Sunday, October 31, 2010


It's Samhain, and we haven't had a frost yet up in my part of New England; we're about two weeks overdue as the average first frost date is the fifteenth.

I did try to garden this year. I have had some success with it in the past. But this year the last week of May I started having some health issues which lasted all the way through to July, and which meant I really had to take it easy physically; and well if you miss June in the garden you'll never catch up.

That, and the critters this year were everywhere. We've had deer since a local supermarket put a giant new warehouse, with diesel trucks and lights running 24/7, right plunk in the middle of a large swath of woods just up the street; between them and the lily leaf-eating beetles (a truly horrific species in the larval stage, yikes) I've had to give up on the front lily garden. And of course we've always had groundhogs, the bastards.

But this year we also had rabbits. And my poor vegetable garden was inadequately fenced. Oh it had been well fortified once; but a couple years of poor maintenance (and luck) on my part meant the defenses were easily breached, and every time I jerry-rigged a fix another hole sprouted. And so anything I planted this year was pretty much immediately nibbled to the ground. That meant no beans, no cukes, no beets, zucchini, summer squash, not even any goddamned radishes, never mind lettuce. Even the stuff I put in as seedlings was eaten, though given that the tomatoes were eaten from the top down rather than the bottom up, I suspect deer rather than rabbits in that one.

All of course except for the one single jalapeno pepper plant. That one they left untouched. But given those health issues I now pretty much can't have spicy food. So I had an abundance of little hot peppers that I couldn't eat.

It was annoying, to say the least.

I used to check on it, though; hope, you know. But all that was left of the tomatoes were these inedible (to me) half-eaten things. So I'd pull them off the plant and chuck them behind the garden, into the tangled thicket of blackberry, wild rose, pokeberry and goldenrod that grew around an old woodpile. I was trying to keep the garden a little tidy, at least.

By the end of the summer I had pretty much given up on the vegetable garden for the year.

Instead we've been cleaning the yard. The short version (if you want the long version, again, check out the Tetanus Burger link on the sidebar) is that my father was a hoarder and the yard is (still) full of junk, though we've been cleaning it for years already. Seriously. It's a big project.

And so one day we were cleaning up a pile of transmissions or engines or something, over by the reclaimed area of my vegetable garden (the spot had once been a large brush pile). And there, in that area overgrown with blackberry, wild rose, pokeberry and goldenrod something red caught my eye. It was this:

Those are tomato plants growing there, thriving there, among the briers and weeds.

You have to understand, I have never had any luck starting tomatoes from seed, when done in the spring in little peat pots under a grow light. They get all spindly, or damp-off and die. I figured I just wasn't any good at it. So I was rather surprised.

But there they are, out in the open like that, healthy and uneaten.

Things will take care of themselves, I think. Our intent is worth something, even if it works out in ways we would not have foreseen. We can make a harvest of something we did not even realize we planted.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


Okay, this is going to be a little tricky, and I don't know how much I want to share, given that that is my real name at the top of this blog; then again, it's only been my real name for not quite a decade yet, so there is still a bit of camouflage there.

But Hecate's post got me thinking. And now here's the part I don't want to get into, much.

I should warn you all first, I suppose, that this blog may now well descend into the occasional navel-gazing; and I guess I have two things to say to that. One, this is a blog, and one can hardly be surprised, as hello, this is a blog; and, two, that one should rightly check one's belly button on a regular basis, as a lotus may be sprouting there. You never know.

This is the time of year when it is traditional to honor the ancestors. The veil is thin, so they say, and the ghosty sorts crowd us round, as the leaves fall and the trees shift through their annual deaths. I can't say I can really feel it this year, though, as I still have that cotton in my ears of necessity. But that's okay, as it really has done wonders for my anxiety level.

So now to that navel-gazing part I'm not sure I want to share, about the ancestors.

Or, rather, about my father. A warning to the stray cousin who may have wandered here: if you do not wish to hear anything bad about your Uncle Walter, you may want to leave now.

You see, my father was a deeply broken person. I say was, even though he is not dead, because he is now in a nursing home after a stroke several years back, and he does not remember anyone. This is a good thing; a great blessing, in fact.

He was seriously mentally ill. I mean, not that we recognized it growing up; I am only able now to see that there was something really wrong with him, or put a name to it. But he had a personality disorder, a severe personality disorder, one called obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. This is not, it should be noted, the same thing as obsessive-compulsive disorder, no. They are not even, as far as I've been able to find out, particularly related, other than the similarity of names. OCD is perceived as not-quite-right by the person with it; they know, on some level, that the compulsions and rituals they perform aren't rational.

But personality disorders are different. They are perfectly in harmony with the ego. Which means that not only does a person with one think they are perfectly rational in their behaviors, they think they are right in doing what they do. Especially someone with OCPD, with its focus on perfectionism. Other personality disorders, by the way, include narcissistic personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, and the ever-fun antisocial personality disorder.

Anyway, this made my father, well, not fun. Actually it made him an impossible completely opaque control-freak who could not be reasoned with, even a tiny little bit. Oh, and he was a hoarder, too, of an extreme sort. If you wish to hear about this more in-depth, really, go read my other blog, Tetanus Burger. There is more than enough about him and the effects his behavior had on us over there, as, well, that's the stated purpose of that blog. I would like to especially direct you to a recent post on his OCPD.

So, back to the ancestors. Though I know that honoring them is a big part of this time of year, and of this religion of Paganism in general, it has never been something I've been all that interested in doing. I suppose some of it is that my family (to either side) is not all that close-knit. As a family we don't really do family. And that's fine.

And some of my family are just, well, dysfunctional, as Hecate put it. And I don't wish to honor that. Acknowledge, sure, that's fine, and healthy, as denial won't get you anywhere, but honor? Not really, no.

My father's father, my grandfather, died when he was young, when my father was I think eleven years old. My father was the eldest of three boys; so his father also left a six year old and a two year old. My grandfather died suddenly, and unexpectedly, in 1934, right in the middle of that Great Depression which also wiped out the family's savings. Fortune, actually, one might even say, or so I hear. There was money on that side, once, as evidenced by the numerous rich houses my ancestors built, including a big stone number that now functions as the Historical Society for the next city over.

So, bad times. And one could reasonably surmise that that childhood of loss, insecurity, and deprivation triggered my father's later hoarding.

His mother, so I have heard, was also a piece of work, perhaps a hoarder herself. I don't know; I was very very young when she died, and I don't remember her.

So. Back to things of a Pagan nature.

A couple years ago, my father came down with some kind of raging infection in the nursing home. He was taken to the hospital where they started pumping him full of intravenous antibiotics. We went to visit him there. He was running a high fever, and was very very out of it. Or, almost, to my Witchy eye, very very in it. Some part of him, it seemed to me, was seeing very clearly. Oh, not in an intellectual sense, of course; but some part of him knew he was very close to the edge, very close to dying. And he was terrified. Because he was completely unwilling.

I'm not surprised; the man was terrified of any kind of change, even the littlest sort. And it doesn't get much bigger than death for changes, does it?

But as much as I have reasons, good reasons, to dislike the man, or, even, to hate the man, I am a compassionate person. I think I am, anyway. Though at that point, really, it wasn't my father there. Just a scared, terrified person.

So when I got home I invoked my ancestors, his ancestors, though I had never felt the need to before.

I did not honor them. I did not ask nicely. I told my grandfather, the one who died young, that I did not know if he left willingly or unwillingly, but that his leaving had caused a profound mess, a real fucked-up pile of shit, one that my father had happily passed on to the rest of us. And so I told him that it was now his responsibility to get his ass over to that hospital bed and be there for my father. And the same for my grandmother, too. Because I sure as fuck was not going to do it. As if I could have anyway.

So I don't know about honor. I figure the ancestors are dead already. They can deal with the unvarnished truth.

Or maybe that is honor. I have always considered the telling of that kind of truth, that level of honesty, where nothing is sugar-coated and I just tell it straight from the soul, to be a form of respect. So maybe it is.

The next day my father was much better. Remarkably so, and the doctors commented on it, even. Though I don't remember now if I thanked them. The ancestors I mean. They still owe me, a lot.


I suppose I should say that I've no intention of shutting down or abandoning this blog; I fully intend to continue to write about Paganism, Goddesses, the numinous, &c. Just that right now I'm not sure what I want to write about, or if I wish to give the place a more precise focus. Probably not. I am a big fan of the organic, and forging ahead without anything but the roughest idea. I find that with that method what needs to come up, will. I have found it much more rewarding.

In art school we were taught to plan it all out thoroughly. Before brush hit canvas (or colored pencil Stonehenge paper) we were to have sketched it all out to a precise level of detail, rearranged all the elements to perfection, and have it all thought out intellectually.

This method is a sure-fire way to drain all vitality out of a piece of art. You want to lose that spark? Draw it once perfectly, then trace that onto the final piece and try to recreate what you just did. Or have it all thought out beforehand, so that anything that wishes to spontaneously arise can't.

I abandoned this long ago. I realize I am lucky in being able to do that. I am technically proficient enough that I can lean on that proficiency and know it will support me. I can wing it, as I go.

It is so much better to do it that way. I don't want to know what I am doing when I create. I want to look back on the process, this organic creation, this birth which involves a living creature, a living creation, a living work of art that is not me, and see what has come up. I want to see what it wants.

It's like sitting down to write when you don't know what you want to say. It is so much better, and you find out so much more, when you do that. Oh sure, sometimes it won't come, and you can't force it if it isn't ready; but if you ever find yourself thinking that you don't know what to say, then write. You will find out.

So then I guess I have answered my own question, the one I posed at the top of this as I just write this out straight and let it come: this blog, then, will likely focus on the creative process, from a Pagan, Divine, spiritual, numinous point of view.

Funny how that works.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


I took down the bit on the sidebar saying which Goddess I'm currently writing about. It has not moved in some time. And when I read the stated purpose of this blog, I no longer know if I agree.

I had hoped that writing about Goddesses on a regular basis would inspire me, and cultivate some momentum and motivation to work on the book for that Goddess deck of mine; instead, though, I am finding the whole thing a chore. More often than not I put it off, which is why though I am pretty good at starting the writing of my Goddess entries on Sunday, they frequently don't get finished (and published) until Tuesday or Wednesday.

So that, I think, is where all that stuff in the last post about when does a vocation become just a job comes from, for me, anyway. I have never been able to tell the difference between getting a 'hit' about something about me, and something that is about others; I have had to hope, mostly, that it all works out, and that in picking up stuff that applies to me personally I am also tapping into something larger that is useful for others. And it seems to be that way, judging by the responses I've been getting. Honestly, I am surprised.

I have been very busy lately, too, in a lot of other ways; and I've been dealing with some shit (and yes, that's the right word, honestly) that is pretty big, stuff which I've been documenting and exploring on my other (shared) blog, the charmingly named Tetanus Burger. I suspect all those endeavors are what made the idea of cleaning the junk from paradise a handy metaphor for the Goddess to use.

So I don't know. I've never felt very open here, perhaps because this is my 'professional' blog, one that is connected to my real name and all; and I get afraid to share in a meaningful way. Meaningful, in this case, meaning, truly from the center (there's that idea again) and truly from my Divine self, my Voice; but in such a way that is honest and which opens up others as well. I have so much more going on in my life right now, as far as visions, and encounters with the Divine, and the glorious Magic of it all that I just don't share here in this place, with its emphasis on some art work I did more than a dozen years ago now. I am afraid of being thought crazy, I suppose. And it's rather personal, too, of course, and I am shy.

Of course, if Goddess-worshiping Pagans aren't the audience than no one is. And I am an artist already of the esoteric, and, really, can probably count on a fairly wide latitude of indulgence from the world just because of that. And others do it, too, don't they now? I am hardly alone.

I don't know where I'm going with all that, or what any of that means. Just that I am feeling not myself here, talking about this old art, making myself write here out of some sense of duty that is perhaps, is probably, no longer serving me.

Not that I don't love Goddesses, the Goddess, or that I don't want to keep exploring that; the idea of writing about obscure Goddesses still intrigues and delights me. It is in some ways traveling upstream, pushing aside the overgrowth and briers and finding that spring from which eventually a mighty river will flow, and that is always numinous and valuable. But my interest I think is shifting to the mythic, to the personal, to that varied and creative and vital world of dreams, to the daimonic, if you will. Or rather, it has shifted, long since.

Talk about Deities, the established canonical cultural expressions of the Divine, seems to me now to be looking at the outside layer of things. Even Dionysos or Hermes is in my mind now a refined, conscious, version of that internal Guide we all have, the psychopomp, soul-guide who comes into our dreams and visions. That feels far more numinous to me right now.

Maybe it's just the time of year. The Dark grows deeper with every passing moment; and I want to go in, like I always do at this time. Maybe it is especially pronounced in me because I am such an introvert, I don't know.

So, like I said, I don't really know where I'm going with this. Perhaps I just need a break (No, no, says the Muse. Fine.) I am not ready just yet, I think, to abandon this all, to abandon this project in particular. But it may come to that. And I know that may give some of you palpitations. But honestly, that is too bad. My art has worth and strikes a chord in people I think because I do it for myself, because I explore that which has meaning to me personally. And so I think others recognize that meaning as something that is true. I have never been able to do something because others want me to. Or, rather, when I have, it has had no power, no meaning, no magic, no truth.

So let's start there.

Goddess of the Week

And now we're back to Water, from Fire; this week's Goddess is Ganga, the Hindu Goddess of the Ganges River. She last came up on April 19th. The Hindu Goddesses seem to have been coming up a lot lately; I don't know if that means anything, or is just random. For whatever 'random' means, anyway.

Though She is a Goddess, and is sometimes depicted in human form with rivulets of water to either side, She is more often referred to as just the River; in Her case, the River is Her primary image. The Ganges is believed to descend from heaven to this earth and to contain great powers of purification.

In one tale the Ganges River was persuaded to descend to earth, so that humans and the earthly world might have a share in the Divine; but She feared that Her descent would be so powerful it would destroy the earth. So Shiva agreed to put Himself between the River and the world, thus breaking Her fall and keeping the earth safe. The Ganges is said to wander about in Shiva's hair, which is matted and tangled as befits an ascetic God, before falling to earth.

In another tale Vishnu, in walking the cosmos, accidentally stepped through the surface, breaking a hole in the heavens. Through this hole the Ganges descends; this time Her fall is broken because She lands on Mount Meru, the center, axis mundi, or omphalos (to use the Greek term) of the world.

In both stories it is said that the heavenly Ganges is the River, the source of all Rivers; and the earthly Ganges is but one stream. From Mount Meru the heavenly Ganges split into four rivers, thereby flowing in every direction and bringing the Divine into each corner of the world.

So the Ganges, and Ganga, then, are representative of the Divine River, what one might reasonably call the Divine Source, out of which all things flow. So this week, I think we retain the emphasis on the Center, and that which is located there; but it has shifted a little, to include the idea of that which flows out of that Center.

The thing about the earthly Ganges, though, is that, for all its divine powers of purification, in modern times it is one of the most polluted rivers on earth. Yet despite this pollution it is believed to still retain those powers of purification. Now, I personally feel rather uncomfortable with the idea of purity as a Pagan (or Neo-Pagan, to distinguish my religion from the 'pagan' religion of Hinduism, as Christianity would call it), as I have a great respect for the powers of breaking down, dying, and rotting (especially in a New England October); there is, perhaps, a metaphor in there: how has that which flows out of the Source been changed or polluted?

Or maybe that is not the best word. Perhaps we are talking more about a loss of clarity of vision. True, rivers change. The river that flows by is always different while always the same. Still, I am wondering about how, say, a vocation, a calling, can change into something that is just a job. How has that river changed? What muddies it, pollutes it?

How might you clean it up? What needs to be removed, screened out? How can you regain some of that clarity? Can you? Is it even possible? Is the river different?

I have a feeling She can shed some light, some clarity on all this. What does She say?

It all changes as it flows. The river that is downstream is not the river that is upstream. Of course not.

You know it does not work that way.

You are almost asking about a lost paradise; a place of shining light and purity from which you have fallen. You know that is not how it works.

If this earth, this River, is dirty or polluted it is what you have brought to it. If you have filled paradise with junk, it is up to you to clean it. That is not an accusation, really; I am simply saying that those with the power to dirty have an equal power to clean. Underneath it it is still paradise. It is still the River that flows.

Nothing is uncleanable, unfixable, irreparable. And you have allies, of course; Nature will take care of Herself, if given the space. She is in fact very good at that.

Not, of course, that you can get back to that exact origin, that original state. You know, I know, that the river is always different, always flowing. And yet at the same time it is always original, always springing up as something new. You do not have to seek origins in some mythical past; it is all around you right now. It is a trick to recognize it, though. Listen to your dreams. It is all old, and all new.

I think She is talking about the Unconscious, about archetypes, about the Otherworld, the imaginal realm if you will, which are eternal and spring up spontaneously, always themselves, always old and familiar, and always new and fresh.

What do you think? What flows from your Source?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Goddess of the Week

It's Vesta's second time here; Her first appearance was back on June 13th, right smack in the middle of Her holiday the Vestalia. Though the traditional day of that holiday was the 9th, Her temple was open to the public (meaning women of the public, as it was always closed to men) from the 7th to the 15th of June.

Vesta is the Roman Goddess of fire, the hearth, and the center. Her little round temple was (is) located in the heart of the Roman Forum, the heart of Rome (both City and Empire) itself. It was believed to be very ancient, having been founded either by Numa (the second King of Rome) or even Romulus (the very first King after whom the city was named). Its round shape was thought to echo the primitive round thatched huts of the early shepherd-settlers of Rome. It was not properly an inaugurated templum, though, but an aedes, a 'house' or 'dwelling place', usually referring to that of a Deity; a templum, was, technically, a space officially marked out as one where the augures could read the signs. A templum was traditionally square or rectangular, probably because the cardinal directions played an important part in the readings; perhaps this is one of the reasons Vesta's 'temple' wasn't. Or, perhaps, it was just that old, and that central to the state religion, and so was something of an ancient exception to the rules.

In that little round house burnt a perpetual fire, one tended by Her famous college of priestesses, the Vestal Virgins. That fire, that hearth, was itself the official image of the prototypical altar, the hearth fire of the home; in early times, the family would gather around the hearth and offer to Vesta each day.

Vesta's temple, as a sort of emblem or symbol of the home, the hearth, the center, had a chamber at the center of it (though given the ruined state of the temple currently, the layout is not clear) called the penus, the name given to the pantry or larder of the house, and another expression of the idea of the center. (What is more central to a home than where the food, the nourishment, the prosperity, is kept?) In this aspect She was worshiped with the Di Penates, the household Gods of the larder, Who, with the Lares (household Deities) protected and watched over the house. On the national level, the Penates installed in Vesta's temple were the Penates Publici, Who also at one time had Their own temple a little further up the road from Vesta's temple on the Velia.

The penus of Vesta's temple contained sacred things, things that were central to the ritual safety and prosperity of Rome. No one knows quite what they were nowadays, but possibly those sacred things included statues of the Penates Publici and the Palladium.

The Palladium was a statue of Pallas Athena (Whom the Romans equated with their Minerva) said to have been brought to Rome out of the ruin of Troy by Aeneas. Before that it was said to have miraculously fallen out of the sky to Dardanos (or Ilos), the legendary founder of Troy; its presence was thought to keep the city safe. (Not unlike the the ancient olive-wood statue of Athena Polias kept in the Erechtheion, which was also said to have fallen from heaven).

Now, these are the Romans we're talking about, so it's safe to say that much of that is pure political propaganda, to establish a link between the old great Greeks and the hoped-to-be-great Romans. (Which to be fair, they were.)

Now that's all a bit of a tangent, I suppose; but you never can tell. For some reason this week the Penates and the secret hidden chamber, in some way a holy of holies was really resonating with me. It wasn't until I started doing the research, however, that I found out that the festival dedicated to the Penates is October 14th.

So. Vesta both is, and guards, the center of things, the hearth, the heart, the fire, the source, the holiness in the very middle of place and self. What is in there, for you? How will you enter into that place, that innermost part; what defenses must be penetrated (yes, it is a related word) to get into that place? How do you act (or not act) as the guardian of your own holy places? Do you know how to get there? It may be easier than you think. After all, all roads lead to Rome, they say.

What does Vesta say to all that?

Dear, start with warmth. If you can feel that glow, that warmth, that aliveness, that fire within you you are on the right path. It is unmistakeable; you will know. What makes your heart beat? What makes your veins run with fire? Not just the light, but the heat, this time. Not with your eyes will you see it; but with your skin, your body, will you feel it. Track that warmth, be drawn to it like the fire at the hearth when you come in from the cold and the rain.

You will come home.

What do you think?


Dictionary of Roman Religion, by Lesley Adkins and Roy A. Adkins

The Acropolis in the Age of Pericles, by Jeffrey M. Hurwitt

A New Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome, by L. Richardson, Jr.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Goddess of the Week

This is Oshun's second appearance here; Her first time was nearly a year ago, in the first week of November 2009.

She is one of the Orishas (Spirit or Deity) of the Yorùbá people of western Africa, and the Goddess of the Osun River, which flows through southwestern Nigeria. Her sacred grove and the shrines and sanctuaries within it, which is located just outside the city of Osogbo not far from Her river, was declared a World Heritage Site in 2005.

Oshun is a Goddess of love, kindness, sweetness, beauty, and wealth. Like other Orishas, She has a color, yellow, and a number, five; honey, peacocks and pumpkin seeds are associated with Her.

Oshun is said to be the principle wife of Shango, the God of lightning and thunder; His other wives are Oya, Herself a storm Goddess, and Oba, the daughter of Yemaya and Goddess of a river named for Her the Oba or Obba. Where Oba's river meets Osun's river there are dangerous rapids; this is seen as a manifestation of the friction between the two of them.

She is said to be especially receptive to prayers, answering them quickly.

This week we are in the thick of harvest-season up here in the North, and there is really no way of avoiding the season right now; even the local Catholic Church down the street from me is overrun with pumpkins today. Pumpkins, both for their yellow color, and their remarkable number of edible and fertile seeds, are associated with Oshun. What did you plant? How did it grow? What are you finally harvesting right now? It may not look anything like you thought it would, by the way. How did it take on its own life? What will you do with it now?

What sweetness are you harvesting now? What tastes of honey in your life?

So what does She say, then?

Oh honey. Slide into that River with me. Bake pumpkin pie with honey and cardamom, and share it with a friend. Create sweetness now, in your life, in the lives of the ones you love. Pour honey over the bitterness in your life; honey is a healer, you know, and I mean that literally as well: bacteria does not grow in honey. The bee-sisters are wise, as ever.

And look to your sisters, to the women around you. Make sweet community with them. I am Harmony, too, you know. Work together and see how much beauty you can create now.

What do you think?