2014, Ancestors, Sabbat, The Gods

Through the Veils of the Ancestors

cauldron

            As the flavor of smoke and crackling leaves fills the air around my home, I listen to the silence. Halloween is here. I am witch enough to enjoy the secular nature of the holiday; mageia enough to remember with sadness and awe what this time of the year  means to many, myself included. This is a time of remembrance, sometimes with joy, occasionally with tears, but always with the knowledge that the ancestors who have bequeathed us blessings are nearest during this time.

This is the time of the year for Hecatia and Pomonalia, festivals to honor Lady Hecate and the ancients we adore. We honor She of the Crossroads, the path to the Underworld, the revealer of what is hidden. I hear the voice of my grandmother. It is ten years today, since she made her presence known as a Samhain ritual.

I had often wondered whether my devout Baptist grandmother would understand my calling and love for the gods and a type of worship that was far from the monotheism of my childhood and adolescence. Samhain, 2005 answered that question. It was my grandmother’s voice through which Lady Hecate called me to the Craft.

In a nondescript suburban apartment, wreathed with the shadows of the setting sun,  I joined a group of six people from a local eclectic group of pagan students. We gathered around a cauldron, resting upon a low coffee table. The host, Jim, asked me to act as priestess to his role as priest for the reading of the ritual. It was my first time, and I was not sure whether anything would happen. No longer a seeker, I was still skeptical about the visible presence of magic and the ancestors at this time of year. My dreams had been no more vivid than at other times of the year.  Although I prayed daily and talked with the Gods at my altar regularly, no spirits knocked on my door or messed up items in my home or mark my consciousness in any way. My ancestors were silent. The one thing I do remember about that evening, was asking for a sign. I just wanted to know that I was on the right path as a witch. Was this a phase with people whose company I enjoyed, or was there more to it than that?

After lighting the candles, closing the drapes, and circling the cauldron, the host, Jim, asked me to act as priestess to his role as priest for the reading of the ritual. The presiding deities were Isis and Aphrodite. Being new to the Craft, I did not know yet which deities were called for which purpose or at which time of the year. This would be the first of three rituals in three different traditions that I would attend in three days to honor the season and my ancestors.

As I read the words on the sheets, I felt a keen wind and silence, even though the room was warm with carpet fibers nestling between my toes and the candle flames barely flickering.  Jim had paused to start some music, a type of keening wail reflective of the evening. We gathered in a circle and held hands to open the portal. Truthfully, I wasn’t sure about what would come out or even if we’d done it correctly. We each stared into the black murky liquid for several moments before stepping back. Others looked quickly. When I gazed, with fear, into the cauldron, I thought nothing was happening.

Then I heard a voice from my past.

“Don’t forget the old ways.”

The gravelly whisper with a whine, a particular drawl born of Smithfield, Virginia and a later life lived on the Chesapeake Bay, took me back to 1999, when she died.

Grandma? I remember thinking that of all the ancestors, she would be the last one to expect. Looking back now, I can see that my grandmother’s presence was perfect: she was the one who gave me advice to love and enjoy life, from menstruation, through sex through marriage, through children, family and finally death.  She also loved to talk, so if any other ancestor was attempting to get through, I could hear her pushing them aside.

“We love you. You need to write about the old ways.”

I was startled.  Her voice was warm and real, as if she was in front of me. I felt her touch on my arm. I looked up to see her face, and she was gone. I touched my face. The tears flowed so hard that Jim came and asked what was wrong, quickly guiding me to a chair. I looked around. Everyone else seemed unaffected, as though they saw nothing unusual.  For a few moments, I thought I was going crazy.  Did it  really happen? Had my grandmother just given her blessing to my new life as a Pagan? Or was I just hallucinating because I wanted to believe so badly in the ancestors and their presence at this time of year?

That night, after a very quick feast, I went home where my dreams were smooth, restful, and filled with the voice of my grandmother. Although it has been ten years, I have heard her at times of spiritual dis-tress, in the fall, in the season of Hecatia and Pomonalia. She continues to reassures me that the job of remembering the old ways, and the ancestors is an honor that does not end. I shed tears freely when I hear her through the veil. Now, I put a bit extra out on the altar to honor all my ancestors, including her.

11/2/2014 by Clio Ajana

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2014, Prison Ministry, The Gods, Thoughts, Uncategorized

Memories, Apologies and Veneration

As the moon continues its waxing course, while the chronological year draws to a close, there is much in the air to remember. Today, on my way to my regular prison ministry visit, a local talk show aired a segment about the most memorable public apologies made during the year 2014. Often an apology can range from the “Don’t do as I did, learn from my mistakes” category to the “My bad” non-apology apology to a nagging silence that can a gaping wound in the psyche of the one who needs and deserves the apology.

Photo Dec 31, 6 24 13 PMThis is the time of year when many look for new paths, beginnings or a fresh start. Apologies can be brief, with the saying “off with the old, on with the new” being the catch phrase to absolve our own conscience or those of others who might not want to reflect upon the pain or unresolved issues of 2014.  Yet, this should be the very time that we consider apologies, those others gave to us, those we made to others, and most of all, those we wish we had made, but did not. Perhaps we ran out of time through the death of a loved one. Others could not turn back the clock due to a move to another locale, hundreds or even thousands of miles away.  Some chose the “let sleeping dogs lie” rationale to counter the voice of one’s own conscience that reminds the heart of a needed apology.

One lesson that I have learned through my visits to men, incarcerated for years, and sometimes decades, is that an apology is not just a saying or a brief “I’m sorry” hastily given.

Instead, these men have reminded me how in Paganism, in the Craft, or in any tradition, self-reflection and self-accountability are key to a strong religious practice.  Yes, many will say that they came to a particular aspect of Paganism because they hate organized religion; however, I have not yet found a Pagan path or tradition that does not emphasize some aspect of knowing the self and making amends, either through action, words or both, as a part of an ethical framework. There is something in the human condition, regardless of religious or spiritual path that cries out for fairness, balance and redress when a perceived slight has occurred. For most of us, that comes down to a sincere act of reflection and awareness of the impact of our words or actions on others. An apology can be the very act that demonstrates to the recipient the true nature of the giver.  When we apologize in sincerity, we are saying that we know and are aware of our flaw in a certain area, that we publicly declare our remorse for said action, and that we intend to change our future behavior to reflect this newfound recognition.  This is also a lesson that is given in many so-called “organized” religions.

Today, I saw men who were attempting to grapple with the depths of human emotion for actions committed years or decades earlier. Their reflections on 2014 were based in part on improvement in their relationships with each other and their families. Some placed their remorse on the page, while others recollected their successes trusting others to accept their verbal confessions. These mens’ lives are incredibly structured and at times, it is only the perceived sincerity of an apology by those around them that will help to move them a fraction of a step closer to eventual release. Some crave the freedom to do what many of us are able to do freely: demonstrate awareness of our remorse publicly with the knowledge that our apology is received and accepted in kind.   Others remain haunted by the first step towards a genuine apology: remembrance of the words or actions that require the apology.

It is in memory that we reflect and grow as humans.  For those who are on Facebook, there is a commonly seen item on news feeds of late:  X’s Year in Review. You are invited to see your particular friend’s year in pictures and quotes. In a way, Facebook is allowing its users to take a step to see the good and bad of a particular year. For those who live on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and the like, technology provides the tools either to recall good times or to express a sigh of relief at the “oops” moments swiftly deleted from public memory – and ours.

courtesy of pixabay.com

As the year closes, we can see our memories and make promises to do better. This brings to the surface the matter of veneration. We honor and revere our Gods and our ancestors through the acts of memory, acknowledgement and apology. Regardless of one’s path, the ethical and personal connection with the ancestors and Gods is strengthened by the choices made in these areas. This year’s Winter Solstice on December 21 (in the US, December 22 01:36am GMT) was also a Dark Moon at zero degrees Capricorn, an auspicious time to sweep the slate clean and to begin major undertakings for the year 2015.  Capricorn signifies, among other things, discipline and commitment.  We do both when we choose to remember and to apologize.  I am grateful to the men who shared freely of their own remembrances of 2014 with honesty and the understanding that trust and faith in the Gods means being ready to move forward in awareness and apology.  May we each have the same courage as we begin 2015.

12/31/2014 by Clio Ajana

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2012, The Gods, Uncategorized

Reality Check

Quinquatrus

Six in the evening on a quiet rainy March Saturday in St. Paul can be dreary, even with a partly visible moon. The bare US Bank parking lot across the street from the Sacred Paths Community Center and the slow foot traffic into the corner liquor store said it all.

The distinct smell of Nag Champa and the sound of brass bells permeated the room as I opened the heavy glass door.

“Our Lady of Celestial Fire?” the dark haired woman, dressed in a fluorescent orange sweater and blue jeans, looked closer to fifteen than the twenty-five she probably was, looked up,held a place in her book and nudged her shoulder towards the back. I nodded.

“Set up’s back there. It’s twenty-five an hour now.”

“Sure. Is it okay to pay at the end?”

“Absolutely. Susan will be in later to collect.” She smiled as though relieved not to have to handle money. Some of the volunteers at this center were like that.

“I’m Joan, in case you need anything.”

I chuckled and picked up the heavy bag of ritual papers, food and clothing. Joan was already back into her book by the time I looked up again.

The room, with collage of blue carpet samples, bare spots in the corners, five misshapen tables , and a late 90s microwave stand, reminded me more of my mother’s basement or an antique shop. Our group came for convenience, not the atmosphere: it was on a bus line. The Sabbat feast of Quinquatrus marked the start of the campaign season, just
before spring. Tonight I would state my intentions before the Gods, for the remainder of the year. What would I manifest in my life? What would I nurture? What would I fight to build in my life? Like a warrior, I wore full gear: a white peplos or toga, sewn from crisp white linen bedsheets, a red sash, a set of braided cords (scarlet, black, silver, gold and white), a measure of rope, an athame and brown leather sandals with white seashells. Now, at my fifth Quinquatrus, I was finally campaigning for a change in my own life on paper, in prayer and into action. My writing addressed the harder
questions that I hadn’t dared to do five years ago: infertility, grief and a final spiritual resting place. I needed more of a challenge in the classroom and less of the gypsy existence of adjunct life. Spiritual questions were no longer about my connection to the Gods or why their existence in my life mattered: I was in the driver’s seat of my own life, where the entrance to the mysteries was a reality, not an afterthought.

Perhaps five or six new people might show up. But the rain earlier and the musky, funky Saturday evening, promised just our group, pilgrims in prayer and devotion to our Gods, enjoying the last bits of winter before spring.

I had to find the plug in for the crockpot that someone would inevitably bring, so I asked Joan when she came back to see if I had everything I needed in the room.

“Sure, we have the cord here,” she said, pointing to a tangled mess of one table, four chairs and a thin yellow extension cord that wound through it all.

“Thanks. Do you want to come to ritual?” I asked. It was a polite enquiry.

“Sure. I’ve always wanted to know more about Orisha.” I tried not to raise my eyebrows too much. Here I am, dressed in a white toga with red stola, setting up a Hellenistic ritual that has been advertised in their store. I wondered, did this woman not read? Our group’s name “Our Lady of Celestial Fire” should have been a clue.

“Ummm…” Silence. I don’t know what to say. What can I say in the face of ignorance?

“ Hey, don’t you teach that? Haven’t I seen you giving classes in Orisha here at the Center before?”

And there it was. The moment I dreaded. As a black Pagan, my skin color and dark brown eyes stand out in this northern land of white skins, pink tones, blond or red hair and light colored eyes.

“No. I’m Hellenic Alexandrian. That’s all I’ve done.”

I left my anger and frustration linger in the silence. She paused, with the  awkwardness common in these exchanges. Do I save this woman or not? I wonder.

“Oh, okay.” Joan doesn’t flinch from my stare, but rocks back and forth on her feet, her hair dangling at an odd angle.

“You probably met me at Pagan Pride last year.” I toss her a nudge.   She grabs onto my words, a sigh of relief in her eyes.

“Yeah. That’s it.” She smiled and walked back to the front.

As we began chanting our opening prayer, the Dialexis a Stauros, I caught a glimpse of dark hair and a bright orange shirt off to the right side. Joan’s body swayed to the invisible rhythm. By the middle part of ritual, the orange had disappeared. On my way out, I saw her again, fingers in book, as she stood by the cash register.

“So, did you like ritual?”

“I couldn’t stay. I liked that sing song part at first, but I had to work in the basement.” She shrugged as though she had no choice in the matter.

“The fridge was dirty, and it was my turn…” Her voice trailed off.

“Maybe next time.” I smiled and left.

I wanted to tell her about my past, before I found my true home in Paganism. I wanted her to see me as more than just a freak, an anomaly in the land of pale whiteness. I was just like her.

I sought the spiritual home that would fulfill me. I didn’t find it with the Christian God for 19 years. I didn’t find it with the Jewish God for 18 years. I found it within the call from the Gods as a Pagan.

Only in Christianity was skin color not an issue. I wanted to ask her: why do you presume that black skin means we only practice African tradition? Why do we, the pagans of color, remain restricted to a box that can be easily identified and marked? Why do you stare when we show up as though we were lost on the way to someplace else? I wanted to ask her in the name of every white Pagan stare and questioning eyes each time I put on my robe and cords, each time I cast a circle, each time I draw down, each time I lead a ritual. The answers were memorized now: no, I’m not crazy.. No, I am not any less black, any less human because I do not practice African tradition. Yes, I am offended by your willful ignorance, by your need to ask these  questions, and by my need to be polite and silent in the land of paleness and presumptions.

09/15/2012 by Clio Ajana

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2015, The Gods, Thoughts

A Dedication to and Rumination on Lord Ptah and Lady Diana Lucifera

Lord Ptah, Lord of Eternity!

As Grand Architect and Preserver of World Order,

you see the large scope, the grand plan

and use structure and dexterity to create.

You see the big picture,

the safety of all,

and the long-term creations of those on this plane of existence.

You are one of a trinity for inventors, artists, and craftsmen,

along with Lord Hephaestus and Lord Vulcan.

Great listener, you are the internal fire that provides sustained nourishment during long projects.

When a chapter isn’t working,  when the plan misses a critical piece,

your calm whisper, your insistent nudge reverberates in the soul

a reminder of the overall plan.

It is not the part, but the whole.

Foundation, discipline, and manifestation result in creation, the sacred purpose, the gift to the world.

Divine Artificer,   I dedicate myself to the path and discovery of the plan and I thank you for your presence in my life.

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Hail Diana Lucifera!

Goddess of the Divine Feminine, you have taught me to embrace the positive side of being feminine.

Bringer of Light and Understanding, your touch and your words note that the feminine current is not for women only, but for all adherents.

When I have acted in a clingy, negative, and childish manner in the craft, it is not the Positive Feminine, but a deformation of what could be. If the positive creates and unifies, the negative destroys by having too much of a good thing. You have helped me to understand when endless demand deteriorates gains into deep wounds and losses and when excessive order erodes into mania and rigid control.

Through your guidance,  my understanding of the feminine is both overt and covert.

I ask for your continued blessings and seek to maintain and to understand the balance between the Goddess and God parts of myself.

Lady and embodiment of the feminine current, your power seeks and grasps all who are willing adherents – men and women.

As you have reminded me often, full knowledge of the feminine is not limited by gender.  Purification requires the strength of the feminine and the masculine currents. With your tutelage, I seek to continue to strengthen in the feminine current, as I work with others to fortify myself in the masculine current. Both are necessary, and for a long time I ignored one for the other.

Revealer of the Eternal Feminine, at this most recent dark moon, I re-dedicated myself to the path of internal and external knowledge through  your wisdom and guidance.  You are the moon, the light, the unconscious,  and a balm for the part of my soul that needs healing.

I thank you for the light that you have brought and continue to bring into my life.

Doxa Theion!

Agape

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2015, The Gods, Thoughts

Dedication to and Rumination on Lord Hephaestus and Lord Vulcan

Lord Hephaestus, one of the forge and creativity. You do not mince words.

Stick to the grindstone a bit a day – This will get you to more.

Stick to the grindstone. Come back with product. I speak no more – not of this.

And when I have seemed stuck you remind me: I have spoken little because you have done little.

Lord Hephaestus,  are the fire of creation that feeds the bellows of my heart. When I write, I create product.

Work.  You are one who demands much, the contribution. You demand individual choice.

Work hard at your dreams, you say.  I cannot tell you what they are. I can help with them.

When I have wondered about my journey, my path, you remind me:

Beneath each person is a polish that is chipped. We are known through our imperfections.

Each creator or creatrix owes you a great deal. Creativity is love. Creativity requires discipline and commitment.

When we work with form and shape, it pleases you. We are making efforts as works of Gods, as mageia.

Ritual is work. It is craft, it requires devotion and the fires, the fuel that come from the internal forge.

In devotion to you, my creativity is my crown.  As you have said, it is to be treated with care and constant cleaning. Cleaning the physical workspace and the mind. Cleaning in conversations with others, and cleaning as a means to push forward.

To clean is to create rather than to let fester the wounds of sullenness. To do what I do with joy, this is what you state as the tribute to you, God of the Forge and Creativity.

The grindstone may be bloody, yet blood is sloughing off unneeded excess. Each task completed paves the way to wholeness.

Strength is gained through repetition, yet work is not mindless drudgery.

As you have noted: “I may seem to bludgeon about in my forge, yet each item has a purpose, a gift; each turn of the wheel, swing of the hammer or push of the instrument is from strength, devotion, and love.  I love what I do. Do you?”

To that, I answer that yes, I can truly say that I do love what I do.

It is this realization that I hold fast as I speed down highways, the joy wielding the combustible engine in my  heart and hands.  This knowledge strengthens me as I help others on their personal journeys, through the instrumentation of the keyboard or the invisible fibers of the conventional phone system.  In our contemporary mundane world, work  is not glamorized, except when it is considered monetarily successful. In your worship, I have learned that each task done well is a tribute to you and to the process of life, regardless of the material gain.

Strength through repetition. This has been a hard, but necessary lesson learned.

I thank you, Lord Hephaestus, for your quiet counsel, and your keen insight from the heat of the forge.

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Lord Vulcan,

I call upon you during the season of Brunalia, as the light is still in its early waxing stages.  The heat of the south is your territory, the hammer and metalworking your symbols. As inseminator, you represent the spark of fire, of life, of fertility.  In dedication to you, I ask for your continued guidance in understanding the fire used in the arts, in alchemy, in the transformation of creative potential that resides within.

Fire destroys, creates, nurtures, and transforms.  The saying, “to burn a bridge” often indicates a point of no return, when the past cannot be retrieved.  At times, I’ve burned bridges when it has not been necessary, and left some standing that should have been blasted out of the water. I ask for your guidance in wielding the destructive and transformative nature of fire in the same manner that I have learned to create and to nurture, to offer as sacrifice and to use for cooking.

When your time comes in August, I look forward to seeing you in the fires and through the smoke. We harvest, we destroy, we celebrate.

I thank you and look forward to learning more with you.

Doxa Theion!

Agape

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2015, The Gods, Thoughts

Dedication to and Rumination on Lord Okeanos and Lady Tethys

Hail Okeanos!

I remember the days, as a new initiate, spending time hearing you

at night until four or five in the morning.

No one told me that your power could (and did) keep a person awake,

even though the nearest ocean tide was well over a thousand miles away.

Your presence reminded me of travels in Vladivostok, where your smell and

your abundance surrounded me.

A child of the Atlantic, I knew you then, long before the call came.

You were alive for me at the Pacific, which has a feel of roughness that belies its name.

Eight years ago, your power curled around me nightly, reminding me that  the world, no matter how large, is small in comparison to what is beyond our immediate comprehension.

Each dip, each trip to see you in physical form was another opportunity

to savor, worship and revere the depths of emotion that flow within.

At times, it was too much and then, you would remind me that one day

some how,

I would understand the whispers and thoughts

without losing too much sleep.

I missed you so much and waited.

Then, five years ago, I saw you again, but it was not time. There was too much happening.  I tossed a coin or two into a fountain beneath a big statue in your honor. Through the cold marble, I just could hear your whisper…

After all, we are mostly water.

There is an emotional growth cycle for every witch with his or her gods. With you, it was absence and hearing the lure in the shells that surrounded me that forced growth and eventually called me home – to you.

Yesterday was the first time in a very long time that I felt the call luring me

to remain awake, to drown in the depths of Okeanos, the ocean-god of many gifts.

Now, it’s okay. I have the strength to know when the emotional flow from the Atlantic and the fierce waters of the Pacific need balance within and without.

I thank you for that and reaffirm my devotion and worship to you.

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Lady Tethys, Consort of Okeanos and Mother of Rivers,

I have called upon you as purifier, both in the past and at present.

You help to ease and wash

away the spiritual pain and burdens.

Water always has been a cleansing, renewing force.

To purify is to bring awareness to a situation.

It is not always pretty or neat or well-organized.

There is a flow, like liquid without a container.

As Dark Mother, when things need to come out,

you are a powerful force for change.

May your healing power, with the vastness

of the many bodies of water on this planet continue to

bless and heal those who call upon you.

Thank you for your guidance,

your presence in salt water, and the calm voice that

reminds all who care to listen of what is truly important:

discipline, devotion, and dedication.

We see water as emotion, wild, unrestrained and the opposite

of those three, yet the strength lies in knowing

when to be restrained and when to cut loose.

You help with that and I thank you.

Doxa Theion!

Agape

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2015, The Gods, Thoughts

Dedication to and Rumination on Lord Poseidon and Lord Neptune

Hail Poseidon!

Lord of the earthly realm between Zeus’s sky and Hades’ underworld,

I feel you in the rain that falls upon the earth, the moisture

providing a reminder that you deal with the emotions, the waves

that reside within each of us.

Earth-shaker, you wield the powerful trident.

Protector of cities and those whose heart is sea-bound

worship you and are devoted to your presence.

Horses who swim through the waters from Assateague Island to

shore stand strong, proud, sturdy. They are blessings and

companions to human-kind.

The dolphin as messenger still speaks to us in a language

we strive to understand at times.  The crisis of the waters

is relayed by the many fish who swim the seas.

We hear the rumble of the earth in the east in Nepal, in

the west in California, and in the south in Chile.

All are reminders that when the earth shakes,

it is a call to listen.

I am grateful for the blessings of balance and the understanding

of the tides and swells that deep emotion wreak upon the

human soul.

In your mercy, you come in dreams, you calm

through water, and you shake through sudden realizations.

Thank you for your gifts, your presence and the knowledge

granted to us, if we only could feel.

Lord Neptune,

We rejoice in your presence each July at Neptunalia,

as we enjoy great merriment during the hottest time of

the year.

God of the racing horse,

Ruler of the tiny waters, the springs, the rivers,

and the larger ones, the rushing seas,

we play in the waters, and revel in the feel of the

the water.

It is life and renewal.

There is a place for fun and practicality.

As we prepare for the harvest, have we cleaned out

what is no longer needed? As we relax under a tree in

a hammock, have we nourished the soil beneath as well

as within the self?

You remind us of the grounding nature of water, its

practical purpose and the human need for liquid nourishment

on all levels: physical, spiritual and emotional.

I thank you for these lessons and gifts.

Doxa Theion!

Agape

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