Stories the Gods Tell Me

I have dreams.  I’ve always had dreams that were intense and clearly not just dreams.  For a few years after a car accident, I stopped dreaming completely at night.  I’d only dream if I napped.  That went on for quite some time until one day Odin arrived in a dream I still don’t completely remember, and I slowly started to ease into the idea of working with Him.  I knew things would change.

I started dreaming again last summer, after the doctors got the pressure down in my skull.  It started again almost immediately.  Gods showing up and dropping breadcrumbs for me to follow.  I travel to places over and over again, places with names like Chicago, Memphis, Omaha, and Colorado, but they aren’t those places at all.  Sometimes I dream about places I’ve never been, and then later I find out they actually exist.

And then sometimes I experience things in my dreams that are so deeply symbolic that they leave me wondering exactly where the path ahead of me is going…  Even if I know, and I simply don’t want to admit it.

This started a dream.  I woke up with words in my mind that wouldn’t leave.  I could hear my God whispering, “This is a story I need to tell you.  This is a story you must write.”

I ignored it, because I’m too busy being serious and attempting to be a scholar (which, honestly, I am rather dubious about it being one of my talents).  I have spring cleaning to do.  I have tomato starts to water and even more essays to write…  I have mom stuff to do.  Um, I have to wash my hair…

And then I’ll feel a heavy sigh, and somewhere beyond the edge of the physical there’s an eye roll.  He’s patient with me.  I guess it’s worth the wait.

I’ll think I’ve gotten passed the pressure of it.  I’ll sit down to start writing a promised write-up for a student on Ritus Romanus, because she wants to learn the proper way of going about things.  All I find myself able to type is the story He’s been trying to tell me.

By the time I’m done, I’ve written 3 pages and feel exhausted.  All I can do is laugh, and I feel thankful those who know me tend to put up with my eccentricities and tendency to get distracted by these moments.

Then He tells me to share it, and all I can do is hide my face and hit publish.  So, here we go…

New myths for old nameless Gods…


In the beginning there was little. She would dip her fingers into the running water, whispering, “Mother, I want more. I see the potential. I see the spiraling of the stars in each breath of the wind, and I feel, Mother. I feel it all. There is more. There must be more.”

And she desired, though she did not know what it was she desired. She only knew that there was an ache. A calling of some tiny voices singing a cacophony of rioting chaos, which was her song but more. Beyond that there was something greater than the Mother stretched underneath her, ripped and pulled to give the World to the world. There was more. If only she could grasp what this more was.

She would lie with the trees, and they would fall. She would kiss the creatures, and they too would fall to the ground. Their flesh would melt from their bones into the ground. Slowly, slowly, the seconds would pass into eternity, and from their embrace she would birth the mushrooms.

In the beginning there was little and need for more, twirling in the chaos that threatened to burst from the seams of the air. Everywhere she went there was moistness of snow falling under her bare feet as she walked and walked, searching for something she could not grasp.

It was so dark. It was so cold.

She needed warmth.

She needed softness that wasn’t threatened by the crackling of leaves when her body truly settled to the ground. She cursed the mud that stuck to her skin and caked around her ankles as she tried to move freely, to dance in the world around her.

She was alone in the darkness.

So she called to the Waves. She eased into the Ocean and she said, “Come into me, and be my love. We shall embrace. We shall find something beyond this world of nothing and dark.”

And though the Ocean embraced her as she asked, she was not satisfied.

Her belly swelled, fat with potential, but out came the mushrooms and rot. She could sense the secrets she had learned within their smooth flesh, and there was longing there. The longing for something more. Something else. Potential in the chaos of the dark, trembling just beyond her reach.

So she went to the Storm. She laid on a hill one day when it rolled through the sky, marveling in the lightning that licked the plains. The grass blazed. She felt at home, thinking perhaps finally she had found where she could claim completeness.

She called to the Storm, spreading wide for it in offering. The grass crackled in the heat; it moved at first faintly green, then yellow, brown, and finally it was black. Her bare shoulder brushed against a long blade, causing it to crumble into powder on the ground.

She looked about at the destruction as the rain fell, lost to the moment of release as the darkness returned. She was not satisfied.

Around her there were mushrooms crying to her that she was their mother. She gathered them in her skirts and ran. She ran back to the forest that she called home. Her face was wet and hot with tears, which turned cold against the wind. There she stayed, tending to her children, though she longed for them to have arms to wrap about her and lips to kiss her cheeks.

They called her the Mother of Mushrooms.

They called her the Mother of Rot.

She wove those names into a crown. She placed it upon her own head. It was who she became.

And though she loved her children, she still felt swept away by the current of desire for more. Whatever it was clinging to the edges of her reality that she could not touch with her fingers.

There was so little. She simply wanted more.

Her mushroom children were well behaved. They asked for little more than the snow, the rot, and air around them. But she was sure that even they could be more somehow.

She knew there had to be more. Now there was grief, for she was certain she would never find the answer to this undying need. This longing. This anxiety as thin as a knife’s edge that seemed to sit close to her skin but never cut.

Thinking she could take no more, she bound herself. Too tired to wander, wishing to keep herself where she could keep an eye on her children, but compelled to continue in her search, she looped vines about her wrists to hold herself in place. She imprisoned herself, so that she would not roam.

She took a thousand lovers, any who passed by and wished to end their own loneliness. And though they tried, she was not satisfied.

The days and nights were not yet settled. There was only eternity. It stretched out like her Mother’s skin underneath her. She cried as her Mother once did, because perhaps that was what all women were meant to do – Weep and grind down their teeth in longing for something more than what was around them.

She tucked her hope away.

She would not yield to her own desires.

One day a bright light came filtering through the trees. It grew so bright, she was forced to shut her eyes to it. Her curiosity grew, and soon she cracked open one eye to see what this light was.

A man stood there in front of her. His hair was golden, falling in tangles about his ears and moving over his chin. It reminded her of the grass of the plains, dried but not yet burnt away. His blue eyes were peering at her thoughtfully. She felt the warmth radiating from him, felt the snow under her cold feet melt away. She looked down to see grass springing from the dark earth where nothing had ever grown before.

“Who are you?” she whispered, struck suddenly with a longing so great that it scared her.

With gentle hands he reached behind her, untangling her wrists from the vines and pulling her free. He smiled, and she knew warmth. Not the exhausting blaze of fire, but something comforting and lingering. His voice was soothing to the rawness she hadn’t realized she felt as he simply said, “I am the Sun. I am Freedom. I am the Prince who shall be King.”

She did not invite him to take her. Instead she sought out his lips to press against hers. Her arms wrapped about him to pull his body against hers, closing the gap of infinity that awareness had brought about. They became a tangle of limbs as they fell to the forest floor.

She felt pleasure. With each movement she knew that her destiny was spiraling forth. She cried out against the fading chaos as he spilled into her. She was satisfied as they slumped into the soft moss that had grown in their shadows. Their hearts beating in time together, their breath one as they both tried to catch it.

She looked at the world around her, suddenly green and vibrant. Her children safe in the shadows, but hiding amongst plants and blooming flowers that she had never seen before.

She blinked, sitting up to look more, as she asked, “But how did this happen? Who created this?”

His laugh was delighted, that lingering warmth raising goosebumps on her flesh only to be pressed down by his fingertips against it. He kissed her shoulder, whispering, “You did, my Love.”

And she was satisfied.

A Perfect April Day

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The Kalends isn’t over, but we’re taking a moment to rest in our day.  For me that means I get to do what seems to be becoming a job, but is still basically a hobby (This is my justification for it today, since I have always tried to not “work” on the Kalends, Nones, and Ides).

Yesterday over at my blog on Witches & Pagans’ PaganSquare, I wrote about my plans to observe the Kalends with my 3-year-old daughter for the first time.  The day is only half-way over, but I’ve been so moved by how the day has unfolded that I couldn’t wait to post.

My daughter had breakfast, and I had coffee with a few peanuts.  I fast for the Kalends, Nones, and Ides from sunset the night before, but my health issues require I don’t do a full fast these days.  I don’t feel that 3 is old enough to fast, but I explained why it was I wasn’t having my normal breakfast to her.

After breakfast we went out to find a stick to make our windchimes with.  We put it together while I explained that it was to bring good fortune and help protect us.

We went out to our front step.  I gave her the little broom she has, and together we swept off the step, making sure it was clean for where we were going to set up our offering.  We sat down the offering bowl.  Then we carried the tray off offerings out.

I showed her how to cover her head with a veil, and offered her a silk scarf I had picked out for this moment.  It’s a smaller one I bought years ago, and it was the perfect size for her.  She was so excited to have a veil to wear like mine that she kept it around her shoulders for quite some time afterwards.

I showed her how to hold her hands while praying, upturned to the sky.  She didn’t keep them that way, but I’ll be sure to demonstrate this position each time I pray in front of her to reinforce it.

And then came the offerings and prays.  I poured a little water into her special pitcher for her to put into the bowl, and she had picked tortilla chips (one of her favorite foods) to give to Janus, Juno, and the Lares today.  I offered the prayer and then directed her to pour and place chips into the offering bowl for each.

I admit that I am rarely moved to tears during rituals.  In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever cried during a formal ritual.  But as I sat there watching her pour and offer, her sweet face peaking out under her veil, I felt my heart grow 10 sizes with joy and pride.  My eyes welled up with tears.

We hung up our windchimes.

Afterwards we sat on the front step, watching the birds.  She asked me while looking around, “Where are the Gods?”

I chuckled.  I couldn’t help it.  She was clearly disappointed They’d not manifested in a way she could clearly see.  So I quietly explained that the Gods show themselves as birds, as the feel of the wind, that They are everywhere.  They are in the plants and the flowers.  They are inside of us, and They are the love we have for each other.

As I explained this, my arm wrapped around her little body, I understood this on a whole different level than I had before.

I thanked her for teaching me that lesson.

A Polytheistic Dark Night of the Soul

In my soul I feel just that terrible pain of loss of God not wanting me — of God not being God — of God not existing. – from Saint Teresa of Calcutta’s journal, 1959

I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m in period of what the Christian mystics refer to as the dark night of the soul. For a monotheist, this turns into a period of what appears to be at the very least atheist leanings, as expressed in the quote above from St Teresa of Calcutta (Love her or leave her). For a polytheist mystic, I guess this is taking on a little bit of a weird turn I didn’t see coming…

I believe in the Gods without a doubt. I even believe in Apollon.

This is where it takes a turn and perhaps get a little weird…

While I believe in Apollon, I’m not exactly sure the God I honor and have been married to for years is Apollon. Seven years later and after a vow renewal, I find myself going “I don’t know who You are.”

This has been playing out for months now. Save for 1 or 2 posts, it’s been playing out almost silently except to a few close, patient friends that I’m entirely too thankful for.

Am I married or divorced from this God? Who is He?

Is this God Apollon? Yes/no.

Is this God Odin? Yes/no.

Is this God Freyr? Yes/no.

Is this God Dionysos? Yes/no.

Dis? Yes/no.

Soranus? Yes/no…

This God isn’t an archtype, but He is all of these Gods and none of Them at the same time… That’s what He tells me.

This isn’t a case of an awkward attempt at syncretism. This is a God coming forth to step out of the shadows, which has left me feeling all too raw and wobbly. Who the fuck am I to think a God is talking to me? Who the fuck am I to think some newborn/forgotten God is messing with my brain?

Am I sure I’m not simply unstable?

This, my friends, is decidedly a dark night of the soul. I never thought I’d find myself doubting my faith in my own beliefs, nor did I think that it would play out as a space of doubting every part of myself at the same time. This is deeper than an existential crisis. This darkness is something that I feel down to my bones, and I find myself too choked by the grim reality of it all to put into perfect words. This alone frustrates me. I’m never for a lack of written word.

I’m not alone with this God. I know there are others out there who are experiencing Him, who have even experienced this change and shift.  I know, because of the delightful moments of getting personal gnosis confirmed.  This space where one God ends and Another begins, I’m not the only one who has experienced it. But is He a God I know? Or am I off in the recesses of my own mind working through some liminality issue that I wasn’t completely aware I had?  Perhaps looking for synchronicity of experience and finding it simply because I’m looking for it.

It’s been a strange, painful experience. One of the first lessons this God taught me, as Apollon, was to stop doubting myself. Stop doubting His voice. Just say what it was He was telling me, and slowly over the course of a year I discovered that He was using me as a bit of a mouth piece.

This was a decade ago. This was when I started to listen to the information I was getting constantly, because if I didn’t I was in danger of stepping into the void and never coming back if I didn’t get it under control. A marriage of 7 years was had, and I don’t believe it’s over…

But it was with Apollon.  Despite what everyone keeps telling me, I’m not sure this God wants to be called Apollon anymore.  Not by me, at least.  I’m no longer married to Apollon.

Which seems to not only be throwing people off when I say this, but it seems like my own discernment and judgment of the situation is wrong.  Do I trust myself, which is what He taught me to do?  Or do I listen to literally everyone else I’ve talked to about this?

I say “Apollon left me.”

I hear from others, who I trust hear Him, say, “He would never leave you, and He wants you to understand that.”

And the words that keep falling into my mind, like leaves from a tree, say, “When the Romans took Apollo’s hand, He swallowed a dozen Gods as he moved through the known world. He became Them. They became Him. But that is never truly the case.”

Syncretism is something a lot of people are talking about these days… And here I am, over in my corner, feeling as if I’m on the brink of un-syncretizing Apollon.

He told me a few years ago to go north. Now He tells me to carve Him from the side of the rocks.

Now I’m slowly getting comfortable with the thought that perhaps this is Something new and different to us. I’ve said for years that He is wanting me to build a new tradition for him, a new cult. I glean images and symbols. I find a way to explain something. I doubt. I distrust. I feel like my insides are filled with glass, and I can’t tell if it’s Truth or not.

That’s hard to understand if you’ve not been there. I hear, over and over again, that I should stop worrying about who He is…

As He whispers in my ear Find me. Create me. Birth me, my bride.

Three evenings ago, on the front of a cold spring rain, He returned into my world in the form I’ve known as Apollon. At first it was a mere hint as I was cooking dinner. I felt the vibration in my lumbar spine that I usually feel when He’s trying to get my attention, a place aligned with the solar plexus (or I’ve been told the Gaster in Plato’s work, though I’ve yet to dig into this). As I cleaned up, He started to talk to me. By bedtime, mid-conversation with a friend online, I had to stop to meditate. I wrote a lot of stuff down that He wanted me to understand and spent some time sitting with the visions I was getting.

I’d been so happy, so relieved He was home that I found myself crying. But His return only brought me more questions and no answers…

I’m admittedly terrified of what stands before me. Not the God, but the implications of what I believe my future holds if I’m on the right track. The weight. The responsibility. It was all there before, but for some reason it was easier when He was Apollon. Safer, somehow…

So I have sent out questions to others who are God-touched. Am I on the right path? Can they untangle what I can only describe as a God-knot?

And underneath it all is this alienation, both from Him and others, who both understand and don’t understand at the same time.

This place is ambiguous and uncomfortable, liminal and immense.

My God is ambiguous and uncomfortable, liminal and immense.

I feel moved to talk about it here if only for the hope that someday this journey will help someone else thrown onto this path.

Welcome home, my Love, welcome home… Whoever You are.  Welcome home.  I’m angry, but I’m sure we’ll get through this eventually together.  (I hope.)

Crossing the River Update

I have gotten some absolutely amazing submissions to the devotional I’m working on for the Beloved Dead.  However, I hope to get some more!  There just aren’t enough yet to publish a robust anthology.  I believe we can get there.

Therefore I’m extending the deadline until September 28th, 2015.

I have more information available here for those interested in submitting.

If you email me in the next few weeks, I may take a very long time to reply, but I will get to it.  I’m currently in the middle of a jaw and tooth infection that has landed me in both the ER and urgent care this week along with the dentist.  I’m on my 2nd round of stronger antibiotics as the 1st didn’t do much good despite the IV administration of a second type.  Because of this I’m on heavy duty pain pills, while having learned that morphine apparently does nothing for me.  I’m dealing with high blood pressure and tachycardia attacks triggered by the stress and pain.  Meanwhile it will be 2 weeks until I have surgery, and I’m terrified that I will be one of the people with Ehlers-Danlos who feels and hears everything but can’t tell the doctor due to anesthesia; Novocaine, Lidocaine, and epidurals decidedly don’t work for me.  I’m having 6 teeth removed, because I have 2 wisdom teeth, a baby tooth, and 3 teeth that have fallen apart due to my faulty collagen.  At this point, we fortunately have the costs covered, which I’m thankful for, so at least there’s that.  If I’m quiet, though, you know why.

Feralia and the Unclaimed Dead

ancient-21569_640Historically the month of February for a Roman had an overarching theme of purification and setting things right with the Lares (our Ancestors and Heroes) and the Manes (our Dead)1. Interestingly, this habit of feeding the Dead did not stop with Roman Polytheists at the time, but it was also a custom of early Christians. This custom has continued to be carried out into modern times, and we see its Christian heir in the varying traditions held in All Saints’ and All Souls Day. In fact, some scholars point to All Saints’ and All Souls’ Day being a modern survival of February’s Parentalia.

The Parentalia was a 9-day festival that was mainly celebrated in private, attending to your family’s unique Lares and Manes. It begins on the 13th of February. In my home, we also spend the 9-days of Parentalia sacrificing to the Lares and Manes with offerings of flowers, wine, salt, corn2, and cake. I’ve written more about how my family observes Parentalia, and Helio at Golden Trail also offers how he is observing Parentalia this year.

It’s the final day of Parentalia that I wanted to talk about, though. It was important enough to the Romans that it had its own name: The Feralia.

The Feralia was a public sacrifice for the Manes held at midnight on February 21st, the final day of the Parentalia. We have no surviving description of what the public rites entail, though if we take Ovid’s account in his poem, Fasti, it likely had magical undertones that one did not find in many Roman festivals. Ovid also speaks of the Dead being appeased by offerings of floral wreaths, a little grain, a little salt, bread soaked in wine, and violets, though other offerings are permitted. These were to be taken to the family’s tombs outside of the city, and they picnicked with their Dead.

Ovid tells the tale of a year when the Romans were so busy with fighting war that they neglected the Feralia. The Manes raised from their tombs and took to the street. They angrily howled and roamed until the living paid tribute.

I am still trying to build meaningful traditions for my family within regionally-sound cultus, and Feralia is one of the festivals that I find overlaps in other times of the year within my extended family’s traditions. When I think of Feralia, though, my mind keeps coming back to Ovid’s story of the roaming, forgotten Dead.

While I will privately honor my own Manes with a modest sacrifice of black beans, cracked corn, wine, and flowers, my mind continues to move back to a way to honor the Unclaimed Dead and those who have never been found. In November, I read an article from the L.A. Times about the large number of Unclaimed Dead that exist, and months later it still haunts me. I realized upon reading it that if in a large city like LA an average of 6 people a day go unclaimed, this means nationally the numbers of those unclaimed are likely huge. Or at least large enough that it would hurt my heart to try to calculate. Babies. People who were homeless. People whose relatives were unable to afford getting the bodies brought home. People who have no family.

As a Roman Revivalist, I seek to adapt historical Roman Polytheism to my modern life, which means that I am comfortable moving away from Reconstructionism when it is needed or simply the Gods wish it. In the case of the Feralia, I have taken the line from Ovid’s Fasti, as translated by Betty Nogle, which states, “They called this day Feralia because they do what’s fair.”

In other words, they brought what was due to the Manes, the Dead.

One of the things that drew me to Roman Polytheism so many years ago was the concept of public virtues as laid out by Nova Roma. These are virtues are those of a healthy, whole society. One of these virtues is Pietas, piety or dutifulness, which Rome claimed was their reason for success. When I speak of piety, I do not just speak of what we owe the Gods in a natural contract between humans and Powers. I speak of respect of our duty to our fellow humans, our communities and society at large.

In the United States especially we have turned away from this virtue on the very basic level of societal contract when we allow our fellow humans to starve and freeze to death on the streets. We shame those who find themselves in need of public assistance, ignoring that one of the icons of our country, the Statue of Liberty, the personification of what we believe to be an inalienable right, has a poem by Emma Lazarus that many of us can quote the end of:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

To me being a citizen of the United States means that every other person living in my country is, in a way, extended family. We are part of the same tribe, so to speak. When people are unable to provide for themselves, it is our duty to care for them, because we reasonably have enough as a collective body that no person should go without the basic needs of the living. We forget this. We attempt to quantify and qualify who deserves more or less based on their ability or circumstances in life. When we do this, we fall victim to hubris and the feeling that we are somehow superior to those of our extended, civil family in every way, shape, and form. We ignore that we are connected.

And if we are all connected, if we are all in this together, then it is the duty of those who believe in the Ancestors and Dead to care for them as well. The nameless, faceless Dead, forgotten and ignored by our society at large, are our family. They’re our brothers, sisters, and everything in between. Some of them we have failed while they were living. Some of them came into this world and out again in the blink of an eye. Some simply were not able to make their journey home to their final resting place.

But they shouldn’t be forgotten.

We Pagans and Polytheists have a chance to set these moments right. Those who believe that we still have a relationship with the Dead are able to reach out to them and let them know that They are not forgotten. That we honor Them. That we give Them what They are due as members of our extended family and tribe.

I invite you to observe the Feralia in honor of those Unclaimed Dead on February 22nd. As a larger community, let’s take a moment out of our year to give to those who may be lost and wandering still. When the sun goes down, let’s all take a moment to step outside and leave modest offerings to those so many forget. If you are able, consider joining me during the 9 days of Parentalia in performing an Ancestor Elevation for the Unclaimed Dead, along with your own personal Ancestors. For those unfamiliar with the ritual, Galina Krasskova has written a beautiful ritual that could easily be adapted to the purpose or done as is.

Even if on this day you’re only able to offer a moment of thought or prayer, please do so. Let us not turn our head away from the Dead, lest the Dead take to the streets demanding Their due.

Let us do what is right.

  1. It’s important to note that within the history of the Roman Religion that Lares and Manes are sometimes used interchangeably or in contradictory manners from source to source. For ease of establishing a basis for learning, when I speak of the Lares I am speaking of both historical and modern Heroes along with Ancestors I have not met in my lifetime. When I speak of the Manes, I speak of the recently deceased first but also the group I refer to as the Beloved Dead, or those for which we have recent familial ties such as deceased grandparents, parents, and siblings. The Manes also includes those who were unable to be buried with appropriate final rites, no longer have people attending their graves, and those who were never buried at all. This may not be the classification the next Roman Polytheist you meet agrees with, but for the sake of clarity in my own tradition and writing, this is mine.
  1. The traditional offering is wheat. We have a wheat and gluten-free household, and so we offer corn masa instead, which not only fits regionally as our most common grain crop but also speaks to my Ancestrial cultus having come from generations of corn farmers.

Truth.

Georg Wissowa’s classifications of indigenous and foreign cults gives the best illustration of the obsessive search for the “true” religion of the Romans, of the illusory project of studying their religion in the purest state possible. Now like any culture or language, a religion is never and never can be pure, uncontaminated. It is always the result of mixture, even at the earliest stages we are able to identify. So the sorting out of Roman and non-Roman elements, or for later periods a concept like syncretism as opposed to a “pure” religion, are nonsense.

Graeco Ritu: A Typically Roman Way of Honoring the Gods, John Scheid, Harvard Studies in Classical Philology. Vol 97, Greek in Rome: Influence, Integration, Resistance (1995), pp. 15-31

I have about a billion emails I am trying to get responded to.  My head has been off in, well…  The Norse Nine Worlds, actually.  Not just in the clouds.  Those waiting for me will be getting responses by tomorrow afternoon.

When Heathen Gods Crash Your Roman Holiday

Or: A Spirit-Worker’s Year in Review

I haven’t written much about the way Odin has really turned my world upside down in the last year. Not a lot, at least. I think partially, because I’m not really sure where it’s going in regards to where I fall within a religious practice. I think, perhaps, in my private practice I’m coming to terms with simply being a Pagan and Polytheist without a cultural descriptor ahead of it. But I’m not there yet. It’s funny to me that I’ve spent so many years debating the usage of Roman in my label that shortly after finally accepting it, I would be clinging to it and uncomfortable leaving it behind while Gods scream in my ear “Go Heathen, go Gaul, go somewhere else…”

December 17th was the beginning of Saturnalia, which was the first Roman festival I ever celebrated. But last year at around 1 in the morning on that day, I was up too late reading in bed. Suddenly I heard howls coming down the large stoney cliff and over the creek in my back yard. Then I felt a Presence standing outside of my window, which due to the split level is directly above my head. I got the very distinct message that I wasn’t supposed to peek out the window, and honestly I was too terrified to look anyway. In my mind’s eye I saw a pair of brown work boots and dark blue jeans.

My first thought beyond staying as still as possible, like a deer locked in the gaze of a predator was, Holy shit. It’s the Wild Hunt.

Slowly the howls traveled up my drive way, out into the street, and further down it.

The next day, I set about trying to figure out what had happened, because surely I had been in the presence of a God. But it wasn’t Hekate. It wasn’t Apollon.

By the time morning came around, I’d decided to not go with my original instinct, because at the time I was obsessing over Romanizing the local world around me. I quickly talked myself out of the Wild Hunt theory.  That was not my thing.

I asked Facebook. Coyote was brought up. Local Gods. Silvanus. I decided Silvanus was a good enough God for me, so I ran with it despite feeling like I’d gotten something wrong.

The following day, I caught sight of Someone standing on the hill, watching me. I felt Them in my home despite drawing the very specific line of You shall not come into my house. Mr Foxglove reminded me that he’d watched a man walk up the incredibly steep almost cliff-like limestone hill only to duck behind a tree and disappear. I’d rolled my eyes at the time, telling him that there must have been a small hill the man had gone behind.

What scared me the most about the situation, though, was that I had local apples that earlier in the day had been absolutely fine. Suddenly there was one that was so rotten that it was nearly seeping through the hanging basket it was sat in. I threw it out.

About an hour later I turned around and the apple was back again. Along with the Man on the Hill.

So I proceeded to flip out. It had been years since I’ve particularly terrified of things like this happening, because in my life these things happen far too often not only to me, but those who are have contact with me. Non-believers. People who have to believe on some level, because shit happens and Gods arrive. Gods come into my loved ones’ lives like ghost stories. Sometimes They stay. Sometimes They were just there for a fleeting moment. Hekate on a street in Los Angeles, letting an internet friend at the time know that She was watching; Her presence clearly giving me warning that I ignored at the time that another point on my spiritual path was about to be unlocked. The Man with a Hat, now understood to be Odin, chasing off boyfriends in high school as a ghost… Even Mr Foxglove saw Him in the house in Iowa the first time he came to visit me there; I told him it was simply an angry, drunken ghost who lived in the house.

Gods arrive in my life like a knife in the ribs; none of them particularly gentle in Their handling on first contact. I suppose my stubbornness is a strong bolt on the doors They walk through, and when They discover a gentle shake isn’t going to be enough to get my attention, They get out the battering ram…

They stand outside my bedroom window with howling creatures and cause me to panic. That is how you get my attention. I’m almost ashamed to admit it.

The following day, I grabbed up the remaining apples in my home, some pork I’d made the night before, and a jar of milk. I made the trek up and around the block to the hill at the back of my yard. I’ve discovered the logistics of living on the edge of the Ozark Bluffs makes even a small hill one you have to walk around the block to get to the top of. It screws with your spacial understanding… There’s a magic to it, though. Almost like the Tardis, a world bigger on the inside than it seems from the outside.

From the top of the hill, it is another world. It’s a place completely ignored by man, save for people occasionally making a jaunt up the steep almost cliff-like hill to cut across it. It’s surrounded by urban expansion such as a school, golf course, and homes, but for the most part it’s simply an abandoned .6 acres that was possibly meant for constructing houses upon before someone thought better of it. It’s filled with discarded street cement. It’s wasteland. And, amusingly, due to that fact it’s filled with native plants such as horsenettle, which I would have never learned about had I not gone on that walk. In fact, any time I wander up there, I find myself learning something new about the land. I notice a plant or a certain quality of stillness. Coyote droppings. A deer herd. This is the magic world of the liminal, and I understand that is why I love it the way I do.

At the top of that hill, my home looks a million miles away.

And now, randomly during meditation, I will find myself dropped into the middle of that space again and again. I’m a gray squirrel running up the hill towards it. I am laying in the weeds naked. And the Spirit of the Hill, who is wild and far too interested in me now that He’s aware that I’m aware of Him, regularly comes to show me something new.

On the day I left my first offering, I didn’t know any of this was coming. I wanted to be left alone. I asked politely to please stay out of my house. I promised to compost in offering, which has only manifested recently in a place I was shown would be where to take dying plants… A place my husband picked out one day after yardwork, and my mother followed suit. The neighbors, before they moved or died, put their own yard scraps in that place as well.

That day, the first day I was up There, I walked home with my eyes to the ground. These were the days where rocks were appearing as I found myself becoming more and more in tune with the land of my blood. I plunged my hand into the Missouri River 2 months before when It called me to the point where I could no longer ignore visiting it, and pulled out rocks to take home. While getting family pictures taken on a day the winds were ridiculously strong, a rock fell from the sky to my feet. The adults with me looked at it with confusion, wondering aloud where it had come from. When no one was looking I made sure to calmly tuck it into my pocket and carry it home. The golden limestone I brought home from the hill is large… Nearly the size of a baseball. That was the rock I was given that day.

It wouldn’t be until February that I woke up one afternoon from a nap, having dreamed that Odin came to me. We talked of obligation, the blood of my people, and other things I could no longer remember upon waking. He gave me a golden, jeweled cup to drink from that was filled with blood. We both drank from it. I woke up wondering what it all meant. I had spent my time avoiding the Norse pantheon, because I had no interest in it at the time… Or perhaps I was a little scared of it.

Slowly it started to occur to me that Odin has always been in my life. On looking over His Wikipedia page, a picture of Him peering from under His hat made my blood run cold. In my teenage years, I was haunted by a shadowy figure that was the shadow man in a wide-brimmed hat. At times I would catch glimpses of Him about the house, watching me in mirrors for instance. But most of the time I would smell beer or whiskey, feel Him around me. I’d wake up in the middle of the night to Him standing over me and talking in a mumbled language I could never understand. Others started having run-ins with this ghost.

The day it really hit me this was a possible reality, I remembered that shortly after my daughter was born, my mother hand put a letter into my hands from a psychic in the United Kingdom I’d written to in 2001. She said, “I thought you might want to see this.” I remembered it spoke of the Man in the Hat, as I called him. I hadn’t actually re-read it at the time, but I scrambled to find it when it came to mind.

It read:

I do pick up spirit activity around you – You are especially susceptible – he needs to touch your hair he tells me. “You have such beautiful hair.” I know that he means you no harm and is simply there to watch. If you desperately want rid of him, tell him loudly and firmly to “Get lost.” It may take a few goes to get through to him, but he’ll get the message eventually. If you’re okay with him, let him stay. He’s harmless enough.

The other one is not like this. He’s dark and not so happy. He’s old and has beer around for a long time. He says his name is “an old family name in the village.” Sounds like Edward or Edwin. He has clean hands, so he’s never done hard work, but he says “All of this was our farm.” And if you go to the bottom of your land, you’ll see a boundary or a wall, which was a bit of the farm yard. (I would like to see this myself. Nice little bit of history.)

He speaks with an accent, which seems to be broken. Like Swedish or Norway by the sound of his “S” like “Ssss.” Take care, because he’s bossy and used to having his own way.

As a note, the house I was living in was a farm house, but the letter had always been a mystery to me. She was correct about the beer and the darkness. However, I’d spent a good amount of time researching. There were never any Edwards or Edwins that owned the land my house was built on in the town. There were no Scandinavian people. There was no boundary wall. And yet, I didn’t write off the letter; I just brushed it off at the time I was researching. Psychics are rarely 100% right.

Edwin, however, is one of Odin’s names. Reading it now with what little education I’ve gathered of Odin is an exercise in understanding His sense of humor. Finding the letter somehow confirmed momentarily that I wasn’t completely losing my mind, which honestly is something a person who is God-touched likely fears even more than the average person.

Things have gotten stranger and stranger… This last year has been nothing but an exhausting, wild ride as my physical health has turned from bad to worse to tolerably terrible yet hopeful. I feel like it’s just about time for me to start trying to piece it together into a chronological timeline… Like all the things I’ve been experiencing, things I don’t even have the energy most days to talk about let alone write about. Dreams I only have fragments of… The Gods who come to talk to me… Gods I’m not even sure I know who They actually are… An insanely complicated and convoluted language of symbols that I’ve yet to fully figure out what they all mean.

All this year has gotten me is the absolute deconstruction of the very core of my beliefs, friendships, and my body. And yet I have faith. Some argue that faith isn’t a Pagan value… That we don’t intrinsically hold faith as a polytheist value… But I do. Some days I’m not even fully sure that I exist, because more and more my life seems like some novel I should have read in my early teens.

But the Gods exist. The Gods are real. They are here. With us. Meddling. Forcing us to grow.

The Gods are here. That’s my message through all of it. They are real.

Two nights ago, a bomb was dropped that left me uncomfortable and alone. It ripped out my heart and caused me wonder exactly what the end game to this journey actually is. I’ve been told over and over again that the reward will be great, but sometimes I have to wonder if perhaps the reward will be great for someone other than me… And then I’m disturbed by my own internal urge to keep walking the path I am without actually knowing where I’ll end up.

I was told my time with Apollon is over, and I understood that the love is still there. Part of this journey is attempting to find this God’s light in the darkness again, but He is no longer Apollon…

I don’t know who the God I’ve loved all these years is anymore. My mortal mind finds this a hard concept to adjust to. Syncretism is painful, my friends, as much as it is joyous and beautiful. The same could be said about spirit work and mysticism… The Gods are not always beauty and joy. We carry this truth in the pit of our bellies, and despite our attempts to step away from the concept of appeasing the Gods we still seek Their hand in our life with each offering laid out to Them.

I can almost remember the point where I realized that I was to spend my life seeking to make each moment a prayer to Them. Each action a direct connection, an example of how They work through others. People may not know that I am a Pagan, but I try to live my life in a way that gives honor to the label and the Gods we carry in our hearts as if they did should they ever find out.

I said at one point that we shouldn’t seek to be martyrs of our religions, but I’ll openly admit that I sometimes wonder if that’s exactly what some of us are destined to become. Because if we touch the Gods, if we find ourselves woven into the fabric of the World where the Gods truly are, then we run the risk of being wounded by the truths w/We make with each other. We may not be made in the likeness of our Gods, but we are made of the same emotions… I would argue that, truly, our emotions are part of what makes a spark in each of us reach towards the possibility of our own divinity within us.

There is a path taken. The choice must be made on some deep soul-level to walk it. But walk it we must, because sometimes the only other option is to die. So perhaps it’s not a road but a river… Swim with the current or die. Or, in my case, give up and let the current take you where it will.

I don’t know where I’m going. But I know that, even if I wanted this all to stop, They wouldn’t let that happen. The Gods don’t always take no for an answer. There’s no point in being upset about it, because that’s not something that’s going to change. And that, in itself, is not necessarily a bad thing. Why would I honor Gods who didn’t know better than I do?

Yet I can see why Odin would give His eye these days. I understand that desire to see everything, know how it all will end.

Hail, Apollon. Thank You for Your lessons. I’ll forever love You.

Hold on tight, y’all… I’m heartbroken, but I get the feeling this has just turned into a very interesting ride…

(Hail Florence, patron saint of godspouses everywhere…)

At L.A. County cemetery, unclaimed dead await a final resting place – LA Times

It’s not very often that I simply put up an article on my blog, but I am still sitting here with a bit of shock about me on this one.  I mentioned elsewhere that my hope is by next year to start a foundation for those in our religious community to help cover funerals and final rites for our people…

This may not seem like a terribly important thing to everyone, but to me this is a silent epidemic in our American society.  It’s something I don’t want to see happen to our people.

I felt like I should share.

At L.A. County cemetery, unclaimed dead await a final resting place – LA Times.