Saturday, August 24, 2013

You Are (Most Likely) Not Crazy

I got more "hits" on my most recent post regarding the gods within a day than I have of anything else I've written over weeks.  This is cool, but I realize I've got a rather profound responsibility here, if I'm going to go off prattling about what I've learned.  I've begun to learn a little more even since I wrote that post, and have had multiple synchronous things cascade upon me in the space of just a couple of hours, so there's gonna be plenty more to tell.  Before I tell you about this, though, I need to tell you...

About Divine Trauma

Here's how it happened for me:
I started having dreams last year around specific events and at strange, profound times.  I'd wake from them shaking, write them down and then, a little while later, forget about them.  Sometimes when I'd close my eyes I'd see them again, mostly when I didn't want them or didn't expect them, but for the most part I could ignore them and they interrupted nothing.

But they increased, and I began to feel a strange tension in my life between what I was dreaming and beginning to suspect of the world and what my actual life looked like.  A relationship had already begun to wind down, a job had become increasingly untenable (low-level social work for violent alcoholics...most people don't last a year, by that time I'd been there for 3), and a very long living situation which held joy only inasmuch as I shoved enjoyment down it's throat.  All of these things, though, were not only tolerable but also completely sufficient until I started confronting some of the dreams.

Right before it all came utterly crashing down, I'd written a long entry in my journal regarding a strange, looming sense which ended, "...something is coming. That beckoning call, I..." and then nothing.

Two months later after what I've liked to call The Long Winter, I found myself muttering a prayer to a goddess I'd seen in one of my dreams.  It was Imbolc, it turns out, and that goddess was Brighid.  Neither of these meant much to me at the time, and then suddenly meant everything once I got a profound answer.

The next day I decide I'm gonna study to be a druid, and 7 months later I'm writing this right before I go try to find out what some of these dreams mean (oh...don't think for a second they've stopped).

That winter was the beginning of what I've been calling Divine Trauma; that is, strange events full of brilliant meaning which utterly shake up your life, yet, when resolved carefully, suddenly leave you better off than before the trauma began.  It is in this way that Divine Trauma is utterly different from normal trauma and worlds away from mental-illness (more on this later)--both of these leave you worse off, seeking healing or sanity, and your ability to live in society go down.  The schizophrenic finds themselves soon isolated from others because of their voices, the sufferer of PTSD cannot reconcile the trauma with its later echoes; Divine Trauma leaves you more at peace, more perceptive, more skilled, and more self aware.

But it also fucking sucks, at least while it's happening.  

In some of the monotheistic religions, a mystic or a devotee with visions may enter a cloister or a monastery where they can study and experience their insights away from the chaos and difficulties of daily life and be surrounded by others experiencing something similar  We've mostly abolished both the monasteries and the concept of their function in our modern and advanced society with the exception, maybe, of the university.  So when someone has shamanic or deific visions, sees their ancestors or faeries or land-spirits, they still have to find a way to pay their rent, hold down their job, take care of their children, and have pretty much only the internet, psychic phone-lines, or mental-health professionals to turn to.

The last will medicate or hospitalise you, penultimate will drain your money, and the internet?  It's utterly hit or miss.  Try doing a web search such as "Does Apollo exist?" and you get mostly moon-landing conspiracy sites.  Then again, similarly, do a search regarding the existence of "true love" or "art" and you'll get no better.

The lack of available human community for most people, the anti-authoritarian nature of most of "paganism" (we don't like priests anymore than altar boys do, it would seem), and the apparently complete discontinuity between the older worship of the gods and the current iterations of pagan worship can leave one completely bereft and thinking you're going mad.

Guess what? You most likely are not crazy.

I can't fully vouch for you, though.  I hope you've got some rather good friends (if you're not, make some...quickly) who will listen to you patiently and not judge.  I hope you already experienced some sort of life-altering transformation because you've probably already picked up some of the skills you need (if you're gay, trans, or otherwise a freak you're gonna have an easier time--if you're a suburban housewife who likes to watch television, you have my sincere apologies).  And seriously, if the voices tell you to hurt yourself or others, or if the car talks back when you yell at? Go see someone, and quick.

I don't want to make this all sound really scary.  It isn't.  Actually, experiencing the gods and magic is absolutely the BEST FUCKING THING EVER.  But it's really, really not easy.  You're gonna lose sleep.  You're gonna start noticing stuff around you that you learned to stop noticing when you were a kid, and it's gonna be distracting.  Your dreams might get really vivid and maybe sometimes your vision, or you'll start to get senses from things that you didn't know.  And you're probably gonna start setting money aside for stuff like candles and incense and wine, and maybe grow a garden so you've got easier access to something a goddess tells you she would like, and gardens take work.

Some advice

 I'm just some punk wanna-be poet who raised himself and made a decent life for himself before all of this started happening, and now I'm still a punk wanna-be poet who thinks it'd be a nice idea if most other people don't have to freak the fuck out when gods start appearing.  If this helps someone, awesome, and if not--whatever.  I like writing.

1. Be really, really nice to yourself.  Just like in a break-up, or after a death, or during anything else traumatic, being hard on yourself is really easy to do and also maybe the worst possible thing to do.  After I used my first "revealed" sigil, I made myself a cup of hot cocoa, and then another, and then maybe got drunk and passed out because the whole thing was crazy.  You maybe don't need to get drunk, I donno.

2.  Be open to new and timely friendships.  I started calling the dating site I'd occasionally troll OKDruid, because within an hour of deciding to do this druid thing I met an adorable furry punk druid in another state and we wrote each other reams of emails.  And then when he didn't have time to talk, I met another one, and then I met another and another until I was pretty certain there were no straight or ugly druids in the world (there have been no druid orgies, I must sadly admit).  Maybe I could have done this all without them, but no, fuck that.  I couldn't.

3.  Consider some sort of guided study.  Seriously.  I'm relentlessly glad I joined OBOD, primarily because the pace of the lessons is up to you, but they are lessons, and they are written out.  There are other groups like this, too, and though I can't vouch for them, others can and will.  You may really like some of the wildly independent, build-your-own tradition orders, but maybe consider doing this later? If you're new to this stuff, it's nice to have someone guiding you, especially if they admit up front that you can take what you want and leave the rest. (And as a warning--avoid creepy cults).

4.  Don't be an ass.  You're probably wrong.  So am I.  I'm wrong all the time, and mostly I've only started to be right on the "maybe I'm wrong" thing.  Also, avoid people who are asses.  If you're wrong and they are right, they'll have a pretty good sense of how to guide you out of being wrong.  Wise elders are never asses, I've noticed.

5.  Ask.  There are some wicked nice people who are not asses at all, or at least not when you ask them for help.  A lot of them have websites and write about this stuff all the time, and maybe they've met the same god or goddess or spirit or what have you already and can give you advice on what worked for them.  Some of them maybe won't email you back, so email someone else.  Some of 'em are linked on this blog, and--know what? Go ahead and ask me. I probably have no clue, but maybe I know someone else who might.

6.  Consider starting from how other people do it first.  If you're american and anti-authoritarian and all that, it's kind of your nature to try to build a religion or practice from scratch.  Sure. You could do that, but this is a little related to #4, because you may find yourself getting so isolated from other people, being so sure that you're right, that you start getting into insane arguments with people on the internet which is probably your only access to people who understand.  You can totally find your own gods later if you need/want to.  This isn't monotheism, where rejecting one god means you've rejected the whole thing.

7.  Learn Tarot, or runes, or some other divination method.  This has all kinds of benefits, particularly in that most of them will tell you more about yourself at the beginning than they will about the divine, and this is a very good thing.  See #8.

8.  Learn about yourself.  Every religious tradition I've seen which leads to some sort of peace for the adherent starts with the same precept: you cannot hear the divine if you don't know what your own voice(s) sound like.  The schizophrenic makes the mistake of believing every uncomfortable voice to be outside themselves.  The "mundane" makes the mistake of believing that every thought is their own. Neither are correct, and the only way to tell the difference is by learning to follow that twisted, contorted, complicated wanderings of your own beautiful self.  Do you know why you get angry at certain times, or feel lonely at others, or feel afraid of certain things? If not, how will you be able to tell what that strange voice meant when it told you to light candles in a certain order, or to add damiana to the wine you were offering, or don't evoke certain powers before chanting a certain prayer?

A final thing about Divine Trauma.  I think it's probably brutally necessary.  When stuff gets wicked difficult to understand, when you suddenly find yourself about to enter another walking myth or learn the name of a deity whom you've felt watching you from the shadows, something seems to break inside of you.  Thing is, what's breaking isn't you, it's what's been keeping you from entering into communication with these vast outer and inner worlds that most people get by without ever bothering to experience.  If all you care about is money and television or MMORPG's, you can get by without ever even noticing, and live a perfectly happy life.

But if you've gotten this far, you've probably either already heard that same beckoning call I did, or are about to.  And if it hasn't gotten fucking crazy, it's probably about to.

Congratulations, and, oh dear--good luck.

Friday, August 23, 2013

What I've learned of the gods.

I haven't tried to write anything of this whole druid thing out in plain language yet, as, really, not much of it is given to plain language.  Really, how do you begin to put dreams into the concrete?  And why put anything into the concrete? Concrete is gross.

There's a reason most mystical truth is hidden in poetry, and why most poets are out of their minds.  Emily Dickenson hinted at this in one of my more favorite poems (and speaking of being mad, she was a shut-in):

Tell all the truth but tell it slant,
Success in circuit lies,
Too bright for our infirm delight
The truth's superb surprise;

As lightning to the children eased
With explanation kind,
The truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind. 

Part of the problem, I think, is how words just don't quite do.  There's a reason words are not our only form of communication; beyond pictorial representations of ourselves and the world (and a great photographer is not quite the one who shows the subject as it is; rather, we are shown how the photographer saw it), beyond the indescribable of music (ever try to detail to someone else what a song "means" to you? Try it again and you'll see the problem), beyond the strange evocations of scent (I cannot smell nicotiana flowers wafting into my house in a cooling evening without losing myself in intoxication), there's all the configurations of touch and movement.  

On that matter, I learned something recently, and I learned it both from one of my gods and a man who for all I can tell was a devout priest of him, certainly without knowing.  I watched him (the man, not the god, but I'm not sure I could tell the difference--this is a matter for poetry, not for prose) dance upon a stage and cried, learning for the first time why words cannot suffice to capture something that can only be told in movement.  And, of course, there's also all the touch, all the hugging and hitting, all the kissing and fucking and punching we do to communicate with another when nothing else will do.  We tell angry boys to use their words, but there's a wisdom they understand that we forget--words are for the ears, not the body.  

Ah, words.  What did Eliot say?
Words strain,
Crack and sometimes break, under the burden,
Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,
Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place,
Will not stay still.

They don't do enough, they don't work sometimes.  And I sometimes forget, because I am all words, that I am not just words.

Still, I'm trying to tell you what I've learned, and I keep retreating to poetry.  Bad habit, like smoking, like getting grumpy and shutting someone out when they seem to reject you because your body is not attractive as your face or somesuch.

This is what I've learned so far: that when people say that the gods are just stories, I should agree and, smiling, add, "and so are we."

Some people think the gods are fictions, or figments.  There are those who say they're mere archetypes springing forth from human consciousness, or great teaching tools, or an endless resource of psychological self-improvement.  There are those who believe in one God and think the other ones are demons.  And, more complicated, there's one emanation of divinitiy of which the gods are mere interfaces, mere masks for a unitary One. 

I believe something a little less complicated.  They're real, and they do stuff, and sometimes go by different names to different people.  They show up in my dreams and sometimes not in my dreams, somewhere between actual sight and imagination, usually in the middle of ritual but sometimes not (and in those cases, rather surprising).  I've had a god show up on the face of another person, and that was...weird.  I'm glad he did, though. 

(It occurs to me that a few people probably think I'm not sane.  It's true.  I've never once claimed otherwise.  Poetry demands nothing less). 

If you're still reading, I'll tell you about them.  If you're concerned about my mental health, I'll show you how to write an "involuntary treatment" detention declaration...I just wrote one for a client the other day.  She hadn't showered in months and babbled about how the bearded men finger her with knives and left trails of strange liquid everywhere. Madness is relative.


Speaking of madness, damn.  Except not.  Except yes and no.
You've heard of him, I'm sure.  Toga parties and drunkenness and I recently heard there was some tv show that had one of his "followers" on it, but there were werewolves in jeans I've heard, and this seems a little less what I'm talking about.
Want to know Desire? Ask him, and stock up on lube.  And then, when you're ready to actually learn something, ask him again and try to understand why you've rejected every single lover that wants to change you, even a little bit, since you first talked to him.
There's sex, yeah? And then there's something behind sex, and that's when stuff gets crazy.  I don't mean what we usually think is behind sex (lust and hormones and "connection" and love and all of that).  Maybe, better put, what's in-between sex? Where is that place you go when you orgasm, because you're sure the fuck not here when it happens. And remind yourself that old people who don't have sex have a profound wisdom that us young sluts need to have lots of sex to...avoid.
And then go walk by a christian church and ask why the blood of Christ is wine (or grape juice if it's evangelical).
And then go sit under a pine tree for a very long time and stare at the stars with him and see what he sees.
He likes wine, but you'll have to drink some with him.  Beer works if you really have no other option, but don't be lazy with him, really. Aphrodisiacs mixed in aren't the worst idea.


She's--what is she? "The Queen of the Witches," she told me in a place between sleeping and waking.  And I saw a blue-silver owl in another such vision, feathers dripping from it like the flames of a phoenix.
Go stare at a pool of water, and look at the reflection of the sky in it.  Now, shift your vision so you're looking at the surface of the water only, and see there's something...else.  Seriously. Go try it. Now.
 And then when you start losing really wonderful meaningful things to you, don't be surprised.  You'll lose everything eventually, so it's good practice.
And besides, everything you've been given isn't yours.  Better to be an orphan and make your own way then to have all you need and never find a path.  She threw a child back to the sea, and took everything away from the other.  Best mother ever, and I mean this.
Also, beware your love.  Did you know you can desire without losing yourself? She and Dionysus may have had "a thing," whatever that means.  What's it mean to you? It probably shouldn't.
She seems to like chamomile, or liked it when I gave it to her, or was gracious enough to pretend she did.


Stare at the full moon and remember it's completely dark on the other side.
Stare into a cauldron and die and realize it's surprisingly not all that bad.  Kind of lonely until you remember that you're going to decompose and something's going to use your molecules to form itself. 
Hmm.  Still kind of lonely.
Not sure the way around this.  Death is damn lonely.  So is life.  Ever been surrounded by everyone you love and felt alone?  Yup. Just like that.
You die every day, and you need to.  You eat the dead, you breathe their dust.  The crust of the earth, that stuff you walk on? You know, dirt? How much life ended so you could put a seed into it and have a tomato?
Also--this is wisdom, you know.  Meet a beautiful person, fall in love, and tell yourself it will end at some indeterminate point, and tell yourself as it starts. And then throw yourself into it fully, because it's beautiful.
Fool yourself that it's gonna last forever and you'll never see what you've got.
I'm not clear what she likes, except saying hello to her when you see the moon reminds you she's there and you're gonna die and it's a good thing.


I don't ever really know what to say about him, because he's a little too close.  Like, I know him from somewhere, and I think I can't see him because his reflection is a little too close to mine.
But when you walk in front of a car because you are absent-minded and notice it barreling towards you and hear your own voice say with an odd timbre, "you are not my death," well, ugh.
I watched him stand, towering, on a storm-lit plain with dark hills on the horizon, wearing a fluttering black cloak which flew away into millions of crows or ravens, leaving him only as white bone around which a tower was built.
He gave me a branch of Alder, where the forest met a river.  Alder seems to be everything to me now.  Crows scream at me to pay attention and then I do and they stop screaming.  I don't know what this means, except I've never felt safer.
Corvid feathers.  Go help someone else, too, especially if it involves you taking on some crazy burden that won't break you but would them.


I don't have favorites, but, since she was the first, I think she's--awesome.
I've had more dreams of her than of the other gods, each strange and somewhat trying.  She's always laughing at a hearth, and she's laughing because she knows something that I don't.  I'm not sure what this is, and I won't try to tell you.
But fall in love, and she's laughing.  Fall out of love, and she's laughing again, all the while building the fire she tends higher and hotter.  In some places, they "smother" or "smoor" a fire, keeping coals warm overnight so that it can be rebuilt the next morning.  I think this is part of it--the hearth never grows cold, if by hearth one means the warm place inside you from which all creation springs.
I've heard she likes milk, and spring water.  I usually light a small fire in a metal cup with rubbing alcohol, particularly whenever I've fallen in or out of love.  If Ceridwen is death and life, if Arianrhod is loss and gain, Brighid is melting and reforging. 

The Morrighan

I don't feel comfortable talking about her, as we've just met.  A three week courting, it seems, regarding what others are calling "sovereignty."
War is to sovereignty as sex is to desire, faces of something greater, messy attempts to get at the truth. 
I don't really know who she is, except, as a "triple goddess," she seems--well.  I'm tempted to say she's also the other goddesses I worship, or their messenger.  I don't know.  Did I say this yet? I don't know.
Even still, we've met, and she taught me to do something and I trembled in fear at the responsibility of it.

And beyond all of these, there's another one, I think, whom I just saw yesterday lingering outside the circle I cast.  I'll figure this out soon enough.  Younger than the others.  I had this silly idea when I started meeting gods that I'd get a nice manageable number and keep it at that.  That was a silly thing I didn't really mean anyway, I find.