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.


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.

I’ll Just Go Next Year!

I’m seeing a lot of really great events wither and dry up, and it pains me.

People on the Internet are often taken to pining for real-world experiences. It’s all good and fine to write and chat and read Wikipedia, but actually meeting meaty people and singing, laughing, dancing, and sharing fellowship together is something you absolutely cannot get via the Internet. However, you can’t really convince netizens of this, until you can drag them away from their flickering screens and sit them down in front of a campfire.

This also wanders into my frustration with Pagans who think/expect that anything a shaman/spirit worker can do, they should be able to do remotely and for free. I can’t count how many emails I’ve received from potential pastoral care clients who absolutely refuse to even meet via Skype, much less meet me in person. There are some things I cannot teach, or do, unless the person is right in front of me.

It sticks in my craw because I paid my dues by spending money and traveling. I am not well off; I don’t even come close to the poverty line. I have a ton of physical issues that make traveling difficult. But I do it, and I don’t complain about it. Sure, there are some events I can’t afford: if I feel very strongly that I want to attend, I will contact the organizer and see if we can’t come to an agreement. That’s the secret reason I started teaching classes at events – I would never, ever be able to afford to go to the events I do if I didn’t get a work exchange. And this negotiation doesn’t have only be with the event staff – if an event can’t offer you a comp in exchange for volunteering, ask the people attending if someone might need a service person who will pay your way in exchange for your help. (As a note from someone who hires these sorts of people: It’s good to know what you’re good at and what you’re able to do, and be honest up front about what you can and can’t do. And once you’re at the event, you better live up to your end of the bargain if you ever want this sort of arrangement again!) You might be able to do a quick fundraiser: “I want to go to LokiCon, so for the next two weeks I’m offering [skill or craft] for [wacky reduced price].” Heck, I’ve had organizations pay my way to events in exchange for me placing fliers on tables for the organization and talking up what the org does to the attendees!

Travel can be tricky, but I frequently take on carpoolers on longer trips and ask them to pay a portion of my gas. Sometimes, everyone in my car will pay for the gas, and my contribution is the miles I’m putting on my car. When I’m riding with someone else, the fact I have a handicap parking placard has been a bargaining chit.

Obviously, there are ways you can make the trip more affordable, too. You can share a hotel room, or check out a couch surfing site and see if you can’t find a couch to crash on within walking or driving distance of the event. You can sleep in your car. You can bring all your own food, which is usually cheaper than relying on fast food all weekend. You can ask other attendees if someone is willing to rent floor space in their accommodations for either money or service. (I know someone who got free floor space in a hotel if they made sure coffee was ready for their roomies every morning!) See if you have any friends or relatives who live nearby you can crash with – or even friends-of-friends. Heck, I’ve seen gamers at big gaming cons bring a sleeping bag and find a secluded spot and rock the homeless experience.

Anyway, my point is that there are billions of ways to attend an event if you really want to – too many people only see the obvious – “I can’t afford a hotel room to myself and the entry fee, so therefore I can’t go”.

The other refrain I hear a lot is “I really want to go to that event. I will go next year!”

This makes an erroneous assumption: people tend to assume that, unless otherwise blatantly stated, all events are annual. The truth is, I’ve seen many events die because they couldn’t get enough attendance in their first year. As much as it might seem to make sense to stay home and hear stories about how it went before deciding to go, people like owners of campgrounds/convention centers, staff, presenters, etc are willing to take a risk on a first-time event. However, if the first year tanks, few of them will listen to the cries of “Oh, but 8,000 people on the Internet said they’d come next year!”

The biggest wound of the first-year flop goes to the organizer. They’ve taken a dream from raw thought to fruition, likely with a ton of support from Internet people who really want to see the thought become a real thing. They ride on the enthusiasm and spend a ton of money on things you’d never notice unless they weren’t there – nametags, copies of the program, a moving van to get all the decorations/furniture, etc – and they sign a bunch of contracts. Many take out bank loans. They stress all of their close friends and lovers, usually conscripting them into non-consensual service when they realize the job is too big for one person.

And the biggest secret of all: Very few, if any, come into the black when the day is done. Most count themselves lucky if they break even. If they wanted to make a profit, they’d have to raise the ticket price; thus, less people would come and they’d still be in the weeds.

The other song and dance about events that I’m pretty tired of? I wish someone would come to East Bumblefuck and do something like this there! It makes me shake my head for many reasons:

1. Do you know for certain that if such an event came to the Bumblefuckians, the attendee list would have more than one name (you)? Do you have a grasp on whether or not the other Bumblefuckians (From South Bumblefuck) would find out Honeycomb Hideout (wherever you’d want to host the event) and beat us up, burn us, bring the media, tell the hotel we’re hosting secret gay bdsm orgies?

2. Have you thought about asking the person who is running the event in a well-considered, centrally located, metropolitan location with access to worldwide transport, to come to East Bumblefuck and run the event there? Since it was your idea, you do understand that means the organizer will likely have tapped out all of their funds running the first one, so the implication is that you will foot at least part of the bill?

3. Because it is very unlikely that the organizer lives within a reasonable distance of Bumblefuck, do you know someone who is able to find and secure a venue, and take care of the bigger picture logistics?

Now, I could go on, but there’s really a summation coming, so I’m jumping ahead.

8,264. Or you could just ask the organizer if it is cool with them if you organize a similar event in Bumblefuck, and whether it would be officially recognized as connected to the first con or a rogue event with an understated agreement?

Here’s the thing: In the communities I inhabit, I am seeing a trend. Many of the gung-ho event organizers are reaching their mid-40s or early 50s, which, according to Merriam Webster, is “too fucking old for this shit.” Lacking serious, committed younger members who seem not only interested but capable of taking the mantel, the events make the only other choice available to them – to stop.

Here’s a micro-example of what I’m seeing:

Etinmoot is a small gathering at Cauldron Farm. It is an ritual event for person who worship and work for the Jotun-blooded Gods of the Northern Tradition. It has been running since 2007. Part of the reason the event is in limbo is because the people who planned and executed most of the rituals, were also in charge of running the event logistics. After this year’s event, the gythia (Priestess) stepped down so she could work on other projects. If no one steps up in the next few weeks, the event dies.

Part of the reason the event dies is because it is an awful lot of work to plan and execute, and the people who have run it in the past don’t have the energy or drive to keep going. One thing that will kill an organizer’s enthusiasm needed to push through all the stress and work to get an event off the ground is apathy. People aren’t excited enough to tell their friends about it. They make FB posts that say, “I don’t really know if I want to go CockCon this year…” People don’t get involved in the pre-event chit chat or planning. They may not even look at the online schedule to see what awesome classes there were and when (so they could make a mini Google calender to remind you where you want to be…or is that only me?) And of course, the big honker, is a) they just don’t come at all, or b) they cancel at the last minute and demand a refund.

So now that I’ve gotten my bitchiness off of my chest, let’s talk about positives – ways you can encourage event organizers to start or keep running events that matter to you, how you can support events even if you can’t attend, and stuff like that:

1. Just effing go. Even if you pick one event every year, instead of going to the same one all the time, try going to a fledgling event instead. Don’t let strange people or uncomfortable circumstances get in the way. Remember, your life is made up of stories you leave behind, and “They stayed at home and watched “My Strange Addiction” all weekend.”

2. Be creative about the money. Some events have scholarship funds, and few advertise them so they don’t get every cheap-o asking for handouts. Come up with a brief, honest paragraph on why you want or need to attend this event; follow it with what you are willing to offer in exchange for entry. It should be noted that sometimes the event can’t scholarship someone, but an attendee might out of the goodness of their heart. Ask the attendees if they would like a service person/assistant, luggage lugger, personal chaffeur, companion/date, gopher, or whatever other service you have to barter. (Currently, I could really use the services of a graphic artist…) And if you really can’t go, maybe you can toss $20 to someone who needs help- and ask them to write up a report/make a presentation when they get home.

3. Don’t assume all events are annual. Especially these days; the market is a little glutted with adult retreats in general (at least on the Eastern Seaboard of the US), so it takes a lot for a first-time event to stand out and get the kind of attendance that will make it abundantly clear that the event needs to be repeated. It’s actually a better bet to assume all events are one-time-only; that way, you’re sure to have the experience you want. If it turns out to repeat itself, then you can decide leisurely if you want to go a second time.

4.The least you can do is tell your friends. It doesn’t cost you a thing to make some posts on social media talking about how cool the event is. You may even find a gaggle of friends/chosen family to get together and donate towards a ticket or two, and then have a blind drawing to see who gets them. But at the very least, if you support the event, there’s a better chance it will be back next year.