17 Year Cidadae

So the big thing this summer is that the 17-year cycle cicadas are hatching. They’re big, red, noisy bastards, and a type of bug I’ve always disliked. I’ve never been big on bugs, and having insects that large that fling themselves at you unpredictable while making an awful buzzing sound is a sure-fire way to get me to emit high pitched screams and have me rapidly exit.

Well, they started hatching early this year, and it wasn’t long before I encountered them at Heartland. The first morning, one was molting on one of my camp boxes, and it went downhill from there. By the end of the festival, there were tents under tree with literally dozens of cicadas trying to dry out their newly minted wings.

See, I have this thing about bugs. I’m not exactly phobic, but I really dislike them. I’m terrified of stinging insects, and anything that I can mistake for one makes me nervous. And the bigger they are the less I like them. Anything that buzzes makes me twitch and squirm.

But if I they’re calm, and I can view them safely (say, from behind glass), then they kind of intrigue me. They’re interesting. They’re tiny and complicated, and evolved to navigate a world of smaller hazards. We still don’t know how they see with those complicated eyes. And they exists in a world of intensely strong smells and chemical warfare. (And bees can do complex mathematical calculations and estimates, and communicate them to each other.)

Yes, there’s metaphors and lessons and things in this.

So here I am at an event that I consider both a religious and vacationing experience, at a location I regard as sacred. It is a space I feel comfortable and safe in, where I can let my shields down in a way I can’t in the “real” world. And I’m surrounded by thousands of noisy bugs that I not only dislike, but usually have a fear response to.

I had two ways to respond. I could have freaked out and stayed in my tent, or I could get used to them and not worry.

I’m not sure if it was because the critters were still molty and wet and vulnerable, or if it was because they weren’t noisy yet, or because of the environment, but I kind of started to not mind them. I didn’t want any in my tent, and I steered clear of them, but I didn’t freak out or anything. I was cautious, but not nervous or scared. I wasn’t picking any up or playing with them, but who knows, maybe in time.

Things that come at me unexpectedly frighten me. Things I don’t understand frighten me. Things that I can’t control frighten me. This goes for bugs, magick, or love. But when I was able to be at peace in a safe space, I could encounter what made me uncomfortable on my terms, and be at peace with it.

I think I’m really starting to understand the importance of safe spaces and holding space in a way that I hadn’t before, and I’m hoping this can help me better deal with my Empathy and my fears of loss and rejection.

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Big Ritual

I’ve been doing ritual magick in some form since I first bought Don Kraig’s Modern Magick 20 years ago. Much of that was based in Golden Dawn derived ritual, performed alone for my personal benefit in the dark corner of wherever I happened to live. Early group rituals were largely impromptu, and with small groups of no more than 6 people.

In college, I became involved with a student group that had Sabbat rituals, and I participated in and facilitated some of those, which generally had around a dozen people. I’ve worked with other groups having about the same or fewer participants, and usually enjoyed positive results. Continue reading

Thoughts from Heartland Pagan Festival 2015

Big rituals are a way different experience when you’re on center stage

I don’t mind bugs as much as I did a week ago (although I’m still not fond of them)

Sometimes you really do need a break from those you love the most

The camaraderie you get from being a part of a diverse group that completes a challenging task is a unique thing

There are always ulterior motives Continue reading

Finding Common Ground

“Group rituals should be about fostering cohesion and community among the group. The more diverse the group, the harder that can be. There is always some manner of common ground, but the mistake we often make is trying to look for it among religious or political ideology. Sometimes the very fact that people are coming together for a particular event is enough of a basis to build a ritual, and through that a community. I’m pretty sure that’s how it works with Burning Man.”

I’ve been talking about Heartland Pagan Festival for a while.

One of the features of the festival is a large ritual, that is often separated across three nights. There is traditionally an opening ritual, a main ritual, and a closing ritual. And these rituals are very complex and delicate operations.

Heartland is open to people of all Pagan and Pagan-friendly folks who want to come out for a good time. Which means that the Spiritual Experience Committee is responsible for devising a ritual that is appealing to as many people as possible, intense enough to provide a meaningful experience, and yet is not offensive to the hugely diverse and very left-of-center (and hence more likely to be offended) crowd in attendance. And they have problems pulling it of with a bang, on occasion. Continue reading

Weather Magic, HPF Edition

A while back when I attended Heartland Pagan Festival, I did some weather magic.

Attendees at HPF treat “weather magic” as a bad word. They always insist that whenever anyone does weather magic, it always goes wrong, and there is always a bad storm as a result.

This year was no different, as the last day of the festival, when everyone was due to pack up, was greeted with a torrential downpour and nickel-sized hail. And because I didn’t keep my damn mouth shut, everyone knew I had done weather magic. So of course, some people blamed me.

I, however, consider the magic I performed to be a great success, for several reasons (although admittedly it could still use some improvement). And frankly, I’m kind of annoyed at some of the assumptions and implications made by those so quick to label the working a failure.

So, some thoughts and analysis on what I did, what went wrong, what went right, and judging the difference. Continue reading

Bigger Sacred Places

A while back Lupa wrote about the small, sacred places that influenced her interaction with nature. I decided to honor this with a video tour of my own small sacred place from my youth. In response to that, Lupa put out a call to pagan bloggers to talk about their own sacred spots from their past and share with all of us memories and descriptions of those spots. I encourage anyone with a blog, be it WordPress, Blogger, livejournal, Tumblr, or whatever, to share not just words, but if possible pictures or even video of some of those spots.

But it’s not all about the small stuff.

I have just returned from Heartland Pagan Festival at the Camp Gaea Retreat. For anyone unfamiliar with the Kansas City area, this camp is an amazing place, distant from the city, reasonably removed from the local population, and home to many pagan gatherings and events. The site is well developed and cared for, has a lake for swimming, a bathhouse with real showers and flush toilets, cabins available, and plenty of spots for camping, meditation, and ritual work. And it is a place of tolerance for people of all religions and lifestyles. And it is clothing optional.

I am mentioning this because there are several locations at Camp Gaea that have been cleared and maintained as sacred places, for ritual, meditation, reflection, and remembrance. And unlike the small, sacred places, this is a larger place that is set aside expressly for mystical experiences, and is protected and respected as such.

This is not a tour of Camp Gaea. It is a brief visit to a few of the special places at Camp Gaea. If you’re in the neighborhood, please visit. There is much more to explore.

Thoughts from Heartland Pagan Festival

So I’ve spent the last week at Heartland Pagan Festival near Kansas City. Five days in the heat and sun with nekkid people dancing around campfires. There were many activities, workshops, rituals, and classes to be taken, and many interesting people to meet and talk with. And there was much reflection and insight to be had, some of which I am still processing. But for now, in no particular order of relevance, are some random thoughts from this weekend:

  1. These people fucking rock. If you do not know of Tuatha Dae, please check them out. If you have the opportunity to see them, take it. That is all. http://www.tuathadea.net/
  2. I have a habit of telling people things that make it easier to deal with them instead of repeating myself over and over again. For example, I tell people I’m allergic to shrimp so I don’t have to put up with telling them I don’t like shrimp and then being assaulted with protestations that I really would like it the way they cook it, or in a particular style or dish they like. I do not need to do this. I am perfectly justified in telling them I don’t like shrimp and then simply shutting them down if they try to convert me to eating sea roaches. Likewise, I am well within my rights to tell people I am phobic of bees instead of pretending to be allergic. It is more honest and less stressful.
  3. Humans are not meant to be nekkid in nature. I have seen way too much sunburn to believe otherwise. Except at night. Then just stay a good distance from the fire.
  4. It is a mistake to perform a large group ritual using am elemental system that does not include wind or air as an element while in a state named for the powerful south wind, especially during the spring.
  5. I have learned the difference between hedonistic drunkenness and drunken debauchery. Hedonistic drunkenness is to reach an ecstatic state and bring wisdom back from that state. Debauchery is excess for the sake of excess. This is step two on my coming to terms with Bacchus.
  6. Politics is nothing more than how people deal with each other. People who are political junkies or activists are overly concerned with how people do or should relate to one another. At its core, politics is like capitalism: a vast network of people making thousands of small personal interactions every day. I cannot think of why any person, group, or ideology should be able to mandate how those interactions happen, except to ensure that they are consensual and honest. And that is true no matter how much better you think the world will be if your way is the one mandated. On a related note, I am most likely officially registering as a Libertarian again within the next few weeks, psychotic Paulbots be damned.
  7. Group rituals should be about fostering cohesion and community among the group. The more diverse the group, the harder that can be. There is always some manner of common ground, but the mistake we often make is trying to look for it among religious or political ideology. Sometimes the very fact that people are coming together for a particular event is enough of a basis to build a ritual, and through that a community. I’m pretty sure that’s how it works with Burning Man.
  8. I really need to work on my weather magic and not half-ass it. That said, weathering nickel-sized hail in a tent isn’t really that bad, so long as said tent is well-secured and your air mattress is keeping you out of the half-inch of water that has collected in it. Also, I really want a pop-up camping trailer.
  9. If you are willing to help people push their car out of the mud, other will be willing to help push your car out of the mud.
  10. Janet Farrar is a down-to-earth person who has the sense and humility to not want to live on a pedestal. That said, even at her age she is a tremendous and powerful force in ritual.
  11. Thymic function is related to the heart chakra. This implies to me that the heart chakra also relates to the ability to identify what is harmful to the self, be it external or internal in origin. The dictate of “trust your heart” or “follow your heart” is one of critical discernment on an emotional level. The idea that following your heart equates to non-discriminatory openness, trust, and love for everyone does not seem to be borne out by this.
  12. Dancing in combat boots is not a good idea. This is the fourth time this lesson has been taught to me.
  13. When you’ve been slogging through mud and swimming in a mucky pond, sitting on a strange public toilet seat is no big deal.
  14. It’s good to have people who look out for you. Likewise, it is good to have people to look out for. Family and friends are the most wonderful things in the world, even if they are assholes.
  15. Disconnecting from the internet for a time is glorious. Even if it means you have to weather the storm without seeing the radar.
  16. Ultimately, it is more fun to drink water when dancing around a fire than alcohol.
  17. Water is for the Physical, Alcohol is for the Body, and Weed is for the Mind.
  18. If your body expels a large amount of alcohol, it is probably a sign you’ve had a little too much to drink.
  19. Singing loudly and obnoxiously in the woods is fun. Especially with six other people who all know the words.
  20. Music is way more important to me than I have previously thought or admitted, even after my coming out as an artist. I ignore this at the peril of my soul.
  21. My worrying about a job or career is irrelevant. My three biggest passions are writing, music, and magic. I have been neglecting all of them. Nurturing all three of these things is of vital importance to my well-being, and will ultimately replace and exceed any current source of income I may have or be skilled at. Even cooking. At my core, I am a storyteller, and writing, music, and ritual are how I tell stories.
  22. Pagan Prosperity Gospel is still alive and well, is still popular, still sounds like the kind of nonsense Oprah spews to her upper-middle class audience whilst interviewing the author of the Secret, and is still annoying bullshit.
  23. Getting into the right vibe and energy sometimes involves letting go of something you’re been working hard at. When wasps keep chasing you away during your invoking pentagram ritual, it’s probably a sign that it’s okay to skip it for a few days. Sometimes its a sign you’ve been on the wrong track.
  24. Never go to a pagan festival with a plan for what you want to do. You will fail. That said, drawing the 8 of cups in a reading about how your festival will be is not a bad thing. In fact, it was a very good thing.
  25. Connecting to land spirits is far easier than I imagined it to be.
  26. I know have a frame of reference for how I visualize things. This allows me to describe it to other people and will hopefully be a way for me to develop it.
  27. Pagan festivals are awesome, even if they are relatively uneventful. And like good drink they are best shared with unusual people.