legally, others illegally. All of the fires were made easier, if not possible, by the regressive environmental policies of Brazil’s president Bolsonaro. The fires are not only a serious threat to our already deeply imperiled environment, they are a direct threat to the indigenous populations who call the Amazon home and who have been fighting for so long to protect that home. These fires are being set with the full knowledge of the threat they pose to the people who live there, and is nothing short of a genocidal tactic being used against populations who have been struggling to defend their rights against colonization and capitalistic greed for so long.

01-amazon-rts2nech.adapt.1900.1

Within pagan and witchcraft communities, people who are distraught and feel powerless to help have been creating and sharing spells designed to send healing to the Amazon. I am not a huge believer in the power of magic on its own, though I believe that magic can be a powerful tool for reinforcing or strengthening some other action you are taking in the world.

For myself, I have started a monthly donation to both the Rainforest Action Network and  the Rainforest Trust. Another wonderful organization to support is Amazon Watch, which works with indigenous people to protect the rainforest. I made my donations in Jord’s name, a earth jötunn mother of Thor. I also evoked her in the small ritual spell I did tonight, and will do for the following two nights, and invite you to join me in doing.

My spell is a modification of one I saw drifting around Facebook. The original called for a bowl of water, a candle, and a piece of agate, quartz, or palo santo. Though I happened to have a piece of palo santo given to me by a friend, I strongly recommend against buying palo santo due to its endangered status, which is directly linked to over-harvesting. I also brought along with me a sterile lancet and biodegradable tissue, a bottle of wine, some fancy salt, and a beer — to make offerings to those I called on.

My spell goes as follows, but feel free to make any modifications that will help you perform the spell successfully:

Sit on the earth. Light the candle before you, and dig a hole between you and the candle. As you begin to speak, hold the [agate/quartz/palo santo] in the flame.

“I call on Angrboda, whose spirit is wild, to oversee and lend power to these workings.”

Pour offering of wine into the hole.

“I call on Jord, who is the fertile earth herself, to accept and manifest this healing.”

Sprinkle offering of salt into the hole.

“I call on Freyr of the Vanir, the god who wields the rains, to bring his gift of rain, to the Amazon that burns.”

Use sterile lancet to draw blood from a finger, dab it up with the tissue and drop this into the hole followed by a healthy pour of beer.

As you speak the next bit, douse the burnt end of the [agate/quartz/palo santo] in the bowl of water.

“I implore these powers, hear our cries.”

Pick up the bowl, and as you speak the next bit, dip your finger in the water and sprinkle it on the candle.

“Bring down the rains to drown the flames burning through our lungs.”

If the candle was not spattered out, blow it out now.

Offer gratitude and bid farewell to those you have evoked, in whatever way works best for your practice.

Lammas — Rökkatru Style

Traditionally Lammas or Lughnassad are celebrations of the beginning of harvest. In Norse paganism there is a correlation to the holiday Freyfaxi or Freyr’s Feast, similarly associated with the fertility of the earth and its bounty.

For those of us walking the Rökkatru path, however, Freyfaxi isn’t quite our flavor. We may want to celebrate Lammas/Lughnassad, but how can we celebrate this traditionally Anglo-Saxon/Celtic holiday in a way which honors our particular path?

My initial thought was to honor deities of death during this season of reaping—Hela who gathers the dead or Skadi who fells her prey. But, though it may seem a bit cliché, I couldn’t help but think that Samhain, the final of the harvest festivals and the holiday most directly and clearly associated with death and the dead, is a more appropriate holiday to honor Hela. Meanwhile Skadi is a distinctly winter goddess.

One important aspect of Lammas which underlies the celebration of the beginning harvest is the fertility of the earth itself, something often associated with mother goddesses. When thinking of mother goddesses within Rökkatru or who align with Rökkatru, two primary deities come to mind:

Jord and Angrboda.

Jord is a jötunn woman who embodies the earth. She is the mother of Thor and is referred to in Gylfaginning as the daughter of Nótt and Anarr. Because she plays no role in the myths and we have no surviving lore about her outside of these tiny scraps, some scholars think she likely wasn’t honored or considered literal and personified in her own right. As is written over at Norse Mythology for Smart People, “’Earth’ here seems to be more of a general concept than a discrete figure.” (1) These are the only hard facts that we know about her. Anything else is conjecture or unverified personal gnosis/peer verified personal gnosis.

SUPRA

Statue titled Moder Jord (Mother Earth) photographed by Alexander Henning Drachmann.

Because there isn’t much known about Jord, and because she could well have been considered a general concept rather than a specific entity (though as a hard-core animist I would argue that even “Earth” as a general idea or concept still has a spirit to be honored) we have a lot of room to get creative in how to honor her. There are many symbolic associations which already exist to draw from in creating a small Lammas blót in honor of Jord: salt is often associated with earth, as in “salt of the earth,” as are the colors green, brown, black, and yellow.

A small blót for Jord on Lammas can be quite simple—with as much or as little extravagance as you desire, you can set up a ritual place incorporating earth symbolism picked up from other places or that is personal to you to create a space in which to make an offering. If you are lucky enough to have the space put offerings directly on the earth, fantastic! Given the spirit of the season, if you are able to get yours hands on a sheath of wheat, or even just a few stalks, giving this to the earth as well as sliced apples and a healthy pour of wine or mead would make a perfect offering to Jord this Lammas.

In honoring the fertility of mother deities during this season of harvest and plenty, now would also be a prime opportunity to honor the mother aspect of Angrboda.

The Unlucky Family featuring Angrboda, Loki, and their children by Hellanim

Though she is most often known as a dangerous feminine figure, associated with prophecy, witchcraft, and wolves, she is a notably fertile figure in the Jotunheim: by Loki she is the mother of Fenrir, Jormungandr, and Hela. In many ways she is the mother of the Rökkatru pantheon, so honoring the wild and unbridled fertility of the Mother of Monsters on this day celebrating fertility seems only fitting.

Given that Angrboda is such a prominent, important figure among the Rökkr, a larger or more focused ritual in her honor seems worth investing the time and energy in. Offerings to her on this day don’t necessarily need to be so different from those offered to Jord—in the spirit of the season a sheath of wheat, apples (perhaps spiced and baked or otherwise prepared and endowed with your focus and energy), and wine, beer, or mead are suitable offerings. In addition, however, meat is always a worthy offering for Angrboda of the Wolves.

Lammas is a time for doing astrology, and because Angrboda is a goddess associated with prophecy (often the völva in Voluspa is believed to be Angrboda) this could be something that you work into a ritual for Her on this day. Feasibly astrology could be used as a framework for designing a ritual for Angrboda—offerings could be made, candles or a fire lit in her honor, her names ritually spoken, perhaps even a divination session could be held. Whatever shape your ritual takes is up to you, but in my experience with Angrboda it is good to make sure you are being deliberate, thoughtful, reflective, and checking your baggage at the door.

I would be delighted to hear of any Rökkatru rituals any of you lovelies undertake this season! Feel free to let me know in the comments if you have any alternate ideas about how to celebrate this holiday in an especially Rökkatru fashion, or any alterations or inspirations you may have based on the ideas shared here.

And most importantly, have a blessed Lammas.

Skål.

(1) McCoy, D. (n.d.). Jord – Norse Mythology for Smart People. [online] Norse Mythology for Smart People. Available at: https://norse-mythology.org/jord/

Deity-Human Relationship Patterns

All relationships with the gods are founded on mutual respect, reciprocity, and hospitality. Generally, we can say yes or no to the gods when they approach us, but the same is also true for when we approach them. The gods are not obligated to accept our offerings. We are not obligated to serve the gods against our will (except in rare cases, which I’ll discuss later).

In general, there are four types of devotional relationship patterns for working with the gods.

The first relationship pattern is that of a devotee. Usually, a devotee makes offerings to the gods with whom they have relationships to sustain those relationships. When these offerings are made, how they are made, and what offerings are used depends on the tradition. This is the type of relationship that most practitioners have.

This is the level where most of my relationships with the gods I honor are at. This includes Thor, Tyr, Niorun, Freyja, Sigyn, Quetzalcoatl, Hermes Trismegistus, Bast, and Mani. This is the level that most deity-human relationships will always exist at, and that is perfectly acceptable and commendable.

Moving on, the second relationship pattern is that of an oathsworn devotee. This is generally a devotional relationship taken to the next level. Different commitments are required – essentially, a contract is entered into with a deity at this point. In exchange for doing X for said deity, Y is received.

That said, oathsworn relationships are dangerous, and you should not enter into them lightly, if at all. This is not a path for everyone – it is not safe at all. Because the gods have agency, they have their own plans, their own agenda, and they are not obligated to share it with us. Even if we are part of those plans, they do not have an obligation to share – we do not have a right to know their overall agenda. Their ways are not ours, and they will hold us to our oaths.

When an oathsworn relationship exists, that deity has a right to your time where and whenever they show up. They are priority #1 over everything else. The work they demand is hard, exacting, and often downright exhausting. This is not for the faint of heart. Do not swear an oath unless you know, with absolute certainty, that it’s the relationship that you’re meant to have with that god.

This is the type of relationship I have with one god, and one god only, and that is Odin. In exchange for the insight and wisdom his path offers, I do a very specific type of work for him. Generally, it is in the form of providing people with information about him and his path whenever the subject comes up in conversation or through other mediums of communication, like emails or comments on blog posts. In addition to that, though, he has told me before that the work I do for Loki is also the work I do for him. More on that later.

Moving on, the third type of relationship pattern is that of a godspouse, which may or may not be as demanding as an oathsworn relationship. It requires a strong commitment, as it is essentially the marriage to a god. The easiest example to demonstrate this is the commitment undertaken by Catholic nuns – they are the closest equivalent to godspouses in the Christian world. In this type of relationship, the god is your #1 priority, and devotions matter almost more (or more) than those to other gods. These are exceptionally rare relationships, and few people will ever have a chance to enter into one. The requirements of these relationships are often secret, as the work a person does in a godspouse relationship is highly personal, highly intimate, and, in general, no one else’s business.

The fourth type of relationship pattern is that of clergy. A priest serves a god in a ritual and/or communal capacity in the ways that the gods make clear. Clergy are devotees and generally don’t swear oaths to enter into the service of a god – some do, so there are exceptions to this.

There are different ways to be initiated as clergy. You can be trained through an official program, you can be called directly by a god, or you can be elected by your community to fulfill that role.

Most clergy members of polytheistic religions are willing and able to take on the role of priest for gods other than the one/s they primarily serve.

When it comes to this type of relationship, I hold it with two gods – Loki and Freyr. The way I became Loki’s priest was through a conversation I had with him one night where he asked if I was interested in a godpsouse relationship. I declined, as I did not feel that was the correct relationship for me, as I have always viewed him more as a big brother/best friend (sorta father figure) than as anything else. When I declined that relationship, he suggested I become his priest instead, and I agreed to that.

The work I do for him is varied and dynamic. I talk about him and his path via blog posts and in face-to-face conversations. I also established the Facebook group Loki’s Wyrdlings at his request that I build a community where Lokeans could feel safe to discuss their practices without being immediately harmed by the Heathens who still view Loki as an evil god and his devotees as evil. Adding to that, I established Loki University, which is an online school where people can learn about Loki and his path. Most recently, I established (alongside some other awesome Lokeans) a book collection called Loki’s Torch, and the first edition of that will be releasing in August. As you can tell, the work I do for Loki is not a light load. Being a priest rarely is.

In terms of my relationship with Freyr and serving as his priest, I actually approached him and asked him if he would be interested in me filling that role for him. If he had said no, I would have accepted it and moved on. He did not. My responsibilities to him are more ritually based than about community building, and all of the rituals I have facilitated for Freyr have been some of the most rewarding rituals I have ever done.

One of the requirements he has for rituals is that no one brings a weapon of any sort into the ritual space – from what I understand, this is fairly common among the Vanir deities. This is something I ensure when I facilitate rituals for him, and I am fairly certain this is why the rituals end up being so strong. The other work that I do for him involves astral work, which I am not comfortable discussing over the internet, as astral work is very dangerous for the untrained.

Now, when it comes to establishing relationships with the gods, there are specific types of people, and it is important to understand this in order to understand how relationships with the gods develop.

There are people who are god-touched, which means they are very attuned to the spirit world (or astral plane, whichever you prefer), and they are able to easily communicate with the gods and other spirits. Because of this, gods often seek these people out, as it is easier to form a relationship with someone you don’t have to scream at to get to pay attention.

There are also those who are god-called. Generally, these are the people who have had gods watching over them for their entire lives, just waiting for the moment when the person finally notices the god’s presence. At that point, a strong devotional relationship spontaneously develops.

I watched this happen with someone I had a conversation with about polytheistic practices and how polytheistic religions answers the question of why good things happen to bad people. About two days after that conversation, which lasted about six hours, the man came back to me and told me that the goddess Morana had come to him and he was working with her – after essentially telling me during the original conversation that he was an atheist. Basically, once he was made aware of the fact that there were religions outside of Abrahamic ones, Morana came forward and made her presence clear to him.

There are also people who are god-claimed. This can happen in a ritual, but it can also happen if someone dedicates a child to a god when they are born. This isn’t always an ethical practice by human standards (although the Christian rite of baptism suggests otherwise), but the gods do not ascribe to our morality. If you were dedicated to them, they have a right to you.

Undoing that kind of ritual dedication is extremely difficult, dangerous, and not recommended unless absolutely necessary. A claim can also be held by a god if you dedicate yourself to them as a thrall (or a slave). Few people do this, but some do, and they generally walk a fine line between sanity and madness. This is not a path I would recommend to anyone, and if you are considering it, I would suggest an alternative path unless there is no other choice.

As a note, because so many of us are raised in Christian environments and usually baptized against our will (as we are too young to properly give consent), it is almost always necessary to do a severance ritual once we have chosen a different religion. I was lucky that I was never baptized, as my parents believed that I needed to make that decision when I was old enough to make it for myself.

I did, however, see a friend struggle with their baptism into Christianity interfering with their ability to properly work with the Celtic gods that they had chosen to honor. She had to have a severance ritual performed so that the Celtic gods could more easily communicate with her without the Christian god’s claim on her interfering with those relationships.

So, if you are someone who has been baptized and find it difficult to communicate with the gods of the path that you have chosen, I highly suggest finding someone trained who can perform the severance ritual for you. While it is is possible to do such a ritual on your own, the cut is likely to be cleaner if you have someone else perform it for you, as they are outside the claim that the god holds on you. Like I said before, severance rituals are dangerous, and they should not be undertaken lightly.

Lastly, you have the type of people that I call god-stalked. Like the god-touched, these people can be sensitive to the spirit world – sometimes they aren’t. This is generally a person that a god has taken such a vested interest in that the god will absolutely not take no for an answer. That means there is no ritual, no request, no anything that will get this god to leave the person alone. It is an adapt or go insane scenario and, thankfully, exceedingly rare.

Most gods honor a yes or no, but, again, gods do not ascribe to human morality. They do not have to honor consent because there is no such concept for them. Relationships are generally more productive when they do honor our concept of consent, but the god-stalked do not have the luxury of saying no. The only real way to deal with being god-stalked is to give in and accept that the god will not take no for an answer.

I have seen this happen to a grand total of one person in the nearly 20 years I have been practicing, and the deity was the Morrigan. This was a pretty unique situation, however, as we did a large group ritual to the Morrigan, and the person opened the door to allow the Morrigan access to them. Once the Morrigan had that door opened, she did not allow it to close, despite the fact that the person on the other side of it was trying to slam it shut.

This is why it is incredibly important that you do not participate in rituals if you are not potentially okay with the deity being honored coming into your life on a more permanent basis. Our gods are not safe, and it is imperative that if you are walking a polytheistic path, that you acknowledge and accept the dangers that come with honoring gods that have their own agency and their own agendas.

We can have amazing relationships with our gods. They provide us with an astonishing wealth of gifts in our lives. The gods, however, are not unfeeling forces or archetypes, content to do nothing except what we wish they would do. No, they are hugely powerful forces and sentient beings with their own desires, their own emotions, and their own ideas. Relationships with the gods are almost aways intense, unique, and gratifying. That said, however, relationships with the gods are never safe.

©Kyaza 2019

Litha — With a Rökkatru Twist

Recently a friend of mine, a devotee of Lilith and Dionysus, was inspired by a Hekatean adaptation of the Year Wheel to adapt the Year Wheel to their own worship and devotion practice. The idea behind this is that the Year Wheel most commonly accepted in pagan circles broadly is heavily based on Celtic paganism—in many ways it is applicable all over the world and in a wide variety of pantheons, as every part of the world experiences the changing of the seasons. The year, after all, keeps on turning no matter where you’re standing and no matter what gods you’re dealing with.

Cultural significance and nuance exists, however, and so the holidays as they are represented in the Year Wheel may not translate perfectly to different paths, traditions, and pantheons. The changing of the seasons may mean different things depending on your bioregional context—Beltane likely won’t look the same if you’re living in a desert vs. if you’re living in a coastal fishing town, for example. That doesn’t even take into consideration the fact that the northern and southern hemispheres don’t experience the same seasonal changes at the same time—Beltane may happen in May in the northern hemisphere, but May is not the time for Beltane in the southern hemisphere.

My friend wrote a rough outline of what the holidays may represent or symbolize through the lens of someone who is working with Lilith and Dionysus rather than working in a Celtic framework. We’re coming up on Litha, for which their outline looks like this:

  • Litha
    • This is a love and sex holiday.
    • Festival of the Sun
    • First Day of Summer
    • If Dionysus is born in Ostara, he’s concieved during Litha.
    • Lilith who Rebels
    • Summer things (Strengthening, Protection)

What, exactly, does this have to do with Rökkatru? I did promise that this blog would be exploring Rökkatru, did I not? Why am I talking about my friend’s Lilith and Dionysus based revision of the Celtic Year Wheel?

Besides the fact that I think it’s a neat idea, I think it could serve as an example for Rökkatru to do the same: why not adapt these commonly held pagan holidays to more accurately reflect the Rökkatru perspective and worldview? Why not reinterpret the holidays to make room for specifically honoring the Rökkr on these key dates?

Litha is traditionally a holiday which focuses on the sun, often in the form of the Wiccan god or other sun deities. The holiday is heavily themed around fire, and as a celebration of the bounty of the summer months, it is closely tied to fertility.

On the other hand Rökkatru focuses primarily on the “darker” divine forces—as will be discussed in my next entry, the very etymology of the work Rökkatru stresses the darkness. Rökkatru looks toward the twilight and the nighttime. Litha doesn’t seem like a particularly great fit for Rökkatru—but that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate it.

Taking place on the first day of summer and being a sun and fire festival, there are actually some deities that fit among the Rökkr or the jötnar who can be honored at this time.

Skoll and his brother Hati chase the sun and the moon through the skies, respectively. It is their snapping slavering jaws on the Sunna and Mani’s heels that keeps them driven at even pace throughout the sky. This holiday is a wonderful time to honor the often overlooked and forgotten wolves of the sky, Skoll and Hati, perhaps with a blót, with offerings of meat and golden mead, or other light-colored beverages that resemble the light of the celestial orbs these wolves chase.

skoll_and_hati_by_dobie_d4j3wf5

It is generally taken that Skoll chases Sunna and Hati chases the sun because this is how Snorri Struluson recounts the myth, but Grímnismál says this of the wolves:

Skoll is the name of the wolf
Who follows the shining priest
Into the desolate forest,
And the other is Hati,
Hróðvitnir’s son,
Who chases the bright bride of the sky.”

Because of the gender associations of the words used in this passage (priest/goði being masculine, bride/brúðr being feminine) and because Mani is a masculine figure and Sunna a feminine figure, it is safe to assume that this passage implies the opposite of what Snorri had written. Regardless, both wolves are closely related, and given that the light of the moon is a reflection of the light of the sun, it seems a good idea to honor both wolves at the same time.

On the night of Litha, it would be appropriate to light fires to three other jötnar, who are little known and about whom little is known: Glöð (more commonly called “Glut” or “Glod,” and whose name means “glow”) Eisa (or Eysa) and Eimyrja (both meaning “embers”). In The Sagas of Thorstein, Viking’s Son, and Fridthjof the Bold Glod is named as the wife of King Haloge and Eisa and Einmyrja as their daughters, which is referred to by Rasmus B. Anderson in Viking Tales of the North. In Myths of the Norsemen from the Eddas and Sagas by Hélène Adeline Guerber they are recounted rather as Loki’s wife and daughters, respectively, something that some practitioners have reported in UPG as well.

tumblr_mvgmzlpJSJ1qztpjuo1_500

Found here

Nothing else is known about them, and what little is known is not known for sure. Whatever else may or may not be true about them, their names make it clear that they are closely associated with fire.

Because these jötunn women are specifically Maidens of Fire, and are potentially intimately linked with Loki (who holds an important role among the Rökkr) they are another set of perfect entities/deities to honor on this holiday of sun and fire. Fires can be lit in honor of Glod, Eisa, and Einmyrja, either on their own or as part of a blót.

These are just a couple of very basic ideas—the details are up to individuals to fill in as best fits their practices and preferences, but I recommend just doing whatever is most fun. This is a celebration, after all! I’m fond of having friends and loved ones over on the holidays, to collectively cook and share large meals, drink, do a couple simple loose-form ritual activities, and enjoy the company. It’s all up to you, though.

If you try any of these ideas out, feel free to share some of your experiences and thoughts, or any specific rituals you may have done—I for one would be interested to see what others are doing! If you are Rökkatru and you decided to experiment with re-framing this holiday but took it in a different direction, I would be very eager to hear about your interpretations as well!

Blessed Litha.

Skål.

©Tahni J. Nikitins 2019

Abnormal Anecdotes

The one thing that keeps life from staying in a constant state of droning and doldrums is when things don’t go according to plan. And, believe me, when you’re a Pagan, there’s a lot that does not even begin to pretend to go according to plan. Chaos is all a part of the natural order. That’s one thing I feel that most practitioners can agree on. Most of the ones I’ve met, anyway.

In any case, I figure that I’ll start my lovely little blog with some such events that have happened in my life. Buckle up, kids; It’s gonna be a bumpy ride. Some are short tales, some a little longer. All are mysterious and some, annoying.

I’ll begin with one of the first odd occurrences I can remember. When I was a child, probably before school age, I remember a night. I remember it so vividly, despite not being able to recall any circumstances surrounding it. I was presented with a choice. A weirdly deep and philosophical choice for a small child. It was like one of those moments when you start up an RPG and you have a weird question to answer that will affect how the story progresses. I knew even then that how I answered this question would affect many things in my life. One of those weird things that I just kinda know.

The question was a simple set of paths: Power, Knowledge, and Love. Here’s how my childhood logic went. “Well, Power easily corrupts people, and on its own, it doesn’t really do much. Knowledge sounds like a really fun path. I’d like to learn a lot of things. That’d be really cool. But…Love. Love has something that the others don’t. A type of passion and fervor that makes the other two pale in comparison.” Of course I wouldn’t have had those pretty words back then, and movies gave me quite a skewed interpretation of how love works. But hey. I gotta give my child self credit. Truly a perceptive little snot. The life I’m living now actually reflects a lot of that. Unfortunately, in this life, I only got to go to the character creation skills menu once, and I didn’t put nearly enough stock in the Power department. I’m kinda wishing I didn’t tie my metaphorical and metaphysical shoelaces together with what I said about it. Oh well…

Then in middle school, a friend and I played around with the idea of ESP. Psy balls. Training yourself to be telekenetic and stupid stuff like that. I might’ve been a little too into Naruto. Totally just kids’ stuff. Or, really, my first experiences with energy work.

Aside from the whole Wicca phase in high school (followed by a Baptist phase), there were a few other happenings to note. At some point, and I’m not sure why, I was just…overcome with this dire need to study ancient Egypt. So, when I went to visit the school media center to check out the next issue of the House of Night series (what? Okay, what edgy teenager doesn’t have a vampire obsession? Get off my back.) I would also tear through the history section with an equal amount of thirst. I think it started when I went to some weird shop in downtown Salisbury that was burning incense. Looking back, it might have been frankincense. In either case, I started getting this weird mental image: a torch on a wall. That was it. But I knew it was in Egypt, and I knew it was night. I kept tearing through books on Egypt and the pharaohs. I remembered that when I was a small child, before my grandfather on my mom’s side succumbed to Alzheimer’s, he would read me old Life Nature Library books from like, the 50s. They had a lot of pretty pictures. My favorite one was the one on Ancient Egypt. I inherited those books from him, and that was the first one I read through. I felt a feeling that I couldn’t place as I read through them. A kind of nostalgia, almost. And then, one day, a thought hit me like a semi-truck doing 70 down the highway.

“I want to go home.”

Turns out the feeling was homesickness. Go figure. That was my first clue of what was to come.

Another one that comes to mind is the time an online friend of mine had the grand luck of getting an attachment to an incubus. I tried to dissuade him off her, but that only got me a slew of threats and I did not sleep that night. My girlfriend at the time was something like a…I don’t really know, but the closest word that comes to mind is “shaman”, but I don’t think she was rooted in any Native American practice. Point is that she managed to get him off my back. And saw him slip on the ice outside her house. Apparently he was low level and often made a fool of himself. We nicknamed him Geoffrey. Geoffrey’s singed hoofprint never exactly got out of her kitchen linoleum, to my knowledge. Kept coming back. Boy, I wish that were the last I saw of demons.

That brings me to a good friend of mine. It’s always awkward and difficult to talk about her to those who don’t know about her. The circumstances in which we met weren’t exactly pleasant. In fact, I’m pretty sure if my mother ever had any inkling of what was going on, she would have called a Catholic priest. She’s Protestant, for the record. Baptist, pretty sure.

Anyway, this friend of mine. You may call her Joan. The first time I met her, I was listening to music and fell into a trance (not exactly an uncommon occurrence). I became trapped in a labyrinth of my mind. I kept following the stone corridors, even as I passed a mural of blood on a wall, a clear warning to turn back. I entered an antechamber of sorts, half-rotted corpses chained to the seats and walls. In the center of the stage was…me. Starved, hair long and matted, covered in lacerations, burns, probably infected. It wasn’t pretty. She lifted her head to look at me, and her eyes were black, all the way through the whites. Her teeth were sharp, like a shark’s. When she spoke, I heard her as if she were right in my ear, even though I was at the top of the chamber. I ran. The corpses in the room came to life to follow. I stumbled back through the maze and passed the mural of blood. The exit came into sight, but I felt my shadow-self, as I thought she was, materialize from the blood on the wall behind me. I tripped, and she reached for my heart. I could feel her cold hand grasping around the organ with each heartbeat. Somehow, I managed to touch the door, and a strong light flooded in, disintegrating everything like ash. I thought that was the end of it. Joan and I are kinda-sorta “married” now. After a few incidents of channeling her and an identity crisis or like three later. And I wish that were the last of my relationships that got off so hard on the wrong foot that I rolled my ankle. More on that later. We’re still in my high school timeline here.

Dreams have always been a major part of my practice, even before I really had what you’d call an organized “practice”. What probably led to that was something so small and simple, and yet, so deep and profound that it is etched into the core of my being. Well, not really something. Someone. The first woman I ever loved. The woman I would have performed small miracles for, if I had the chance. May she rest in peace. She was what she called a “dreamwalker”. She said it was common for her to show up in other people’s dreams when they needed help or advice. And boy, did she show up in mine. Still does, on occasion. The first time it happened and we realize that we had shared a dream, it really changed how I viewed the whole dream realm. I’ve shared dreams with other partners since her as well, but, like with Love itself, you never truly forget your first.

So, what eventually led to my conversion from Wicca to Baptist Christianity. It was a little before the incident with the incubus. I hadn’t met that girlfriend yet, I don’t think. It was actually not long after I unfortunately had to leave the love of my life. I converted to Wicca, all by myself, in that stupid internet-informed way that angry teenagers do. I was never associated with Wicca proper, but I called myself a Wiccan. That kinda thing. After a while, I started becoming more aware of my own energy, and the energies around me. It freaked me out a little. My left arm in particular seemed to pick up on it, even when I couldn’t process things. It could get so bad that it would clench, twitch, and generally feel like it was being electrocuted on the reg around foreign energies. Then my mom had the bright idea to send me to church camp. I agreed to go because I thought I could find a cute little Christian girl to woo my way, easy as pie. (Hey, I never said I was a good person. Don’t trust an angry teenager who converted to Wicca via the internet to make good decisions.) That plan went to crap. Because I was becoming aware of energy, what do you think happened when I was suddenly exposed to the presence of a Deity again after not having gone to church in years? I’ll wait…

…Yeah, it was intense and it freaked me out enough to start crying, confess to everything, and even tear all the pages out of my so-called “Book of Shadows” that I had been keeping. Right in front of one of the camp counselors or whatever. Still wanted to ask her daughter out, but that’s another issue. I had a cross necklace that was a gift from my father. I wrapped it around my left arm and prayed that God would bless it so that my Devil Arm would stop acting up. Love and Light and the Shield of God and all that. Read my Bible every morning up through starting school again. But then I met my not-quite-shaman girlfriend and well…let’s just say I learned the connotative difference between “Forgive me father, for I have sinned” and “Sorry, Mommy, I’ve been bad.” Except I was Mommy. But whatever. Still kept trying to go to church despite my sins, right up until the pastor started using hymns as an excuse to demean other religions. Saying something about how the name of Jesus was more beautiful and then provided “examples” by singing the same hymns but with the names “Allah” and “Buddha”. I felt so…transgressed? that I almost walked out then and there. Haven’t looked back since.

I should say here that I have nothing against Christianity. It is a complex and thoughtful religion when properly practiced with its tenants fully understood and upheld. It is said many times in the Bible to meditate upon its lessons. I simply wish that many would heed that call before running their mouths with their megaphones and hateful signs.

After I dropped off that, Joan had started showing up again, under a different name back then, and there were a lot of things with my not-quite-shaman girlfriend. But, the most important goes back to the Egypt thing. I slipped into a trance after some…shenanigans with my girlfriend. Totally a PG way to word that. We’ll roll with it. Anyway, in this trance, I was led up some stairs and through a stone gate. Once through that gate, I found myself lying on a daybed of sorts. It was ridiculously hot. I got the feeling that I wasn’t on the first floor of whatever building I was in. I was wearing white. I was a woman. These things just flooded into my senses, and I knew. I rose from my daybed and walked over to an open balcony. The streets sprawled before me. It looked like something out of a storybook. Mudbrick buildings and, across the bay, a massive tower. I knew where I was. Alexandria. It had to be.

Later, I reiterated that tale to a historian friend of mine (who I later dated. Are you seeing a trend in my life yet?). She asked me questions about the streets’ layout, and where I figured what buildings were. I could answer easily, since the memory is almost photographic in me. When I asked her what was up, she asked if I had ever seen a map of Alexandria. I had not, and I told her so. She was shocked, and I could hear her voice drop on the Skype call for a few moments. Then she sent me a link and said in a shaky voice, “Well, there’s only one real place you could’ve been, given the angle from where you saw the tower of Alexandria.” I was floored. She was right. It was the palace. It made no sense to me. There’s not a drop of royalty in me. I still grapple with this vision I had. Was it a past life, like I have believed? What else could it be?

Ah, yes. College. I thought high school was a rough set of awakenings. Things do not go according to plan. Not my plan, anyway. There were a lot more rude wake up calls–like the time one of my friends barged into my dorm room and woke me up from a particularly pleasant dream involving the Hex Girls. When I remember that incident and he is present, I make a point to punch him between the shoulder blades and growl, “That’s for the Hex Girls.” But, that’s another kind of anecdote.

Pagan Student Association. An interesting find for sure when I was stumbling around the Club Expo like the herded little freshman I was. Within my first month, I had attended at least two libations in the woods and a Pagan Pride convention in…Raleigh, I think? And I had been introduced to the Egyptian gods. Much to the surprise of no one. Homesickness? The vision? Yeah. My first encounter that I can really for certain say was in a dream. I was led up a mountain, and at the top, there was a sort of plateau. From a cave, a woman emerged, dressed in plentiful gold jewelry and white linens. I cannot remember her face, only her black hair and that her eyes were ethereal. Her energy forced me to my knees, like gravity was suddenly five, no, fifty times stronger. She took me by the wrist and turned my vein side up. Tattoos emerged, some faded, some more vibrant. After she examined it, she looked to my face and said, “You are a child of the sky”. That’s it, dream end.

Since then, my altar has collected an odd number of Netjer. Sekhmet, Het-hert (Hathor), Djehuty (Thoth), and Khepra (Khepri) are permanent residents. Through PSA, I was directed towards the Kemetic Orthodoxy. I graciously underwent their beginner classes and have successfully obtained membership.

Once, I was sitting on a ledge appreciating the moonlight when I heard a man’s voice chuckle and sternly say, “Child, you are going to fall.” So I moved. I knew it was Djehuty. I simply did.

A couple years later, I met a certain Lokean who introduced me to Loki. In a way, he invited himself to one of my rituals, and he has been with me ever since. I appreciate his patience with me as I set up his altar and gathered materials for him.

There’s another story or two that are worthy of their own blog post, but since I left the foreshadowing hanging about my relationships that get off on the wrong foot, horribly, I suppose I’ll share one more.

About two years ago, Pagan Student Association managed to house an incredible guest: writer and priest John Beckett. With him, we held a ritual to the Morrigan. Sometimes I feel as if I should never have attended that ritual. I didn’t take the ramifications seriously enough. I paid the price for that recklessness. Dearly. During the ritual, I felt as if I was enveloped in flames. I could not stand up after the ritual had closed. Someone had tried to touch me, and I tried with my everything to scream at them not to do it, but I just wasn’t fully connected to the physical plane. The Morrigan had other plans for me. It felt like my back was being ripped open to reveal black feathered wings. A lot of what we discussed was private, but I will never forget what it felt like to watch as one of my possible Fates burned up before me. It was like, there was a set of pathways that led to the future, and the Great Queen saw the one I was focusing on, laughed, and pulled the plug on it. I was on her terms from that moment on.

Horrified, as soon as I was back with the physical plane, I rushed to speak with Her Priest. I asked him about the wings. I knew they meant something. I was frantic and covered in sweat. Even speaking Her name sent fiery shockwaves through my back. He began to explain to me about being called, and about what it’s like to serve the Morrigan, and how sometimes she can be a little rough on her followers. I couldn’t quite process what I was hearing. At the time, it just sounded like a doctor was sitting across from me in that moment, and the word that just left his mouth was “terminal.”

Not long after, I performed a small ritual to the Egyptian gods, and was met with an equally horrifying vision. I was standing in a chamber full of statues of the Egyptian gods, and each and every one had their backs turned on me. I felt like I was going mad. I still couldn’t say Her name because the burning where my wings tore through almost sent a tear to my eye. Anything even closely related to her started to trigger my anxiety. Tight chest, labored breathing, sweating profusely, almost halfway to a full-fledged anxiety attack. And She was around often. I reached out to Beckett, and finally did the only thing I could think of. I wrote a petition. I asked her to back off. I told her I could not work for someone I feared like this. That the loyalty would never hold like that. She protested furiously, and called out all the ways that I was holding a double standard. But, eventually, She did leave.

In Her absence, I was able to connect to the Egyptian gods again, and when I perceived my back, instead of the scars of wings, I saw on myself an energetic tattoo of the wings of Ma’at. It was a seal. I know that much, but that was all I knew.

Then came October of last year. My life was falling apart. I was doing two internships on top of a full courseload at university. I couldn’t handle the stress. I was dangerously suicidal. I began having regular anxiety attacks where I was rendered completely speechless for up to an hour. Finally, I gave in and took psychological withdrawal from university. One of those sleepless nights where all sorts of violent images flooded to my mind, a familiar and horrifying voice crept from the back of my head.

“If you’re not afraid of dying, what do you have to lose?”

I threw up every shield I knew in a pathetic attempt block the Morrigan out. I even tried to convince Joan to help. Joan laughed and said as much as she liked me, she wasn’t about to step between this mess. I fought, and fought, and fought, until I was running on fumes. I could barely stay awake. I knew what the Morrigan wanted, and I just did not want to give it over. But, finally, as people do when they are in total panic, I began to say crazy things. And then, that was it. I gave in. My eyes hurt from all the crying, my body felt like it weighed a ton, and I finally went to sleep. And the Morrigan was back in my life. I set up a small altar space for Her. I’ve set up a time to work directly and solely with Her. Every month, during my regular cycle, when I am considered impure for certain Egyptian rituals and rites, I serve her.

I still would rather not have had anything to do with Her to begin with. I am not a warrior. I want nothing to do with Her war. But, at least now, I know my place. I have accepted my Fate. It took a long time for me to come to this. I meditated with myself, and even with the Egyptian gods. After Her stint and blocking them from me, I was surprised that they gently explained Her place in Ma’at, and that though my fear makes sense, I should not let it stop me. They confirmed that all is once again right.

Sometimes on the back of shoulderblades, I still feel a familiar burning sensation. But, when I see a group of three blackbirds together, I know that it is time to make an offering. I am comforted by the sight of ravens and crows. Just like I always used to be, before my brief reign of terror.

These little things are just parts of a greater whole. It’s my belief that sometimes the most miraculous things are the things we don’t see, caught up in the mundane. When we break free of the mundane, that’s when the big miracles happen. But, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t always there with us, waiting to be discovered. After all, when any plan goes right–that is just another face of a blessing.

©Kahleo 2019