A.J. Gooch

This is the picture that most reminds me of my friend A.J. Gooch, and it is the gift from him I cherish the most.

Nick & Me Summerland

A.J. took it at the Summerland Festival in 2010.  We were dancing to the Saturday night band right after Nick had asked me to be his date to the wedding of Michael Dangler and Maggie Collins.  We had only started seeing each other long distance about a month before. We weren’t even officially a couple at this point!  But A.J. could clearly see that we were falling in love, and he beautifully captured this absolutely perfect moment.  He later told me how proud he was of this shot and how much it meant to him to have been able to capture that moment.  And when we got engaged we were so very honored and grateful to A.J. for offering to take pictures for us on our wedding day.  He was of course already invited, but there was no one better suited or whom I would have trusted more to capture our love on that most important occasion.

In Facebook memorial posts so many people have spoken about his warmth and his hospitality—about how A.J. always made them feel welcome.  My experience with A.J. was the same.  When A.J. shown the light of his eyes and his smile upon you, you couldn’t help but feel special.  One of A.J.’s greatest gifts, and he had many, was his ability to See.  And he made us feel so welcomed and special because he made us feel seen.  A.J. had this conspiratorial way of speaking that made you feel like he was letting you in on the best prank or the most important secret in the world, and you felt so damned lucky that this man thought enough of you to let you in on it.  He paid attention to your response and cared how you reacted.  While he exuded charisma and appeared larger than life, he was always approachable because unlike a lot of gigantic figures I’ve known, A.J. saw and A.J. listened.  A.J. truly cared about the people around him. His sense of humor and zaniness were infused with softness, gentleness, and pure human love.  And while we could enumerate so many reasons for calling A.J. Gooch a great man, to me, this ability to listen and to see might be the greatest reason of all.

Farewell my friend.  Thank you for seeing me.  I will always be a better person for having been seen through your eyes.

AJ Missy wedding cropped

I’ll always be grateful to Thom Avende for taking such wonderful pictures of A.J. at my wedding.

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Circe

Someone in one of my local Pagan Facebook groups for some reason posted a link to the Wikipedia listing for the Greek goddess Circe this morning.  It put me in mind of a story about her I wrote for the inaugural Wellspring Bardic Chair Competition in 2009.  The competition required contestants to perform a song, poem, and story, memorized and original all the better.   Many of the bards attending the festival took issue with the challenge, protesting that they could sing but not write poetry, could tell stories but couldn’t carry a tune, etc., and they decided not to take the challenge. Music was certainly my strong-suit, and I had written a considerable number of Pagan songs and chants by that point in my life, so the song portion didn’t faze me.  I also figured that I could put together and perform a passable poem.  But storytelling just wasn’t in my wheelhouse.  So I decided to take the opportunity to work on this bardic weak point.

I used to write plays in my youth.  In fact, plays were the first sort of creative writing I had ever attempted.  They just seemed to make sense to me.  Once I realized that a story could be like a monologue, I devised a retelling of Odysseus’s encounter with Circe from Homer’s Odyssey from Circe’s point of view.  I spent a lot of time refining the story, memorizing it, and practicing, practicing, practicing.  

My story and my performance of it at the Bardic Chair Competition proved to be my strongest of the three categories, and it went a long way toward my winning the whole thing.  I was certainly proud and pleased to have won, but I was more proud of myself for not dismissing the opportunity to compete out of hand just because I didn’t fancy myself a storyteller and instead took the opportunity to grow as an artist.  And as I haven’t shared anything here in a while, I figured I’d share it here now.  

“Circe”

I am the Daughter of the Sun, the Mistress of Magic, Lady of my own land.

As such I know the moment a ship lands upon my shores.  And one day a black ship landed, a ship full of sweaty, savage men.  Knowing I hadn’t long until their gluttony drove them to discover my palace and my stores, I swiftly prepared some food and other necessities in anticipation of their arrival.  Then, gathering my handmaid nymphs about me, I set to weaving and singing a spell to hasten them on their way.

Soon enough a handful of the brutes did indeed darken my door.  I welcomed them in, plying them with food and wine, all sprinkled with a simple drug that clouded their simple minds as they greedily indulged themselves at my table.  Taking up my wand I then cast the spell that reveals men’s true nature–changing every one to swine.  I expected no better.  After seeing them packed off to the sty, I settled myself back at the loom, knowing that more would follow their missing comrades.

And so it was.  Soon another of the beasts appeared at my door, marveling at the wild animals milling docilely about my grounds.  Smiling to myself, I welcomed him into my home, to his similar fate.  Seating him in a silver chair, I noticed he was handsomer than the others, with a more noble bearing about him.  Their leader, perhaps?  No matter, I would know his true nature soon enough for he quickly quaffed the potion I placed before him.  I raised my wand for the spell, but before I could touch him he drew his sword and rushed me, aiming the blade at my throat.  Startled I ducked beneath the weapon and clasped his knees in entreaty, my mind racing.  How could he remain unaffected?  And then it hit me—Hermes.  Hermes must be helping him.  And I realized he was the one Hermes always told me would find his way here, the famous Odysseus.  At this realization I felt quite flattered—a Hero in my own house!  Not an opportunity to be squandered, for sure.

“Sweet Odysseus,” I purred, slowly rising and taking hold of his sword.  “Surely a Goddess and a Hero can come to some sort of understanding.”  But he balked at my generous advances, nattering, “How can I trust that once I’m naked and in your clutches you won’t simply unman me?”  Unman him?  Why would I want to do a thing like that?  I mean the man was gorgeous; it wasn’t for his conversational skills that Calypso kept him so long.  So I swore the Great Oath by Styx not steal his penis or harm him in any other way.  “So come, my dear, and let us seal our friendship at last.”  “No,” he replied, shaking his pretty head.  “No, it’s just not right, that I would be in this house having sex with a Goddess while my men remain in the pig pen.”  “Fine,” I sighed.  “If that’s what you want, I’ll change them back.”  Which I did, but only I made them taller and handsomer than they were before.  I mean if I’m going to have them under foot, at least they should be pleasant to look at.  “So,” I said. “Are you satisfied now?”  “No,” the Hero replied, “but I have a feeling we both will be soon.”

And so it was.

The seasons circled ‘round and Odysseus’s men had their fill of my stores while we had our fill of each other.  But finally they began to once again think of home, as men always do, and I had to reveal to Odysseus his next dark road.  For I had seen that he would never again see Ithaca’s bright shores unless he learn the way from the seer Tiresias, dead in Hades dread realm.  After teaching him the summoning spells and providing him with the necessary supplies, he and his men made ready to leave.   All but one, the most piggish of them all, who had fallen asleep drunk on my roof and who subsequently had fallen to his death in my yard.  For the Lord and Lady of the Dead demand their own sacrifice, and only death may open their Gate.  And as I watched the Hero’s white sail disappear over the horizon, I sang a spell to hasten him on his way to his next adventure.  While I, the Great Goddess Circe, lady of my own land, awaited my own.

Migraine Insanity

Yesterday I had one of the worst migraines of my life.

Toward the end of my work day, the back of my neck started to hurt.  Neck pain like that often means a migraine is on its way , but since my insurance company won’t pay for enough of my rescue medication, I was out of Imitrex.  I thought the neck pain could just have been from the osteoarthritis in my neck,  so I tried taking a painkiller for that.  But as the pain spread to my head, I knew that it was definitely a migraine.  I called my pharmacy on my way home to see if I could get an Imitrex refill, but my insurance won’t cover more until 12/30.

When I got home I had my husband give me an Imitrex shot.  The shots are a last resort to try to abate a migraine already in progress, and they don’t always work for me.  They are also extremely painful and leave me with a bruise that can last for weeks.  The shot took the edge off of the pain, but I was still extremely nauseous.  So I took a prescription anti-nausea pill and laid in bed with an ice pack on my neck while we waited for our delivery dinner to arrive.  I hoped that I would feel better once I ate something.

Unfortunately, dinner didn’t help at all, and I was more nauseous than ever.I laid down with an icepack on my neck and one on my head, took a Xanax, and tried to relax to soothing ocean sounds.  It wasn’t working.  I was literally writhing in pain.  I couldn’t find my roll-on Icy-Hot that sometimes helps sooth the pain when I put it on the back of my neck, so my husband ran down to the local CVS to get some more along with some ginger-ale for my nausea.  But the pain and nausea just kept getting worse and worse, and I knew I needed professional intervention.

We called my neurologist’s office, and the message gave me my doctor’s pager number and told me to page him.  So we did that, and I took a shower, switching the temperature from hot on my neck to cold on my head while we waited for my doctor to call back.  Almost an hour later he still hadn’t, and the message had also said that if the doctor didn’t call back in 30 minutes we should call the on-call resident at the hospital.  We left a message for the resident, and he actually called back in about 10 minutes.  He prescribed what he called a very strong anti-inflammatory steroid that works well at stopping migraines in their tracks.  Since it was almost 10:00 PM and our CVS was about to close, my husband searched for and found online a 24 hour Rite Aid near us, and we had the doctor call the medicine in there.  I thought relief was finally in sight!

About 10 minutes later our home phone rang, and my heart sank.  My husband told me that the pharmacy had actually closed at 10:00–it was only the store part that was  open 24 hours.  I didn’t know what to do. I was out of Imitrex shots, and the first one hadn’t helped much anyway.  None of the other measures we had tried, including ice, relaxation, massage, aromatherapy, and hot and cold showers, had made the pain and nausea tolerable.  I asked him to bring me some Excedrin Migraine and some popsicles.  My neurologist had cautioned me in the past against Excedrin Migraine and other OTC painkillers since they can cause rebound headaches, but I didn’t know what else to do.

Desperately nauseous, I decided to try and get some relief by making myself throw-up.  Kids, don’t try this at home; it is profoundly unpleasant.  But it did ease the nausea just enough that I could stand it.  My husband soon returned, and I took the Excedrin and ate some raspberry sorbet (why does no one sell popsicles!) and exhaustion finally claimed me around midnight.  I had been suffering for eight hours.

This morning I woke up with pain and nausea, and although it’s less hellish than last night, I still want that cycle breaker!  I know it could start to get worse at any moment.  I wrote into work and checked my email, ate breakfast, and then started writing this post to kill time while I waited for the pharmacies to open at 8:00 AM. Since my husband had to go into the office today and I would have to go pick up the medicine myself, I wanted to have it transferred to my closer, usual pharmacy.  They said that it would take at least an hour.  At 8:30 AM, my CVS called me back to tell me that RiteAid had no prescriptions for me.  

And now I can feel the stress hormones rising within me.  My head is started to pound, and the pain is increasing.  Now I have to go call my neurologist’s office and figure out what the hell happened and what they are going to do for me.  I am so exhausted and want only to go back to sleep, but I fear waking up to a return of the intense pain and nausea.  I just want medication that will make it all go away–the medication I was promised last night.

The person I spoke to at the neurologist’s office said that according to their records, the medicine was called in last night.  She’s calling RiteAid to find out what happened.  And I continue to wait–in pain, exhausted, angry, worried, and stressed out.  My poor husband sits in his office feeling frustrated and helpless.

Part of why I started to write this, other than to kill time, was to illustrate just how terrible migraines can be.  And I don’t mean just the pain and the nausea–I also mean the insane amounts of hoops we must jump through and the Kafkaesque level of insanity we must deal with just to get treatment.  If my insurance company would cover enough pills for a real 30-day supply, I wouldn’t have been out of Imitrex in the first place.  I would have popped a pill at my desk yesterday as soon as the neck pain started, and that probably would have been that.  Migraine averted.  But since they only give me 18 pills/month, and that’s double the amount they used to give me before my neurologist’s office fought to get me more, I run out before I can get them refilled every single month.  And once a migraine is going full steam, it’s awfully difficult to stop.  So instead of being able to stop the migraine and get on with my life, I lost an entire evening to writhing in severe pain and nausea.  I’m missing yet another day of work.  And the pain is getting worse from the stress of trying to deal with doctors and pharmacies that can’t seem to communicate with one another.

I just wish I could go back to sleep.

 

 

 

 

Today’s Migraine

Today is Day 4 of this headache.  My neurologist is trying a new medication regimen that was actually working.  Before the new regimen I had a headache nearly every day. Until this past Saturday, I had been headache-free for two weeks!  On Saturday and Sunday I had headache pain that I was able to somewhat keep at bay with medication.  I hurt and wasn’t at the top of my game, but I was functional.   I kept my commitments.  On Monday I woke up around 4:00 am and discovered that the pain had gotten worse–more insistent.  I took a pill and went back to sleep.   I woke again with the alarm at 6:15 feeling completely exhausted, and the pain had not abated.  I snoozed and snoozed until I realized that I wasn’t able to go into work.  I was hopeful that the pills would help as they had the past two days and planned to go into work late.  Luckily when I woke again the pain had become manageable and I had enough energy to drive, so I went in for about four hours.  I accomplished some tasks.  But my energy gave out earlier than I had hoped, and I was not able to get completely caught up.  I rested last night and went to bed early with the hope that the migraine would be over by this morning.  That was not the case.

I remained hopeful, however, telling my employer that I’d be in later that afternoon.  But even after I woke from my nap, the pain remained.  Today it feels like someone has stabbed an icepick through my left temple.  It throbs dully, an unabating ache that flares into agony when the icepick twists to remind me that the pain can always get worse.  My mind feels fuzzy, and even simple things like preparing lunch or bathing take hours to work up to and leave me wiped out.  This afternoon I keep going from feeling ravenous to nauseous, often in the same minute.  Right now I sit in my sitting room with the blinds drawn, waiting for delivery food to arrive that I may or may not eat.

Worse than the physical symptoms, though, are the worry, the frustration, and the guilt.  I have FMLA paperwork that allows me to miss work for migraines three days a month, but FMLA hours are unpaid and my sick time is almost gone for the year.  I worry that the people I support as an administrative assistant will find me too “unreliable” to work with and despite the high quality of my work will ask for someone else to cover their needs.  In a soft money environment, no work means no job.  And then I feel guilty about worrying about my job because hell, at least I have sick time at all, at least I have a supervisor who sincerely cares, at least I have some protection.  At least missing out on a day or two of pay will not put us out onto the street.  I feel guilty that I can’t drive to get my cat the refill of his medicine that he needs.  I feel guilty that I haven’t done any housework and my husband will come home from his business trip to overflowing trash and a sink of dirty dishes.  I feel guilty that I don’t want to exercise even though I know it will help my pain, and I feel frustrated that yet another day has passed that puts me that much further away from the healthy routines I’ve worked hard to build.  I feel guilty that I don’t feel like working on any of my ADF study program stuff and that I owe people work on projects that have gone undone.  And then the icepick twists again, and I try to be kind and gentle with myself, but I find it so very hard when it’s my own body that has turned against me.  And then I feel guilty because so many people are facing health issues that are so much worse, and I feel that I have no right to feel sorry for myself.

So that is the story of my migraine today.  It’s much like the story of so many migraines I’ve had before.  I’m grateful that this one hasn’t brought the ultra excruciating pain of some in the past, but there’s a part of me that would prefer the writhing agony if only I could pass out after a couple of hours and wake with the pain gone the next day.  The almost-bearable pain that lingers like an unintended roommate steals so much more of my life. And then I feel guilty for not being as grateful as I should be.

St. Patrick’s Day Like a Druid

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I have always been pretty ambivalent about St. Patrick’s Day. I have no Irish ancestry, but my German heritage has blessed me with red hair, green eyes, and freckles. During my childhood, every year on March 17 I’d have to patiently explain to a disappointed elementary school teacher that “no, in fact Diane is not Irish” after she excitedly exclaimed her approval of my looks in front of the entire class. As I hated letting teachers down, I found this yearly ritual to be rather distressing. This assumption and the resulting disappointment became more pronounced and annoying on St. Patrick’s Days at Boston College when belligerently drunken and green-clad Kellys, Sullivans, and O’Briens stubbornly refused to believe that we did not share a common ancestral homeland.  And I still encounter the occasional “Self Appointed Guardian of All Things Irish” in the Pagan community who simply will not accept that I have no Irish blood and who gets quite angry that I dare to be redheaded without their shamrock of approval.

Me Not Irish 3

Me: Not Irish

As an American, St. Patrick’s Day is pretty unavoidable.  Most of my coworkers are sporting some sort of green today, ranging from the tasteful to the outrageously tacky. On FaceBook, some of my Pagan friends are posting vitriolic articles and memes against Patrick and his supposed exile of the Druids while other Pagan friends respond with articles and memes debunking the Pagan persecution narratives and explaining that snakes ≠ Druids.  And I know my feed will later be littered with pictures of acquaintances quaffing everything from green-dyed Coors light to actual Guinness in celebration of what my father has always called, “St. Drunks Day.”

Having no Irish-American family traditions to keep, not daring to go out drinking on one of the top two Amateur Nights, and wanting to steer clear of “snake wars,” what was a good little Druid to do with St. Patrick’s Day?

Enter the Virtue of Piety.  Several years ago one of my Grovemates and I decided to create a viable Pagan and non-historically ridiculous alternative for celebrating this day of Irish heritage.  Neither of us are primarily of an Irish hearth, but our Grove’s patron is the Irish goddess Brighid, we have spent years building a relationship with the Irish god Lugh, and hell, despite ADF’s expanded usage of the term, we are Druids after all.  That had to count for something.  So we wrote a ritual simply honoring the Gods, Ancestors, and Spirits of Ireland, and we offered it to the public on St. Patrick’s Day.  It seemed to go over well, and we did it every March for the next few years.

This year, however, we are refocusing our public offerings, and we did not do the ritual.  My Grovemate and I both had the same idea of performing it at our own hearths instead.  So armed with a bottle of Jamison I set about performing the ritual on my own.

Ready for Ritual

Ready for Ritual

Things were going perfectly well until I reached the Ancestor invocation.  The invocation includes a shout out to what we in ADF call “The Ancient Wise,” the poets, magicians, priests, etc. whose ways inspire our ways.  Ian Corrigan has written a hymn to the Ancient Wise, and I felt called to sign it as an offering.  Of course I had only sung a few lines before completely blanking on the lyrics.  I tried finding the words, but a search of the ADF web site and Google only brought up a video of Isaac Bonewits’s memorial and no lyrics.  So I punted, gave my sincere thanks to the Ancient Wise in some hastily conjured up prose, and continued with the ritual.

Eventually it was time to take an omen.  Seeing as I primarily read the Olympian Oracle, I asked the Kindred to please “speak to me in the language I understand.”  And upon asking if they found my offerings acceptable, I pulled, Nu, “the strife-bearing gift fulfills the oracle,” which is a big, fat, no.  I immediately knew I had to sing that damn song.  So I pulled up the video of the memorial, thinking to scroll through until I got to it.  And then it hit me like Dagda’s club to the face–I forgot to honor Isaac.  I had stood there, Jamison in hand, looking at a link that said, “Bonewits Memorial,” and I failed to offer him a drink.  I quickly rectified my breech of hospitality, did find the song, and lustily sang along with myself, my Grovemate, Ian, and other of ADF’s premier singers as I honored the Ancient Wise, Isaac Bonewits first among them.  Asking a second time, the Kindred gave me Khi, “the golden oracle.”  They also blessed me with the wisdom of Epsilon and Iota, “work hard to achieve your desired outcome.”

So now I sit with my own glass of Jamison, listening to hockey and transcribing my experience.  And when looking for the link to the Bonewits memorial video on the ADF site for this post, I found a link to the lyrics of the “Prayer to the Ancient Wise.”  Message received.  In the future I will also honor the founder of my church on St. Patrick’s Day.

 

Unfinished Business

Last Sunday night I caught up on some overdue devotional work. The first ritual I ever wrote and led for other people was an Autumn Equinox rite for my local Womyn’s Spirituality Circle sometime in the late 1990’s.  I dedicated the rite to Demeter and Persephone, and during the seasonal working we each put out a candle and spoke aloud what we were leaving behind in the light as we embraced the dark. I always had a hard time as the days became shorter (I was diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder a few years ago), and doing the work of honoring Demeter and Persephone and embracing the dark in one form or another at the Autumn Equinox has helped me cope with the dark time of the year.

I didn’t do it this year.  I was running my Grove’s Autumn Equinox ritual to Dionysos and was absorbed with that when the Equinox rolled around.  The Dionysos rite had a similar theme as my Demeter and Persephone work, and I figured I’d just make some offerings to Demeter and Persephone at home and move my Persephone doll to our Ancestor box to reunite with my Hades doll as I do every year and call it a season.  But I never did that either.  I just didn’t think about it, or when I did think of doing it, it just didn’t feel right.

Meanwhile, October came and October went.  According to the Hellenion libation calendar which I try to follow even though I’m not a member, one should make a libation to Poseidon during the month of October.  I had made a deal with him when I was at Lake Erie this past summer, and I owed him a bottle of Sailor Jerry rum and a bottle of Red Stripe beer.  I told him that I would offer this during my October libation to him, but again, for one reason or another, that never happened.

Finally last Sunday night I made the time  to make these offerings.  I spent the daylight hours raking leaves and harvesting my herbs.  While in my yard I realized that I had not done ritual in my outdoor ritual space since last year, so I decided to perform my devotional work there.  I packed up my offerings, lit a sterno from my gas stove, pulled my cloak about me, and processed back to my ritual space.

I decided to offer to Poseidon first.  I reminded him of my promise and told him that I would offer the Red Stripe once I could get it in a reasonable amount (I live in Pennsylvania, and my financial situation does not allow me to buy a whole case of beer just to get the one I needed, especially after I bought him the bottle of Sailor Jerry).  I thanked him for coming through for me, and I read the Orphic Hymn to Poseidon.  I had been really nervous about doing this libation since I really have almost no relationship with Poseidon, and quite frankly, he scares me.  I began to pour the bottle over my altar stone, and after a while I felt him tell me to stop, and the rest of the rum was mine.  It wasn’t more than a shot or two, but I drank it down in his honor.  I then nervously took an omen with the Olympian Oracle.  I grabbed the sea shell I keep in my oracle bag for some forgotten reason along with Iota and Zeta.  I read the omen as, “Work hard and use wisdom, and you will be safe.”  I still need to be cautious around Poseidon and his domain, but he has given me an opening to at least feel less afraid of him, so I took that as a good omen.

At that point I felt someone watching me, and I looked up and saw one of my next door neighbors looking at me from an upstairs window.  I started to worry that my relatively new neighbors, who have seemed absolutely lovely so far, would start to “wonder” about me.  But seeing as I had shared my herb harvest with them that day, I certainly hope they will give me the benefit of the doubt.  All thoughts of neighborly harmony aside, I definitely did not want an audience while I performed my important work with Demeter and Persephone.  I had poured a libation to Hermes over his herm at my ritual space’s entrance when I entered, and I called upon him as I cast a shield about me and my ritual space.  I had a quick burst of a vision of Hermes laughingly leading the neighbor away from the window.  Feeling more secure, I began the second part of my night’s work.

I decided to just perform the seasonal enactment portion of my ADF full Core Order Autumn Equinox ritual to Demeter and Persephone (included below for the curious).  As I was looking through the script I saw that it said to make an offering of pork.  “Crap,” I thought,  “I had completely forgotten about that.”  In past years I have made pork chops for dinner and then offered one to Demeter and Persephone, pork being a traditional offering during the Eleusinian Mysteries.  The only pork I had on hand were some hot dogs in the freezer, and that just did not seem to me like something appropriate to offer these magnificent goddesses.  I wracked my brain and scanned the contents of my refrigerator, but no worthy substitute presented itself.  Suddenly the idea of offering a lock of my hair came to my mind, and it felt “right.”  I still scrounged around for something else because honestly I worried about messing up my very new hair cut, but my reluctance only verified to me that it was the right thing to do.  As I cut it and laid it on the altar stone, I knew in my heart it had been the correct thing to do.  My omens from Persephone and Demeter were very favorable and meaningful.  Persephone gave me Alpha, which I interpreted as “I will make it through the dark just fine and will be productive during that time.”  Demeter gave me Xi which literally means, “there is no fruit to be taken from a withered shoot.”  I interpreted this as, “know when something is over, and let it go.”  As I honored Demeter as “Queen of the Harvest,” and as I had just spent the afternoon harvesting and hanging up the herbs from my garden, I specifically took this to mean, “The harvest is over.”

In that moment I knew why I did not do my work with Demeter and Persephone earlier. It felt completely and perfectly right to do it on the day I had raced to beat the early sunset to finish my actual harvest.  These synchronicities rarely surprise me anymore, but they always feel really good.

Herb Harvest 2014

Part of my 2014 herb harvest.

As I processed back to the house I saw that my neighbor’s blind was drawn.  I finished up the evening’s work by reuniting plush Persephone with plush Hades.  They are now laying together inside our Ancestor box.

Seasonal Enactment with Demeter and Persephone

Declaration of Initiation

Glorious goddesses, I come before you as your priestess.
I have been twice initiated into your mysteries such as we can know them today.
I have stood before others as you touched with my hands and spoke with my lips.
I have drunk the kykeon.
I have used the sacred objects, have seen the sacred images, and have heard the sacred texts.

I make this offering in remembrance and in thanks for all you have taught me.

Make offering of pork.

Seasonal Enactment

Cut the pomegranate in half.

Sing Persephone chant and raise energy.

Farewell dear Persephone as you return below
I’ll think of the splendid summer as sunshine turns to snow
Days are growing ever shorter, winter’s drawing near
I’ll embrace the triumphant darkness ‘til you reappear.

Eat six of the seeds. Offer the rest of the pomegranate to Persephone.

Dear Persephone, even as you go below, life shines within you. You must go into the dark for the flowers to bloom in the spring. So is it with me. I have eaten the seeds, and I too accept that I must face the dark. I mourn the loss of the light as you, beloved Demeter, mourn the loss of your daughter. But as I go within, my inner light shall guide me, the inner light that is fed by all I have harvested during the past six months. I embrace the dark half of the year knowing I am prepared to face what may come..

Hail Persephone, Queen of the Underworld! Pour libation of pomegranate wine.

Hail Demeter, Queen of the Harvest! Pour libation of beer.

Frigga’s Necklace

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Recently I attended my local community’s Pagan Pride Day where I vended my jewelery and other wares and helped man my Grove’s info table. Vending at a festival can make for long day, so I typically bring along something to work on to help pass the time. I had recently made my self an amber “Frigga necklace” with three keys as the focus as part of my growing devotion to Frigga, and I looked to see if I had the materials to make another to sell.  I did have the materials, and I had just selected the keys and started to plan the amber and bone pattern when a woman of my acquaintance from the local Heathen group approached my table. Looking somewhat distraught, she asked me if I had my beading tools with me. I told her that I did indeed–what could I do for her?

She said that her necklace had broken and she asked if I could fix it for her.  I  remembered that she is a devotee of Frigga, and I pushed aside a momentary flash of annoyance at the delay in starting my project and readily agreed to help.  I mean what were the chances that at the very moment I was about to start making a Frigga necklace a devotee of Frigga should come to me and ask me to fix something of hers?  I took the piece, amber, of course, into my hands and began studying the frayed wire that had pulled loose from its crimp, trying to determine if I could fix it without restringing the whole thing.  She said it was important to her that she could wear the necklace for the rest of that day and that if I could simply affect a temporary fix to make it wearable, she would be most grateful.  It was then I noticed the focal piece of the necklace–an exquisitely wrought iron key.  I said, “This is your Frigga necklace, yes?”  She told me that it was indeed, and that the key had been hand-forged for her by a friend after her design.

So just as I was about to start making a necklace symbolizing the goddess Frigga, a goddess with whom I have been building an unlikely alliance over the past year as I am primarily of a Hellenic Hearth, a devotee of Frigga came to me and asked me to fix her Frigga necklace.  It’s not every day that our gods ask service of us so directly.  I worked on fixing the necklace in a state of reverence and wonder, feeling Frigga’s blessing upon the work of my hands.  Any lingering doubts I may have been harboring about working with this Norse goddess so outside my comfort zone fled completely as I handed the repaired necklace back to its grateful owner.

The Gods are Alive: Invocation to Hermes

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I have worked with Hermes as a Gatekeeper in my ADF-style rites for many years, and in most of the Hellenic rites I have written for my Grove, I have called Hermes as Gatekeeper.  I decided that it was time to lead a rite to him where we would explore some of his many other aspects, and my Grove performed this ritual two weeks ago.  I wrote this invocation to him after a visionary experience I had during a trance induction, and it turned out very differently from the way I had planned to write it.  This vision vividly reminded me that the gods do not just exist in the past, wearing their cloaks and tunics and traipsing through the Greek countryside, but that they very much exist in our world right now.  I found that to be an important reminder, and I decided to share it here.

Invocation to the Being of the Occasion:  Hermes

In the Hermes Gateway Meditation we have used in the past, I have asked you to “fix the image of Hermes fast in your mind. . . the winged sandals. . .the short cloak. . . the wide-brimmed hat. . . the curling hair. . . the golden wand. He may appear to you as a beardless youth or as a man in his prime—the gods wear many faces as it please them.” And this is indeed true. Hermes recently appeared to me in a vision, and he was not wearing the garb we see on the ancient vase paintings. He appeared to me as a man in his 30s, with short blond hair and a blond goatee. He was wearing jeans, a black T-shirt, a simple, black leather jacket, and black and grey Sketchers. He was standing at an airport bar with a drink in front of him and a black, leather, rolling suitcase on the floor next to him.

And it reminded me that the gods are alive and present in our world, and in our lives, today as much as they ever were in ancient times.

Perhaps he’s an athlete who’s just been traded to a new team, ready to make a fresh start.

Perhaps he’s a writer, traveling to speak at a conference full of fans.

Perhaps he’s a business man, aiming to close an important deal.

Perhaps he’s a thief, off to disappear with his ill-gotten treasure.

Perhaps he’s a diplomat, hoping to secure a treaty to bring peace to his nation.

Perhaps he’s a rancher, off to attend a trade show to learn new methods of caring for his herds.

Perhaps he works for an international adoption agency, and he’s traveling to help new parents bring their children home.

Great Hermes, you work within our world and in our lives in many, many ways. We thank you for your aid as Gatekeeper over the years, and we celebrate you for all of your many talents, gifts, and blessings. Be with us here and accept our offering, as we seek to honor you and strengthen the relationship between us as individuals and as a Grove.

Hermes, Hail and Welcome!

Remembering Morning Glory

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Like many Pagans this week, I am remembering and honoring Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart, pioneering priestess of the Church of All Worlds and titanic figure in the U.S. Pagan community. I never had the pleasure of officially meeting Morning Glory, but I did have one memorable encounter with her that proved pivotal to my spiritual and life paths. It was the summer of 1998, I was 23 years old, and I was attending my first large Pagan festival—Starwood—at Brushwood Folklore Center in Sherman, NY. I wrote this description of the encounter on an email list a few weeks later as part of my response to a question about how we see the divine.

 My other experience took place on the last night of Starwood, at the BIG bonfire. That night I was feeling so incredibly grounded and placid. I felt perfectly in tune with the Earth and felt nothing could break that feeling. Eventually (as most people do) I ended up mostly naked in the drum circle and was charging a crystal I had bought earlier in the week and really didn’t want anyone to approach me while I was doing this important work. A friend of mine had said earlier in the week that she “was Artemis this week” because she had to leave her serious boyfriend at home and wasn’t going to be indulging in erotic pleasures with anyone else there at Starwood. I thought of this and decided to call upon Artemis to help me ward off unwanted advances. So I danced, charged, and communed with Artemis for a good while, and I really felt at one with her. But after a while Morning Glory Zell (from the Church of All Worlds) was eyeing me up and said about me to one of her female lovers, “Yummy!” I was extremely flattered that this beautiful woman with wondrously large breasts clad in this tiny leather thing would say something like this about me, but as I was still hanging out with Artemis, I simply smiled at her and kept dancing. On my next time around she spoke to me directly. She compared me to the Goddess Aphrodite and essentially told me that I had a nice ass. Now as my ass is probably the one part of my body about which I am most self-conscious, I was EXTREMELY flattered. I thanked her most sincerely and as I was still with Artemis, I continued on my way. About a minute later a friend of mine (incidentally someone with whom I’d had a passionate encounter earlier in the week) said to me, “Wow! You look beautiful! Just like Botticelli’s Venus!” Now in the span of about 65 seconds two very beautiful women had compared yours truly to the Goddess of all Love, Lust and Beauty, and I was feeling VERY GOOD about myself. Proof that everyone does indeed look better by firelight. Anyway, I was thinking that Artemis must only help ward off the advances of men, and then I realized that since Morning Glory and Samantha had both spoken of Aphrodite in flattering me, Aphrodite must be trying to tell me something. I remembered the story of Hippolytus who spent all of his time worshiping Artemis and scorning Aphrodite, and Aphrodite ended up burning his ass. So I took the hint, bid Artemis hail and farewell, and invoked Aphrodite. And I had just as powerful of an experience with her as I had with Artemis.

From that night my relationship with Aphrodite has only grown and deepened. I am her Priestess first and foremost, and she has blessed me in so many ways, including bringing me to the love of my life. And I just realized, that like my relationship with Aphrodite, our love affair also began at Brushwood.

Thank you, Morning Glory, for hitting on me that night. Our brief interaction raised my self-confidence immensely and reverberated through my life my life in ways you could never know. I wish you a most peaceful and joyous journey and reunion with loved ones who have gone before. Hail to you!