Many Gods West, Community, and Grief

Many Gods West 2016 is only 9 days away. The 2015 conference marked a significant point in my life, and I really can’t believe it has only been a year.

This year, I am one of two primary organizers of the event. And let me tell you, it has been quite the adventure worthy of a novel (I’m just not sure what kind yet – contemporary drama, urban fantasy, or maybe even a Dan Brown book). I won’t gloss it; it is exhausting and underappreciated work. And I am honored to offer it.

In the process, my relationships with gods and people have deepened greatly. Doors have been opened and thresholds crossed. Friendships that I will always cherish have been strengthened. Community has been woven. And it is that weaving of community that has held me in my grief during this time as well.

I am a part of two offerings during the conference. The first is the Plenary Panel on building polytheist community (Friday at 12:30); following our opening ritual we hope that this will help set the tone for the remainder of the conference.

Community building seems so challenging. And sometimes we make it more complex than it needs to be. I think people have a tendency to envision community as a utopia, as a grand idea to be reached. We set ourselves up to fail. If we adjust our thinking a bit, we may realize that we are already always building and supporting community, and that the work of doing that is not as big and challenging as we make it out to be.

We can also fall into the trap of conflating “community” with “identity”. Community does form around identity, but if we are not careful we will form an exclusive monoculture. Communities require diversity to thrive. We treat community as something that should just happen because we all share some thing in common, and we don’t question who we are including. For marginalized people this can be a source of support, but it can also be a source of harm. Community is a process; it is continually creating, evolving, changing, dying. And it is based in relationships.

The second offering is a Community Ritual of Grieving (Sunday at 2:00pm). Grief work has been a part of my service for a long time, but it is so much more personal now. And I feel more deeply than ever before the desperate need we have for community spaces around grief, and for more ceremonies for death, loss, and grieving.

We must grieve before we can create. We must learn to mourn what has been lost before we can build something better. We must honor that which is hungry and grief stricken within us. We must give voice and space to grief and to celebration.

That wail? The one coiled in your gut, the tip of it stuck in your throat? You fear it is too wild, too unrestrained, that if you were to let it free the force of it might just break you in two?

It is. It will. It must.

It is the sound of stars, the sound of black holes and supernova, the sound of a sun burning to its death giving us life.

It is the sound of your liberation. It is the key to your wildness and your power. Your restraint is the lock put there by those who seek to keep us quiet, passive, productive.

Let grief break you. Let our wails rise in unison, mourning all that we have lost all that has been taken from us.

And let us build a better world with the pieces, serenaded by rediscovered notes so sweet.

Grief is a part of who we are; as natural as breathing or eating. Grief and ecstasy weave together to form the tapestry of life and love. We will co-create space to access the grief that is held within, to give it sound and movement. We will then fill the space with love and our visions for a better world. We will hold and be held, witness and be witnessed.

I am very much looking forward to sharing Many Gods West with everyone. I hope the conference fills the cup of everyone in attendance, so that you may continue with your own good works.

Would you like to help support my work? Please consider joining me on Patreon, or dropping a tip into the PayPal link on the sidebar. 

Invocation to Grieving Hearts

May the waves of our grief
and the fires of our open hearts
rise and flow to remind us all
of the power that we contain.

Our bones are made of mountains
Our tears made of stars

With the contraction and expansion of every heart beat
Our bodies call to the grief and ecstasy of life

May we remember
in honor of all those who are forgotten
May we remember
in honor of the blood in the soil
and the beings that have been lost.

DSCF1369

I actually wrote that over a week ago, before I really heard about the murder of Alton Sterling, followed by the murder of Philando Castile, and a number of other deaths of POC in the last few days that happen everyday.

It came after a night of devotion to Kali. It came after having another layer of maya ripped from my sight. I’ve been struggling to reorient myself since then, and have realized that nothing has felt stable in longer than I can remember.

Three weeks ago I wrote “I don’t know what’s next. We’ll see what the coming weeks and months bring, even if I am afraid to look.”

I keep diving into the current, hoping to pull out something profound and meaningful, something that will inspire to empowerment and action. But I gotta be honest: right now I’m not finding anything other than the ominous. And as I watch the protests surge across the country, fear and grief flowing through the people, I can’t help but feel that this is not the end.

Are you feeling it too? That sense of something being ripped open, of something below the surface that feels too dark, too deep?

Do you feel the resistance, like a rip tide?

 

Hymn to Kali

 

13680132_10155208551864368_7779849267185226839_o

O Maa
Dancing through our hearts
Shattering our illusions

You, Creator and Destroyer
All encompassing Time
Nothing escapes the wisdom of your blade

Sever us from our demons
Teach us to drink deep
of the ecstasy of life

O Maa
Praise be to you,
Most Fierce and Loving One.

Jai Kali Maa!

Poem and Photo by Syren Nagakyrie