Samhain Thoughts: A Conversation with Jesus

“No, no…pleases don’t fall asleep! I’d like to have this conversation.” He said, as I was typing in my bed. I was tempted to nap right then, but I did want to write. I turned on my Hated Bands playlist and invited Him to have a seat.

He laughed. “It’s easy for people to hate what they don’t understand, isn’t it?”

I nodded. “Definitely. Or to think someone is evil because they like something you don’t.”

He gave me that look.

“Okay, Okay! Guilty. But, seriously, how can people like Trump and say they believe in You? How can they say they believe in You, when they are generally being discriminatory, racist, white supremacist, homophobic, transphobic and more? I mean, people really believe that they need to take up weapons to fight these things in Your name!”

He grinned, but His eyes were sad.

“My words have become Rome. They are not what I taught then, but I can’t help what My words and My actions became. Humanity has used what I’ve taught for their own ends. There is only so much I can do as an Ancestor and Deity. You all have to own your own mistakes and find the compassion to forgive them…eventually. Humans are good at torturing themselves and hurting themselves. You should know that by now.”

I nodded. “Yes, we tend to do ourselves in quite handily.”

We sat in silence for a bit.

“There is hope, though.” he said.

“Is there?”

“Oh yes! It’s in your art and film. There are stories of humanity’s great awakening by more than one author. There is, somewhere in the human psyche, a need to believe that some day we’ll move past our hatred and violence, or at least make it so that the violence and oppression are unacceptable and that learning, art, music, compassion, love are normal instead of the exception.”

I nodded. Yes, we have a lot of that, and a lot of the art I consume is of that. “But we’re far from that place,” I said.

“Yes, that’s true. It’s like any wound: you have to go through a lot of pain and discomfort until it goes away. The unfortunate thing is that you were born in the middle of the pain, so it seems like things will never get better.”

“Really? You mean it will get better?”

He smiled sadly. “Eventually.”

That didn’t really inspire hope, but I have always had at least a little in my heart.

“That’s the spirit!” He said, as he stood up to leave. “I have hope that you will continue to spread the teachings of love and hope. It doesn’t even have to be in My name. I’ll tell you a secret: My hope was always to make people see others as human beings, to see themselves in others. It was never any more than that, really. The religion isn’t important, but that is.”

He left the room while “Sympathy for the Devil” was playing…

Samhain Thoughts: A Conversation with Ereshkigal

“You humans are very strange creatures,” She said as She sat down.

I took a sip of my cocoa. “I can’t argue with You about that. We tend to do a lot of weird stuff to each other and to our planet. We are stubborn, willful, quick to anger, but then we can be full of compassion, joy, and happiness.”

“Well, yes, that’s very true.” She paused. “But your species doesn’t learn very well from it’s past, does it?”

“No, unfortunately.”

“You all come through My realm, one way or another, and yet you never seem to listen to the Ancestors that came before you. They leave you books and pictures and art and music, and still there are those who willfully ignore or deny the atrocities done. They deny the signs of those who would only seek power for their own ends and feed on the hatred of others. They would willingly ignore the human race’s ability to change and adapt based on perceived notions of a lack of perfection in word and deed.”

I grimaced behind another sip of cocoa. I was rather glad that this conversation was in my head rather than physically real. Then again, I suppose if Ereshkigal became visible in the coffee shop, it would make things rather interesting.

She raised Her eyebrow at me.

I quickly answered:

“Some believe that it is only through perfection that we can change society. Others believe that we can only get to You and the other Gods through perfection. They believe that if we make mistakes somehow we’re not good enough. And, I think, sometimes some of us will shame and degrade others for mistakes long after the mistake was made and learned from.”

“What do you believe?”

“Well, I believe…I….” I stumbled.

“Do you not have an opinion?”

“I do…it’s just that…well…it’s not very popular…”

She raised her eyebrow at me again. “Priest.” She reminded me.

I took a deep breath. Right.

“I believe that demanding perfection from each other actually does more harm than good. If we don’t take the time to explain to someone who makes a mistake out of ignorance what they’ve done wrong, there’s no room for change. If we just tell someone they’re a horrible person and that they should just sit down and shut up, then all that does is build resentment.”

“And what of those who do it out of malice?”

“Well,” I said, “sit down and shut up can be a bit more effective then. I think there are some people I won’t be able to change.”

She laughed. “No, you can’t change everyone. You can’t change anyone unless they see the need to change.”

“But what about people’s anger?” I said, frustrated. “How can I acknowledge someone’s very real feelings around their oppression, but call them out on their lack of compassion towards those who want to learn and grow? I mean, I get that people get sick of educating people. I get tired of it, too. Sometimes it’s just easier to back away and just leave it alone!”

The Queen of the Underworld looked at me for a moment with sad eyes, then stood up to walk around the room. She stood behind the Latinx couple with a baby.

“Their daughter will get bullied and they will not be able to find an apartment because of their skin color and speech.”

She moved to stand next to the white man at his computer. “He doesn’t know his privilege, but he makes donations to charities every year because he can take it off his taxes.”

She moves to the white man and Asian looking man talking. “They are friends and meet here often. They both have conflicts of faith.”

Then she stood next to a teenage girl. “She knows that the world is wrong right now, and yet she will be a beacon of hope and change as she gets older.”

She wanders around standing near people and showing me their pasts and futures. Their humanity, their oppressions, their privileges, their struggles.

“They will all learn what they need to learn in this life. You are one teacher in a sea of teachers that they will come across. You don’t necessarily need to acknowledge their oppressions, but you need to absolutely acknowledge their humanity.”

I nodded.

“Remember what the Morrigan told you: you cannot save them all. And sometimes Death, in Spirit or in Fact, is a mercy, not a punishment.”

I nodded again. She sat down again.

I tried to think of something else to say, but my words were failing me.

She touched my face. “Don’t worry, my love, when they come to me, they will finally learn. It is not your place to demand perfection, but is is your place to try and emulate that which you hold dear. You will fail sometimes, but if you can tell me that you did the best you could when you arrive at My Gates, then I would be satisfied.”

I nodded.

“Yes,” She said as She got up to walk away, “You humans are very odd creatures.”

Samhain Meditation 1: Crow’s Arch

Close your eyes. Take a deep breath. Feel the firmness of the chair that you are in. Feel it hold your body. Breathe deep again, and let your body relax. Let your mind drift, floating in the darkness.

You begin to see stars form in the darkness, small pinpricks of light that seem to be moving way from you, as if you were watching the sky on fast forward. Soon, the moon rises, and you see that you are sitting on a rock in the middle of the crossroads in the midst of a vast plain.

When you stand up from the rock, a bird swoops down and lands in front of you. It is Crow, who says,

“I have come to guide you. Follow me!”

He cocks his head to look at you, and then flies off. You follow.

After following Crow for awhile, you see two orange specks of light in the darkness. As you come closer, you realize that they are two torches on either side of a large arch. The arch looks empty, but when you stand in front of it, you can hear voices from the other side as if they are coming from a closed room. You ask Crow about the arch, and he tells you, as he lands on top of it, that it is the Gateway of the Dead.

He tells you: “I will fetch one of your Ancestors for you, but there must be payment! What shiny thing will you give me?”

You look around, but you are dressed plainly and you have nothing on you to give to the Crow. The Crow begins to caw, which sounds a lot like laughter.

“I do not want jewels, silly human! I want the one thing about yourself that you want to give up. It will be as tasty as carrion!” He flies down from his perch on the arch to land in front of you, dancing a little in anticipation.

You look inside yourself for a part of yourself that you wish to give up: a bad habit, self-doubt, fear about a certain thing, something that’s blocking your creativity, PTSD, or any other thing you feel you can give up. You remember to be specific about what it is so that you don’t damage what’s left of you. You hold out your hands and imagine it as a physical presence. When you finish manifesting it, you offer it to Crow, who takes it and gobbles it up with a satisfying “caw!”

“Wait here!” the Crow says, and he flies through the arch. As you wait for his return, you notice that there are stones close to the circle of light that are just right for sitting on. Eventually you see a vaguely human shape emerging from the arch. It starts to walk towards you, and as it does, it solidifies into one of your Beloved Dead. The Crow follows after they manifest and resumes his perch on top of the arch.

You invite this person to sit with you on the stones and you begin to talk.


After you two talk for awhile, Crow comes down off the arch to where you two are sitting and says to your Beloved Dead, “It is time.” You ask them for any last messages, hug them, and they follow Crow back to the arch. Crow perches on their shoulder as they walk back through the arch. Once they are fully through, you start walking back to the crossroads.

As you reach the crossroads, you hear the beat of wings, and Crow lands on the rock. He says, “I have one last message for you…” and he gives it to you. (…) You thank him, and he flies away with a caw.

You sit on the rock again, take a deep breath, and return to floating in the darkness. And when you are ready, you return to the present, to this room and open your eyes.

Midnight Epiphanies

I have never been a good scholar. Oh, sure, I’ve written scholarly essays that gave me the grades I needed to pass the classes that I was in, but when it comes to scholarly concepts (especially when it comes to the human condition), I fail. I fail at getting the words right. I fail at being the person that the other social justice scholars think I should be. I even tried writing a book that talked about all of these concepts of privilege, oppression, intersectionality, and all of the other concepts that I’m supposed to know as an educated feminist. Even in that, I failed, because I know that there are other people out there who can explain them much better than I can.

Yet, here I am, after reading essays by bell hooks, in the middle of the night, writing an essay about my failures as a social justice scholar. Or, to be more accurate, my failure to be a scholarly social justice writer. My wife, who is as much my priest as she is my wife, suggested to me that I read those authors who write passionately. My mind thought of all the Womanist theologians who inspired me through seminary (and while I am not black myself, I found Womanist theology a breath of fresh air after reading the droning that is white feminist theology in my seminary days), and my brain connected “bell hooks” with “you should read her work.” So I fired up my Kindle, downloaded several of her works, and started reading “remembered rapture: the writer at work.”

And here I am, writing, in the middle of the night about my failure as a scholarly writer.

I’m still a theologian, though. I think about religion and spiritual matters all the time. It makes me hope that even though I won’t be scholarly in my writing, with mounds of footnotes that reference Rahner, or Tillich, or Spong, or any of the other classical or modern theologians, that the theology police won’t come and confiscate my theologian card. Frankly, regular, scholarly theology can be incredibly dull to me. They have the same conversations over and over again about the same few topics using twenty-five dollar words in 1100 pages, when, in my mind, they could have edited it down to about 100 pages and moved on with more important things. I felt this especially true when I was reading white feminist theologians (although, I think I can forgive them for it since in the misogynistic world of academia, women are forced to go above and beyond to prove their sincerity).

I could go on about my gripes with modern scholarly theology, but that’s not really why I’m up in the middle of the night writing this essay.

No, I’m up in the middle of the night because I’ve had an epiphany about my own writing.

I am just not a scholarly writer, hence the talk about my failure as a scholarly writer. You see, I wrote a book about radical inclusion. It was filled with explanations about the concepts I mentioned earlier: privilege, intersectionality, etc. All of that stuff about social justice that I’ve learned over the years and talked with many people about on my podcast. This book goes into very specific details about what I think is wrong in the Pagan community, and my ideas about how to bring in radical inclusion, or, at least, a set of questions one can use to bring radical inclusion from the head to the heart (as Bishop Flunder of City of Refuge would say). I poured out 25000 words into a document that I then sent to others to read.

But if I’m honest with myself, there was something about it, even in my excitement of having written it (or really, having written 25000 words on anything at all). I knew in the back of my mind that it was a failure. I could feel that there was something missing, something not quite right. I wasn’t seeing something in it that I felt should have been obvious. I thought that maybe I was too close to the writing and that I needed others to read it to help me find out what I was missing.

When the first comments came in, especially the more pointed and honest ones, imposter syndrome and depression hit me really hard. At first I was defensive. When I talked with my wife about the comments, she helped me put them in perspective, since many of them were very valid commentary about my own privilege and knowledge. I took a look at my own defensiveness, did some work around my depression and imposter syndrome, and left the commentary to sit for awhile. When I looked at it again, I realized that it was all true. It wasn’t the fault of the people giving me their comments, far from it, it was my own. And tonight, the epiphany is that I tried to write something “how to” and scholarly, which I’m not good at. As I said, there are many people who can, and do, write about these topics in a scholarly and explanatory way much better than I can.

The second half of this epiphany came earlier today when I asked my wife about which writing she thought was my best. She told me that it was the writing I did when I Spirit was coming through and when I wrote about the things I’m most passionate about. When I thought about it, I knew she was right. All of my blog rants, prose pieces about deities and spiritual experiences, human stories around my faith and belief, those were the things that always felt “right” when I wrote them. They were the pieces that felt the most satisfying to me when I put them out into the world.

If I really think about it, I’m more of a works versus faith type of theologian. I’m more interested in how spirit moves through us. In how people use spirit for good and in observing the ways humans interact with each other. For example: I could explain radical inclusion by citing scholars and theologians in a massive tome, or I could tell you a story about a young autistic boy who gave me a hug at the doctor’s office and the mother’s profound relief that I not only accepted that hug, but treated him like a human being instead of a freak. The first I’m miserable at. The second, however, still tugs at my emotions and makes me want to write.

I’m a scholarly failure, and I’m actually rather OK with that.

It only took 25000 words, my wife, some beta readers, and a bell hooks essay for me to figure this out.

And one late night (or early morning) essay writing session for me to really believe it.

(This post was written in the wee hours of the morning of September 23, 2016)

Baked Stuffed Pumpkin with Mushrooms, Spinach, and Cheese (A Mabon Recipe)

I made this for my coven the other night for our Mabon dinner and it was an instant hit! This is vegetarian and gluten free! Yes, you can make this with regular bread if you wish, although, we all liked the texture of the gluten free bread in it (it doesn’t get as mushy). This is pretty adaptable, and according to my original sources, you could also use cooked rice instead of bread. I may also make a non-veg version of this by adding some cooked bacon. (Mmmmm….bacon!)

I was inspired to try doing a stuffed pumpkin by this blog post and video by Jas. Townsend and Son, Inc, who have a YouTube show about 18th Century Cooking.

What you need:

1 pumpkin, about 3 lbs (or an acorn squash, or kobocha)
About 2-3 cups of gluten free bread cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 8 oz package of a shredded cheese blend of your choice (you can always add extra)
1 8 oz package of sliced mushrooms
1 5-8 oz package of baby spinach
2 shallots, finely diced
2 heaping spoonfuls of minced garlic (or about 4-6 large fresh cloves diced fine)
salt and pepper to taste
heavy cream
1-2 tablespoons of butter

What to do:

  1. Cut the top off your pumpkin and scoop out all the seeds. (You can either discard the seeds or roast them.)
  2. Melt the butter in a frying pan. Put in the shallots and cook until just translucent.
  3. Add the garlic and mushrooms. Cook until the mushrooms are golden brown.
  4. Add the baby spinach and cover the pan to let it wilt.
  5. While the spinach is wilting, add your bread cubes, cheese, salt, and pepper in a large bowl and toss together.
  6. Once the spinach is wilted, stir the spinach, mushrooms, shallots and garlic together until they’re well mixed, then add it to the large bowl with the bread cubes. (Some of the cheese will melt, but don’t worry, it’s ok!)
  7. Combine all the ingredients in the bowl until well mixed, and then pack as much as you can into the pumpkin, squishing it down into the pumpkin if you have to, until you can just fit the top of the pumpkin on without it sticking up too much. (The top should still fit as if you were making a jack-o-lantern.)
  8. Slowly (!!) add the heavy cream. You’ll want to do this in 2 or 3 stages. Add some, then let that soak in a bit. Then add a bit more, let it soak in, and then add a little bit more. You want to be able to see the cream come a bit to the top, but not so much that it’s drowning (with all the bread and stuff packed in, you won’t be able to add too much anyway).
  9. Put the top back on.

Cooking method 1 (which is how I cooked it for our dinner):

Wrap the pumpkin well in heavy duty aluminum foil so that it won’t leak. Get your grill set up and start your coals (you could probably even use a regular campfire for this method!). We used mesquite coals, but I’m pretty sure you could use regular charcoal for this, too. The goal is to have a very hot set of coals to nestle the pumpkin in to. When your coals are ready, make kind of a well in the middle, and carefully set the pumpkin on them. Bring up the coals around the pumpkin (kind of like using a dutch oven), and cook for about an hour and 15 min (or longer, depending on how hot your coals are). You can tell it’s ready if you can poke the pumpkin from the outside and it feels like it’ll squish if you poked it too hard. Carefully remove from the coals into a heat proof dish, unwrap, and be ready for awesomeness!

Cooking method 2 (for the less pyro among us):

Put the lid on the pumpkin and bake at 350 degrees F for approximately 1 – 1.5 hours. Basically, when you can stick a knife in the pumpkin without resistance, it’s done. To make it fancy, you could take the tops off, add more of the shredded cheese, and put it back into the oven until it’s all good and bubbly.

Blessed Mabon everyone!

So, this happened…

img_1864 img_1865

The final design and tattooing is being done by the super duper awesome Morpheus Ravenna of Banshee Arts Studios. (Pictures by Calyxa Omphalos)

In two weeks we’ll be doing all the fill, but OMG! Look how awesome!! (And Crow was being pretty funny while the tattooing was going on!)

Squee!! 🙂


Being Dismissive of People Who Don’t March (aka More Social Justice-y than You)

There’s a thing in social justice and activist communities that has now become a call-out culture thing that really bothers me. It’s the idea that if you’re not doing “X activist thing” that somehow you are not doing enough, or you don’t care about the subject of said activist thing, or that you are somehow complicit with the oppressors if you’re not making statements about everything that comes up.

I see this over and over in many communities:

  • Some activists in seminary thought other seminarians weren’t activist enough because they didn’t march on the streets during the Occupy movement. (or BLM or other marches, etc)
  • Some people in many different communities may think that I don’t care about certain topics because I don’t blog about them, or that Circle of Cerridwen doesn’t make a specific statement, or that we don’t send money, etc etc…
  • Because I pushed Bi issues in college, I wasn’t accepted by the local queer community that was heavily lesbian and gay. Even a lesbian professor, when I came out to her, refused to talk to me afterwards because I wasn’t for the “lesbian cause.” (I’m somewhat certain, though, that she was a TERF.)

In this, there is a certain idea that the person doing the calling out is somehow is superior to you because they have at least done something and you haven’t. Usually with the person doing the calling out not bothering to ask the person they’re calling out about what they actually do. (And gods help the person if they say that they “pray.”)

I feel like a broken record when I talk about this, but I get so many people who have said to me that they can’t do public activism for a variety of reasons: disabilities, mental health issues, financial issues, stamina, time, spoons, or their talents lie in other areas. Sometimes they fear that they will lose their jobs, or work for the government, or are in a situation where they could be in danger if they do public activism. There are also people who can’t go to protests because of the fear of being arrested. They either have medical issues the an extended lock up would complicate or make worse, or they have been arrested before, or have some legal or family issue that an arrest would make worse.

What I tell people when they ask me what they can do is that you do whatever you can, because at least it’s something. If you can pray, send energy, do magick, then that counts. If you can pass along information, sign petitions, write to your congress critter, then that counts. If you can order pizza to send to people who are marching or cook for them when they come home, then that counts. If all you can do is live your life, educate yourself, and try to be an example of a caring, loving, human being who treats everyone, to the best of your ability, as human beings, too, then that counts.

Are prayers, or writing, or any of these other things enough? Of course not. This is why we have a community of people with different talents. It’s amazing that there are those who can march with those doing the protests. Or that they can travel to places, or take the time off, or feel ok with the risk of being arrested. I’m glad that they can do that work.

But, to me, it’s another form of oppression being dismissive of people who are the support: the cooks, those who pray, the writers, the information disseminators, those who educate, those who are just aware and try to be an example of what’s good. To me, it’s like feminists being dismissive of stay-at-home moms (or dads), or lesbian and gay people telling bisexuals, transgender folks, asexuals, non-binary folks, etc that they somehow don’t belong in the queer community. Just because someone can’t do ALL THE SOCIAL JUSTICE THINGS doesn’t mean they don’t care, or aren’t doing anything at all.

Blessed be the supporters: may you know that even your smallest helpful things still counts as activism.

The Imposter Syndrome Voice

When I get into a depression, and as I’m coming out of it, my Imposter Syndrome Voice (ISV) decides to rear its head. My ISV can hold me back quite a bit when it decides to exert itself on my brain. Some of my friends call this Voice “brain weasels” and I think that’s a really good term for it, too. Right now, even, that voice is saying “Oh, you shouldn’t bother writing about this because everyone else has written about it and you’re just noise so maybe you should just delete this and watch more YouTube.” (Run on sentence intentional.)

This can be the voice that says I shouldn’t bother talking to anyone, either. It’s the same voice that will tell me that I’m boring, or that I don’t have anything worth saying, or, on the worst days, that people think I’m horrible and they don’t want to be around me.

I know that Depression is a liar, and so the ISV is, too, but somewhere along the line, my brain decided that it was easier to listen to the lies rather than believe reality. It’s always been hard for me to not think that an argument, disagreement, or mistake is the end of the world (or relationships, or employment, or whatever). I could have days and days of happy, good, joyful things but if I make one mistake, I’ll end up obsessing about it, thinking I’m this horrible person and everyone hates me, regardless of all the good that has happened.

Intellectually, I know that there are a lot of you out there who go through this, too. My wife and I share some similar things around this and we talk about it a lot (and I know she still likes being around me because she married me *grin*), but in the middle of a bout where the ISV is in control, it’s hard to see outside of myself.

I suppose I’m not sure how to work with this. Do I try to banish this voice, or do I embrace it and acknowledge that this is a part of me, or both? Is this voice more of a Check and Balance that keeps pushing itself too far? Or maybe I just need to disconnect it from the reactions I have to criticism and challenge?

I’m writing about this because I want to make it less of a Voice and more of a Thing I Can Control. One of the first witchy things I was taught was that if you can name a thing, it makes it a real thing that you can deal with. Whether I can do that, I’m not completely sure, but I know I need to do something because I’d like to be able to do my art without as much anxiety as I have now.

(This is more of a noodle to help me sort stuff out. I do exercise, meditate, take vitamins and other physical things of that nature to help with my anxiety and depression, so please no advice about those kinds of things, thank you.)

Blank Page (Post-Hidey Ramblings)

I’ve been staring at the screen for a few minutes, listening to my Samhain playlist, and wondering what I should write about. There’s plenty of dust ups and politics that I could write about, but I feel like I’ve said all I really need to say about things. I mean, how many times can I write some version of “don’t be shitty to people”? On the Internets it feels (to me anyway) like banging one’s head against a brick wall. Or shouting in an echo chamber.

Facebook has been really bad for that. That’s a big part of the reason that I’ve been taking a Facebook sabbatical. It’s not that don’t care about any of the issues that people talk about, far from it, but there’s only so much I can take before the depression sets in. Which it did for a couple of weeks, as I kind of “disappeared” while the Olympics were happening. (Here’s a good video about this and why those of us with depression and anxiety do it.) Although, spraining my hand also forced me to stay off the computer since typing was hard (although, I did get practice with Google Dictation in Google Docs).

What I’m realizing, though, is that the most stable and happy I’ve been (and the wife confirms this) is when I maintain a somewhat strict monastic schedule. Get up early, meditate for 20 minutes, take care of altar, pull cards, then get dressed, have breakfast, and go about my day. At night I clean up the altar from the morning and meditate or ground, depending on how tired I am when I get to it. This schedule works, along with my swim training, and I’m finally getting back to it.

It makes me wonder why people tend to think that a monastic life isn’t a legitimate form of work, particularly when it comes to social justice. I get that “prayers aren’t enough” but there are some of us that, for whatever reason, just can’t do all the activism that some activists think that everyone should be doing.

Then again, most of my ministry really stems more from being an example of radical inclusion. I hope that most of the time people can feel included in my home or at any public event that I help to run. I’m far from perfect and I know that some people don’t really subscribe to my ideas of inclusion or even my theology. I don’t always get it right, and I don’t need a cookie for my work. But it’s how I roll.

I pray for the Dead and the Ancestors every day.
I pray for all those who need a light in the darkness every day.
Some days I do more.
Some days prayer is all I’ve got.
I try to be as inclusive in my being as I can.
I hope I get it right more than I get it wrong.
So mote it be.