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The Shieldmaiden Blog

08
Apr - 15

BOOK OF THE GREAT QUEEN: Final countdown to publication

A couple of quick updates about the book! I’ve been intensively pushing through the final work on the book – editing, reviewing artwork, cover design, proofing, indexing, and all of that fun stuff. This week, we received the first proof copies of the book – for the first time, I held the book in my hands! We’re finishing proofing and all the other final details over the next few weeks. And assuming all continues to go well, we expect to have print books some time in May – first for my campaign backers, and then shortly afterward, shipping to the public.

Cover Art & Illustrations!

Our amazing artist Valerie Herron has completed the exquisite artwork for the book. Cover design has just been completed and is shown here. We won’t be releasing the rest of the images until after publication, but here are a few glimpses Valerie has shared on social media. I couldn’t be more thrilled with the work she has produced.

Queen Cover Mock up3b

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Book Tour Updates

The latest dates and locations will be updated on my Events page. Here’s a quick list:

BOOK OF THE GREAT QUEEN Presentation | The Pagan Festival  May 9 – Berkeley, CA

Fire of the Badb | Irish Gods and Heroes | Gathering for Life on Earth  May 15 -18 – Camp Sasamat, Belcarra, BC  Canada

BOOK OF THE GREAT QUEEN: An evening with Morpheus Ravenna | Edge of the Circle Books  May 22 – Seattle, WA

BOOK OF THE GREAT QUEEN Signing | The Book Vault  June 10 – Endicott, NY

She Chanted Spells of Power | The Morrigan’s Call Retreat  June 12 – 14 – Camp Cedarcrest, Orange, CT

Keynote Speech & Cathubodua Devotional | Many Gods West Conference  July 31 – August 2 – Olympia, WA

Body of the Morrígan – A Spiritual Journey of Ireland | Coru Priesthood  September 7 – 16 – Ireland

BOOK OF THE GREAT QUEEN Author Evening | Treadwell’s Bookshop London  September 18 –  London, UK

She Chanted Spells of Power: A Rite of Poetry with the Morrígan  September 19 – Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK

More to come, too! You can follow updates about the book by checking posts tagged Book of the Great Queen.

05
Feb - 15

Adventures to come: PantheaCon and beyond

This blog has been quiet as I focused on completing the manuscript for the Book of the Great Queen. I hope to be back to regular blog writing soon as work on the book winds down. For now, I’m just sharing some updates about what’s coming up next for me.

Book Publication

I completed the manuscript for the Book of the Great Queen on December 31st, in alignment with my devotional commitment to the Morrígan and my publishing contract. Folks who have been following the story of this book may be amused to hear that the  day I handed over the manuscript to my editors and peer reviewers for critiques, was the very same day that my physical therapist gave me clearance to begin walking on the injured ankle using only one crutch. As a good friend said that day, “Good to know none of this magic stuff is for real, eh?”

Presently, I’m receiving the last of the critiques from my peer reviewers and will be completing edits to the manuscript throughout the rest of this month. I’ve been seeing early sketches and drawings for the cover design and illustrations from Valerie Herron, and I’m virtually frothing with anticipation, because they are gorgeous. Publication is on schedule for early May.

Poetry Project

cover imageAs part of the crowdfunding for the book, we raised extra funds for a special project to create audio recordings of the Morrígan’s poems, in Old Irish and English translations. The Poems of the Morrígan project completed recording and mastering in January, and have been released privately to campaign backers. I’ll be making them available to the general public later this month, starting with a public listening session at PantheaCon, in the Coru Priesthood’s Temple space and then opening them for download online.

What I’m particularly thrilled about is the inclusion of the Poem to Cú Chulainn, from the text Táin Bó Regamna. This poem has not been previously published in English translation to my knowledge. It will therefore be new to most students of the Morrígan’s lore, and I feel incredibly honored to be bringing this poem to the community, with special thanks to Isolde Carmody of the Story Archaeology Podcast for translation help. I am also grateful to P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, the folks at EMB Studios, and all the fine people who contributed their voices and talents to the recording.

And speaking of PantheaCon

PantheaCon Happenings

So much is happening at PantheaCon! I have too much on my PCon schedule to delve into detail in this post, so I’ll just list them and link to event pages and other sites for details:

Blood Drive PantheaCon 2015: Find the Hero In You | Fri 2/13 – Sun 2/15

Details hereFacebook event page here – Organized by the Coru Priesthood and Solar Cross Temple. Volunteers and Blood Donors are needed!

Coru Priesthood Temple of the Morrígan | Fri 2/13 – Sun 2/15

Details hereFacebook event page here – Temple Consecration rites take place Friday evening at 7 pm, and are open to the public (though space is very limited). Open worship hours are listed in the event page.

Roving Hero/ine Cultus Ritual with P. Sufenas Virius Lupus | Fri 2/13 – about 11 pm

Details here – We host a portion of this ritual dedicated to Cú Chulainn, the Morrígan, and in honor of veterans.

The Morrígan Speaks: Arise to the Battle | Sat 2/14 – 7 pm

Details hereFacebook event page here – A ritual inspired by the powerful words of Her ancient prophetic poems and Her call to battle, facilitated by the Coru Priesthood.

Poetess and Prophetess: The Morrígan and Poetry | Sun 2/15 – 11 am

Details hereFacebook event page here – A workshop with myself and Rynn Fox of the Coru Priesthood.

Coru Meet & Greet + POEMS OF THE MORRÍGAN Premiere | Sun 2/15 – 7 pm

Details hereFacebook event page here – A social gathering, and first public audio screening of the Poems of the Morrígan recordings.

Whew, that’s a lot!

More Adventures To Come…

Also launching at PCon is Sharon Knight’s PORTALS project, which looks very exciting. If enough people buy in to pre-order the album, and stretch goals are reached, I’ll be on board to do some artwork for this project. So go check it out.

I’ve updated my Events Calendar for some of the adventures coming up later this year, including book tour visits to Seattle and Vancouver, Many Gods West polytheist conference, and the Coru Priesthood’s Body of the Morrigan pilgrimage to Ireland. More details and book tour stops will be added soon!

Stay in touch, and I look forward to seeing some of you along my travels this year.

25
Nov - 14

The Violence from Below

Last night, I left work and headed home on the train just as the Ferguson Grand Jury announcement was wrapping up. My loved ones were already in downtown Oakland joining the mass protests. I sat on the train staring at the live reports and feeds, full of horror, fury, shame, and sickness at the predictable refusal of justice. Being on crutches still, I had let my loved ones persuade me that I couldn’t safely or effectively join the protests, but as the horror surged through me it was hard to keep myself from going there. Going home as if it were just another evening felt terribly wrong.

The night was full of outrage. As it must be when violent injustice by the state is being perpetuated. And some of that outrage expressed itself violently. Yes: along with the peaceful protests, there was some looting, property destruction, burning of cars and buildings. That happened.

So let’s talk about looting. I want, particularly, to talk to my white friends who think of themselves as allies and supporters of people of color, or even as activists, who want to support the “protesters” but who wish to distance themselves from the “looters”; who passionately cheer for “protests” but write disparaging tweets against those protests being allowed to turn into “riots”.

Here’s the thing. Communities of color are living under violent oppression every day. Sorry; let me correct that: People of color are DYING under violent oppression every day. This is not a metaphor. This is a people being gunned down in the street by their own state, while also being constantly demonized, marginalized, disenfranchised, silenced, and incarcerated. The Ferguson case is just ONE microcosm manifestation of the police violence that visits communities of color every single day.

And you say, of course you don’t agree with that violence. Of course you want that to change. But you want it to change peacefully. You want to see inspiring peaceful protests that overcome injustice through the power and beauty of love and commitment to peaceful action.  You know, like in the movies about Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.

In short, you expect the oppressed, struggling, grieving, violated people to behave like saints and martyrs while fighting to survive. Resistance against violent oppression is grand and inspiring – so long as it’s genteel.

But it doesn’t work that way. Ferguson has been in the streets every single day since Mike Brown was slaughtered, protesting peacefully with virtually zero violence. Did they get justice? You say, burning cop cars and looting convenience stores isn’t justice. No, of course it isn’t, and the people who are doing it know that it isn’t. It is resistance against the continuing pressure of injustice – and it’s resistance that, while escalated relative to a peaceful march, is still not escalated to anything approaching the lethal violence being visited against these communities.

“So long as violence from below is condemned while violence from above is ignored, you can bet that the former will continue.”

–Tim Wise

This is the violence from above: The state kills unarmed Black kids every single day. More Black kids have been killed by police within the Ferguson area just in the 109 days since Mike Brown’s death. A Black person is shot to death by police every 28 hours.

That these violated communities still limit themselves to occasional property destruction in attempting to finally, finally have their outrage heard in fact speaks to an incredible degree of patience. That’s not enough for you? You need to see a perfectly measured, contained, and absolutely damage-free resistance to state-sponsored killings of people of color or you’ll withdraw your support? Is that what it means to be an ally?

We also need to talk about property. The value of property vis-a-vis the value of human life. The thing is, property is what this society values above all else. Thus, it’s destruction of property that gets heard. This is why looting happens. It is not just opportunistic greed. It is pushback against the violence from above. It is a specific and targeted form of resistance against the regime of property, which has been used by this society to justify the enslavement and lethal oppression of Black people since day one. The specific history of race in America is the story of property being privileged above humanity, to the extent that human beings were made into property, and though that practice was legally abolished, the cultural mores underpinning it remain rampant now. If this was not still our reality, we would not see people who said nothing about the killing of Black youth getting outraged about destruction of property.

So I want to ask you. Go think about what you’ve said regarding Ferguson and race relations lately. Go look at your tweets and posts. Go look back at your friends’ posts. If the first time you bothered to speak out about Ferguson was to cast judgement on looters, then you have some unexamined racism you need to work on. If your friends have responded in this way, then you have some unexamined racism in your social environment you need to work on. If you want to be an ally, go work on that.

“It is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard.”

–Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

09
Oct - 14

Theurgic binding: or, “S#!t just got real”

EDITED TO ADD: The post below has generated quite a bit of discussion and several responses on other blogs: John Beckett, Dver, Rhyd Wildermuth, Ember, and Asa West. In response to the latter post, I just wanted to add a couple thoughts.

Dear readers, I do not think you are easily frightened children, nor is this post an effort to scare anyone. The point of this post is to share real and useful guidance on how to do this work rightly and well, rather than rashly and poorly – but the point of this post is not to tell you that you can’t. You can, and I hope I make that clear.

I also think most of the people reading my blog are thinking adults who can handle theological and magical discourse that goes beyond a comforting pat on the head and empty assurances that you can’t make mistakes, and that there are no risks or consequences in magic and religion. I write from the understanding that magic and religion are operating in the realm of reality, and I seek to arm people with real and useful knowledge for that. I think you, readers, can handle that.

I also believe that if there were no risks in this work, we wouldn’t be bothering with it, because it would be without impact or consequence. I am GLAD to be living in a world in which the Gods and holy powers are animated by more than just the power we might imbue them with. I am GLAD to be living in a world in which magic entails risk, opportunity and consequence. That world is far more interesting to me – and far less lonely – than one in which all of this is dismissed as harmless storytelling or archetype.


 

I’ve been asked a few times recently about what it means to dedicate oneself to a God, and in particular to the Morrígan, the Goddess I’m dedicated to. I get questions like these:

“Is there a difference between a devotional and a dedicated relationship?”
“At what stage in a relationship with Deity (the Morrígan specifically) can I consider dedication through ritual?”
“Everybody keeps telling me: don’t rush into it and be 100% sure. As things are right now, I really, really WANT to. So then… Why wait?”

In lieu of trying to explain this on a theoretical level, I’m going to get personal.

When the most recent question came in I was in the doctor’s waiting room, to review an MRI scan of my damaged ankle. You see, three months ago while fighting in armor, I got knocked down by a pile of big shieldmen and sprained my left ankle ligaments severely. I was given crutches and told to stay off it for a month while the sprain healed. My friends, knowing I’ve been under orders from the Morrígan to write about Her, started joking with me: “Somebody really wants you to sit down and write that book!”

I laughed. She didn’t have to break my ankle to get me to write the book – I had already committed to it. I committed to it last March when She laid the nóinden on me to finish it by the end of the year, and I committed to it again when I signed a publishing contract that says I’ll deliver my manuscript by December 31st.

When I went down on the field

That recovery month stretched into two, while I spent most of my days sitting at home, foot elevated, writing. My doctor sent me to a specialist. “Ligament injuries take time.” September, I was supposed to be able to start walking in a protective boot, but I couldn’t. “Well, let’s get you an MRI. Better stay off it until we see what’s going on in there.” Another month on crutches. Around the first of October I passed 60,000 words on the manuscript. Today, I saw the specialist who looked at my MRI. I think what they said is “localized osteochodral damage to the talus”. Which translates to: “When you sprained your ankle, your leg bone also took a chunk out of the cartilage on top of your ankle bone and that’s why you still can’t walk. Oh, and you’ll need surgery.”

So it’s another month to wait for my surgery in late October, and then eight more weeks recovery after, until I will be able to walk. And would you look at that? That brings us to the end of December. So what appeared to be a minor combat injury that should have had me on my feet in four to six weeks has now extended to keep me immobilized in my house until the time my book is due to Herself as well as to my publisher. Neat and tidy.

My friends are still teasing me: “Boy, She’s not kidding about getting you to finish that book on time!” I still laugh, but I will admit to you that my laughter has a little touch of grim today. I will admit to feeling a little exposed. The realization that the Goddess you’ve dedicated yourself to has chosen to break your body to ensure the results She wants… is a weighty one. This is not a surprise to me. I knew what I was doing when I dedicated myself to Her fully and gave her guardianship of my destiny and my death. I just didn’t know specifically when or how She might collect on that commitment, and it’s a pretty profound thing to be experiencing. I don’t in the least bit regret it. I’m just telling you this story because it’s a good example of shit just got real around here.

So when people are asking me why they shouldn’t dedicate themselves to Her early in a devotional relationship, this is what I want to say.

Magic is deadly real. And, um, theurgic binding magic? With a war Goddess? Really-deadly-not-fucking-around-seriously real.

I feel like I should maybe say that again. The Gods are not fucking around. When you hand yourself over to Them, They can break your bones, end your life or alter it completely, send you down pathways that foreclose other avenues of choice and ability, and perhaps what should be most sobering of all, transform and sculpt you from the person you were into the person They feel would be most useful to Them. In particular, speaking of the Morrígan, She’s apt to size you up for what sort of weapon you’ll make, and start turning you into that. And, well, here’s the thing: weapons face damage. It’s what they’re made for.

Do you have sovereignty and agency in all of this? Can you control how much of your destiny and being you give Them? Yes, you absolutely can, AND YOU SHOULD. Could you dedicate yourself to Her, but with different terms than I did? Yes. Can there be different degrees and kinds of dedication with different levels of safety and risk? Yes!

BUT: You have to be equipped to enter that negotiation effectively, remaining in full possession of your awareness and discernment of what you are giving, under what terms you are committing to Them, what They want your dedication for (and what, therefore, you may be transformed into in service of that), what you are receiving from Them, what manner of binding you are undertaking in that relationship, and for how long that binding will be in effect. I say “equipped” because this isn’t just about how you feel about that divinity – this is about having the spiritual and magical training to be able to discern, understand and negotiate these things. And perhaps most importantly, it is completely dependent on the clarity, depth, and skill with which you are able to communicate with that divinity, so you can even figure out what They are asking you to undertake and what risks you are accepting.

And that is why I suggest that people give a devotional relationship a LOT of time to develop before considering undertaking dedication to that divinity. That gives you the time to get all those magical, divinatory, theurgic, and psychic skills under your belt. And it gives you the time to get to know that divinity. See what They are up to, what Their agendas are, what sort of service They like to put people to. Maybe hang out with a few other of their devotees for a few years and see what impacts other people experience when they undertake different kinds of initiations,  dedications and devotional contracts.

I also encourage people considering this to ask yourself “Why?” Why do you feel pulled to undertake ritual dedication to this God? Can you articulate clearly why it is necessary for you, who you think will benefit and how? If the answer is something like “I just feel strongly called to”, then you probably haven’t examined it closely enough. If the answer to “Why?” is about your feelings, you may be doing this for the wrong reasons. Devotional dedication isn’t like having sex. We don’t decide to do it because “it feels good” and “I really really want to” and “this person/God enthralls me”. It is a binding magical contract. It’s a lot more like marriage than sex, and maybe more like indentured servitude than marriage (depending on the terms). Dedicating yourself to a divinity before you have both studied and deeply experiential knowledge of Them as well as the skills to actually communicate and negotiate a magical contract with a powerful discarnate being, is something like a person who can’t read signing their name in blood on a document because the person who handed it to them smelled good. Maybe something bad… maybe something good! Maybe it’s a one-month lease for use of premises. Maybe it’s a lifelong marriage contract with a clause excluding divorce. Maybe you just gave them a claim on everyone in your bloodline for nine generations, plus what happens to you in your next nine incarnations. We don’t know, it just felt right!

All right – I’ll simmer down. I don’t mean to mock anyone. I’m just sitting here facing down another three months of disability and I’m trying to convey how real and consequential these choices are. Each of us, when we come to a decision like this, has to make an assessment of where we stand with regard to skill, knowledge, and readiness.  If you’ve thought this through, you know what you’re getting into, and you know it’s worth it to you, then go forward without regrets. I’ll be sending you moral support from where I sit with my smashed ankle elevated, writing this book.

09
Sep - 14

It’s a damn fine time…

Today I’m emerging briefly from book cave to spread the word about the shiny new Polytheist.com site!

Polytheist.com is the brainchild of my dear friend and co-conspirator Theanos Thrax, known to many in our communities as the Anomalous Thracian. He’s bringing together a gorgeously diverse array of writers (with more to come) representing a range of polytheistic traditions and streams of practice, to create a curated, intellectually and spiritually rich set of columns on Polytheist theology, practice and experience.

I am in full support of this project. I was honored with an invitation to write for Polytheist.com myself, and in the not-too-distant future, I will be doing so. The reason you aren’t yet seeing anything from me there is, of course, the demands of my book-writing schedule (and accompanying obligations to my book backers) – which I have come to affectionately refer to as being in “Book Jail”. In the meantime, however, Polytheist.com has hit the ground running with a fine array of columns and articles from a stellar batch of authors.

Here’s the thing: Polytheism needs this space because – whether or not any given Polytheist does or does not also identify as Pagan – the experience of a devotional Polytheist is unique to itself and thus to have a space dedicated to exploring, teaching, learning, and supporting those experiences is a huge service to us. To encounter the Gods as real beings with agency and consequence impacts our being and our lives in particular and profound ways that are often quite distinct from experiences of other Pagans oriented toward archetypes as prisms of the soul, or toward non-personal universal forces, etc. Polytheist.com exists to provide a dedicated space for community and exchange around those distinct needs and experiences.

Here’s a quote from the site about its purpose:

In a “manifold” universe populated by myriad entities, autonomies, consciousnesses and willed layers-upon-layers of complex relations, animist sensibilities, and at times adamantly ancestral engagements, it is important to not only acknowledge the many gods and goddesses and Their sacred agency, but also the agency of the many cultic communities, devotional disciplines and worshipful fellowships, war-bands, sects and circles. We are not all of us called by the same gods or to the same task, but for those who place central life importance in answering, navigating, and honoring the very state of being called by Them in the first place, this place is for you. Safe. Protected. Dedicated.

– “About” Polytheist.com

There’s also a fine piece in the Wild Hunt this morning with more perspective from the Thracian and from Hunt writer Terence P. Ward on the site launch.

As my friend the Thracian iconically says, “It’s a damn fine time to be a polytheist!”

Now, back into the book-writing cave with me!

15
Aug - 14

I see it crimson, I see it red

The black birds thunder overhead. Below, the combatants gather. They are marked by red. They speak the names of the dead.

It is afternoon and I am sitting quietly in the warm sun. I have taken the afternoon off from working on the book to join a peaceful demonstration against police violence and racism. Around the steps at the front of Oakland City Hall, some hundreds of people have gathered, wearing red clothing and armbands and carrying signs of protest. They have recited softly the names of youths killed recently at the hands of militarized police forces. I am sitting with friends, wearing red, holding up the names of the dead, breathing together in silent prayer.

#NMOS2014 Pic courtesy of Julia Wong ‏(@juliacarriew).

#NMOS2014
Pic courtesy of Julia Wong ‏(@juliacarriew).

 

The demonstration was planned as a “national moment of silence”. Silence doesn’t come, though. Helicopters beat the air overhead. I’m not entirely sure when the official minute of silence begins. I go on praying silently, the peace prayer I use regularly as a meditation: Sid co nem, nem co doman. Peace to the sky, sky to the earth.

Beneath the beating wings, the combatants chant battle songs. They cry outrage, clamoring for justice, restitution. Light breaks over them.

The loud minute of silence has come to an end and people are beginning to rouse and cry out and chant. “Hands up, don’t shoot! Hands up, don’t shoot!” I begin to hear the outrage beneath the calm of the demonstration. “Black lives matter!”

Speakers step forward and begin to address the crowd. I’m deep in my prayer cycle. I’m not sure if I missed a speaker before Alan Blueford’s mother steps forward and begins to speak. She speaks with power about her son, another Black youth slaughtered unarmed, going to his death with his hands raised in surrender. She speaks of her community, their exhaustion with unending oppression, racism, violence, tragedy. She speaks of the end of patience and the need for action. “And I am a mother of action!” she cries out.

I AM THE MOTHER OF ACTION.

Another voice thunders it behind hers. It echoes silently over my head, over the thrumming of the helicopters, over the crowds with their red ribbons, over Jeralynn Blueford. The Hero’s Light, or something like it, breaks open over her. Anger and passion ripple through the crowd.

I can see that this demonstration is not one that will become a pitched battle today; but I sense a hunger for confrontation here. None of these people want battle for its own sake, but they are hungry for an opportunity to confront those who wield the powers that hold in place the oppressive situation they are living in. They contain an enraged desire to confront those who have brought about all these deaths, and who still refuse to be accountable.

I am starting to grasp why, apart from my own desire to help somehow, I felt the Morrígan pushing me to come down here today.  I grip the devotional stone in my hand and I return to my prayer cycle. The stone is dry against my palm, so dry. Peace to the sky, sky to the earth.

NO, comes the voice again. THE TIME OF PEACE IS NOT YET. THERE HAS NOT BEEN ENOUGH BLOOD SPILLED.

There is no bloodlust in the voice, though. I pause, sink inward and mull over what that means. I don’t think She’s saying She wants more bloodshed; the message feels impersonal, like the word of an unflinching observer. I think She’s saying that’s what it’s going to take for us to fully confront what we’re doing. I think She’s saying we can’t have peace until we can face this down, complete the confrontation with the specter of our own horrors. I find myself thinking of the seeress Fedelm, giving voice to her vision of the battle that her people have instigated for themselves.

“O Fedelm, how do you see our host?”

“I see it crimson, I see it red.”

They are all wearing red here today. And they are ready for this fight, past ready. Jeralynn Blueford is still speaking. People are echoing and responding to her words in quick, angry outbursts. I change to a new prayer: one for strength and victory. For justice. That is what these people are crying out for passionately. They are wise enough to know that before peace can come, justice has to come. The signs here say as much: “No justice/No peace” and “There can be no justice without struggle”.

I am reflecting on conversations I’ve seen recently, on the subjects of peace and war, violence and nonviolence, racism and justice. Asa West wrote this blog post, “I Have Conversed with the Morrígan about Gaza” in her blog Jewish Witch. It has provoked conversations in some Celtic polytheism forums about the nature of the Morrígan; whether She would ever advocate for a position of nonviolence as suggested in the blog. Whether it is incorrect to associate Her with peace as well as war. People have their various reactions. I think back on what I have learned of Her, and what I’ve experienced. Does She advocate for war, in Her mythology? Yes, no doubt. She is ever working to bring conflicts to a head. Sometimes, the texts say it’s so that She can revel in the carnage. But much of the time, Her motives are cryptic. Often, I think it has as much to do with observing the latent tension between conflicting forces, and bringing that tension to open battle so that it can be resolved.

There is this: Every time I’ve tried to ask Her about the merit of a particular war my country has engaged in, She has refused to answer. No, She tells me. Your wars are yours to own. Your sovereignty is your own and you must bear the weight of how you wield it. I will be there where the consequences unfold. For me at least, She never seems willing to advocate for or against. In the mythology, She gives poetic prophecies of both war and peace. But where the vision of peace comes, it is delivered together with a vision of conflict and suffering. Always presenting us with the choice, never allowing us to stand down from the consequences of choice.

There is also this I have learned: Peace is not the absence of conflict. Peace is more rightly to be understood as the condition of being free to live well. Freedom from violence is only one of its elements. That is to say, a situation where there is no active violence happening can still be very far from the peace we would hope for. Injustice may be enforced in the name of preserving “the peace”; but what is being served there is order, not actually peace. Where order comes at the expense of human life and dignity, and relies on coercion and threat, there is already no peace, even if there is no violence yet.  That is a condition that is neither war nor peace – and it is in that charged in-between space where we most hear Her voice inciting toward the conflict.

In Ferguson, Missouri, I’m told there were no homicides this year until the day that Michael Brown was shot dead by police this week. Someone might have said that the town was at peace. No blood had been shed. But look what latent violence was held there: That the white police force could be so tightly coiled in militarized terror and racialized contempt of its own population that the single trigger event could unleash all this violence against the people. That the Black community had been coexisting with a police force that hostile to them has to have meant coping with a constant threat to their ability to simply live daily life. This was not peace. It was simply a latent battle waiting to be unleashed. As are so many of our cities. Ferguson is no different than many places in America. On the same day I went out to the demonstration, I had to engage online with Celtic Pagans muttering veiled criticism against the idea that a Jewish woman like Asa West has a right to worship the Morrígan at all. Racism is in our culture. We cannot call this situation peace. We cannot hide in it from the conflict we have created for ourselves.

“I see it crimson, I see it red.”

I am not saying that I foresee bloodbaths needing to occur. I think we have opportunities every day to choose better ways, to choose for justice, to be more human to each other. I am hoping that the example of Ferguson may teach us something about the costs of choosing order instead of peace. I think part of its lesson, and the message I take today from the Battle Goddess, is that when the existing order has been enforced with injustice, that injustice demands to be confronted before peace can be found. That injustice represents a state of latent violence that must like a spring be uncoiled before the system can come to rest. That conflict and violence are not always antithetical to peace: peace and conflict do not exist in metaphysical opposition, but as coupled aspects of one dynamic.

And this: We have to fight for justice before the time will come when we can pray for peace.

08
Jul - 14

Book tour!

Just a quick note from me here in book project world.

Over at the Book of the Great Queen campaign on IndieGoGo, after we met our first two stretch goals, I asked people for suggestions on further project goals. Many people wrote to me suggesting a book tour after publication. So I’ve set book tour funding as the target for my final stretch goal, and I’m also soliciting feedback on locations and venues for talks/workshops/booksigning events.

The good news is that as of today, we’ve already raised enough to do two cities and just on the verge of a third. That means the book tour is already happening! You, my readers, still get to decide how extensive it will be and where I travel.

I’ll be planning my tour sites based on where there seems to be the most active interest, so if you want me to visit your city, drop me a line to let me know! So far I’ve heard from folks in Seattle, Atlanta, Houston, Madison, and upstate New York. Where would you like to see me travel to? I’d also love to hear from people as to good venues in your area for a workshop and booksigning, or if there are events such as festivals or conventions you’d like to suggest as part of the tour. You can email me your suggestions at morpheus@bansheearts.com or comment here.

You can see all the details and updates on fundraising levels over at the IndieGoGo page. I’ll also be posting updates there as tour locations are identified.

Now, back to focusing on the book!

20
Jun - 14

Taking the Book of the Great Queen further

Readers of this blog are likely aware that over the past couple of weeks, all my energy has been going into the Book of the Great Queen fundraising campaign on IndieGoGo, which launched June 10th, met its primary goals in less than 72 hours, and met both its stretch goals within a little over a week. That’s a testament to the power and passion of the community of devotees. I’ve been feeling incredibly proud and honored to be part of this.

Not only did we secure the funding for the completion and publication of the book; not only did we also secure funding to commission beautiful artwork from Valerie Herron for the book… We also get to do something that really is close to my heart – the Poetry & Songs of the Morrigan recording project. This will be a professional studio recording of the poems of the Morrigan, spoken aloud as an enchanting vocal incantation, in both the original Old Irish, as well as the English translations. It will also include a couple of beautiful devotional chants and songs in Irish and Gaulish, which have never been recorded before as they are original to the Coru Cathubodua Priesthood. This recording will be shared as a digital download with all of my campaign backers who come in at $20 and above.

I’m already hard at work moving all the pieces into place for this project. I’ve been corresponding with Celtic scholars P. Sufenas Virius Lupus (who’s also going to be consulting with me for the book itself) and Isolde Carmody (of the Story Archaeology Podcast), about guidance for Old Irish language pronunciation, and selecting text and translation versions for the poems. I hope to be able to post a list of the texts we’ll be recording, soon.

And so I’m presently in the unexpected position of having everything I envisioned for the project funded, with three-and-a-half weeks still to go! I really didn’t anticipate passing all my goals so early in the campaign timeline. And yet the contributions are continuing to come in, as people join in to receive the recording, pre-order the book, and for all the other reasons people choose to back the project.

So I’m contemplating other ways to give back to the community out of the funds that are continuing to come in. I would love to hear from you. What else would you like to see as a next stretch project?

Alternately, I may go another route, since the time that I have free to devote to further projects beyond the book and the recording is quite limited now. Instead of setting further stretch projects, I may just donate a portion of the extra funds toward one or more causes. If I go that route, I’m most interested in causes that are especially relevant to the Morrigan’s spheres of interest. Examples that come to mind might be:

  • Support of veterans or others impacted by war
  • Modern sovereignty struggles such as those of Indigenous nations
  • Work to study and preserve Celtic history and cultures
  • Or…?

I’d love to hear from you: what do you think would be the most honorable way to give some of this back? What organizations do you think are doing the best and most needed work that is relevant to the interests of the Great Queen?

Oh, and in case you don’t follow on social media, here’s the latest photo of progress on the illuminated manuscript painting.

illuminated vellum 13 square

04
Jun - 14

Three…Two…One…

The past month has been a whirlwind of activity – since making the decision to run a crowdfunding campaign to fund the publication of my book, preparing for the campaign, and continuing my work schedule on the book, have demanded almost all my time. Here’s what I’ve been up to…

Illumination

As a way to create something beautiful for backer rewards for the campaign, I’ve been working on a new devotional artwork. In the illuminated manuscript style of the Book of Kells, a detailed ink painting of the Morrígan and Her “Peace to the Sky” prophecy poem, on authentic calfskin vellum. Followers of my social media feeds have been seeing process photos as I go along through the design, sketching, layout, and inking phases of the piece. It remains in progress and I’ll continue posting updates as I complete it. Here’s the current progress:

illuminated vellum 9 square

From this artwork, prints, cards, and downloadable versions will be made for backers of the crowdfunding campaign. I’m also going to do a one-color t-shirt with the image of the Queen from this artwork.

It’s been and continues to be a joy to work on. Something I’ve discovered is that working on vellum is amazing. As a friend put it, it’s sexy. The vellum is warm to the touch and has a silken texture, like – well, like skin. It shifts and stretches in response to the warmth of the hand and the moisture of the ink. It’s translucent, letting light softly through, highlighting ghostly tiny veins that appear and disappear. Colors sink in to its layered surface and seem to glow with life.

I hope to have the opportunity to show this piece to at least a few of you in person before it goes – it really must be seen with the eyes as the photos do not do it justice.

The Campaign

We launch June 10th – next Tuesday night. The campaign will run 36 days, closing on July 15th. And there’s a launch party you can join in on – either in person in Oakland, or remotely via the internet.

A preview of the campaign is up at BookoftheGreatQueen.com – and I want you to take a look and give me your feedback on the campaign before we go live!

Bearing in mind that this is a draft page and still may change, what do you think? Like the backer rewards? Which is your favorite or the one you’re most likely to choose? Have suggestions about rewards I should consider adding or changing?

And YES, there will be a video! My dear friend, Coru co-priestess, marketing empress, and Wild Hunt writer Rynn Fox is finishing editing on the video now, so we will have that up on the campaign page within a few more days and certainly before launch.

Book Progress

While all this is going on, I’ve continued to keep my time commitment to working on the book. I recently got access to some excellent UC Berkeley library materials and have been delightedly chewing through them: a tantalizing compendium on ancient Celtic cursing practices; analytical materials on Irish poetic forms including the poems of the Morrígan; a treatise on Indo-European heroic frenzy and the Hero’s Light… and SO. MUCH. MORE. I really could disappear for weeks into these books.

The book itself is taking shape, and I feel a stronger than ever sense of momentum with it. I’m looking forward to the time soon when, post-fundraising campaign, I’ll hopefully be able to cut back on my third job and devote that time to writing, writing, writing.

I can’t wait to share all this with you. In Her glorious name!

01
May - 14

The Book of the Great Queen

Today is an auspicious day. I am thrilled to be able to share two announcements that mean the world to me:

1. The Book of the Great Queen to be published by Concrescent Press!

My book project, a comprehensive book on the lore, history, and worship of the Morrígan, now has a publisher: independent esoteric publishing house Concrescent Press. Concrescent is the imprint headed by Sam Webster, M.Div., a brilliant scholar of Pagan studies and the magical arts, as well as an old and dear friend. I am delighted to be working with Sam and Concrescent on this project.

My tentative working title for the book is The Book of the Great Queen. I’m completing the final 5% or so of primary research, and will be completing the writing of the book over the coming months, to deliver by the end of the year.

You can view an early, general topical outline here. As you can see, my intention for the book is to provide a comprehensive and in-depth look at the Morrígan as we know Her through textual, historical, and archaeological sources, Her role and cult of worship in ancient Celtic religion, and to provide guidance for the modern devotional practitioner drawing on these traditions.

And I welcome feedback. What questions related to the Morrígan would you like to see answered in this book?

2. Crowdfunding campaign coming soon!

My second piece of news: We’ve made the decision to go forward with a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for publication and to allow supporters to pre-order the book. I am working with Sam and several more key allies to prepare for the campaign, and we expect to launch in early June.

My hope is that crowdfunding will provide a small but much-needed financial backing to allow me to devote more time over the next several months to finishing the book, as well as covering up-front publication expenses, such as professional editing, illustrations, and layout. I also love the participatory aspect of crowdfunding and look forward to engaging with backers, sharing project updates, sneak previews from the book, and hearing feedback and encouragement.

At present, I’m looking at IndieGoGo as the most likely platform for the campaign – primarily because of its lower fees and availability of PayPal for payments (which some folks have requested). However, if you have an opinion about which crowdfunding platform would make it easier for YOU to back the project, feel free to let me know.

I’ll also be creating some new, original artwork just for the book and the campaign, which will be exclusively available to backers, along with pre-ordering options for the book itself.

I hope this news delights you as much as it does me! Stay tuned to this blog, or my Facebook/Twitter feeds for updates on the book and the campaign.

And may the fires of Beltane bless you and bring you fierce joy!

08
Apr - 14

Sex, Sovereignty and Consent

All right. I’ve been keeping my head down and nose to the book, mostly, and I didn’t think I was going to join the public debate around sexual abuse and sexual ethics in Paganism. Besides, I try not to be one of those bloggers who bandwagon-jumps onto every hot issue whether or not they have something original to add.

But. It is hard to focus on other things when you have a Sovereignty Goddess breathing down your neck.

So let’s talk about sex and sovereignty. And let’s talk about consent culture. I’ve said before that sovereignty is rooted in the body. That while sovereignty in its traditional sense speaks more directly to the relations of the collective and its leadership, that relationship is a personal delegation of sovereignty by each individual. And that a person who is denied the very sovereignty of their own body cannot fully participate in collective sovereignty. Sovereignty is a set of interlocking relationships each dependent upon the integrity of its parts for the flow to occur.

I want to unpack that a little bit more. Because this is important. We have to recognize that the fundamental, inviolable unit through which this flow occurs is the body of the individual person. Yes, the body. Sovereignty is not an abstract, it is a living power, and thus rooted in land and body. When the individual participating in this set of relations is not in possession of the sovereignty of their own body, the entire set of relations breaks down. Thus the fundamental ground of sovereignty is the sanctity and inviolability of the body.

And here enters sex. Sex is where we grant access to the sanctity of our bodies to another person. In terms of personal sovereignty: we are laying our being and body bare, sharing our very life force, inviting someone to enter into our sovereign space in the most intimate way. And by this I do NOT simply mean penetration of the body – an individual who is not experiencing penetration is still granting access to their body and life force in any sex act.

This is why consent is absolutely fundamental. Because sex, by its very nature, involves compromising the inviolability of the body. Opening its defenses. Entrusting access to the sovereign body to another being. With consent, this compromise is an alliance of trust that further sanctifies the sovereignty of both bodies. Without consent, sex destroys sovereignty at all levels, from the individual to the collective.

For most of my readers, I imagine the above arguments will not present anything very new. This is, of course, what we are always on about in working against rape culture. But let’s bring it back to the issue of sexual abuse by religious leaders, which was the trigger for this post.

In the model of sovereignty, the power that flows from the land through every person is invested in the leader or sovereign. This is as true in religious communities as it is in civic structures. And here too there is a relation of trust. In the act of granting power to a leader, there is a compromise of individual sovereignty, to at least some degree. We invest our sovereignty into our leaders because we expect that reciprocal benefit will flow back, we expect that sovereignty will be upheld, and most crucially, because we believe that the vulnerability we take on in that exchange will not be exploited.

In civic life, that compromise is substantial: we actually give our leaders the power of law over our bodies and lives, and in some cases, the power of life and death (e.g. the death penalty, military draft, police action, etc). In the realm of medicine, we also grant our caregivers, doctors, therapists, a portion of our sovereignty: the power to determine a course of treatment for our bodies; to guide our life choices; to analyze and guide our emotional life. In religious communities, what we are compromising is sometimes more subtle: we may be giving our leaders power to represent us to the outside world; to shape and direct the focus of our spiritual lives; to shape and articulate our values and ethics; to counsel us toward a course of action. In the case of initiatory ritual leaders, we are granting them access to our bodies to put us through ritual experiences that we know will make us vulnerable and may radically change our future life experience. Just as in sex, initiatory ritual involves a powerful temporary surrender of sovereignty undertaken in sacred trust.

Thus ALL positions of leadership and caregiving, whether civic, medical, educational, or pastoral, involve an inherent power relation in which some portion of our sovereignty is delegated UPWARD into the person of the leader or caregiver. This shift in the locus of sovereignty (even if partial) means that there is not a level playing field from which to grant consent for risky endeavors such as, oh, let’s say, having sex with your priest. When a religious leader who holds your future in a spiritual tradition in their hands tells you that you’re expected to have sex – or even gently suggests that you should consider it – you’re not freely deciding whether or not to have sex with someone based on  your own interests. What’s happening there is your spiritual life and path is being subtly put in the scales against your willingness to grant sexual access. As your religious leader, some level of compromise in sovereignty has already been delegated to them in trust for their guidance. Now that entrusted sovereignty is being used against you. You’re being asked to give consent for the deepest compromise there is IF you value your spiritual path in their tradition.

Friends, that’s extortion. No free consent can be given under those circumstances, however subtly the stakes are communicated. I make that statement baldly in full recognition that my own origin tradition, the Feri tradition, includes practitioners who engage in sexual initiation of students by teachers. It’s a practice I don’t agree with.

Sex without consent is rape. Sex in a situation where consent cannot be given (such as an underage person) is statutory rape. I would make the argument, based in the primacy of sovereignty, that sex between a leader or caregiver and a person under their guardianship is equivalent to statutory rape. We could call it custodial rape until we find a better term.

All this comes back around to the current cases being discussed in the Pagan community. In particular, I’d like to focus this lens we’ve just polished on the case of the Frosts. For background, read this series of posts in the Wild Hunt archives.

Now, the Frosts defend their publication of material advocating ritual deflowering and sexual initiation of young people into the Craft by their elders by pointing to a disclaimer which states that these rites should take place after the age of 18.

“No formal initiation into the a group that practices the Great Rite should be done before the candidate attains the age of eighteen (18).”

You see, this defense is no defense at all. The age of 18 is only relevant here to the extent that it may alter what kind of rape we’re talking about here. What the Frosts are advocating and still stubbornly defending is custodial rape of young people.

Not to mention, it’s a lie anyway. The website for the Church and School of Wicca baldly states that minors who want to join without a note of permission from a parent or guardian can just pay them an extra $100. Because hey, forking over some extra cash to your religious leaders should serve just as well as an adult guardian’s consent for the safeguarding of a child’s sovereignty.

Friends, we have to stop shrugging this stuff off. This isn’t a charmingly harmless couple of elderly eccentrics. It is a monstrous policy that unapologetically encourages and defends custodial rape.

Otto Skowranek: Sword Dance, 1908

Let us not follow the Catholic church’s example of ashamedly, hurriedly covering up the ugliness lest it be seen and damage our reputation. I want my community’s reputation to be built on our accountability, authenticity, and strong ethics. Let the world see that we have this problem in our midst – it’s not like we’re the only ones. Let them see us square our shoulders, step up and face it head-on. Let them see us stand to account for how we handle sovereignty and vulnerability. Let them see us choose to evolve.

For me, I will make this statement: I will not attend or present at an event where I know leadership honors and teaching platforms are being given to people who promote religious sexual abuse. I will be working with organizations I’m a part of, such as the Coru, toward adopting strong policies on leadership and religious ethics. I encourage everyone to take a stand in the ways that you see fit as well.

08
Mar - 14

Noinden

You may notice me posting in this blog a little less frequently now-a-days. And if you follow my art and metalwork, I am producing new work a bit more slowly than usual. Here is what’s going on.

I have been for some time slowly gathering material for a book. The book that I have long wished someone would write: an in-depth, well-researched, comprehensive book on the Morrígan: Her history, lore, and cult of worship; incorporating contributions from historic, folkloric, archaeological, and modern sources, and guidance for devotional practice with Her in a Pagan/polytheist framework. The book that would bridge the gaping chasm that currently exists between the quality of information available about Her from academia on the one hand, and popular Pagan literature on the other. The book I constantly wish I could refer people to when they ask me what they should read to learn about the Morrígan.

This project has been slow-cooking on my hearth for about a year, but since I am kept busy working for a living at my art business, tattoo apprenticeship, and a third part-time job to make ends meet, I have not been able to prioritize it. Yet.

That’s where things are changing. Two days after I got home from PantheaCon, I got marching orders. In my daily devotional meditations, the Great Queen laid a binding on me that morning: a nóinden (ninefold counting of time). A nóinden is usually read as a period of nine days or nights; in this case, nine months. Nine months to get the draft written. This is what I’ve been given to do. It is a priority now.

I sat down with my calendar at that point and made a writing schedule: blocked out research and writing time for the rest of the year. So, okay; looking at the typical words-composed-per-hour rate of writers, and the time I have, I can do it. I think. I started in on that writing schedule right away.

And here’s the rub: I’m producing less art now, and less metalwork. For people interested in my medallions and talismans, it may mean that these are going to be a little more limited. When I sell out of a design, it’s now likely to be a few months instead of a few weeks before I can squeeze in the time for another batch of my rather labor-intensive creations. That means less income for me. That is a little scary, because I live fairly close to the margin, but this book feels important and necessary, and I’m trusting that I’ll figure out a way, with the help of the Gods and my allies.

Art is my primary work in this life, and I’m not keen on letting it be marginalized. If I had the option, I’d let go of my third job instead and give that time to writing. Presently, I can’t afford to do that. But something has to give. Tricky.

Several friends have suggested an IndieGoGo/Kickstarter type campaign to raise money to get this book done. I’m willing to consider something like that if there’s support for it. I’m interested in readers’ feedback about that.

In the meantime, while I puzzle these things out, writing is underway. I’m loving the research, delighting in each new jewel of lore I find in my diggings into ancient writings. And I will meet my appointment with the Queen, and have a draft to offer Her in nine months, whatever I have to do to make that possible.

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