Speaking with the stars-the intimacy of animism

Above the city that I live, Mars is a bright red spot in the crisp, chill winter sky. I like to point it out to people as we wander outdoors. Look up! Isn’t it glorious that we can actually SEE Mars, with our own naked eyes! See how red it shines? Of course my eyes aren’t actually naked, but even without the lowtech cyborg application of corrective lenses I can still see the red planet if I squint. Some of my friends don’t understand my elation. To them it doesn’t look any redder or more remarkable than any other speck in the sky. How they could fail to share in my childlike wonder confounds me. Like their heart fell out of their pocket and got lost between the couch cushions and they somehow failed to notice.
When I look up at Mars I feel the hope of a possible future, of the descendants, the future ancestors, gazing at a tiny point of light, the Earth. So far from us in space and time, yet so intimately connected. Just as all humans with eyes that see have gazed upon the same moon, so breathtaking in its beauty.

Jupiter recently appeared to me in a sleepy early morning half-awake vision/dream and communicated directly with me in a language older than words. As I move through this period of my life, I feel the subtle pull of the second most massive object in our solar system. Not the Roman king of storms and lightning, but the literal planet.
I wish the English language had a pronoun just for the divine, so I could better distinguish the borderless dual nature of my gods. Some capitalize She and He to show reverence, but these seem too human for what is a mysterious churning sphere of gas deep in space with an eternal hurricane bigger than our entire world. ‘They’ is too multitudinous, ‘It’ too impersonal. So here I am stuck resorting to names. Such is the struggle of the animist who’s Father is the Sun and Mother the Sea, forever bathed in ambiguity and contextual nuance. The witch’s paradox. Categories are useful things, but we must be careful not to mistake the map for the reality.

The gift of animism is this direct, intimate connection. I’ve been able to find few books or accounts of experiences similar to my own because it is so raw and personal. There is no filter, no intermediary; just sacred community with all things. Speak, and listen.
Talking to skulls and trees and telephone poles might seem an odd quirk to some, but having them speak back is generally deemed socially unacceptable in this disconnected modern Western worldview of ours. A world so fraught with danger and exploitation that any admission of tender vulnerability is taken as weakness; yet to touch and be touched requires it.
There’s so much mystery and sacred knowledge to be gained by pure experience. Letting things wash over us lightly, not trying to dissect, anthropomorphize, understand. Just be. Like hearing a wordless piece of music and being profoundly moved. A purity of truth that cannot be sullied by definition. Limitless. This is the nature of trust in the sacred.

When was the last time you looked, really looked, up at the night sky and felt so small and insignificant and yet so holy?
Beauty and love and truth are inextricable, and always so close at hand.

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The state of the suncult

Upcoming Melbourne events:

Suncult Social:
2pm, 3rd June, Melbourne CBD
https://www.facebook.com/events/234918437260320/

Winter Solstice Ritual
16th June, Melbourne CBD:
https://www.facebook.com/events/202804910484241/

It’s been four weeks since my last post here, and it’s not from a lack of love or interest.
I have monstrously bad executive dysfunction. I’m taking steps to be better.

I’ve been mulling over in my mind the direction I want to the SGP to take, since it’s important to me for it to stay rooted in Anarchist principles, and it’s still in such an embryonic state. This raises the question of how much input to take on from others. I’ve concluded it’s a matter of trust in the core, indivisible, elemental spirit of the SGP. I have some people in my life who already grasp it seemingly instinctively, and I treasure their input.
Defining that spirit in a way that is easily transmittable to others will come later, but it is something that will be done.

In the meantime, softness and kindness are the most vital aspects of the culture of this tradition. This work hurts, it’s raw and vulnerable and real. It’s scary and confronting and challenging. But people will play much harder, push themselves so much further when they feel safe. We need to dig down past the defense mechanisms to get to honesty and truth, and with that comes powerful, liberating and dangerous vulnerability. And with vulnerability, the opportunity to dig out the shrapnel poisoning us from the inside out. The shame, insecurity, pain, grief and many other ills. No deflecting humor or minimizing cynicism. Just truth.
How to get to that point of truth and safety in play is something that we will develop and hone and produce; it’s a journey in itself, but also a skill that can be taught.

As I walked home tonight, massive squawking fruit bats flew overhead, and silent ringtail possums crept across branches. The half-moon lit up the cloudy night in that grey hazy way you only get when it’s cold.
The winter solstice is only three weeks away, and yet the ground is blossoming with mushrooms, lichen and moss. Even in the most downcast moments, so long as we are truly alive, growth never stops.

I feel capable. Not confident or energetic, but filled with a quiet determination. The SGP is slowly putting down roots, even if on the surface things seem slow, or dormant. But it’s growing, and it will be beautiful when it blooms.

A Samhain ritual for the SGP

Samhain is a time to reflect on sadness, loss, and grief. But it can also be a time for remembrance, empathy and deep, deep love.
The Queen of Red Death is close at hand at Samhain tide; Saint with a dripping bloody skull, pungent with the smell of iron, salt and roses. She wraps bony fingers around our hearts and squeezes and we know exquisite pain, and through this pain we know we are alive.

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Image description: a red candle in a black bowl, filled with water. Surrounded by tarot cards and altar decorations.

In Australia Summer is more often the season for dying, with it’s crushing heat and raging bushfires. But as the sun grows distant, melancholy creeps in with bitter wind.
The wheel turns, but its measure has been made difficult and uneasy for people not long tied to this land.
European trees settle in to sleep through a snow which in most places never arrives, allowing delicate mosses and lichens to prosper on their bare limbs. No matter how homesick and nostalgic settlers became for the birdsong of England, irrevocably changing the landscape with their introduction, the gum trees remain thick with foliage and many flowers bloom late into the autumn.
While the equinoxes and solstices are astrological, mathematical events, celebration of the transplanted cross-quarters requires an acknowledgment of colonization and its ongoing traumas.
It’s not enough to debate the merits of whether to simply shift the seasonal calendar forward six months for anyone in the Southern Hemisphere, but to dwell on the circumstances that brought us to this question in the first place.
Thus Samhain is an excellent time to reflect on Indigenous survival, sovereignty, and struggles, to learn and engage with a compassionate and open heart.

It is also a time to connect with our own ancestors and beloved dead, be they of blood, culture or law. Genetics has no bearing on this definition of ancestry, nor species; I include my dearest cats in my celebrations. Knowledge, love, and art all form the fertile soil from which we grow.

The Dumb Supper

This ritual is a simple variant on the traditional ‘dumb supper’, so called because it is performed in silence. The idea is to host a simple quiet dinner party, with places set for departed loved ones. It’s best done in the home, and can be done alone or as a group.

Tools:
White candle
Tealights
Red candle
A bell, chime or piece of crystalware
A meal
Altar decorations

At the head of your dining table, set a place as if for a guest, but turn it into an altar by draping the chair with red, white, or black fabric. Decorate the table at this placement with skulls, sweet-smelling flowers, heavy incense, cups of spring water, harvest fruits and bowls of salt. On the plate, set a red candle to represent the Red Death. As a force of nature, she does not require offerings of food like that which will be served to the dead.
Arrange enough tealights on the table to create a warm, low-lit atmosphere.
Set the rest of the table as normal, with a place for each diner. Each living guest should position themselves so they are sitting opposite to their deceased guests, facing them.

To begin, light a white candle by your front door or window, to act as a beacon for the souls of your beloved dead to find their way to you. If you wish you can open the door and beckon them inside, pull out the chair for your guests, be as theatrical as you like. Some may wish to do this at dusk, or before they start cooking/preparing food. A home-cooked meal works best, but whatever is within your means is appropriate. If you know your guest had a favourite food, prepare that.

Find a bell or some other tool that creates a pleasant chiming sound. Lightly tapping a piece of crystalware will have the desired effect. Bonus points if it’s a family heirloom. Ring it once when it is time to begin the ritual of quiet and of not speaking, and dish up the meal to all guests. Don’t worry about wasting food; a small sample is all that’s needed for the otherworldly. The dead are light eaters.

Take your place at your place at the table and enjoy the meal. Chew slowly. Be mindful of the sensations, the taste, the texture, the warmth and the smell. There is no purer expression of what it is to be alive than to eat.
Sit with your emotions. Do you hunger for sound? Distractions? Do you weep? Does raw powerful grief bubble up inside from a deep underground wellspring? Do you feel numb? Filled with love and bittersweet nostalgic joy? Are you shying away from anything? Is there anything you avoiding?
Be attentive to the place set for your guest.
Do you feel any sensations, faint impressions, polite requests? Do you feel a shift in temperature or energy? Does your guest ask you to season their food with a little more pepper, please? Do they chide you for forgetting they hate peas? Glad for the company, good-humored, or sorrowful?

When the meal is done, ring your bell to indicate the evening and silence is over, and thank your guests and usher them back out the door when you feel the time has come to draw the ritual to a close. Spend the rest of the evening in low-energy, introspective activities and contemplations. Listen to soft music. Journal your experiences.

Later, dispose of the dead’s leftovers at a crossroads, or by fire. Take care when doing so, and be sure not to look back when returning. You don’t want any scavengers following you home. The following day, open your windows and sweep your floors.

Traditional Southern Hemisphere date:
Sunset to sunset, 30th April, to 1st May
Astrological date:
Evening, 5th May 2018

More information on the Sovereigns of the Golden Path (SGP) can be found here.

SGP glossary here.

More information on the Queens of Death can be found here.

Official unofficial SGP recommended reading list

Eager to get your research on? Here’s the Official unofficial SGP recommended reading list. Will be added to as I find (and complete) good books because I have a shockingly bad habit of not finishing them. Many of these aren’t directly related to chaos magic, but I feel they add an important dimension to personal understanding.

Last edited:
25/05/2018

Books:
Killing, Jeff Sparrow
A language older than words, Derrick Jensen
First we make the beast beautiful, Sarah Wilson
This is how, Augusten Burroughs
No logo, Naomi Klein
Delusions of gender, Cordelia Fine
Consolations of Philosophy, Alain de Botton
Chaos Protocols, Gordon White
Practical Sigil Magic, Ralph Tegtmeier
The artist’s way, Julia Cameron

Series:
Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey

Youtube channels:
Kurzgesagt
Crash Course
PBS Idea channel

Essays:
White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack
The History of Mana: How an Austronesian Concept Became a Video Game Mechanic

Zines:
Oven ready chaos, Phill Hine

Articles:
https://goldenpathreadinglist.tumblr.com

Beltane musings on the Green Death

It started on the first day I noticed the winter chill had broken-at least during the daylight hours-as the cold rushed back in with sunset later that evening. Spring; and with it the stirring of the Lady of Green Death.

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The Lady of Green Death. Apologies to the people whose photos I yanked to make this. Image description:  A photo-manipulation of a funerary statue of Mary, with a sunflower for a face, blended into a forest. 

I don’t perceive the Monarchs of Death as inherently seasonal, although White Death and Red Death walk with hands held at Samhain time. What they are is abstract and alien and unknowable in terms not translated into myth and metaphor. They don’t speak, because words do not serve them. Their presence is paradoxically both qualia and a fundamental force; a firsthand experience and a law.

On this first temperate day, I had paused on my way to meet a friend to admire a baby seagull. Cute.

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I hadn’t gone far when I spotted another; dead in a barren promenade planter. At a glance, it didn’t seem injured or malformed, but perhaps too young to fly. Hit with a pang of melancholy, I didn’t investigate further so I don’t know for sure. I’ve always been fond of seagulls; although most people consider them vermin, silver gulls are a native species and thus protected under the same laws that sanctify eagles. They’re inquisitive, adaptable and boisterous birds. I once sat on the beach at midnight during a terrible cricket plague and watched as the gulls formed a line to drive the insects towards the waves so they could be picked off with ease. A favorite pastime from my childhood was amassing great flocks by feeding them barbeque table scraps on camping trips and leading them around like a beneficent Australian Pied Piper. It’s hard to ignore a bold bird that will steal a sandwich straight out of your hand if you aren’t paying attention. Baby gulls are shy, squeaky and awfully cute, and my young self tried to favour feeding them over the ones too busy posturing to snatch up bits of sausage.

Back in the present, so few steps apart, I recognized the poignancy in the moment.
For every life, there must be a death.
The thin crust of the Earth is like an enormous digestive system, grinding and chewing and renewing itself as it awakens from the sleep of winter, stretches and hungers for sex and nourishment. Usually calm, serene and silent save for the rustle of insects in leaf litter, and the hiss of mushrooms releasing spores, at Beltane the Green Lady pulls like a tide, urgent, insistent. She’s an explosive force pushing out of the ground in a cacophony of orgasmic lust, rain and verdancy.

Many living things take a scattergun approach to reproduction. Plants blast seeds out in all directions knowing not all will land in viable soil. Babies die. Eggs fail to hatch. All are digested back into the biosphere, perhaps to try again in another form. There is a critical moment in which the young must bloom, must hatch, must fly, must stand or take a breath or stretch upwards or they will die. Many do.

Beltane is a crucial point in time, hurtling forward and dangerous with possibility. Now, NOW. NOW!
You can trip and stumble but you must not hesitate. Jump. Awaken. Feel. Live.
Or don’t.
Sometimes it’s a choice and sometimes it isn’t. Not everyone will make it.

Now is the time to bloom into our better selves, and let the old rot and nourish us while we still have the chance.

 

Previous post on the Monarchs of Death.

Devotional cooking: Koresh Fesenjan for Hekate

Suffering chronic fatigue, I usually don’t have the energy for big, flashy ritual. Once a month on the day of the new moon, I clean my house as best I can in service to Hekate, and we share the evening meal. If I’m able, I try to incorporate relevant foods such as egg, garlic, leek, honey, and pomegranate.

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Last month I made Koresh Fesenjan-a Persian chicken, walnut, and pomegranate stew.

Ingredients:
(I don’t measure things when I cook; it’s why I’m terrible at baking)
2 spoonfuls of honey
Sprinkle of cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper
Salt-I don’t normally add salt to my food but Hekate requested extra after I’d plated it up
Chicken tenders, cut into small strips
Cup of chopped walnuts
Liquid chicken stock
White rice
Olive oil
Pomegranate molasses

Process:
1. Toast the walnuts in a pan for a few minutes until golden brown and fragrant.
Lightly crush with a mortar and pestle. When cooking for two, using a food processor isn’t worth the effort it takes to clean.
2. Cook the rice.
3. Lightly brown the chicken in a pan and toss in the spring onions with a dash of oil.
4. Add chicken stock, and bring to a boil.
5. Add spices, honey, walnuts, and pomegranate molasses.
6. Simmer until the stew is no longer watery.
7. Serve with rice, garnish with walnut, parsley or pomegranate arils.

It’s a very sweet and sour, rich tasting dish.
I lit a candle and served it with a cup of fruit tea. Hekate seems to have a penchant for dark chocolate as well, which we had for dessert, although she seems insistent on sharing whatever I’m eating. Afterwards, I take her portion to my three-way crossroads altar, as well as a customary offering to the restless dead which I do not eat from.

Some months I’m not able to cook the food myself or make anything quite as elaborate as this, but it is my duty to share this meal and to remember the dead.

Necromancy and the Queens of Death

Red Death is for the living. Green Death is for the already gone. White Death is for us all.

Death is a heady subject among pagans. It’s large. It’s divisive. It’s inevitable.
As a necromancer, how do I approach death, my own mortality and that of my loved ones?

This is my framework for conceptualizing death.These aren’t gods or regents but anthropomorphic personifications of natural phenomena. A symbolic representation, but powerful forces nonetheless. 

RWS_Tarot_13_Death

Death as depicted in the Rider-Waite tarot.

The Three Monarchs of Death:

The Red Queen of Death is for the living.
She’s sexy, provocative, reckless and impatient. She tastes like the blood in your mouth from a kick in the teeth.
If you get too close to her she’ll burn your fingertips. The wounds will either cauterize and make you numb, or hurt worse than anything you’ve ever felt. They always scar, but sometimes the scars fade with time-time you have because you’re still alive. She’s a gushing, ragged wound; roses and rotting meat. You can hear her laughing when a speeding car misses you by an inch. She claws into your chest and squeezes your heart when you watch a loved one slip away in their sleep. She’s pain and violence, fear and finality.

The Red Queen is always with me. Sometimes she steps behind me and out of my field of immediate focus, but she is always there-trauma, mental illness and chronic ill health see to that.
My relationship with her is intimate and deeply personal; my perpetual dance partner in a tango.

The Green Queen of Death is for the already dead.
She’s motherly, patient and persistent. She tastes like forest mushrooms. She’s the roots of a tree cracking open a skull with slow but inexorable force. She’s a bountiful feast for smaller animals, insects and organisms. She’s silence carrying an ellipses into a promise…of something more. She’s the softness of rotting wood and the hardness of fossilized bone. She’s the serene marble statue of a saint in the vaulted halls of the church of nature.
The Green Death is where I do most of my necromancy work.

I love all of my specimens. However, I knew none of the numerous preserved animals in my collection before they died.
To love them as they were once alive would be to grieve for them in passing. Sadness is too sticky; I can’t flush it out effectively and it lingers. I’ve opted out of preserving anything I’ve had the misfortune of needing to help ease from this world. If I knew them in life, I couldn’t sever their connection to the Red Queen. If possible, I bury them, so they may rest and heal.

It is better for me to love my specimens as I first met them; already dead, belonging to the Queen of the Green Death. In my necromancy practices, I do my best to serve their modest demands. They require a pauper’s supper.
The Red Queen on the other hand, is ravenous for blood. Like fire, she’ll consume everything you let her.

“…Man’s heart is a ditch full of blood. The loved ones who have died throw themselves down on the bank of this ditch to drink the blood and so come to life again; the dearer they are to you, the more of your blood they drink.”

―Zorba the Greek, Nikos Kazantzakis

What to do then, when a beloved, close family member dies? In most instances in my life, it has not been my decision to make.
When it is, due to their connection with the Red Death, my regular preservation techniques would be too personally traumatizing.

Skulls are spiritually weighty objects which require no context. The spirits which inhabit dead remains have also been irrevocably transformed from their living selves.
Cremains themselves are only as meaningful as that which is ascribed to them by the living; given to a stranger, ashes may as well be a box of dirt.
For this reason, I had my cat-grandmother and cat-son cremated. This process creates a symbolic abstraction of their whole physical bodies without the removal of soft tissue usually associated with preservation.
This way I can continue to carry them with me in my life and in my heart-at least until my own death-as I remember them, as they were. The two boxes of ashes sit upon the mantel at the heart of our home. Their spirits are part of the household itself; friendly shadows slinking around corners just out of sight.

 

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It was much harder to take selfies 15 years ago

 

There is also a third monarch, The White Death, the Grim Reaper. This psychopomp has a single appointment to keep with every living thing and serves as a reminder not to take it all too seriously; because it’ll all be over soon enough.

Sailing on Melbourne’s tall ship, Enterprize

The sea is a pivotal part of my paganism, so on the 10th of April I took a short voyage with some friends aboard the Enterprize from near my old home town on the Mornington Penninsula to the Docklands, to celebrate my birthday from a few weeks prior.

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The bow of the new Enterprize.

The original Enterprize was a timber two-masted, topsail schooner built in Hobart, Tasmania, in 1830. It was a coastal transport vessel and was used largely for coal, supplies and occasionally livestock.

Although Europeans had sailed up the Yarra river in 1803 on a surveying trip as far as Dights falls in Abbotsford, they did not return to begin the settlement of Melbourne until August of 1835, when the Enterprize was hauled upriver and moored at the site of what is now Williams street.

The original Enterprize disappeared off the Hobart shipping register due to being wrecked on the Richmond River in NSW in 1847, with the loss of two lives.

The new replica Enterprize was launched in 1997, constructed partly from reclaimed materials using traditional boat building techniques.  With an overall length of 27 meters, the rigging is hemp rope and the sails are hand-sewn flax cloth. The bulwarks are Cyprus pine grown on the Royal Melbourne Golf Course and the floor timbers are Jarrah wood salvaged from Melbourne’s old station pier. Below the waterline the hull timber once made up the floor joists of an old Freemantle wool store and the ship’s ribs include wood salvaged from New Zealand brewing vats. The heritage of these recycled materials gives her the feeling of being close in spirit to the original and not just an empty simulacra.

She’d been giving short passenger rides on the afternoon of the trip, so we got to watch her coming in to dock on Mornington pier from a distance as we walked down from the red sandy cliffs above.

After giving a quick offering of some whiskey to the boat and the sea off the end of the pier (I wasn’t able to get rum on short notice) it was time to go.

After a brief flurry of activity hoisting the sails where myself and my companions scampered about either trying to keep out of the way or be useful in helping pull rigging, we were off with a calm but favorable wind.

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The main mast.

Crewed by personable, good-humored volunteers, it’s a quiet ship that hums gently with a diesel engine. The crew love her and she seems happy to soak up their affection-especially the magnificently crafted solid wood steering tiller which happily invites touch. Constructed as faithfully as possible to the original ship, the Enterprize is a real Melbourne icon.

It was a peaceful voyage with a minimal crew and only a small handful of passengers. Although the bay was calm with only small waves, I was still stumbling about like a vodka-filled toddler for most of the trip.

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Port side rigging and bulwark.

Being a traditionally rigged vessel, after spending the afternoon and evening aboard I felt covered in a light coating of tar. The skies were clear and we were gifted with a beautiful sunset, and then a view of the clear night sky with far more stars than I’m accustomed to seeing deep in the light-polluted suburbs where I live.
The sea was playful and friendly as she usually is towards me and I felt content to simply enjoy the experience, staring out across Port Phillip and along the coast in the distance.

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Sunset.

After sunset, pulling in towards the city, Hobson’s bay glittered with sleepy, golden Sunday evening lights as we approached, the sky smudged with smoke and steam.

Cruising up the Yarra back to her home in Victoria Harbour highlighted the contrast of a Melbourne young and old as we passed the new shipping control tower then the old one, abandoned since 1985.

The busy shipping lanes were quiet and largely deserted and dormant; solitary human figures moving about on shore looked out of place, like the peculiar figures in a Jeffrey Smart painting. A lone man jogging along the wharf,  a hooded figure hunched over at the edge of a floating 24-hour boat refueling station.
A huge European freight ship stood silent in the distance; the vast temporary car lots used for moving imported cars off ship lit but empty.

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The Brutalist underside of the Bolte bridge.

The harbor is a vast and awe-inspiring vista of industry, huge machines and ships that are peculiarly alienating in their immensity, dwarfing any human.

We passed serenely under the Westgate Bridge while the crew folded the sails, then under the festively glowing Bolte bridge, until we were back on dry land all too soon.

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Cruising along the Yarra river with the Bolte bridge in the foreground.

The Enterprize runs regular trips of varying lengths (and prices) making it accessible to a broad range of people. I highly recommend the experience to anyone with an interest in Melbourne’s heritage, sailing or the sea to give it a try. She’s a gentle ship, but the capricious sea has caused her deck to see plenty of digestive carnage from seasick passengers. Be sure to take some ginger first.