Image: Shaun Beyale, 2016

Calling all Witches: a communique from Standing Rock

This is a repost of a communication from a clandestine group of witches at Oceti Sakowin camp. If you feel this call, please answer. If you can not be at Standing Rock, do the work where you are.

This is a call. Not to be heard, but felt. A call to be moved. A call to action.

Many of you now know of the struggle of the Standing Rock Sioux and innumerable other indigenous nations against the Black Snake called Dakota Access Pipeline. The prayer and action camp at Standing Rock has been sustaining a vibrant community in resistance to the pipeline since the spring, slowing down construction and withstanding militarized police harassment on a near daily basis. The 20 mile injunction placed on construction by the federal government has been lifted, and construction is now within just 6 miles of the Mni Sose River and the encampment. The battle has entered its most decisive moment.

Our indigenous relatives from across Turtle Island have come here to continue a struggle that has been kept alive for over half a millennium. They have come here as the original and sovereign land tenders, earth defenders, and water protectors of this place. As the original walkers of the path of right relationship. They have come here to take back power and to show leadership in the fight against exploitation and commodification, against the culture of colonization and inquisition, and for a healthy and bountiful world.

We are humbled and inspired by their initiatives, and unconditionally support them. Now is the time for us as allies in this anti-colonial struggle, to call upon our fellow comrades to join us on the battlefield.

To all who pray to our Earth and the water that cleanses her and brings forth life. To all who cast a circle and call in the elements, spirits, gods and goddesses, and deities; who ask for guidance from the spirit world. To those who listen to the ancestors as our descendants lay and wait. To those who align themselves with the cycles of the moon, the seasons, and the tides. For whom the cycle of life and death does not instill fear and aggression, but strength and comfort. To all who know how to listen.

It is time now witches, to deepen our work not only of casting spells and hexes, but of breaking them. We call forth the de-spelling of individualism, empire, spectacle, domestication, and whiteness.

It is time now witches to join us. Join us in spirit and join us in humility on this land. Bring your magick. Bring your prayers. Bring your bodies to the frontlines to protect all of creation. Come ready to take decisive action to kill this Black Snake. Come ready to follow in the path of indigenous warriors. We call you to join a frontline battle in a spiritual war that has been raging for centuries. A war against a dead civilization for all life on earth.

If you cannot come in body, take action from afar; the form of life of our enemies pervades all around us. If you cannot come, pray, cast, gather the coven, go to the wild, hold ritual, plan attacks. Ground yourself and continue to do the work. Continue to be moved.

We toss you a bundle of thread sweet witches, from the beautiful homelands of the Oceti Sakowin in each direction. It is the thread of centuries of resistance. Weave with it.

Brahmaputra River, Assam, India
PC: S. Nagakyrie

Hekate Festival, Want to Work with Me?, and other Exciting Updates

But first, the not-so-exciting news is that 3 weeks ago I injured one of the ligaments in my knee. The orthopedic says 2-3 months recovery time, but being witches and all my goal is to shorten that considerably. Help visualize me up and walking around, fully healed?

Because of this I had to postpone the Community Ritual of Grieving that I had planned for tonight. It really pained me to have to do so, but I knew that I would not be ready to hold the container of such a ritual yet. The mark of a good priest is knowing your limitations and when the responsible thing to do is take a step back, so that is what I did. I’ll reschedule it as soon as I feel able to do so. In the meantime I did publish an embodied grief practice to access your grief.

I was also unable to raise the funds to go on my pilgrimage to India. I have been invited to join a training program with the mandir, which I have started. It is opening my heart wider to Maa and giving me the container I wanted for my studies. If you would like to donate to help fund my training, you can continue to do so at my fundraiser.

Some other exciting opportunities: given that I’m laid up for a little while, I now have considerably more time available. I have now opened my schedule to take on more clients. I specialize in working with Pagans, Polytheists, cultural change makers, and those who struggle with ‘executive function’ and other ways of doing things that are enforced by capitalism and the dominant paradigm.

I am available for contract work for:
– bookkeeping or accounting (its getting to be the end of the year!)
– nonprofit formation and strategic planning (you don’t really want to write those bylaws yourself, do you? Stuck on how to move the org forward?)
– Grant writing and fundraising (I’ve written small private foundation and million dollar Federal grants, and doubled the budget of an organization through fundraising)
– Organization, Coaching, and Make Shit Happen Magic ™ (Got a project or something you’re trying to make happen? Overwhelmed by all the Things? I’ve got the skills and the magic to get it done.)

And something I am personally very excited about: I will be teaching on the intersections of polytheism and social justice at A Magic Big Enough a festival calling upon Hekate Soteira to make magic big enough to heal the world. We’ll be gathering November 11-13 near Duvall, Washington. I am so honored to be invited to participate in this weekend of magic being organized by the Wyrd Sisters. Hekate is and will always be my First Love, the One who guided me home, the One who first asked me to be of service in healing the world. This is my offering to Her. Io Hekate!

Many Gods West is also moving along with a great team, and we’ve announced dates and location: August 4-6, 2017 at the Hotel RL in Olympia WA. Our website will be updated very soon!

Gods&Radicals is publishing our first book by one of the site writers: Pagan Anarchism. Check it out, even if its just to ogle the cover art. We are also still accepting submissions for the next edition our journal, A Beautiful Resistance.

That’s all for now! I hope you are all managing well as this really difficult year comes to a close.

If you would like to support this blog and my work in the world, which I often offer as a gift, you can find me on Patreon.

Image: Malgorzata Maj

Grief Meditation

This experience is designed to help you unlock the grief that is being held in your body, trapped behind the barrier that says accessing the depths of our grief is not acceptable. It is written in response to the question “how do I access my grief?”. I use a variation of this in my grief ceremonies.

Gather your tissues and a shawl, scarf, or blanket. Have some music or a tool of sound ready. Find a quiet, dark place or somewhere you feel safe. You may want to do this with a friend present – having someone witness our grief can be profoundly healing – but it is not necessary. Meet yourself wherever you are, with whatever limitations you have. The most important thing is to just be in this moment with your grief.

Start breathing deeply but do not force your breath, let it come naturally. As you breathe, think about what you are grieving. It could be anything, one thing or many things. Grief is complex, it does not fall neatly into boxes. Think about what you are grieving, let the memories come to you. As you start to think about it, notice the feelings that arise. Notice the sensations in your body.

Now, ask your grief, those sensations, what they want. Let the answer come naturally – it too may be a sensation or feeling.

If it starts to feel like too much, or if you start to feel resistance, tell yourself that this is only for this moment. That after this exercise, you can return to your normal activities, but for now you are going to do this, even if it is only pretend.

Continue breathing into those feelings, and into the places in your body that are experiencing a sensation. Perhaps there is a tightness in your throat? A heaviness in your chest? A clenching in your gut? Really focus on those sensations, feel them, and let them rise.

Let yourself make a sound. It can be any sound. Maybe it is a chuckle, or a sob, or a soft moan or a single word or phrase. Give yourself permission to give a sound to your grief. If nothing comes out right away, fake it and make any sound. Have you ever started laughing and then found yourself sobbing? The process will unlock itself.

Do not censor yourself. Let whatever sound needs to come out, come out. Keep feeling into the sensations in your body and the memories of your grief.

As you reach deeper and unravel the cords of grief that have been tangled in you, a different sound may come to you. A wail or a keening or a great screaming cry. It may sound or feel animalistic. Do not be afraid of this sound. Let it rise from you, let it take over for a few moments and escape, taking with it the tangled cords that have kept you bound.

Give yourself time to cry, or scream, or just feel the sensations in your body. Put on some music or start drumming, and let your body move as freely as you are able. Find joy in your movement, do not let it cause you pain. If you have pleasant memories of the person you are grieving, think about those. Visualize a positive outcome for the thing that you are grieving. Visualize healing for yourself.

Once you’re ready, end the movement and sound and start breathing slowly and deeply. Wrap yourself in your shawl, and hug yourself (or have a friend hold you). Sing to yourself if you like. Thank your grief for the lessons it has given you, and thank yourself for giving yourself this time. When you are ready, make yourself something to eat and drink and give a prayer of gratitude to these things too. Do something to take care of yourself, and reach out to a friend. You may be tempted to analyze the experience, but please let your physical and emotional self be with the experience for now. You may like to journal about it later.

You may find that you are unable to go into your grief the first time you give yourself permission, or you may feel like you have much more grieving to do after this. Both of those experiences are valid. Keep trying. Continue to give yourself permission to grieve. Reach out to others for support. You can do this. It is as natural and normal as breathing, and loving.

From my grieving heart to yours.

Playlist suggestions for this work: In Sorrow and Hermitage 
Playlists courtesy Danica Swanson of The Black Stone Hermitage

You are welcome to share this with others, but please leave intact and credit Syren Nagakyrie.

A veiled ghost in front of a cave.
Image: Malgorzata Maj

My Polytheism

My polytheism was born in the innocent, rebellious heart of a child. My polytheism was found in moonlight, was found in the air thick with moisture and meaning, was found not in resistance to the stares of God-the-Father, but in the imploring look of Mary-the-Mother. My polytheism was found in the awakening of memories and the voice urging me to “look just behind my eyes.”

My polytheism roots into the dark and fecund earth, finding place in the deep and silent places. It rises into the stars, casting itself into the universe that spins just as I do. My polytheism needs no authority, including the authority of the gods, and reminds me of the power that I hold in equal measure.

My polytheism is fierce and bloody. It is the wild dance that shakes time itself. It is the howling of black dogs at midnight. My polytheism cannot be contained and will shred any attempt at doing so. Just as you think you know what it is, it sheds its skin again.

My polytheism is devotional and ecstatic. I build shrines. I offer prayers. I perform ceremony. I speak with them as I would a lover – though they are not always or only that. My relationships with my gods are intensely intimate and born of great longing. In that I listen to their voices before those of any human claiming authority over my practice, I do put my gods first. My relationships with the gods is no one else’s business, unless I invite you in.

My polytheism is my heart reaching for what my arms could never hold.

My polytheism is engaged with the world. My gods do not want me to limit my polytheism to practice in front of a small shrine, or even to remembering them as I remember my own breath. My polytheism cannot turn from injustice any more than it could turn from the gods and still call itself polytheism.

My polytheism is as my witchcraft, my gods the gods of the oppressed and common people. My gods have opened my eyes again and again and again to the way that devotion must be followed with action, and is meaningless otherwise. They have opened my eyes again and again and again to the sources of power and the ways that those who seek to oppress the people wield and abuse it. They have opened my heart again and again and again to the most marginalized, to those who are pushed to the fringes of society – for the gods are most certainly there too.

Turn your eyes inward. Turn your heart outward. Put your hands to work. Liberate the people. Only then will they be able to turn themselves toward devotion.

My polytheism rejoices in community. It demands a community of people who are free of the tyranny of colonialism, capitalism, and patriarchy. It does not demand to tell you how to be free, but it is willing to help you find the way. My polytheism seeks to build a community of connection. You are welcome, but you are not obligated. You do not need us to pursue your own path, but we are here if you want to sit around the fire.

My polytheism embraces paradox, lives in the multitude. It knows that it is but one piece, one star, amongst an infinite number of possibilities. It is the drop of water that represents the ocean, but is not all of the ocean.

My polytheism is mine, and my gods’, and it doesn’t belong to you. But if you show it the respect due a relationship, it will open its arms to you as friend.

at Kamakhya Temple

A few updates: Pilgrimage, Grief Ritual, Many Gods West, Work

I’ve been pretty busy in the four weeks since Many Gods West. Much busier than I thought I would be, actually. But this year: Whoever keeps turning up the pressure cooker really needs to take a break.🙂

I’ve been doing quite a bit of visioning, for myself and for community, and there are some exciting things brewing. Here are a few of them.

I’ve been invited on a pilgrimage to India for about 3 weeks in December to January. Whereas my first trip to India was actually a working trip, this will be a spiritual pilgrimage dedicated to Maa and visiting sacred Shakti sites for devotion. It is being led by a mandir in the San Francisco Bay Area that I greatly respect and I am honored to join them. My heart longs for this, but to make it happen I will need community support. I’ve launched a fundraiser Naked Before Maa: Pilgrimage to India where there is additional information and a more full picture of why I desire this so. I would have such gratitude for your contributions and your efforts at helping me share this!

I will be facilitating a Community Ritual of Grieving in Portland, OR in October. This will be similar to the ritual that I had planned to do at Many Gods West. I am also in conversation with others to bring this ritual to Seattle, WA and to hold other grief circles in a dedicated space in Portland. If you are interested in inviting me to your community to facilitate grief work, please contact me at the form below.

We’ve been getting some excellent feedback on Many Gods West 2016. If you haven’t heard already, I will be the lead organizer of Many Gods West 2017. One of the first things I will be working on is establishing a non-profit organization for the conference. If you would like to assist with establishing the organization, or with organizing the 2017 conference, you are also welcome to contact me.

I am also opening the to door to some additional contract work. Such as: Non-profit and grassroot organization work, including formation, strategic planning, and grantwriting/fundraising; Project management; Working, supporting, and brainstorming with cultural creative types; Writing and Editing; Spiritual coaching and Teaching. I also am a very experienced accountant and bookkeeper. If you are or know of a person or woke business looking for such services, or have another project that you would like to bring me in on, please contact me.

I’ll be writing in more detail about all of these things soon!

And here is a reminder about my Patreon. If you would like to support this and all of the other work that I do, please consider becoming a Patreon supporter and be a part of the community building!



Initiations of Ash

The man placed a line of gray ash from the sacred firepit upon my forehead, above the bright sindoor red bindi he had marked me with in Kali’s temple. I felt a shudder of energy release memories of past and future; a layer of old self replaced by a new layer of meaning. There was fire behind my eyes, gray of ash and red of blood. In that instant the gravity of the experience I had just received in the temple, the shrines I had visited marking patterns of a deeper mystery, began to transform me.

* * *

She came roaring in a cloud of ash, bright flashing blade and lolling tongue. Slice, chop, red palms to hungry skulls, CRACK. Here, my child, You Are.

* * *

The boat was rocking so softly as I took my place on the very edge, toes just touching the surface of the water; green-gray that seemed to taste extra salty. Or perhaps that was the tears trapped on my tongue. I plunged my hand into the depths of the black container, pulling out a grasp of the ashen remains of my sister’s body. My hand began to tingle as energy spread across it and up my arm. With a silent prayer I stretched out my arm and released, the ashes falling from my hand and spreading in a cloud in the water. I looked at my hand – it no longer felt like my own. It felt lighter, possessed of something holy and yet weighted by a mass defying it’s size.

Again. Plunge into the plastic, a handful of grains and chips of bone, release. The boat jumped slightly as wind and wave shifted, and the ash blew back into my face. Forehead, nose, lips – the graininess of salt and ash, borne on a gentle caress of wind. Again I felt the shudder, and the energy in my hand surged through my body and blasted through my new layers of meaning as freshly healed skin tender to the touch of it. I felt my crown open as my vision doubled, tripled, became clearer.

Now you see.


I’ve been thinking a lot about initiation lately. The experiences I told you of here all happened within the span of about a month, this year. I’m also studying another initiatory tradition, and rolling that around has been an interesting exercise around my views on power and authority.

I’ve never really wanted initiation by a teacher (though I have craved the devotional relationship of student-teacher – but that is another post). The tradition I studied under the longest was non-initiatory, though I was given the blessing of self-initiation and acknowledgment as priestess.

But that isn’t to say I’ve never been initiated.

How could these experiences not be initiations? What if initiation is not only a single act, bestowed upon us by another supposedly (hopefully) with the support of the Gods? And what contextualization do we have for these experiences, let alone what support? I’ve struggled to feel comfortable discussing some of these experiences and to be taken seriously, and that struggle has really illuminated the places where initiation is tied to power and authority.

For me, being a priestess is who I am. It is how I walk in the world. It is in my actions and my way of being. It isn’t about holding power over others, dictating meaning or relationships with the Divine. It isn’t about being in service to any one or any thing either, though it is about being of service. It does mean an awful lot of work and sacrifice and looking at things that sometimes I would really just rather not.

It is going to the places unseen, doing the work that needs doing, and bringing it back out into the world. It is walking in cremation grounds, those places where people dare not go, and receiving the ashes.

“A healthy Priest makes all things sound.” Francesca DeGrandis

If I am a god, in relationship with other gods (embodied and not), then where do initiations come from? And if a God should deliver an initiation to me without an intermediary, how is that somehow ‘less valid’?

Ultimately for me, it comes down to the most important questions of all: how do you walk in the world? How are you of service? Do you live with integrity and accountability? Are you willing to show up and do the hard work? Will you thrust your hand into the ash and do what needs done?

If so, you have very likely undergone many of your own initiations, whether through the hands of another or the hands of the Gods.


Building Polytheist Community: You Might Be Doing it Wrong

This past weekend was the second year of Many Gods West. As one of the conference organizers, I am still recovering from the last 11 months and so find myself unable to put words to my experiences just yet. I am planning to write a blog post about exactly what goes in to putting on a conference for Polytheists, Witches, and Pagans. We don’t talk about it too much and I think our communities should be able to see what goes on behind the scenes so that there is more awareness about how hard organizers work and just how much we wish we could do things like pay presenters. I would also love to see MGW East, Midwest, etc and sharing our experiences is helpful for those who want to try to do this thing. =)

As I wrote in my last post, I was also a part of the plenary panel on building polytheist community. I took the opportunity to hop on a soapbox and say some things that I really felt needed to be said. Here it is:

How do we build Polytheist community? First I want to start off with this:

We don’t build it by allowing people to attack members of our community in such a way that threatens their physical, emotional, spiritual, or financial safety. That especially includes attacks by people who are supposedly also a member of our community. If you hold some degree of privilege or position and there is nothing stopping you from standing up to such behavior that would also put you at risk and you still choose not to address it in some way, at the very least by offering support to the one being attacked, and then try to talk of community, you are being very hypocritical. And I say that in the most loving way possible, but there is an increasing amount of behavior I see happening that is hurting people and driving wedges into our communities.

And yes, sometimes addressing it does not mean making grand public displays, and we can do this while holding compassion. But there is far too much turning the other way, hoping it will just go away, lets just let them get bored and slink away until the next time. As a community builder I take this personally, because it counters everything I do and makes it that much harder. We have to be brave and willing to stare the dark, vicious, scarred parts of ourselves and our community in the eye. I also think we need many more opportunities to learn and employ tools of restorative justice.

I want to add and clarify that this applies to not only individual, interpersonal actions but also to those who use our traditions to promote bigotry and fascist ideologies.

I am working on getting the rest of my notes together into a more coherent article and will publish it here or on Gods&Radicals when it is finished.

I changed my plans for the Community Ritual of Grieving over the weekend. I recognized that it would not have been safe or responsible for me to hold a big cathartic ritual on Sunday given how tired I was, and it seemed like a lot of people were feeling “ritualed out”. Instead I facilitated a grief circle; it was so deeply moving and beautiful, I think that perhaps it was what was needed all along. The feedback I’ve received is confirmation of the deep healing potential of having our grief held and witnessed in community, and that we really do need more of these spaces. So I will be offering more of such things in the future.

I also want to say thank you to everyone who helped make Many Gods West 2016 such a success, and to everyone who has helped hold and support me during this very difficult year. You have my unending love and gratitude. I am very much looking forward to taking some down time to Just Be, and then jumping back in to co-creating more amazing things with you all.

Would you like to support my work in the community? Consider joining me on Patreon. Your financial support helps make it possible for me to offer my work to others.