Sometimes You Just Gotta Open Your Mouth

It’s been a harrowing summer-into-autumn for me. Things great and small happened, from teaching on the West Coast for the first time to being diagnosed with congestive heart failure. I now have the responsibility of running a brand new Northern Tradition Kindred named Wardenheart, which both excites and scares the hell out of me. But every time I sit down and think “You know, you haven’t written anything publicly for quite a while there, kiddo”, my brain freezes up and demands more stupid reality television. On more than one occasion when faced with complete writer’s block, Loki has given me the same advice – “Just open your mouth and see what happens.” So as I write this entry, I have no great plan, no secret outline, not even sure where it will go or if it will be worth reading – but I will publish it, because at this point anything is better than silence.

A big part of my spiritual journey these past few months has been experiencing the stark reality of a prediction/oracular message I was given four years ago. It has become almost commonplace parlance for me and my friends/lovers/family to talk about the fact that I don’t have much longer on this side of the veil. Even in starting the Kindred, a big portion of what I feel is my responsibility is to do everything within my power to make each and every member as proficient as they want to be, so that at no time does the group’s vitality rest solely on my shoulders. I have much practice at this, having to simultaneously make real plans for the future while leaving enough wiggle room that should I fall ill, the world will not end. But now, knowing that I have stage three of a four stage disease, that sense that I won’t be around for much longer feels much more real. The prognosis for someone like me with CHF is right around 50% after five years; I have enough co-morbidities that my doctors have been pretty frank with me which side of the coin my destiny likely is.

To be super clear, I am not chucking in any proverbial towels. If anything, I am spending a great deal of time thinking very seriously about what things I feel I must accomplish, or at least try to accomplish, with a limited amount of time and even more limited amount of energy. One of the most crippling symptoms I am dealing with is fatigue; I honestly can sleep 18 hours a day and be ready for a nap shortly after waking. It’s a kind of tired that you can’t really understand until you’re in it. I’ve actually started falling asleep sitting up and then falling or bonking my head when I go cataplectic.

But as Hel reminds me more and more these days, this is the year of Dedication. (I know that some of you don’t read my other blog, in which I detail my work with Hel more often. Starting with 2013, which was the year of Contemplation, I have been given a different “activity” with which I am to frame how I spend my time.) It means that I still have to get up and put on my big shaman pants and do The Work. I can’t just close up shop and spend the rest of my days keeping comfortable – if that was the plan, I would have just checked out when I was given the chance. But I chose to stick it out, and I don’t regret that decision.

The “easier” part of Dedication was just looking at the different commitments I have been running on autopilot – events I have been going to for years, hosting parties for certain events or rituals for holidays, traveling to see friends and loved ones – and start culling those that don’t fit into whatever Grand Plan I’m still trying to figure out. Some of those decisions were made for me – I became persona non grata at Dark Odyssey events, for example, which has disappointed many folks who depended on those events as times they could do deep work in person. I also decided not to force Free Spirit Gathering into my schedule this year, for both personal and professional reasons. I don’t know what the future holds for these or any of the other time/energy investments; I just know that skipping them this year was good for me.


But at the same time, there are commitments I did make that I have dropped the ball on. I owe a few people readings. There is a lot of email unanswered or unsent or plain ol’ unwritten. I started out some client relationships that didn’t blossom the way I had hoped – one leaving because I was too unavailable, another for disappointing them in some way they didn’t really explain. I am still working on essays for the subscription service, essays that have sat half composed since June or July. I try to make a pilgrimage to Cauldron Farm every year, and this year it just wasn’t in the cards.

I have likely written about this before, but it has come up ever so strongly as part of my lessons in Dedication – that sometimes the Work doesn’t care if I’m in pain, or exhausted, or even in the hospital. I conceptually understood that by choosing to Work on this side of the veil meant that even mundane parts of the Job were going to get more difficult as my body betrays my intentions at almost every turn. A night when I was in incredible pain did not change that I promised to be there when my friend passed away, and so I went to his bedside when it was clear he didn’t have much time left. (He died about an hour after I arrived.) There have been many times when my home became a refuge, a psychic hospital, a temporary landing pad, an occult school, an overnight orgy, a ritual space for Gods to speak: and none of these were on my calendar until they were happening.

Because really – if I stopped doing the Work, what the fuck else would I be doing?


The lack of a romantic relationship, and really any kind of intimate connection beyond Rave, has been a bitter pill to swallow now and again. I am still verboten from even the mere appearance of looking for love or even just a fuck (a theory I tested twice and was rightfully smacked). Please don’t think I am devaluing Rave’s role in my life – she damn well knows how important she is to me – but a big part of why I am poly is because it isn’t fair to expect one person to be all the things you want or need in your life. I know I still have lessons to learn in this arena, so I assume the prohibition is likely to stick around. (I’m not quite celibate. It’s just that I can’t spend time finding or nurturing any kind of relationship. If someone shows up and wants to play, I am certainly allowed to do that within limits.) It doesn’t help that my physical challenges have made it very difficult to love my body in the ways it needs, nor has it given me any sort of self-esteem I rely on to turn on the red light, so to speak. I have hopes – little ones, for now – but I have a strong sense that this is one of those things that will not happen on my timeline, so I might as well just surrender and keep my head down until I hear the All Clear siren.

Samhain approaches. It’s my favorite time of the year. Heck, I just celebrated my 40th birthday (in the hospital, alas. But Rave brought decorations and secret cupcakes and did it up as much as we could). In a strange way, I have been looking forward to speaking with my beloved Dead this year. I have specifically not reached out for my mother more than once or twice for my own reasons, but I do plan on making her offerings and catching her up on how my life is going. And I get to eat macaroni and cheese with cut up hotdogs, which has become part of my tradition in honor of Jon. This year, I get to spend the holiday with the new Kindred, which feels right and good. (It is, however, open to non-members. It’s this Sunday, starting at 5pm, in Hagerstown MD. If you would like to attend, please RSVP to awesome.del at gmail dot com by Friday.)

I am planning on doing some personal ritual over the weekend to help clarify my vision and re-engage my spirit. Things have been so rooted in the earthly plain as I learn to modify my life around my illness, that I have been lacking in even the merest upkeep of my own spirituality. I can’t be a good Godhi/Priest/Shaman if I neglect my astral health and spiritual growth, and my Kindred deserves the best I can give them.

So there is what came out when I opened my mouth. I have a lot more to share, but not today.


Teaching Adults About Sensitive Topics: Tips and Pits

Many of you reading this blog are doing so because you attended a class I taught at one point in time. It is a major part of my shamanic work, which to some can be confusing. Why would Loki want me to teach adults about sex, gender identity, leather history, and kinky stuff? Without going into a long explanation, here are a few reasons:

  • Because I don’t look like a porn star. I have no issues with porn stars who want to teach, and if they use their looks as a gimmick to get people in the seats, more power to them. For me, I want to be a startling visual that there is no appearance-based barrier for entry when it comes to things like sex magic or fucking in public. In fact, my gateway into sex-positive demographics was because I couldn’t find porn with people who looked like me (unless they were being degraded for their size). Even though I only teach one class that specifically relates to being fat (BDSM For Bigger Bodies), I feel that I teach about fat sex, as well as trans* sex and disabled sex (etc) just by teaching anything at all in that realm.
  • Because I’ve been there. I’m teaching the classes I do because in one way or another, I have gone from knowing very little about something other than the fact that it turns me on or that it intrigues me; to having studied how people do it; to people seeing me do it and asking me to show them how. I’ve made terrible mistakes and had accidental success. And I don’t pretend I am the be-all, end-all; I’m not afraid to say “I don’t know” or “I haven’t tried that” and I usually share stories about my fuck-ups as much as my glories.
  • Because I talk about subjects that few others are. I tell a lot of people who are interested in becoming a presenter like me, the best advice I have to give is this – look at the classes being taught at a few events. Then look for the topics no one else is addressing, especially if it’s a topic you feel passionate about. Now go fill that hole! My “Adaptive Kink” class was born after I had attended too many Disability and Kink classes that were focused on different kinds of disabilities one may encounter in the scene, or focused on access issues that PWDs face. But in the five minutes at the end of the class, all of the questions would be from PWDs asking how they can do their kind of sex/play without the disability getting in the way! So the rest of my classes’ title is “What We Do What It Is That We Do With What We Have To Do It With”.

But what I really want to talk about, and get real contributions and comments about, is techniques, gimmicks, pedagogy, or strategies that you have found to work well when teaching sensitive subjects to adults. You don’t need to be a presenter or teacher to play, either; maybe you attended a class that did something to hook your attention or really answer your questions. I’ve studied books on everything from adult teaching techniques to how our brains learn and taken collegiate level classes on these sorts of things. But I’m always looking for new and different ways to make my classes fun and engaging, but also memorable enough that people actually learn something, rather than just being entertained for 90 minutes.

I’ll go first. I don’t make any claims that I came up with these things on my own; these are just techniques I have found useful and/or have received compliments about.

  • How To Handle Handouts. Handouts are actually a very divisive topic among presenters. Some swear by them, and compile 20 page workbooks that carry most of the factual information and use the class time to discuss specific issues and answer questions. Others hate them, citing that nothing is more demoralizing than looking out upon a sea of “page face”, where everyone is reading the handout and no one is listening or watching the teacher. I used to be one of them, but I’ve learned that for some people it is vital to have something to read along with or they won’t retain any information. My tip: I print out a very small number of handouts – maybe 5. These are formatted to be “fill in the blank”, so they have my major points but none of the details. Before class starts, I explain that I have only 5 handouts in hard copy, but if you give my assistant your email address, she will send you an electronic copy. This saves trees, increases the chances the student will keep the handout, gives you a place to add your URL or social media information, and eliminates “page face”. (I’m actually experimenting with follow-alongs that are cloud-based, kinda like powerpoint slides that the student reads on their mobile device and can access whenever they want to reference it.)
  • How To Talk About Potentially Triggery Subjects. For some, their biggest kink is something they feel a lot of shame about. Or it may be something they’re trying to heal from their past through framing it as “play”. Whatever the reason, it’s not impossible to teach a class that takes those sorts of concerns into play. For example, I teach a class called “Non Parental Age Play”, which includes role-play from the overindulging babysitter to the malintentioned kidnapper. In order to go as deep as I feel is necessary without freaking people out, I present the class in three sections. The first is mostly about lighthearted stuff like Sibling Pillow Fights or when a Little Tops a Nanny. Then I announce that the next section includes more sexual content, and therefore we’re taking a “get water and pee” break. When the class goes into adding BDSM into the mix, there’s another short break. That way, people can leave when they’ve reached their comfort zone without feeling like they’re being rude by walking out, or worse, feeling pressured to stay even though it isn’t a good idea. I announce this structure at the top of the class, and I’ve even had people go get friends who were reticent because now they could stay for what they wanted.
  • When ❤ is not a heart. I know very few presenters who have never encountered the “small group” phenomenon – where less than 3 people arrive for your class. It could be because you got a bad time slot (like 9am on Saturday, or opposed to a very popular or famous presenter), because your topic has a specific audience, or because it’s raining and few people braved the walk to your space. It messes with most presenter’s plans, because when we write a class and class activities, we’re usually assuming we’ll get somewhere between 10-20 people (depending on the subject matter). This problem can sometimes be compounded when the people who show up are peers or even someone who knows more about the subject than you! (like the time I was asked to teach Leather Traditions to two title holders! Sheesh!) So what do you do? I usually start the same, introducing me and my qualifications, but then I turn it into a coaching session of sorts. I ask questions about the people, what they were interested in and what they want to learn. I might even do an impromptu demo if that’s what someone would like. I basically throw out my structure and talk about why I wanted to teach the class, tell stories about my experiences, and then at the end give my outline (hard or electronic) so they can glean from that too. I almost always give out my email address and tell them they can ask me questions whenever.

And then there are the things that I have learned to avoid. Sometimes I learned the hard and painy way.

  • “Ask Me Anything” is for Reddit only. Whether it’s a room full of people or a single client, you’d think that sharing where your expertise lies and what you have to share would encourage people to ask all sorts of questions. More so when you’re regarded as a well-respected presenter in that field. But alas and alack, this has always led to failure. In fact, my most spectacular failure of a class was a combination of a totally unresponsive and ineloquent demo bottom, trying to teach in a large warehouse-type space where people were playing (and in specific, long whips were being cracked), and I was running on empty mentally and physically because of the frantic pace of the event. I literally begged people to ask questions, because my brain was totally fried and I felt terrible. This is also what used to happen with the ‘less than three’ problem; I’d encourage them to ask questions but without structure or guidance they feel lost.
  • Don’t assume you’re the only expert in the room. And especiallydon’t ACT like you’re the only expert in the room. This was something I learned early on from attending someone else’s classes. I was really excited about a particular class, but felt deflated when the presenter in question (really) kept repeating “I don’t know how anyone couldn’t figure this out on their own”. They had also brought a cheerleading section of either fans or lovers (or both, who knows) that she would “ask questions” to, only so they could slobber on about how smart she was and how well she was able to handle the subject in question. It was one of those times I reminded myself, “You always learn something. It just might not be what you had hoped or expected.” I am always interested if others in the room have different experiences or points of view to share. I also believe that this is a key difference between teaching children and adults. You should always remember that people attending your classes have decades of life experience to draw from. In a way, it also makes it easier to teach, because if you can relate a point to another life experience (like needing different kinds of aftercare depending on the situation, like the difference between how friends can help after a surgery, versus how they can help after a divorce.)
  • Be subtle if you’re using the class to promote other work, like books.. Because events pay a pittance to presenters (if they pay at all), many of us are finding ways to turn our classes into a gateway to other potential income sources. The most well known is writing a book – in fact, if you have a book on the subject, sometimes that’s all it takes to get an event to pay you more! But don’t turn your class into a 90 minute infomercial about your other products. A story I tell often to new presenters: I once attended a class that touted itself to be about alternative forms of energy healing for intermediate students. I was excited because it specifically said it wasn’t about reiki (I am allergic), and it wasn’t a 101 class. But after ten minutes, it became all too clear I had been hoodwinked – he would ask us to do an exercise, and then report back to the class. After we shared what we observed, he would tell us which page in his new book that would explain what it meant. And we did this over and over again, for an hour. There are subtle ways of doing this, from leaving a few copies of your book on a table in your space, or mentioning that if people want more information they can find your book at X booth in the vendor’s hall.
  • Don’t practice medicine, law, or any other illegal things. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s a mistake I have made personally. Here’s the story: I really wanted to teach a class about power dynamics and mental illness. I knew I had a lot to say on the subject, and I was frequently sought out for my opinions and advice. So I started doing a class about submission and mental illness. All three times I taught it, no matter what I did or didn’t do, it turned into group therapy. Not only was that not my intent, but it usually ended badly because someone shared something sensitive and another attendee would share a very harsh opinion or assumption about them. After the third time, I realized I had come very close to posing as a therapist (which I am not), so I took the class off my list. Nowadays, when a professional topic like medicine or law is brought up, I make sure to give the “I am not a lawyer, but” disclaimer, and I also make sure that the discussion is kept short and sweet.

So there. I’ve shared some tips and pits about teaching adults. What works for you? Was there ever a teacher that really got you excited or interested in the material? What was your biggest screw-up? Please don’t be afraid to share – I really would like this essay to become a resource for up and coming presenters. It doesn’t matter what subjects you teach, unless you have suggestions that specifically relate to teaching sensitive subjects like spirituality, sex, or psychology. If you want to post anonymously, you can email me at awesome.del at and I will post it for you.

Feb 23: Starting a New Kindred

I apologize this notice is being posted so late; I had some due diligence issues on my end that kept me from posting this before now.

On February 23, 2013, there will be a meeting in my home in Hagerstown, MD with the intent of forming a new Kindred/Spiritual Group. It is open to any who might be interested, who meet the following criteria:

1. Must be able to attend at least 2 rituals or other gatherings a year in person. This is not a “virtual” group; our focus will primarily be on hosting and performing rituals in meatspace. Many of the potential members travel over 2-3 hours to attend functions, and we expect a few who will be traveling as far as 4 or 5. We will not be adding people to our online spaces who are not able to live up to our attendance requirements.

2. Our group will be hosting both public and private rituals; it is preferred that our members be comfortable attending/leading rituals where the public is invited. Usage of “Craft names” or other pseudonyms is fine as long as it’s consistent. Although it’s possible for a member to choose to attend only the private functions, we consider providing ritual to the public in a variety of settings a foundational part of our identity.

Our goal is to offer up to 8 public rituals a year, based on the “Wheel of the Year”. (It is unlikely we will offer all 8, especially in the first year.) Further, there will be smaller semi-private or private rituals that will be for members only (and in some cases, their invited guests). The private rituals will sometimes include “controversial” content, such as ordeals, possessions, blood magic, etc. Obviously, you can always opt-out of a ritual that does not feel right to you, but we’re really looking for members who are able to push their boundaries and at least try new things before they decide not to attend.

3. You must be actively interested in creating and maintaining the Kindred. This is not a thing you show up to and expect to be catered to or entertained. Although the group will have a Godhi/Priest and an Associate Godhi/Gythia/Priest/Priestess, as a group we are all equally committed to making the group function. It is likely that when members proclaim their intent to join, they will be asked to list a number of skills/talents/knowledges that they are willing to contribute to the Kindred. It is our ideology that good ritual is created collaboratively, and that no one person should feel obligated to give more than anyone else.

4. One of the things that ties the current group (heretofore referred to as the “proto-Kindred”) is a shared spiritual focus. Although we may separately identify differently, the group’s identity is Northern Tradition Paganism. We are polytheists. We believe in the usefulness of UPG/PCPG, as well as the established Lore. We believe the Gods are imminent and worthy of worship and respect. Many of us have personal relationships with Deities and/or Spirits, both within the Norse Pantheon and without – but this is by no means a requirement for all members. As we are still learning about each other, we are committed to a curious disposition about other people’s practices and beliefs. We are (obviously?) Lokean friendly.

5. This group is open to people of all genders and identities, of all sexual orientations and practices (including BDSM and power dynamic relationships). The proto-Kindred tends to be pretty open about discussing sex and sexuality, so even if you aren’t personally comfortable discussing what you do with your bits, it is probably best if you are okay hearing what other people do with theirs. And when I say all genders, I heartily include cis gendered folks; when I say all sexual orientations, I heartily include “vanilla” heterosexuals. It is not a requirement to have an encyclopedic knowledge about other people’s identities, but it is also not a requirement for members to educate others about theirs. (in other words, Google is your friend). Some members may not be public about these things, and we expect members to be considerate of those who see this group as a safe space who may not want to be “outed” in other situations.

This also means we are open to people from all different socio-economic status; it is my express wish that money never be a deterrent. When donations are asked for, there will always be non-monetary options – but please understand, not being able to pay does not mean you get to come “for free”; we will expect you to contribute via other means, including administrative work, physical labor, etc.

As of right now, our ritual locations are mostly handicap accessible. If you require accommodation, we will do our best to find a way to make it happen. This includes providing quiet spaces for those who need to de-stim/take a break and other atypical accommodations. We are open to persons with physical, mental, emotional, and social challenges – we want this to be a space and time where you feel comfortable and connected. Although we understand that by their nature some rituals may be less accessible than others, and that there will be accommodations we just can’t provide.

So that all being said, here are the details:

Sunday, February 23rd, 2013
Arrive at 3:00pm, Meeting starts at 3:30pm.
Estimated Meeting Length: 4 hours
Light snacks/drink provided; group may decide to go out to dinner afterward
Please bring:
Some way to take notes (notebooks, laptops, recorders, etc)
At least one solid idea of what you would want out of such a group
At least three treasures/talent/time offerings you can make

If you would like to attend, you can RSVP to delandrave at gmail dot com to get the address.

On Madness, Hallucinations, Being Wrong, Magic, and Belief

People frequently ask me, “How come I can’t perceive spirits/energy/Gods/ghosts?” Others want validation that what they sense – whether it be visual, audio, tactile, or even smell and touch – is “real” in some way. Some see the way I move in the world, where I take for granted that the things I perceive, including things that aren’t easily sensed by our everyday senses, and beg me to teach them how.

You (yes, you) are already seeing things that aren’t there. You’re already perceiving things that your intelligence can’t easily explain. The problem is, it’s happening without your conscious will for it to happen. The things I’m thinking of happen whether you want them to or not.

Let’s start with the most basic. Every person has a “blind spot”. This is a place where your optic nerve passes though the retina, which prevents visual processing. But it’s not like everywhere you look there’s a small void of nothing that follows you wherever you go (unless you’re Eeyore). Instead, your brain fills that space in with whatever else you’re looking at. This means that if you’re in a crowded city, like say Times Square in NYC, your mind is actively creating tourists and cars that don’t actually exist. Unfortunately, you’ll never know which of the annoying slow-walkers is imaginary, because the sense is fleeting and by the time you focus on that spot, you’ll no longer be perceiving an image your mind created so as to “fill in the blank”, but what’s actually in the spot you’re looking at.

When most people think about this, they truly start to wonder what is “real” and what is “imaginary”. They see the two categories as binary opposites, with no spectrum in between. But as any good optical illusion can teach you, there very much is a middle ground, for even when you already know how the optical illusion is created, your brain continues to perceive the illusion. It’s using adaptive technology that we evolved to interact with our world better, but in this limited instance that technology refuses to stop engaging.

Here’s another example: when you drive away from a building, it seems to get smaller and sink into the earth. That’s a literal translation of what your eye is signaling to your brain. However, we have learned in both intellectual and evolutionary ways that the building is exactly the same size and has not (tragically) collapsed into the earth. Objects in the rear view mirror may appear closer than they are.

These sorts of perceptions are the very beginning to accepting the idea that not everything you see or sense exists in an objective “reality” that you share with everyone else. Tell me you’ve never had an argument with someone over the exact shade of a color – you demand that they see peach, but all they can see is pink. Does that mean that the shirt exists somewhere in the middle of pinky peachness? Or does it mean that in your reality, the shirt is obviously peach; but your friend is living in a different world that only has pink?

The crossroads of all of these odd human mind tricks is something I’ve done a lot of thinking about for quite a long time. It’s about the idea of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. Humans (as we know) love boxes rather than Jackson Pollack paintings; they want easy categories that separate fact from fiction. But this is a lesson you can happily learn from your friendly neighborhood madman – that there is a world (or more than one world) that exists inbetween anything that we perceive as “real” and “imaginary”; and that just because something is “real” doesn’t mean that it’s “right”, and just because something is deemed “imaginary” doesn’t mean that it is wrong.

Have I completely lost you yet?

Madness can impart some pretty awesome life lessons if you only give it a chance. Stop fighting it for a moment and let it give you unique insights into the shapeshifting fog that surrounds us. Where perceptions feel so objectively real that to question them is to automatically be “wrong”. Yet we crazy folk know that sometimes what we perceive, either with our senses or with our emotions, can sure feel real to us in the same way a chair or a balloon is real.

Let’s start with the most obvious. You don’t have to be mad to hallucinate (but it sure helps, and it is sometimes cheaper!). Hallucinations can be brought on by extreme physical exertion, or fever, or from drugs like LSD or DXM, or even just from skipping a couple of meals. Heck, minor mirages (like seeing “black ice” on a highway or water in a desert) don’t require doing anything weird to your body or mind. And even if you’re fully aware that the thing you perceive is “not there”, your eyes and brain continue to do it’s damnedest to convince you. This also happens to people who hallucinate because of a mental illness or neurological problems – they see things that aren’t really there, and most of the time they know full well there isn’t a giant purple horse in their living room but yet they keep seeing it. It’s not like Tinkerbell, where if you don’t believe it will die.

Now here’s a thought: most of us think of some hallucinations as being fertile ground for ecstatic spiritual experiences. Many of my ordeal clients have pushed their bodies to a point where they have a breakthrough, and come to some grand spiritual conclusion about how we’re all connected or objectively feel something they couldn’t bring themselves to feel before. Other friends have had faith-altering experiences with entheogens (legal and not so legal), where they saw things and allowed themselves, for the moment, to believe in its realness because, well, that’s the point in taking them to begin with most of the time. And when people write or relate these experiences, we generally accept them as being “real” in the sense that they changed their friend’s mind, or revealed to them a spiritual truth they didn’t understand before.

For example, the first hook pull I ever experienced was not in a space one would think of as “conducive to spiritual breakthrough”. I was in a gymnasium at a summer camp, surrounded by people trying out different kinds of kinky play for the first time. To this day, I don’t know what lead me to ask my friend (and later mentor) Captain to pierce me then; it just seemed like the right time. So I had two eight gauge hooks put through my chest and was attached to some scaffolding by paracord.

I couldn’t honestly tell you anything else that happened in that gymnasium. Someone could have been crowned King Of All That Is and I wouldn’t have known a thing. I was lost in my own trip. During the actual pull, I kept feeling that if I leaned back, I would just fall to the ground lightly, as if in slow motion. There was a point of tension where no matter how hard I was pulling, I didn’t feel anything in my chest at all. It allowed me to have a wonderful experience of feeling like my body was not an immutable boundary between me and the rest of the world. I was the hooks, I was the person with the hooks, I was the hardwood floor, I was the trees outside and connected to all the people inside. What I took away from this was that my body was no longer a limitation, which for someone like me is a pretty big chunk of thinkydo that changed me forever.

When the pull was over, I went outside into a summer’s twilight. I looked up at the sky as stars began to appear, and I literally saw bands of bright blue light that pulsed between all the living things – the trees, the individual blades of grass, the people in the distance, the stars above. I posted a short recording to my journal that makes me sound like a blissed out hippie.

When I facilitate similar experiences for people, I tell them that whatever they eat or drink once the ride is over, will be the best XXXX they ever ate or drank. For me it was bread. I craved bread like a bread-craving bread craver. And even though the bread was slightly stale and unremarkable, to me it was like experiencing the manna that the Jews in exile were given by God. It was the King of All Bread-like Products. I ate slowly, mindfully, treasuring this odd experience of having the best bread I’ve ever eaten.

Objectively (whatever that word means), all of what I related about my experience is “wrong”. I was not literally a hardwood floor. There were no blue beams of light. The bread was pretty damn mediocre. But at the same time, every time I tell that story no one jumps up at me and demands to know if anyone else verified that I was a hardwood floor. No one feels cheated when I tell them it was the best bread ever (and that they’ll never taste it because, well, I ate it all). They can accept that since these things were perceptionally true for me at the time, and that I am not actively trying to deceive them by inventing experiences I did not actually have, that the story is not only true, but spiritually signficant.

Things change when we start talking about hallucinations brought on by means that don’t have the spiritual trappings to it, or if the hallucinations themselves aren’t of a spiritual nature. Once, when I had a very high fever, I was convinced I was not actually laying in my bed, but was hovering over it by such a small distance no one could see. I can still recall the sensation in both my mind and my body, and yet most of you are ready to dismiss this as being false, not true, not spiritually significant, because it was a) brought on by fever and b) isn’t inherently spiritual (at least to them).

Entheogens are a grey murky ground. Most, but not all, people can understand that some have spiritually significant experiences while ingesting certain herbs or chemicals. But I bet you’re already thinking to yourself that LSD can be spiritual, but DXM (sold over the counter in most cough syrups) cannot. Or, coming at it from another perspective, that if I tripped on acid and spent an hour looking at the tie-dyed head of one of my drums (I will not confirm or deny…), that was likely not spiritually significant. (It was.) But if I tell you that smoking a cigar made my skin feel the warmth and breath of a dead person who smoked cigars, you’d probably agree that it was “real”, or at least “significant”.

People who deal with deceptive perceptions – that is, crazy folks – get to live in a quagmire where it can be difficult or impossible to create such clear distinctions over what is “true” and what is “false”. When I am depressed, I feel like my life is made of all things sucky and no good at all. Even if, at the same time, my lovely boyfriend is over for a visit and is showering me with affection. I just can’t access the part of my mind or soul that sees that as a good and life-affirming thing, because depression tunes all our senses to “worst case senario”. Maybe I told myself, “He’s just doing that because he likes having sex with me”, or “He’s just being nice because he wants me to do something for him”. Let me tell you, even clothing that I usually love to wear can become scratchy and uncomfortable when I’m depressed.

Maybe that’s not as grand an example as a schizophrenic who hears voices, but I wanted to go for the lesser extreme and more relatable example.

Now, how does this all relate to seeing ghosts and talking to Gods?

I find that the most difficult two blocks most people face in this endeavor are things that most humans hold dear and aren’t ready to relinquish, even if it means having “super powers”. The first, and most fundamental, is the idea that they could be wrong. That at the moment of their death, completely convinced that they’re going to Valhalla, swept away by the Valkyrie, because they died from injuries in a streetfight over a woman’s honor (let’s say). But then the machine makes it’s long, unended beep, and then nothing. Nothing. No Christian Heaven and Hell, no wandering meadows of Summerland, no Longhall and hangouts with Odin or Freya, no River Styx or seventy-two virgins. You just cease to exist, the end, thank you very much.

I use that example because it’s one most people struggle with but rarely talk about. We all want there to be something more than this, either because we can’t handle the idea that our unique characteristics and funniest stories can disappear and the world keeps turning, the Universe doesn’t even notice. But at the same time, unless you’ve experienced something that you can accept as being a “ghost”, a remnant of someone who was once alive, it can be hard at times to hold onto the belief that there’s a world NASA can’t pilot to where all the dead people ever are hanging out and maybe boffer fighting or playing some damn good harps. (I think if I end up in Christian Heaven – like the Pope says I might – I am going to lead a rebellion to change harps to banjos. Or maybe Ukuleles.) Even some people who’ve had near death experiences eventually doubt what happened and contribute it to random synapse firing.

So having a belief – whether that belief is Valhalla or that you’ve been abducted by aliens – also means facing the feelings that come with being wrong. And our human society tells us that being wrong is a bad, terrible, awful thing. It makes you eat everything from your hat to your shoe, which doesn’t sound like the Best Bread Ever. It removes an illusion – disillusioned – that you had before. It makes you feel as though you want to die or vomit. It may turn out that there are no purple horses in your living room, and it may also turn out that although you lived your entire life as a Godspouse only to find out that the Mormons were right and all us crazy Pagans were making shit up.

Now, most Pagans (well, especially Pagans, but other people too) carry around the concept that I can believe with all my heart that Loki is my spiritual Dad and that when I die I will be welcomed by Hel into Niflheim; but if you believe that, upon death, your soul will go to the Summerlands and frolic with dryads and faires for all eternity, that’s totally cool. Even though the underlying language means one of us – probably you, because if all eternity is frolicking in a meadow I want to live forever, is wrong. But we consider it anything from impolite to downright heresy to declare your spiritual belief to be wrong or misguided, no matter how much personal experience we may have that says that you are. People who believe their religion is right and everyone else is wrong are either fundamentalist Christians or Islamic terrorists, right?

So if the first block is pushing forward with your spiritual beliefs and experiences with the full understanding that you could be 100% wrong, the second block is even harder. You will have to accept that nobody experiences the same reality as you. We could have a scientific debate about whether that statement is factually true, but since I’m totally okay with being 100% wrong (at least most of the time), we’d probably be wasting precious time we could be masturbating or something. When I teach magic (as opposed to spirituality, as I believe the two are fundamentally separate things), I tell people that the first step to doing magic is believing it exists and then going out and seeking proof of this. Whether it’s smoking a cigar with the intent of summoning your great-grandfather, or seeing the delight in a child’s eyes when you become the “dragon” that their little cardboard swords attempt to slay, it doesn’t matter how you approach magic or how you want to define it. But there’s no skipping the step of becoming totally invested in the belief.

And this is not some halfassed silly excuse why some people do “spells”, or even “curses”, and don’t get a result and others do. I’m not the kind of dude who’s going to judge your failed attempt by saying, “well, I guess you didn’t believe in Tinkerbell quite enough”. At the same time, we all know stories of mothers who have lifted cars off of their children, even when they’re elf-sized and need help carrying groceries. Because in their terror, they only saw one option to save their child, and in that moment the belief that maybe, just maybe, they can do something, excited the neuropathways of the mind and the body began pumping her full of adrenaline and other hormones, and before she can stop herself and say, “Waita minute, I am not the Hulk!”, her child is no longer trapped.

Another thing I frequently teach about magic is that, to me, it is only 50% metaphysics. Yes, there are some tried-and-true ways of doing magic that yield results, like the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram (google it if you don’t know what I’m talking about). I could blather on with different metaphysical theories, but I’ll save that for some night when we’re both drunk and want to talk about metaphysics. The other half of magic, the part that needs you to believe in purple horses and cigar-summoning rituals, is psychological. In the same way that if I tell you seeing Elephants means you’re going to win the lottery (yes, I’ve used that example before) you’ll start seeing Elephants where you didn’t – if you do a spell to help you find a job, you’re also going to notice more job-getting opportunities, listen to conversations and notice when someone mentions their business is hiring, and you’re more likely to peruse job sites on the Internet. Whereas if you just keep thinking to yourself, “I should do a spell to help me find a job”, you’re likely going to only notice how hard it is to find anything you might be qualified for, and your friend’s conversation about zir’s business will sound like ze’s droning on about how great the company ze works for is, again.

Here’s the point I’ve been frolicking around in my blog meadow, making long-ass paragraphs along the way. If you sincerely want to have psychic experiences, you need to simultaneously believe that whatever you may psychically perceive is 100% unprovable by any objective means, and that sometimes you’re going to be 100% wrong. Whether you try divining for the first time, or think that Anubis wants you to wear black lingerie on every other Saturday, you need to do your best to invest in the idea that you’re right about that, at least in the moment, and do whatever you need to do to bolster your belief in your rightness. But, with a bit of cognitive dissonance, you also need to accept that you might be totally bonkers, or just outright wrong, or that ghost you see of your dead business partner might be a blot of mustard.

When I hear Gods, I know that there’s a chance that it’s not actually a God at all. It might be my own inner voice, my intuition, sounding more removed than normal. It might be another spirit masquerading as the God I’m trying to reach. Or it might be a God, but not the one I thought it was. For example, I’ve had a few cases lately of people thinking that Loki wants to marry them, only for me to discover that it’s not Loki; however, because there are lots of Loki’s wives on the Internet, some of them are disappointed and don’t want to be the only Aegir’s wife or Angrboda’s husband on the web. They wanted to join a community of people having similar experiences, and so they were doing their damndest to believe that voice was Loki’s. On the other hand, who the fuck am I? I mean, I can talk about how long I’ve been doing this spirit work/shamanic thing, or give you references to many people for whom I’ve helped them with their relationships with Gods, or whatever, but in the end, you either have to invest your belief that I am actually talking to Gods and can tell which God is which, or there’s no fucking reason to ask me in the first place.

I tell people all the time, that for the first three years I was working with this mysterious spirit who showed up in the looney bin, I thought Loki was Talesin, a Celtic hero. I had an altar to Talesin, read stories and other research about Him, made offerings and prayed to Him. I have no idea what Talesin thinks of all of this, as I’ve never actually talked to Him (even after making the differentiation and wanting to apologize). All that time, Loki knew I was wrong, and He was okay with it. He didn’t punish me or abandon me or break me; He just waited for me to figure it out. I can’t promise all Gods will have the same reaction, but that’s not why I tell this story. I got it wrong, big time, for three years.

It happens. Part of spiritual evolution is figuring out when something you believe in doesn’t serve you any more, or isn’t as true as you thought it was, or is downright wrong. I do not believe in the divinity of Christ, but I sure did when I was 18. After some reflection and thought and feeling myself out on the matter, it just didn’t make sense to me anymore.

I want to make sure I credit the book I’m currently reading, which lead to this diatribe. It’s called “Being Wrong; Adventures In the Margin of Error”, by Kathryn Schulz. I definitely relayed some of her ideas and examples, but did not actually quote the material. It’s an excellent book, and if this did anything for you, or if you want to understand how being wrong doesn’t have to be as bad as wanting to die, I highly suggest you take the time to read it.

Belated: National Suicide Awareness Day and Thoughts About Suicide from your Friendly Neighborhood Madness Shaman

This isn’t going to be easy to write, so please bear with me.

I have a long and complex relationship with suicide. When I learned that yesterday was National Suicide Awareness Day, I felt I wanted to write something to encourage those who may be contemplating suicide to get help if they can. Y’know, one of those posts that lists a bunch of hotlines and websites where you can talk to someone if you’re thinking about killing yourself.

I couldn’t bring myself to write it, and at first I didn’t know why. So I meditated about it, and eventually the truth began to come out of the confusion. I wouldn’t be able to write an essay about why you should get help if you’re suicidal because I am in the midst of a depressive episode, and it would either be, or feel an awful lot like, hypocritical if I gave a blanket “suicide is never a solution, get help” sort of message.

I’ve written extensively about the fact that I have mental health issues. They used to be a lot worse than they are today, but I was never “cured” or “in remission” or anything like that. I just found a place between “so crazy I can’t have a conversation ” and “stone cold sane” and started building a new life in that place. Most people know that it involved a shamanic crisis. Some people know that part of that process was me trying to kill myself, only to have a talk with Loki and wake up a little groggy, but otherwise okay.

That was not my first suicide attempt. I tried to kill myself four times while I was growing up. I never told anyone and did not get help. I was already in state-mandated therapy for other reasons, and I knew that if I told the therapist the truth, my life would change drastically in ways that would not, in the end, really help me at all.

I have a general policy now, that when someone tells me they’re going to kill themselves, I will do what I can to keep them from doing it. Most of the time, it comes down to me calling their local police department and having the police pick them up. I have learned that although this policy has saved the lives of people I cared about, it had two completely unintended and, ultimately, heart-wrenching effects. One was that people who ended up in a hospital because I called the police not only didn’t take the therapy seriously, but also stopped talking to me and in one case, killed themselves later on without talking to me. The second effect was that when two of my friends decided to kill themselves, they purposefully didn’t tell me. In one of those cases, the person was killing themselves in order to end their life with dignity rather than suffer a terrible illness, and many of my friends knew about the person’s plan but didn’t tell me because they were afraid I would call the police.

It puts me in this terrible position that I don’t know what the answer to is. I understand at a heart-level what it feels like when there are no other solutions, and I can be a really good ally to have if you want help finding solutions that can’t be seen when you’re in the thick of it. I know a lot of really good mental health programs, and therapists who could give a rat’s ass if you’re poly or kinky or queer or trans or “alternatively spiritual” or whatever flavor of freak you are. It is an important part of my madness shamanism to be able to enter into another person’s point of view (that is tainted by their madness) and help them get to where they want to go from inside the madness, rather than most people who are staring at you from the outside and can’t really get deep in the trenches because they just don’t see why you feel the way you do, or why you’re making the choices you are. I can do that, and I’ve helped a lot of people that way.

On the other hand, I am obviously not a medical professional. I’m just some dude who lives in the suburbs who has had a lot of experience with being a mental health patient and general crazy person; but this does not qualify me as a person who always knows what to do when a stranger, friend, or family member tells me they want to kill themselves. Sometimes it can be hard, because I have to push past my personal relationship with this person and the emotions that well up because of it, and put on my “work hat” – and I’m not perfect at that.

In addition, sometimes getting into the muck with someone means that I push them out, but I leave myself behind. I’m still someone with multiple pysch issues, and I’m not free from triggers. My life is far from peachy, and it only takes a split second for me to let the muck suck me in.

That’s not why I’m depressed now, though.

It hit me last week, as I was reading a memoir. I read a single sentence, a passing mention of something that had happened to a family member; it said “{family member} had not recovered from their divorce.” (Emphasis mine.) It hit me like a medicine ball to the stomach. I literally stopped breathing, started trembling, and broke down and cried.

A literal shit-ton of jarring life experiences have happened to me in the last year and a half. It’s been a year since my marriage fell apart and I had to move out in a matter of a week. I’ve had friends die. I’ve been in the hospital and had multiple surgeries, one of which I almost didn’t survive. My financial situation changed drastically, and things I hadn’t had to worry about for years suddenly became life-shaking realities. My diabetes, which had been mostly controlled by diet, got much, much worse and is contributing to my overall health. I had to move three times. I walked away from parts of my life that meant a great deal to me. I moved far away from most of my friends and it’s not as easy for me to go to social stuff and no one lives close enough to just “drop by”. I spend a lot of time alone. I don’t drive, so I am always relying on the kindness of friends to help me do simple things like go to doctors or run errands. Not very long ago, I didn’t have enough gas to get me to the ER, nor could I afford it (I went anyway, but the way I got the money was not easy nor did it make me feel good about myself or my life).

I’m not writing this because I want people to sweep in and start solving my problems. I frequently don’t post about problems in the day-to-day because I don’t want people to think I’m walking around with my hand out. Or people whom I could help – something that makes me feel good about myself and my place in the world – decide I am too engulfed in my own shit and ask someone else. I also know that there are people who celebrate (publicly) when I am depressed or sick or just not doing well; there are others who think I’m making it all up, or just trying to get people to give me money/attention/pity/etc.

I’m writing this because on National Suicide Awareness Day, I want to say something not just about suicide, but about the suffering and anguish that many people who don’t kill themselves go through. It’s one thing to tell them suicide is not the answer, but it’s a very long and intricate process to actually make other answers seem viable and attractive to someone who is that lost. It’s extremely difficult to remember that it’s not about you, or how much you love them, but there are years (or decades) of neglectful upbringing, or traumatic experiences, or biochemical imbalances (in some, but not all), or plain ol’ suckitude, that brought them to this place, and a single act of happy-making isn’t going to solve the problem, or in some cases it can actually make things worse. That no matter how strong and sane you are, the person likely needs a professional if they can get one. If not, you have to choose – are you going to put your arm around them and really commit to walking them back to a place where they are functional? Are you going to do the homework to find them a professional to talk to that won’t get sidetracked by their freak factor(s) (ask me sometime about the therapist who thought all my problems were because I went to Rocky Horror a few times a month!)? Can you be strong when they engage in behaviors you know are bad for them or are symptoms of their mental illness?

Writing love on your arms is pretty, but there’s a whole lot more involved if you want to help someone come back from suicidal ideation.

I feel like I want to say something about what it’s like to have a loved one commit suicide, and how I (and others) never forget, never really move on. Many suicidal people convince themselves that their friends and family are better off without them, or that they’re a burden rather than a blessing, and that once they’re dead everyone will feel relief. It is just not true. Even when I know that the person was truly in hell, physically or emotionally or mentally or all three, and that maybe now that they’re dead they suffer no more; it doesn’t make the grief any less, or the feeling of failure you feel that you couldn’t help them, or that they didn’t reach out to you, or that you didn’t fully grasp how bad it was.

On the other hand, I am a strong supporter of body autonomy, and in my case that includes the right to off yourself if that’s how you want to go. Not only do I support people with terminal or end-stage/uncurable chronic illness having the right to decide to die sooner rather than suffer through months or years of pain and suffering; I support the right of people who just want to control the way they die. Even when I’m doing well and mentally stable, the idea that I have to surrender my life in a way not of my choosing seems foreign and oppressive. It’s my life, and I should have the full right to do with it whatever I want, including ceasing it’s function. If someone truly and sincerely asked me to help them die, and they could make a cogent case as to why they should, I don’t know that I would say no.

Suicide is not a black/white thing, like everything else in humanity. It’s not all bad, all the time, no matter what. But frequently, it’s not the cure for mental illness, either. Even now, in the midst of a bad depressive episode, I know that I don’t actually want to die; I just want to stop feeling terrible and having terrible things happen to me or those I care about. I want a quick and easy answer to my struggle. Death is attractive in moments like this, but I know it’s not the right choice for me now. Doesn’t mean I don’t think about it, fantasize about it, or don’t allow myself to imagine a plan.

I also want to make sure people understand that there is a difference between thinking about suicide and actually wanting to kill yourself. The medical term is “suicide ideation”, which just means that you think/fantasize about suicide, and may feel suicidal, but either don’t actually want to kill yourself/die, or won’t go through with it. I won’t say everyone thinks about killing themselves at one point or another, but it’s a common experience. One of the ways I work with my mental illness is to remind myself that it’s totally okay to think about suicide, and a whole different kettle of fish to actually plan to kill myself. For me, it’s better if I let my thoughts flow as they will, rather than punishing or correcting myself if I’m thinking about something I “shouldn’t”. When I think like that, many of my compulsions kick into high gear, and I start doing very unhealthy things in the name of what I “should” be doing.

It’s also okay to call a suicide hotline even if you don’t have a gun to your head or a bottle of pills in your hand. These people want to talk to others, even if it’s just a friendly chat so you feel less alone in the world. If you have secrets you can’t talk about with anyone, it can be a big relief to call a stranger who doesn’t know your real name or where you’re from (and you can use many online programs to call from a number other than your personal home or cell, like Google Voice), and tell them your deepest darkest secrets. I first confessed that I thought I might be queer to a suicide hotline. I also talked to one when I thought my spouse was cheating on me and I didn’t want to get any of my friends involved. I called one not very long ago, for reasons I’m not going to write about here just yet. None of these times were moments out of a movie, with the caller literally putting the noose around their neck and begging the hotline volunteer to talk them out of it; it was more, “I’m feeling very lost and alone about this or that or all of the things in my life, and I’m not seeing many solutions or resolutions other than running away or killing myself.” There’s no meter or metric that you can measure your suicide ideation with to confirm or deny that you’re “suicidal enough” to call for help.

Hi, I’m Del, and I have multiple mental health diagnoses. I’m in a depressive phase and things don’t feel so good. Sometimes I think about suicide, but I don’t have any plans. I take medication for my depression, and I’m not afraid to say so. I know I will have to take it for a long time – it’s not a course of antibiotics that you take until you feel better. I have to take them until such time as situations in my life are more balanced and only then with the help of a professional – if ever. If I have to take them for the rest of my life, I would much rather take a few pills every day than ever feel as bad as I have in the past. I would rather take a few pills than go back to a psych ward. I would rather take a few pills and deal with a few side effects rather than spread my crazy onto all of my friends and loved ones.

I’m only going to list a few resources here: I figure you all have Google and can find the more nationally-known hotlines and services. These are a few places to start if you’re in need of a therapist who won’t judge or pathologize parts of your life that others might.

Kink Aware Professionals: This is a list of all different kinds of services, from lawyers to contractors to therapists. It helps if you’re close to a major city, but there are some out here in the boonies. I also like that they encourage listers to categorize how hep to kink they are: “Friendly” means they generally know what an average citizen knows about kink, and won’t judge you on it. “Aware” means they’ve done some research and have some understanding of kink/power exchange, and “Knowledgeable” means they either are kinky themselves, or know enough about the lifestyle that you’ll find yourself not having to explain an awful lot.
I should mention that I refer a lot of people, kinky or not, to the KAP because you’ll find that a therapist or counselor who is hep to kinky stuff is much less likely to lose their shit about other alternative lifestyles, including spirit workers/shamans or LGBTQ folks.

Poly Friendly Professionals. A similar list, except instead of kink stuff, these people are either polyamorous or aware/non-judgemental about being poly. I find poly-aware therapists are usually open to non-traditional relationships of all stripes and colors, including Godspousery. (Again, not all, but most of the ones I’ve talked to or worked with.)

The Open List: This is another list of professionals of all stripes that are welcoming to all those in alternative lifestyles, with a focus on non-monogamy. What’s nice is at the bottom of the page, they list other lists that have similar foci, should you not find what you are looking for here.

Broken Toys is a website hosted by Raven Kaldera that has many essays about kink and mental illness. Although the full title says it’s about Submissives, the articles come from all sorts of people in power exchange relationships from the Top and the Bottom. It’s not a place to find a therapist, but it does have some great essays both on what to do when you/your partner is struggling with a mental illness, and also first hand stories/experiences.

Although it is geared towards teenagers, Kate Bornstein’s book Hello Cruel World is a wonderful list of 101 alternatives to suicide. If you’re depressed and web searching anyway, google Kate and listen/read/watch what she has to say on the topic; she and I feel very similarly about suicide. Her mantra is “Do whatever it takes to make your life worth living; anything at all.” She even hands out (and offers on her website) “Get Out of Hell Free” cards, so if your God(s) punish you for doing what it took to make your life better, she’s volunteering to do your time for you. Her only rule? “Don’t be mean.” Her book even has an app on Itunes, so if you can’t get the book, or if you need something right away, this is a good start.

Kate also has posted her own “It Gets Better” video on YouTube; it made me cry my eyes out in a good way.

I hope this terribly long and windy post helps someone, somewhere, to feel better even for a moment. Maybe posting this will help me feel better for a moment. Who knows?

Betwixt and Between: A Samhain Open House

We are opening our hearth and home to all those who are looking to celebrate the end of the cycle of the year with friends, family, and like-minded individuals. All people of all ages are welcome to attend (children under 18 must be a known quantity or be with a parent, sorry), and there is no faith-requirement. Yes, this is open to people who are not Pagan, including atheists and agnostics, if the activities seem interesting to them. All we ask is that you maintain an attitude of reverence, and an understanding that this is a religious ceremony for some or all who attend.

Here’s the specifics:

  • When? Friday, November the 1st, starting at 7pm and lasting until sometime around midnight but possibly later.
  • Where? Hagerstown, Maryland. Specific address will be given as a response to RSVPs. You must RVSP by October 30th to ravesblood at gmail dot com. As our place isn’t very big, we will have to cap attendance at 20 people; therefore, RSVPs are important, and we ask that once you RSVP, please honor your commitment. If you RSVP late, we will maintain a “waiting list” in the order people respond, so if we have a cancellation we will notify the next in line. We don’t know for certain we will reach our cap, but it’s likely, so RVSP early.
  • Who? We expect most people will be local, friends and family who want to celebrate with holiday with us. We do have the ability to host a small number of out of towners, so if you’d like to come from far away we can give you a place to sleep (although if we get many, it may be a patch of floor here or a bed at a friend’s place). We should be clear, however, that we have set plans that Saturday afternoon, so although you’re welcome to stay the weekend, we’ll be gone for most of Saturday.
  • What? Samhain is a holiday from the agricultural “wheel of the year” (the literal reality of which we can debate another day, but it’s what’s been adopted by some NeoPagans) that marks the end of the harvest, a time when the veil separating the living and the dead is thinnest, therefore making it easier to feel and hear the presence of our Honored Dead. It’s one of my favorite Pagan holidays, and as Rave and I are at loose ends for a group to celebrate with, we figure there are others who might be as well. You don’t need to ascribe to the Wheel of the Year to take some time to think about and grieve our dead.
  • How? The evening will have three parts. From 7pm to 9pm, we will have several people practicing various forms of divination (and yes, if you’re a diviner, feel free to indicate whether you’re willing to read for people, and what kind of set up you’ll need.) As I have a strong ethic that you pay for skilled labor, but also an understanding that this is a special occasion, I have decided that all readings will cost $5, or you may attempt to enter into a barter agreement with the diviner of your choice – but of course, the diviner has a right to turn down barter they don’t want or need. If you wish to attend only to avail yourself of divination, you are welcome to RSVP thusly, but the reading will cost you $10 (to give people an incentive to stay the whole evening).
  • The second part will be a dumb supper, which Rave will be organizing. A dumb supper is somewhat a Samhain tradition; people cook various entrees and desserts that were favorites of a dead relative or friend (or something the person is just really good at cooking), and bring them potluck-style. When we clear the room from Part 1, a bell will be rung, and at that time all speaking will cease. The moving of furniture, the setting of the table, the meal itself, and a short time afterward will all be held in silence. The idea is to invite our Honored Dead to eat with us, and there will be a plate in the center of the table where people can share a portion of their dinner with the Dead. We eat in silence so we can be better able to feel the dead’s presence, or hear their whispers. When the meal is over, the offering plate will be placed outside and a silent prayer thanking the Dead for attending will be said. If your Dead want a certain kind of drink, or (as in my case) for you to smoke tobacco, you must bring those things with you (and you don’t have to share if you don’t want to). When it is time to speak again, a bell will be rung a second time. There will be a short period of re-adjustment before we move to Part III.
  • Part III will be a Sumbyl. This is a Norse tradition, but is accessible to people of all faiths. We fill a drinking horn with some form of alcohol (probably a hoppy beer, or cider) and it will be passed around as we make three rounds of toasts. The first round will be toasts to Gods of the Dead; it can also be to Death itself, or even a Concept or Archetype of Death if you so desire. The second round will be to your Honored Dead – people who have had a good influence on you, both intimate and not, so you can toast Aunt Tilly and Jim Henson if you want to. The third toast is usually a boast, but it is the only part of the ritual I’m keeping close to the chest. At a sumbyl, it is always okay to skip a round, or to libate the alcohol instead of drinking it (or kissing the horn), so none of it is mandatory. If the feeling in the room is to open it up after the last round, allowing people to make further toasts, we will continue until the hosts decide it’s over.
  • We ask that attendees plan to be at all three parts, but obviously we ask that at a minimum, you be present for parts II and III, as we can’t predict how long the dinner or the sumbyl will be.
  • Also, we can set aside a space for those who may not have been able to get their reading before the supper, to do so during or after the Sumbyl. Of course, it is up to the diviner as to whether or not they’re willing to work later on, so I can’t at all guarantee that it will happen. If someone comes and isn’t able to get a reading, I will offer them a reading at the same cost sometime later on,either via email/skype or in person.
  • Why? Well, the short answer is “because my Gods told me to”, but that isn’t really satisfying for anyone other than me. We feel there is a dirth of Samhain celebrations in the area, and since death magic and the dying/decomposing part of the cycle of life is something I work closely with, it seemed like a no brainer. I also felt that having a ritual where people who aren’t sure where their faith lies, can still come and take a little time to mourn their dead without having to swallow a bunch of thoughts about what the afterlife is like or that Uncle Harry is “smiling down on us” or whatever.This ritual is meant to be built in a way where it is primarily internal – your reading is confidential between you and the diviner, the dumb supper goes without saying, and you can always offer a toast without telling anyone why, or the circumstances that lead you to. (Of course, you can choose to share if that helps you.)

So, again, you must RSVP to ravesblood at gmail dot com by October 30th if you want to attend. If you aren’t a known person to us, letting us know how you found me (fellow Lokean, blog fan, friend of a friend, etc), will make us feel much more comfortable letting you into our house. Also, keep in mind that Part II only works if people bring entrees and desserts to share (plan to share with 10 people), and we’ll be supplying plates and tablecloths and such. It can be store-bought if you’re not a cook; it’s more important that the food have some meaning for you or your Honored Dead.

Revenge of the Month for Loki (RMfL) Post II: Not a Godspouse, I.

In the last few months, I’ve stirred up some dust for poking at Loki’s mortal wives – even though I count some of their number as my nearest and dearest friends. I encouraged readers to write about their own relationships with Him, especially if these relationships were not spousal.

Time to put my money in my flapping maw, I guess.

One of the biggest misgivings I had about answering Loki’s call – even though I had already surrendered to Him as His servant – was that I was not happy about His claim of being my “father”.

As a Christian apostate, I had spent too many years of my life desperately trying to relate to God as a cosmic Daddy. It never worked for me, and as I got more involved in my particular flavor of Protestant faith (United Methodist), I was lucky to find others who weren’t so quick to assume God-the-Masculine. It was just becoming the new vogue to refer to God as either “She”, or gender neutral words. This was much more in line with how I experienced God, and that feeling grew moreso in my first forays into Paganism, at the hands of Dianic Wicca, a particular kind of Wicca that is Goddess-centric (to the exclusion of a male “God” at all, or worship/mention of male deity) and wouldn’t even let men into their rituals. (Or Trans* Women either, let’s be honest.)

So just as I was getting more comfortable in my relationship to the Holy One(s), a Male Deity showed up and claimed to be my father. And not just in some metaphorical, archetypal way either – He actually detailed for me the scene at my conception, to prove He had been present, even if my (human) parents knew nothing about it. He claimed to have molded me in the womb, to be what I am today, so as to be a better shaman/spirit worker for Him.

Part of this relationship with Him was specifically engineered to help me overcome the deep wounds I had about my human father. He was a very troubled soul, nearly friendless throughout my lifetime, wrought with depression and other severe mental illnesses, as well as the results of a horrific childhood. I tried for years to come to better terms with him, especially as I became an adult and saw him for the sad man of circumstance and bad choices he really was, rather than the abusive tyrant he had been in my youth. Not that I explain away or mean to make excuses for the fucked up things he did to me and my siblings (and my mother too), but I understand much more where those dysfunctions came from. When I first learned of his death in 2007, I honestly couldn’t tell if I was sad or glad he was gone. So ambivalent my family and what little friends he had were, I was the only one brave enough to give a eulogy at his funeral, and even then I made sure to make it known that I wasn’t going to ignore or pretend that he hadn’t been an asshole to a lot of people in his day.

It’s obvious, then, why I never really felt God as a reflection of my father, which was really the only “father figure” I ever had – the only other male who served as a role model in my youth was a very fey gay man, go figure – because I could not separate the idea of my father as the self-proclaimed sovereign of my childhood household and this supposedly benevolent Being who not only never saved me from the terrors of abuse as a child, no matter how much I prayed, but who saw fit to give me a deep desire for spiritual service combined with a strong sexual attraction for gay men and lesbians. Either way you sliced it, the idea of a Holy Male (or wholly Male) never really felt right to me.

But there Loki was, not only claiming to have a hand (so to speak) in my actual conception, but now wanted me to worship Him as a child does their Father. I wasn’t having any of it.

But Loki, in his infinite patience, bore out all of my fighting and rejecting and trying to reframe our relationship in any other matter but this, until finally I came to accept my lot. And honestly, it’s more that I can totally see myself as not unlike His brood via Angrboda – a monster, not quite human, but of this world nonetheless. And this is why, friends, that I get really fucking pissed off when I call myself “monster” and you feel bound to assure me I am not. I do not see this as a bad thing, nor really a good one either, but just a thing, like being a redhead. In some ways, I see it not unlike many of the other labels I have come to accept for myself, many of them having once been epithets but now reclaimed: queer, trans, crip, fat, weirdo, geek, etc.

Then, of course, just as I started to feel comfortable with my lot, I found Loki’s mortal wives. Some of them are wonderfully nice people, fellow Lokeans that I love dearly. But just as many told me horrible things, like “If Loki really loved you, He’s marry you” or “If you’re Loki’s child, and I’m His wife, that must make me your mother-in-law in some way”, or “Why would someone *choose* to be a monster like Fenris, who is an enemy to the Aesir?” and so on. It broke the shaky confidence I had gained. I cried for months, through which Loki stayed mostly distant, waiting out the temper tantrum for what it was. I felt ugly, abandoned, unworthy, unloved, because He did not choose me for a wife, but instead a child. It made me feel condenscended to (from both the mortal lot as well as He), like I was fated to always be seated at the kid’s table, that no one would take me seriously as either a spirit worker or Lokean should I make my relationship with Him known.

(Maybe now you can see why I get so fucking angry when Lokeans come to me having been told similar things – the gas over Loki only really loving His wives being among them – because not only does it fucking hurt, not only is it not even remotely true, but because I’ve known more than one who have turned from Loki completely, feeling that if He did not want them for a spouse, they would find a different God who would take them as such.)

Part of my journey with Loki is to learn about being a non-asshole Father, but even more deeply as I started my transition, how to be a non-asshole man. Unfortunately, as many formerly abused children do, I have dated some pretty fucked up individuals in my day, hoping to find some sort of Daddy replacement, only to get wounded all over again. It has been difficult for me to figure out what kind of man I am, or want to be, because there aren’t many role models I’ve had access to in an intimate enough manner (not meaning “fucking”, but as in “understanding all aspects of them”) that have panned out. I think my picker has gotten better as I grow older, but it still needs some WD-40 from time to time.

It has also been about being the underdog, the minority voice fighting to be heard, to be respected. In the past few years, some have told me they see me as an Elder, and knowing how hard I’ve had to fight to be taken seriously (both in general and as a Lokean), I find a deep honor in that. I don’t know if I’m ready to take on that mantel quite yet, so for now I’m happy to be a Pope (which I will write about soon).

So that is my relationship to Loki, as well as I can tell it today. He is my Dad, and His blood runs through my veins as surely as my mortal parents do. I have learned to see my human father as a three dimensional human being, rather than just “the bad guy”, and I have learned to cultivate the aspects of masculinity that suit me, and to remember not to emulate the aspects that don’t, even if I might pass more as a man if I did.

The Revenge of the Month For Loki: Post I (Invocation)

Hail Loki!

Hail the son of Laufey, nestled at the teat of Jotunheim, upbrought by the Giants of the Earth.

Hail the young wanderer, naught but a sack on his back and a dog nipping at his heels!

Hail the love-struck of Angrboda, the doe-eyed at the feet of the wolf-mother; winning love through teeth and blood! Hail the reluctant bride, hard won through her fierce independence and her dislike of trifling odes of love! Hail her strong protection over her heartsworn, even after he drifted astray!

Hail the young father of monsters: who continued to breed and to welcome their much-needed and much-heeded existence in all the Worlds! Hail his most-hated children – Jormungand, the anger and passion that rides the waves! Hail Fenris, the heat and meat on this most earthen place! Hail Hel, who holds between and betwixt her half-fleshen hands the hallowed halls of the common dead! Hail to my brethren: all of the children of Loki who walk the monstrous path!

Hail to Odin’s companion, bloodsworn brothers who tasted the fruits of masculinity and femininity alike! Taking trusted enemy in hand, leaving enmity to the winds of luck and the waters of friendship (and mayhaps love?)! Hail to the road-weary twins upon their mighty return to Asgard!

Hail to the King’s Jester; not in motley clad jovialry, but always there with the hard-spoken truth and the answer none other would dare suggest! Hail to the solver of all problems – even if you ne’er agree to his solutions! Hail to the rescuer of Molinir; to the eagle-winged saver of blessed apples; to the Mare who won a much-needed Wall!

Hail to the many-wedded Lover! Hail to He who won the heart of the innocent Sigyn! Hail to the husband who can be as gentle with His love as He is harsh; but also Hail to His unfaltering oaths of devotion and steadfastness (if not monogamy?)! Hail to the Eternal Well of Passion, which He shares without hesitation or fear!

Hail to the Tester of Truths! When anyone speaks that “none may harm”, He will always find the catch in the clause! Hail to the reaper of Mistletoe, to the one who gives Balder his righteous and holy saga! Hail to the one unafraid to put His mask on the roles none dare play, yet must be done!

Hail to the Speaker of Hard Truths! Hail to the hardy heart, ready to remind each and sundry that none are made wholly without fault, not even the Aesir! Hail to the warmer of the mortal hearths, who ties our clay-meld miens to the tales of the Holy Ones! Hail to one who brings voice to the things we truly must hear, even if we never ask it spoken to us! Hail to the harsh mirror, who reminds us that the journey is more important that the destination! Hail to He who can name His own faults as quickly as He does anyone else!

Hail to the Mourner of the Innocent! He who sheds few tears, but emotes an ocean for his twice-torn seed! Hail to the Helpless Witness, who looks at His bride wracked with loss but does not turn away or leave! Hail to the Mason of Eternal Strength, who does not break nor bow when His sons Narvi and Vali pay a too-hefty price for His tongue! Hail to the Ocean of Tears that the souls of His children ever sail, for wont of a boat!

Hail to the Tortured and Hanged Man! Hail to the one held by sorrow and entrail! Hail to the Brave Countenance of Acceptance, who lies Himself down to be bound with the offal of His loin! Hail to The Constitution of Self, that withstands such harshness as is His role to play!

Hail the Breaker of Worlds! Hail the tsunami of wroth held within His mighty breast! Hail the Dancer in the Lands of Madness, whose surrender is a strength instead of a weakness! Hail to the Piper of the Mad, the one unafraid to suffer through his mind’s betrayal and yet show the greatness that lies in that path! Hail to the Maelstrom Intoward, who lies in wait for the appointed hour, lest He rend the Tree before its time!

Hail to the Tester of Gods! To the Martyr of Truth! Hail He who gives His blood once again so that the story of Man and God is told! Hail to the God forgot, or thrice-cursed, or hidden in the hearts of men, whose name years to be heard alongside his brethren Aesir! Hail to the Patient, who gathers a flock mighty in number, no matter that some spit upon His name and countenance! Hail to the Shepard of the Mad, the Forgot, the Lowly, the Twisted, the Meek, the Queer, the rounded pegs pounded upon square holes!

Hail to ye, my fellows in arms, that chose to recognize Him in these Dog Days! Hail to ye, who tell His mighty tales, who sing His praises admist the jeers, who refuse to stay silent but ring the ears of the Hubristic with your cries of worship! Hail to ye, whose right action calls out against the tide of man! Hail to all of ye, whether Loki be your Man-o-Arms or your Least-Trusted-Ally; as long as you accept His place in the Stars, who toast Him in your halls – and especially ye who toast Him where He is least bidden – I hail ye heartily, and open my home to you always!

Hail to Loki! May the Month For Loki begin!

Hundreds of Ways

“There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.” – Rumi

“But not that way, that way makes you a poopiehead.” – Rumi’s younger cousin Boomi

As I mentioned briefly in my last entry, there’s been some controversy around certain portions of the Pagan blogosphere about the intersection of fandom and faith. Some talk of whether or not writing fanfic involving a God from older mythology is appropriate. Others want to know if making an altar to Superman is the same as making one to Osiris, or if its okay to use comic-book-derived images of certain Gods (most notably Thor and Loki) on altars to those Gods.

What I hear underneath it all, is a strong bias. No one would blink an eye if I wrote about how a modern song deepened my relationship to a God from an older mythology. Or if something considered “high art”, like a painting, a photograph, or abstract sculpture was an acceptable addition to an altar if the art somehow related to the God or concept the altar was for; that wouldn’t cause a stir at all. But if you venture into any sort of pop culture art (except music, as I see many respected bloggers use popular music in their Work) all of a sudden it is considered irreverent, inappropriate, and ridiculous.

I smell snobbery. Somehow, someone who thinks it’s okay to make a rough-hewn altar out of sticks, rocks, and leftover candle snubs if that’s all a person has access to, freaks out if instead of those things, they use images or representative art that was made post 1960. Graphic novels – you know, the fancy title for comic books – somehow do not receive the same level of artistic respect, even if the artist involved also dabbles in “higher” forms of art as well. In some way, a declaration is being made as to what kinds of art are acceptable to the Gods, and well, I’m not one to get in the way between a devotee and their relationship to a God, including what offerings are found acceptable or not.

These same snobs have no problem if someone writes a tome of modern poetry to a Holy One, or a creative retelling of stories that already exist in the lore; heck, some of them are even open to new stories based on UPG, as long as they’re written in a certain format. But the moment that creative writing impulse is used in a way that resembles some of the fan-fiction that exists on the Internet, it is a totally different story. (Ha, get it? Story?) As if writing new mythologies in the first person, that stem from a person’s interaction or conception of a God or other spirit, cannot be reverent. They must be told in the third person, in an objective a way as possible, and the only other characters must be other Gods and spirits from that pantheon – never a modern-day human being, recording their experiences or creating morality tales. If I chose to write a heretofore unrecorded story about Loki, it better meet mustre or I’m just a lonely fanfic writer who doesn’t know their ass from their elbow. I also see much of this derision placed on writers who may not be prolific at their craft – that is, a well-crafted and grammatically correct tale is acceptable, but if it relies on hackneyed tropes and could use a good spellchecker then it must be “fanfic”.

Again, there’s this retched stench of snobbery coming across from those who reject certain art forms as being introduced to a religious or spiritual construct that they seemingly share. I don’t understand how other people haven’t made the connection between those who feel their precious Gods would never deign to ask a follower to undergo or perform ordeals in that God’s name, and those who feel it is exactly what that God asked them to do. In that debate, we can usually come to the understanding that the Gods are bigger than we can ever understand, and in that bigness we include that one’s relationship with Them might be radically different from devotee to devotee; therefore if Loki loves the little green and gold outfits on Moonbeam’s altar, but Sophia thinks the Marvel rendition is atrocious and disrespectful, who’s to say that Loki told Moonbeam (who is also probably younger, but I’ll get to that in a minute) one thing, and Sophia another? When did it become our jobs to declare what was Holy and what is Profane?

I also believe the fact that most (but not all!) of those who engage in these forms of devotion happen to be younger, come from a different generation that had a vastly different relationship to fan fiction than their elders, is part of the problem. I don’t think most of us old farts understand that although fan fiction did get much of its start in the fevered fantasies of Star Trek fans who wanted to see Kirk and Spock get it on, the younger generation grew up in an age where you only wrote fan fic for the Works you loved the most. It is considered an act of devotion, in and of itself, to write a story using someone else’s world. Granted, not all authors feel that way, but many have come around to seeing it as the flattery it is. Also, that only a small portion of fiction created in a shared world has anything to do with slash (slash: fiction written where two characters from a shared world have sex with each other, usually written when the characters did not have romantic or sexual relations in the referential work). Writing fan fiction, especially first person or “Mary Sue” stories (Mary Sue stories: When an author creates a character based on themselves and inserts that character into a shared world story.) In fact, many of these authors write side stories, exploring characters who were not given much time or attention in the referential work, simply because something about that minor character caught the author’s eye and inspired them to create a story featuring that character.

I bring this up when thinking about Loki in specific. Although he is mentioned often in the referential work in question, He rarely gets stories that are specifically about Him. He’s usually playing second fiddle in some way, helping Thor get his hammer back, or assisting Odin in getting a wall built. Not much is told about what Loki does when He’s on his own, but only in relation to when He decides to be chummy with the other Aesir. Although I admit I have not read much of this “Loki fanfic”, it doesn’t surprise me that it exists. Devotees of a God naturally begin to have curiosity about what that God does when They’re not playing second fiddle or providing a needed plot twist – these followers want to hear stories in which their God is the main character. And since I have not been present when one of these works has been written, I can’t say (nor can I not say) that there was a subtle Guiding Hand – or screaming UPG, for that matter – that inspires the author to write. It also harkens back to the idea that people who were raised in the generation of fan fiction were taught, some in early childhood, that writing fan fiction was an act of devotion. That writing stories where you insert yourself into the referential work helps them feel as though they have a personal connection with the characters, the story, the world, or all three. How is this any different than doing guided meditation with the goal of trying to figure out how you, a mere mortal, fits into a Holy One’s plans? The only difference is that these authors are writing it down, and sharing it with others in hopes that maybe someone else will glean meaning from what the author learned in their process.

Now, when it comes to revering modern day superheros as Gods in their own right, I go back to looking at how the older mythologies came to be. For sake of this argument, we can probably agree that most mythologies started out as a set of oral tales and traditions that were considered sacred by the people who told them, heard them, and began to shape their lives based on them. These stories were shared over time, and eventually some of the characters seemed to “come to life”, and before long there were offerings left to them, and altars and temples built, and places named after them. Ceremonies re-creating parts of the stories were considered spiritual and necessary.

Who has the stick-of-knowing-it-all to say that modern stories are exempt from this process? I’m sure the people who first started cults to characters from the sacred stories were also met with derision and ridicule. I’m sure the first family to put their shoes outside so a magical saint could fill them with coins or candy looked pretty fucking stupid to all of their neighbors. In the same way, when people raised in a Christian tradition see a bunch of people wearing renaissance faire clothing (if they’re wearing clothing) doing a ribbon dance around a pole with a penis on the top, they think we’re an embarrassment to the human race. So what do I care if a person decides to draw their moral and spiritual inspiration from Superman, or Star Wars, or My Little Pony? Rumi never clarified that only the solemn ways were the right ways to kneel and kiss the ground – sometimes what seems outlandishly ridiculous to one can be life-alteringly sacred to another.

Take a moment and try to look at some of your spiritual practices from the view of an objective outsider – when I do this exercise, I like to pretend I’m Penn Jilette. Not only because I have a huge crush on him, but because he’s an very opinionated atheist and objectivist to whom many people listen because he’s a celebrity. Whenever I need to get a good headcheck about whose spiritual practices are “right action” or “reverent” or “appropriate”, I try very hard to have a Penn moment. I’m sure he’d take one tour of my house, filled with altars, with magical items above the doors, and with some of the odd habits I keep in order to maintain the wards and spiritual life of the home, and decide I was a loony. And not only would he dismiss me for being crazy, but he would feel I was actively hurting other people when I talk to them about my faith, because I might encourage them to work magic in hopes of attaining a goal, or pray for guidance, when they could be doing something more tangibly productive. But I rest my faith in the spiritual choices I make, and so I don’t let it get to me that Penn thinks I’m a harmful goofus.

I do the same thing when other Pagans come at me for some of my practices and beliefs. I frequently remind people that “serious doesn’t always mean solemn” – one of the public rituals I helped write that got the most acclaim from my Pagan community involved two giant pinatas (a cock and a cunt) that were rigged to slam into each other until they rained condoms and candy on the waiting crowd. It brought joy and laughter to a holiday that frequently challenges people who still have shame around sex, body image, and attractiveness. Too many Beltane rituals that I have attended do not take into consideration that those attending might not feel comfortable in a sexually-charged atmosphere, so those Pagans lose out on the sacred fertility (both reproductive and otherwise) that comes from a Beltane celebration. So I wanted to write one that included everyone, from the dirtiest pervert to the most body-conscious prude, in celebrating a holiday about love and joy and creativity.

And yes, some people thought it was overly silly, and not “reverent”. And you know what I say?

Fuck them. It was magical for those who were present. And that’s all that matters.

As for this debate, I come to much the same conclusion. I’ll do my own spiritual stuff over here, and that includes believing in a Goddess whose mythology was written by a living author. I have a tattoo that is fish puns and butterflies, and to me it is as sacred as any other mark I have taken on for a God I serve. I don’t care that Her lore was published in the 1980’s; what I care about is that by being Her devotee, I have done more for the mentally ill and the spiritually lost than I would have otherwise. I truly believe that although Loki removed the majority of my crazy, it was Delirium who taught me how to live with the crazy that was left behind. Once a year, I release a balloon into the sky for Her. And yes, I have written non-canonical stories about Her, using Her character to help others understand how to better live with their mental illness (rather than fight it).

Because one of the hundred ways to kneel and kiss the ground is writing new mythologies. New stories with Old Gods, old stories with New Gods. Looking at oral, written, and recorded stories that stir something deep inside of me and make me feel whole as a sacred human being. As long as I’m right with the Gods I serve, whose judgment should I really be worried about, anyway?

PS. I’m open to be corrected on this, but I believe that the original spelling of the Goddess of Death/Daughter of Loki was H-E-L, and that H-E-L-A was adopted by Marvel because the comic book censors wouldn’t let them use H-E-L because it was too close to H-E-L-L, which was a banned word at the time. So although I believe that it just bled into the mainstream, anyone who uses the H-E-L-A spelling is dabbling in their own form of fanfic.