Back from Many Gods West

I had the opportunity to present two sessions at Many Gods West 2017 in Olympia, WA. The experience was a memorable and positive one; I got to meet many new people and deepen friendships with people I already knew. I saw lots of return attendees as well as people who were attending for the first time.

I presented Advancing Devotional Practice and Three Tales of Devotion, both of which are sessions I’ve presented before (Three Tales last year and Advancing Devotional Practice at PCon). They were both well-received and I came away with new ideas on how to improve them both. Although I personally had small issues with both (because I always want to improve the work I do), I think people got a lot out of them and so I’m satisfied in that respect.

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If you’re finding my blog for the first time after finding me at MGW, welcome! I don’t blog nearly as often as I’d like – mostly because I never know quite what I want to say and because every time I sit down to write a post I get bored and quit before I’ve finished. Most of the new work I’m doing is found over on Patreon; I’ve just added a divination perk to the $10 level. That’s where I share samples of the new Heartroad manuscript (this is a followup book to Walking the Heartroad) as well as art, downloadables, coupon codes, video previews, and all kinds of other stuff.

Speaking of videos, now that I’m back from MGW I can focus on producing a narrated video of Sri Andal’s story. This is based on my Three Tales of Devotion session; it’ll be a nice long telling of a truly excellent inspirational story. I’d like to post the video by next month (after a Patreon preview, of course) and I’ll make the audio available for download.

So that’s the latest – I have a blog post brewing in my head and I’ll see if I can make another update this week. Thanks again for reading.

Arcane Bullshit Oracle – deck review and walkthrough

It’s live! The video I’ve been teasing my Patreon supporters with for weeks is finally live to the world.

 

This is probably my very favorite deck to use with people. I use it especially frequently when reading for spirit workers because I find the absurdity of the deck is a good fit for the frequently absurd situations we can find ourselves in. As I discuss in the video, the silliness of the deck bypasses traditional symbolic meanings; I end up with intuitive readings with a high degree of relevance and accuracy. It’s sadly not a great quality deck but it’s one I treasure nonetheless.

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Altar practice

My altars are a central part of my life – both my spiritual practice and my not-obviously-spiritual activities. I have fewer altars than you might imagine; there’s 3 – 4 main ones depending on how you count. Each altar receives attention at a different rate; two see daily/near-daily attention while others receive weekly/near-weekly attention.

My ancestral altar has seen very little activity in several months because well, my ancestors have not been home in a long time. They were present for a brief moment a few years ago and I thought, “Ah! My ancestral practice is finally working!” but they faded not long after. There was another minor flare of activity a year or so ago but again, they fade. (I know people might say that I should persist nonetheless, that I should continue giving attention and feel confident that my efforts have effect – but I’ve tried ancestral work for many years and received next-to-no time with them, relative to my investment. And no, I don’t think I’m owed their returning of my attention but I also don’t know why my ancestral practice has been so challenging overall. I need to speak to someone more knowledgeable than myself.)

There are times, like the present moment, when I struggle to do even the most minimal activity at my altars. One of the altars that I give daily attention to has a very formal style of interaction and I just can’t manage to rise to that standard. I’ll drop some incense there, say good morning, and that’ll be it. That’s on the days I manage to do anything at all. And of course, I then use this as evidence that I’m a bad practitioner, that I’m failing at my practice, that I lack any of the discipline that gives structure to my sentiment.

This problem quickly becomes a self-perpetuating pattern; I feel bad for not doing my practice, so I avoid the site of those bad feelings which leads me to stay away from the altar where I do my practice. I know I’m not alone in this experience. I remind myself that devotionalism isn’t intended to be a weapon with which I harm myself, but wow am I good at making it into one.

July’s temple video to Loki Herself

It’s live!

 

I was feeling quiet and contemplative this month and I think this video reflects that. I also finally got the Santa Fe incense to burn nicely. I really love this brand but sometimes I have a hard time keeping the blocks lit.

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My mind has been quite occupied with several projects I have going on here at home (I’m helping out a local temple with some complicated sewing work) in addition to the rapidly-approaching Many Gods West. One session is prepped; the other still needs a bit of tidying up. I’m also preparing to start work at a house reader at a local metaphysical shop, so I’ve been making lots of marketing material for that. Oh, and I’ve been producing the Santa Muerte prayer cards! They’re now in the shop and ready to ship.

Santa Muerte prayer card pre-order!

I first learned about the Pretty Girl in the mid aughts; I had no idea what a special part of my spiritual life she’d become. In thanks for the many blessings she’s given to me I’ve made a simple prayer card celebrating her.

SM card front redThis card is available for PRE-ORDER on Etsy. It features my own photo on the front and a short prayer on the back. It’s just $1 and until the end of July you’ll get free shipping. Pre-order funds will help me cover the cost of production, Etsy fees, etc. (Patreon supporters at the $5+ level receive these for free; they just have to message me with their mailing address.)

Right now red is the only color available but blue, green, purple, rainbow, and other colors will be available eventually.

Thanks and praise, Pretty Girl.

The Ostara Tarot – new deck walkthrough and review

The new video is live! This one takes a look at the new Ostara Tarot, a lovely deck with storybook images. I’ve become quite fond of it in the short time I’ve owned it and it’s given me some good readings. I look forward to working with it more.

I’ve got a few more videos waiting in the wings and since my Patreon supporters suggested I also work on the narrated conference session videos I’ve been threatening for a while, I’ll be turning my focus on that soon. I have a pretty good idea what the first one will be – but I have no idea how soon it’ll be ready. Soon, I hope!

Sorting gods

A couple days ago a friend of mine on Facebook posted something to the effect of disliking the “dark gods” designation, finding it a category with all kinds of problems and shortcomings. I agreed, expressing my similar dislike. There are lots of reasons I don’t care for the “light/dark” dichotomy, not the least of which is that these are categories that tend to be leveraged in the service of the people using the category. I’m not just saying that categories are only meaningful to the people doing the sorting (although there is that); rather, there’s additional meaning and value-weight given to these categories once the Powers have been sorted into these two crude piles. We would be hard-pressed to talk about “light gods” just in terms of their, um, glowing. There’s immediately a heap of other associations that follow, and these associations end up being what we focus on.

(Of course, this rather leaves out traditions like The Unnamed Path which have very specific light/dark divisions regarding the face(s) of their Power(s). I’m talking really about this dichotomy as an artificial division, not one built into the fundamentals of a tradition.)

Whatever practical purpose the division of light/dark Powers might be, I feel like that end can be reached through other means. What those are I’m actually not sure. So I got to thinking – what other sorting could be done? Lasara Firefox Allen detailed a very nice five-fold model in her book Jailbreaking the Goddess – which I have not personally read but a number of my friends rave about it and I listened to some interviews she did on podcasts about the book and it sounds pretty great. That said, I don’t think it’s necessary to borrow her model and apply it wholesale to a polytheist paradigm in which we are already a little wary of any modality that robs our Powers of their individuality (except when it comes to “light gods/dark gods”, yes?).

Even after a good bit of thinking I couldn’t decide on a really tidy model that would lead to any helpful conclusions about the nature of the Powers based on their similarities and differences among Themselves. So I left the matter alone and wrote about it here instead.

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As someone who has almost exclusively spent time with “dark gods” I really chafe at that categorical designation. It does really nothing to describe any of these Powers in a way that’s helpful to me, to a hypotheical newcomer, or (I wonder) to anyone else. What does “dark” even mean in this sense? That they’re cold or mean or hard to deal with? Although They certainly have facets that are hard to deal with, I see this as something *I* have to work on rather than something that is fundamental to Them. That is, those facets are hard to deal with simply because I have much to learn, not because there is something about my Powers that is inherently difficult. (Although I remain open to the possibility that they are, in fact, inherently difficult.)

Loki might be a good example of this. Loki is possibly the brightest guy I know. He’s clever and warm and caring and all the rest. His anger is also incandescent, His lust radiant, and His compassion soothing. I can’t think of Loki without thinking of this brightness but there’s also a lot of darkness. I know Her as an underworld deity, an exiled and lonely mother, a queen whose treasures are formed in the dark hard places under the earth. I’ve known Loki for nearly two decades and can’t put Hir in either category – in this regard and in many others, heh.

The problem gets even thornier when mapped onto other beloved Powers.

If categories and designations break down as we spend time with the Powers, why do we persist in applying categories in the first place? OK, I guess it could be argued that it’s a teaching tool, a framework valuable to learners – but is it? Could we perhaps soften the disasters that come from a later failure of category by simply doing away with the application of categories early on? We don’t need to think hard to come up with multiple examples of the heartache that occurs when our hard polytheism stops giving us the strength we hope it will. The categories get soft, and yes, those categories include names.

On the other hand, starting with soft categories tends to lead to harder distinctions and there is plenty of heartache to be had on this path, too.

Perhaps the problem isn’t that the Powers are inherently hard or inherently fuzzy; perhaps the problem is that our perception is not comfortable holding both sides of a dichotomy at the same time. Maybe learning to hold both/and instead of either/or is what we will be forced to learn regardless of which directly we approach from.