The Last Time

It has been a year since I wrote this piece to read at Grief Rites in Portland, Oregon. It has previously been shared only within the grief support group I administer and with my patrons. If you would like to hear me read it along with two poems, join my Patreon.

The sky outside my bedroom window is dark, the first rays of light trapped behind heavy clouds. Only omens come at this hour. As consciousness seizes me, I notice the look on my husband’s face, and the words “honey, its your mom, someone died” flee his lips. What? No. One of the dogs? Maybe a grandparent. Or my dad? Oh god. He thrusts the phone into my hand like some infected thing, and I take it.

Mom? Through the sobs I make out “your sister is dead. Jen is dead” and I sense time and space – of my world as I know it – being suddenly ripped apart. My thoughts scurry away from me as my body freezes. I feel completely dislocated from this moment, the veiled heaviness of the sky obscuring my presence.

I ask “what happened?”, as if my mother, barely able to say two words, would be able to tell me. In the few moments it bought me I quickly shuffled through the cards in my brain, looking for the instructions labeled “what to do if your sister just died and your mother is begging you to fix it”. Nothing. Shit. Alright. Another phrase flashes through my brain: In case of emergency break glass. Air rushes into my lungs, and I quickly ground and center myself. Yes, remember your training, Syren. The mantle of priestess goes on, blanketing my own emotions. I console my mother as best I can, while listening to my father speak to the police in the background. My mother keeps repeating: “she’s dead. I don’t know. I should have done something. I need you here.”

I hang up the phone and look for my husband who is rushing to get ready for work. I grab his arm and turn to look at him – as he puts his arms around me I allow myself one moment of sobs. “We have to go” I say.

Phone calls, internet searches, how can plane tickets be so expensive? clothes tossed into bags, ‘oh gods what are we going to do about the dogs?’ – note left for neighbor. Two hours later and we’re sitting in PDX waiting for our flight across the country. 8 hours. I have 8 blessed hours to breathe, and relax, and find some space within myself before I have to start swimming through miasma of pain and sorrow.

It had been two years since we last saw each other.
I know this, because I left the day before her 30th birthday. And she died two months after her 32nd.

She had talked about how wonderful it would be to have me there to celebrate the big Three-Oh. But I knew that was probably not going to happen. Ten days has generally been the longest I could visit home before things went south, and to stay that long would have been two weeks, the breadth of time from Winter Solstice to her birthday.

It was New Years Eve; my husband, my father, my sister, and a little too much alcohol was bound to be a volatile combination. Some argument about laws and politics, but it could have been about anything. It doesn’t take much to tread old scars, to scratch at barely concealed wounds.

We left the next day, while she sat in her room, barely a word of goodbye.

It would be the last time I went home while she was alive.

A year or so ago, she came into a discussion about racism on my Facebook wall. She quickly derailed, while I did my best to remain calm and compassionate. She spouted off hateful things at me. It was pretty obvious she was in another episode of mental instability. She unfriended me and said she didn’t want to speak to me anymore.

And I was fine with that.

I called it boundary-making. I called it self care. There is only so much familial instability one can handle, so many arguments, so many words flung in a panic of mania and anger. I loved her. But I couldn’t do it.

We didn’t speak again until this February. She called me a day or two before I left for India. She told me she was sorry, that she couldn’t let me leave without saying that she loved me and always would. Sisters are forever.

At least, that is what we always thought.

On March 2nd, a week before she died, she sent me another message. “I love my Sister. She is amazing and I couldn’t imagine my life without her” the meme said. I could feel her uncertainty, her shaking hand holding the olive branch, the simple statement and question: do you still love me? I didn’t know what to do or what to say, I still had so many mixed emotions and I was so busy. So all I said was “cute”.

We will never speak again.

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The BIG Polytheist Patreon Creator Pledge Network

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Image by Danica Swanson

I have taken the BIG (basic income guarantee) Polytheist Patreon Creator Pledge !

The what?! 🙂

Its a pledge network created by Danica Swanson, as inspired by Scott Santens. Both Danica and I have been supporters and advocates for an unconditional basic income for many years. We all suffer under the protestant work ethic and the requirement to conscript our time in the service of capital. As a polytheist creator and community builder, I would much rather offer my time in service to creativity,  devotion, and community. And I think our world could be vastly improved if more people were able to offer their time to the things that most call to their own hearts! What could you do if you knew you were guaranteed to receive an income every month, enough to meet at least part of your basic needs?

Of course, a socially provided basic income is probably a long way off in the US. But we are seeing movement in that direction, and Patreon is a step! Community support of creators through providing us a guaranteed income every month allows us to meet some of our basic needs. Every hour you ‘purchase’ for us is an hour we do not have to sell to capitalism; it is an hour we can spend to bring the world the work of our hearts.

I have pledged that every dollar above US $1000 per month will be pledged to other polytheists on Patreon who make the same commitment to limit their patronage goal in support of a basic income for all. 

It is my hope that through this pledge network we can not only raise awareness about basic income, but help more polytheists receive the support that they need. This will enrich our communities and help shift the often-unspoken expectation that we offer our work and service for free.

If you are a polytheist or animist on Patreon and would like to take the same pledge, contact Danica at shrine.of.skadi at Google mail.  Curious to learn more? Check out her page here .

Eve of the Elections, Precipice of Change. And a new Grief Support group

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today on the eve of the elections to face our fear and commit our hearts to the work of a better world.

Or something like that.

If you are hoping for something light and inspiring telling you that we have the power to change everything if we wield our magic and our will, you won’t get that here today. I’m also not going to shame you into voting or not voting. If you’re feeling anxious and fearful, that is very real and I’m not going to tell you to make it go away with positive thinking. You’ve been brow beaten with all of that enough. I am going to be honest with you though and share with you where I am and what I’m seeing.

And well, I’m really really worried. I haven’t felt so ominous since the days leading up to September 11 2001. It feels like we are at the top of a roller coaster, having slowly creaked and clacked our way up, and now we know something is coming but we don’t know exactly what – a long drop probably, and a bunch of twists and turns and loops that will leave us confused and knocked around, but hopefully exhilarated at the end.

Whatever happens in the elections isn’t going to change that. It might change the speed; are we on a super fast coaster or an old wooden one? But regardless we have a long and bumpy ride ahead of us. We’ve reached a point of no return and the only way off this ride is through it.

If anything is giving me hope, it is that it seems like more and more people are finally seeing behind the curtain, are acknowledging our political machine for what it is: an elaborate and complex thing that is held up by the bodies of the oppressed, to the benefit of the rich and powerful. We are all being played by the system, pitted against one another, divided and conquered. Capitalism and kyriarchy rules us all.

That isn’t going to change by voting. Never. Two party, Third party, makes no difference. Even the most ideal candidate is vested in maintaining the machine. I’m not going to say voting is pointless, or that not voting is valid protest, but voting isn’t going to save us. No one in a position of power in the greatest Empire the world has ever seen is going to save us.

It really is up to each of us.

Change is going to have to happen on the ground in our communities. It always has and always will. This is why we are so swept up in promises and appearances of change (Obama, Sanders, and H. Clinton, and even Trump) – because real change is hard and we would still rather not shoulder the burden. But I am convinced that whatever way this election goes we are going to have to finally get REALLY REAL about building community and creating change where we are.

Focus your power and your magic and your will on that. Even if you are still vested and believe in the political-capitalist machine as it runs now. We have to figure out how to meet people where they are, where our hard boundaries are and what we will do to defend them, and how to support and be in community with others who are suffering. We have to do this now.

Doing this work won’t take away your anxiety or fear, but it will help. And it is essential to the safety of PoC, LGBTQ people, women, the disabled, the poor, and everyone who is being Othered.

I’ll be working on some more well thought out posts about tools and methods for building community. In the meantime I have two offerings to help us do that:

If you are staying home Tuesday night and want some company as the election results come in, I will be online on a video conferencing platform beginning at 5:30p Pacific time. If you want the link, just contact me or comment here. You do not need to install any software and set up anything.

As I deepen my grief work, I want to specifically focus on the needs of pagans, polytheists, animists, spirit workers, and the like. I have created a Facebook group called Pagan and Polytheist Grief Support as a place for our grief to be heard and witnessed as well as for the discussion of traditions and cultural and community based approaches to death and grief work. Whether it is the result of personal loss such as divorce, the death of a loved one, or stems from disability, oppression, politics, or ecological distress, all forms of grief are valid and welcome.

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Caryatid Bearing Her Stone by Auguste Rodin PC: S. Nagakyrie It seems like we all feel like this right now

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 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 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.

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.

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!

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