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.

Sacrifices and Sympathetic Magic

Like many pagans, sympathetic magic is a substantial part of my personal practice; be it drawings, photographs, statues or other symbolic representations. Although I do work with live plants, incenses, resins, animal remains and more, the real thing is not always appropriate, possible or practical.

My shrine to the Outsider uses battery-powered LED candles and lanterns because its hidden position makes using real fire dangerous-and I rather enjoy the humour of using fake fire for pop-culture magic.
The consumption of large, juicy strawberries is a perfectly acceptable substitute for human hearts in ritual as far as Lilith is concerned, as another example.
Since the issue of live animal sacrifice is a purely hypothetical one for me in my current circumstances, I leave those moral quandaries to be unpacked at another time. What I can do, however, is make symbolically appropriate sacrifices.
Although I’m not a strict reconstructionist, I do enjoy research and adapting ancient practices to fit my modern lifestyle. In this research I found accounts of animal sacrifice substitutes in ancient Greece being made with bread, beeswax and reeds. As the sacrifice of livestock would have represented a substantial financial commitment for anyone who wasn’t particularly wealthy, I imagine these sympathetic magic substitutions would have been reasonably common.
I have a lot of local natural beeswax on hand from making my own devotional candles, so it seemed the obvious material to use if I were to create my own effigies. It turns out carving/modeling straight beeswax is incredibly difficult and my first attempts were an ugly mess. Instead, I adapted my sculpting and casting knowledge to create small dog and bull effigies, sculpting them in modeling clay then creating a silicone mould so they could be easily replicated in wax.
I use the dogs as apotropaic offerings to Hekate as part of a cleansing ritual, since my relationship with Hekate has a strong bent towards cleaning. I’m yet to test out the bulls, but I have one set aside for dedication and sacrifice to Dionysus. Bulls are symbolically rich animals, however, and could be used for any number of other deities or purposes.
Since I was on a roll sculpting, I also made a tiny human heart replica for healing/cursing or whatever else one fancies. My companion uses them for enchanting and enclosing within his taxidermy pieces, which is delightfully creative.

In the future, I’d like to experiment with various additives such as incense or tiny pieces of dried bull (Companion jokingly referred to it as ‘homeopathic bull’) or dog hair. I’m not sure how I feel about using the shed hair of still-living animals for sacrifices since my practice has always had a distinctly necromantic bent. But does using the parts of an already dead animal nullify the effect of a ‘sacrifice’? Is the intent all that matters in sympathetic magic? Food for thought.


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.

 

simba

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.