Quick Post on EBC 2016

My friend, Jacqui, asked me last Friday if I could meet up with her for drinks on Saturday. “Sorry, working the Esoteric Book Conference all weekend”, I replied. To which she followed with, “Save me a Google trip, what’s an esoteric book?”

“Occult”.

It was the second time I volunteered to work for the Esoteric Book Conference (not counting when I once represented my friend John’s company, Waning Moon publications, 3 years ago), and goddammit, I love occultists. I mean I really love them. I want to have all of their black clad babies and then sacrifice them to Cthulhu, Baphomet, Dani Filth, or who ever (little disclaimer: no, occultists don’t really sacrifice babies and in fact, are sometimes very family friendly! But their babies are dressed in black onesies). In contrast to my ignorance of the most up to date information on the printing of the fourth volume of that one book, or just about two thirds of the other books and their authors, publishers, editors, special editions, and whether or not we have the leather bound version (unfortunately it’s way more involved than how great Johnny Depp was in The Ninth Gate); I still love all of the conversations. Even when I notice they get that realization of me not understanding half of what they’re saying about two sentences in, I feel utterly at home with my people. And all I want to do is support this event to keep it alive.

The scheduled speakers are always once in a lifetime outta townie (and sometimes outta country) infamous authors that give phenomenal lectures and sign their books. Not to mention the chance to have a one-on-one convo with them if you want! Plus, the booths after booths of both rare and contemporary books. And the ART! Holy shite. This year’s art was amazing! (and yes I’m using a lot of italics in this post) I couldn’t stop staring at the Kali Ma piece or the Lord and Lady Goat diptych, both by Laura Tempest Zakroff. Or any of Adam One’s geometric awesomeness. And I kept going back to look at Benjamin A. Vierling’s work.

As far as the presentations went, I saw most of them last year (my favorite one being about necromancy), but this year I saw only a couple lectures due to my shifts there and some homework I had to finish up at home. The one that especially stood out to me, however, was called, ‘Invoking the Other: Alterity, Abjection & Dread in the Initiatory Experience’ presented by Richard Gavin. He spoke of the emotion of absolute horror, dread, and complete madness and what spiritually occurs with our psyches in that connection to the gods and to their spirits. When he spoke up of the intense vino of Dionysus and how it did so much more than just “getting his followers drunk”, I thought of that scene in the second season of True Blood when the maenad, Maryann, explained to Tara about blacking out: “Why be embarrassed of pleasure and laughter, ashamed of letting go? Control is just a cage this stupid culture uses to block out who we are. We need to be out of control- we crave it…I have a little theory about blacking out. Maybe you rose to a higher state of consciousness. What about the saints of India? What about the mystics of every religion? They would black out; run and dance through the streets. Levitate. Act like monkeys, run around naked. Everybody thought they were crazy. They were ecstatic. All that fake civilization bullshit just fell away so they could dissolve into the infinite. So they could lose themselves and unite with their god.” It was a great presentation. If you ever get the opportunity to hear him speak, I recommend it.

Oddly, this year I didn’t run into too many people I know. Which was what I always loved about it, a sort of reunion among friends. But honestly, it was kind of a blessing. It gave me the opportunity to converse and meet new people! I found new friends- new buds, and had some great conversations. I definitely look forward to volunteering the next one!

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Of Solitaires and Covens

“…I’m going to a full moon ritual on Wednesday. I thought about it after we met up last and I asked to possibly join their coven. I just feel like something’s missing.”, my buddy, Darren text me last month.

Good gods, if that doesn’t nail it on the head of how I’ve also been feeling for so long! I have been a solitaire since day one, and only know my rules and morals and ritualistic practice. But then the job gets more demanding, you add classes to your free time, and a fitness schedule. You meet a love interest, go on dates and maybe a marriage, children. A family member becomes ill, a down payment on a house, weddings, funerals, birthdays, social outings and school plays. (Or maybe start a WordPress blog on Paganism and see how often you can post on it!)
Who has time for witchcraft? Sometimes I pray. And sometimes my prayers bleed into my grocery list.

I had started a Pagan Men’s Meetup group, and it ran for exactly one year, with scheduled meetups twice a month. I had a couple of good get-togethers from it, but mostly I just sat at pubs and went on hikes alone. I just can’t afford the time to wait on people to flake. Not to mention, a bi-weekly feeling of self-failure. Don’t get me wrong; I love having me time! Like I said, I’m a solitaire; and an Aquarius, so I have a natural impulse of being a lone wolf (or so I am told). But that was never the original reason behind Green Man Meetup, but rather the opposite. It was for other dudes, like me, who lacked like-minded buddies to hang and chill with. Who wanted to explore our religion outside in the most wild, dangerous, and spiritual of places. To create a brotherhood that can be incorporated within a mostly female oriented religious system so more equality could be felt. But above all, it was for community.

So what does a solitaire Pagan do when they get a little older, get a little busier, feel a little lonely? We seek community. Friends. Family. Ritual. Ergo the coven.
“the attendants go riding flying goats, trample the cross, are made to be re-baptised in the name of the Devil, give their clothes to him, kiss the Devil’s behind, and dance back to back forming a round” -The Compendium Maleficarum (1608)

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(Witches’ Sabbath by Francisco Goya (1821-23). I was mesmerized by this image at the age of 9, when I looked up the word ‘witchcraft’ in my parents’ World Dictionary. It stated that witches sold their souls to the Devil for their magical powers. So of course, I pretended to pray to him every night and told my 3rd grade classmates that I’m a warlock and they shouldn’t piss me off. My mother grounded me.)

Oxford Dictionary states that a coven is: “a group or gathering of witches who meet regularly.” There are also groves, hearths, kindred, circles, brotherhoods, sisterhoods, assemblies, and communities respectfully. Some are Wiccan, or simply Neo-Pagan. Some are Druidic, Asatru and Heathen. Herbalists, candle-based, gender specific, orientation specific, gender and orientation specific, family friendly, skyclad only, lunar, solar, astrological based, Fey based, eclectic, and so on. And this is just within my area! So how do I choose which one I should join, if this really is the best next step for me? I’ve scoured Witchvox.com, Google, and local community flyers. I know of several groups in my area that friends of mine are members of, and I’ve spoken to them and attended their rituals. But at the end of the day, I find myself both agreeing and disagreeing with each one. I guess that’s common with any friend or family member, including covens.

So the best advice I have for myself and for others out there in the same crossroad predicament that I am currently in, is to just ask yourself simple questions. It is all too common to lose yourself in all the options, politics, traditions, formats, customs, rules, morals, and initiations. But remember this all comes down to who you are at your core and how this fits in with each of these groups. Who are you and what makes up you? What is the one thing you want? Once you answer these very simple questions, your next step is to match these qualities with local groups and have a one-on-one convo with their leaders, priests, or priestesses. If you agree with most of what they say, and really get on their same page, then ask if you can attend a “trial” ritual or gathering. This way you can get a feel for other members and who they are (and if you make any friends, even better!), and how their rituals go; if they’re more by the book and structured with memorization and roles, or if it’s more free spirited with “anything goes” style and so on. See how your performance in ritual works with the group’s. And only then can a proper decision be made.

These are the same questions I am asking myself and looking at the journey ahead in finding a group. I am setting myself a time goal of Samhain to make my decision which gives me just less than two months. After weeks of meditation since my Iceland trip, I know the things I am looking for in a coven, or group. And now I am ready to reach out to various ones and start having these conversations; this next step in my pagan development. The one thing I have to remind myself is that this is for ME and MY community and if I offend or hurt the feelings of others by my decision, then those individuals would not have been good coven mates to begin with.

To those of you who are solitaire and love being so (my roommate among you), rock it. Cast it. Don’t ever doubt yourself. I so wish I could continue being one of you, but I know myself too well and I know that it’s just not working anymore. Like my buddy said, “…something’s missing.” To those of us who are at the crossroads of this change from solitaire to group (or vice versa, too, I guess), may it go smoothly and educationally.

“I will study and get ready, and maybe the chance will come.” -Abraham Lincoln