On Time Management, Metaphorical TVs, and Tattoos

I miss this blog. I have got to set aside time to post in it more frequently; 5 months is too long. What I find most important about this space is the fact that I can cathartically get all my thoughts out before me; an open highway on a long-distance road trip. Having followers, comments, and likes on it aren’t so much the point, as is having the platform to express my head. Kinda like a new diary, since my old one is collecting dust on a bookshelf anyway. Of course, it’s always nice to receive attention or opening individuals’ minds more, like creating a legacy in your child. Conversations can broaden our horizons; allowing us to learn more from others and become better individuals for it. Be it me or someone else, online or in person.

 

So, now that the Holidays and the calendar New Year are over, mostly my thoughts these days are on tattoos, personal goals, finding a new roommate in 3 weeks, and the ever-growing distance that I’m witnessing between myself and my loved ones- lackadaisical though, like watching it happen on TV and not caring where the remote is to pause it or rewind.

 

But I think that’s because of a few factors: First, I’m a bachelor and childless and thus, I don’t have that daily domestic attention on family every time I come home. Secondly, my nearest direct family member is over 1100 miles away, and so, again, I don’t share frequent visits with them. And thirdly, my schedule can get so hilariously packed, that finding time to communicate with them (especially with differing time zones) can be challenging. As time continues, the emotional distance begins to grow. The gap widens as our lives continue to change without each other and suddenly there’s this uncertainty that I don’t know what to do with other than waiting to see what’s next on that TV.

 

“And I’m sorry for us

The dinosaurs roamed the earth

The sky turns green

Where I end and you begin”.

-Radiohead, Where I End and You Begin

 

So, there’s that. But like I said, tattoos are also on my mind. Due to over a year-long hiatus from my full-body tattoo project (and due to my car finally getting paid off), I’ve decided to up my monthly ink sessions to twice a month so as to compensate. My abdomen is (FINALLY) finished and Saturday we begin the ass/hips phase, and then the rib cage from there. I can’t tell you how much I’m excited to be able to begin a new phase finally; the abdomen took too long with my frequent breaks! And on the Solstice, I found out that my artist has replaced his one-and-only employee with this dude that’s got really great energy and demeanor; I have super high hopes for him! And apparently, he’s a spokesman for a tattoo cream, as well as one for a high-quality tattoo ink, goes to tattoo conventions nation-wide and wins frequent awards there, was on a TV reality show about a tattoo shop in Hollywood, and was the lead singer of a decent-budget emo band that toured with Alice Cooper. Yeah. I have high hopes for him.

 

See, when you get tattooed by someone, you create a bond- no matter how small. You are in a close intimate space with that artist for a chunk of time and sacrificing your blood, pain, money, and your body to a design that they are putting into you to last forever. It also requires trust, vulnerability, and exposure. Ergo, bond! Now, when you get tattooed by someone every month for years, this bond becomes a relationship. You know their wife, you’ve played with their kids and watched them grow, you’ve met their friends and become friends with them yourself, you’ve laughed with them and cried with them and gotten utterly drunk with them. Their world becomes your world and so what changes occur, radical or not, involves you and affects you. (I mean, outside of their ex-employee from years ago that you no longer talk to, but that doesn’t keep him from getting wasted all the time and texting you to see if you’d be interested in boning later that night as if that’s the recipe for flattery.) *ahem*

 

Yesterday, while at work, I went to ACE Hardware for a work-related errand, and was rung up by a tall, blonde, spiky-haired guy who looked like he’d been in a few too many fights over the years. I looked down, however, and realized he was sporting a huge pentacle tattoo on his forearm, with lots of vibrant foliage around it. Today, I went to the café and while my regular barista handed me my shot-in-the-dark, I noticed on the side of her middle finger was a new tattoo; a tiny triple-moon symbol that has a full moon bookended by opposing crescents. On the other side of the finger, was a double-moon symbol; a full moon connected to only one crescent. Goddess and God.

 

Used to, I would publicly identify Pagans by the necklaces they’d wear; pentacles and Mjölnirs. And maybe that’s still a thing, but more and more these days it seems that people are tattooing their religious identities, instead. Perhaps I’m biased, but I think that’s awesome! Talk about a beautiful commitment and the ability to make it as unique and personal as you’d like. In many historical cultures, tattooing was sometimes a religious expression. Don’t get me wrong; I love that it has become so much more to people, artistically, across the globe! I just think it’s neat to mimic the customs of our ancestors in this art form. But…history nerd here.

 

It’s also great to see so many people, in this decade, are not only Pagans but are also proud of it. In the 90’s, it was more popular for Pagans to pop up, no thanks to Hollywood’s obsession with “rebellious witchcraft.” But these days, it seems to be more of a personal choice and less a popular one. Thus, it’s great to see so many sporting it. I, myself, have just one bumper sticker on my Honda Fit that simply reads ‘Pagan’. Yes, I’ve gotten some angry and concerned looks in my rear-view mirror at whatever stop light, but that’s not why I have it. It’s there because being a Pagan for more than half my life has helped me make so many decisions, answered so many questions, and shaped the very identity of who I am today. It’s a passion of mine, and I have to express it. And, like the barista, I too have a double-moon symbol tattooed on me, representing the God within everyone and the wildness of Nature; be it a literal god or a symbolic one.

 

So, that’s mostly what’s in my head at the moment. I’ll try to write on this blog more often. Oh, and if anyone knows of someone who needs a room in Seattle in the next few weeks, hit me up!

 

 

“Wear your heart on your skin in this life.” -Sylvia Plath

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A New Kind of Retreat

Imagine waking up at dawn every morning to hike up a mountain, nonstop, to pray to your god or goddess on an altar that you built out of stone and wood. Or running around a giant stone circle as a form of raising energy and then releasing for sacred ritual. Imagine competitive archery, knife throwing, martial arts, and sword fighting in the woods. Building bonfires with wood you chopped, identifying edible plants and practicing agriculture, climbing trees older than anyone you will ever meet, sleeping under the stars. Imagine hunting game with nothing but a bow and an arrow, and preparing its meat for food, fur for blankets, and bones for tools- giving gratitude for its sacrifice. Imagine tapping into the consciousness of plants, stones, trees and carrying full on conversations and relationships with them. Kayaking to the deepest of waters to swim below and retrieve that which the water spirit has hidden for you. Climbing the face of a cliff to see what the goats see and hear what the birds hear. Sacrificing your blood, your sweat, and your tears to the soil in your nails. Imagine a bonding brotherhood that learns how to treat women as equals, as humans, and with respect. Imagine a bonding sisterhood that learns how to push their limits beyond any they’ve ever known and overcome every obstacle.

Imagine a pagan retreat where you don’t just camp, sing songs, and cast Circle amidst all the creatures. You become the creature. You go to the call of the god, not the other way around. Sacrifice. Appreciation. Religion. Love. Trust. And the reality of Nature. Part boot camp, part spiritual retreat, part obstacle course, and part campsite. This is my dream for the Pagan community. This is what I feel the future of our religion needs to sustain itself in our modern world, with temporary reminders and rehabilitation. Today, sacred knowledge isn’t learned by listening to the trees; it’s found on the printed pages made from their wood waiting to be shipped from an Amazon distribution center. Sabbat rituals are held in the temperature controlled confinements of a carpeted living room with scented candles and gas fireplaces. We wear our beliefs by buying jewelry of our symbols made by countries we’re politically against trading with, so we can have an identity. The ironic marriage of indigenous capitalism. Herbs to be used for spellwork are delivered with already picked, cleaned, and labeled produce at your door. You bought a soapstone statue of Kali for your altar at the New Age shop that came from India in boxes of Styrofoam (that’ll end up in the ocean forever), but have you ever gone to India? Have you backpacked through the country and walked through the slums of Mumbai where her name is still whispered in devotion?

I am a practicing Neo-Pagan after all so obviously my modern religion can be very fulfilling at times, but there are times I am enveloped within my community with all that it has to offer and I still feel like it’s lacking, diluted, and anticlimactic. As though we emphasize our attention more on appearance, books, and historical accuracy, than we do on the relationships we have with our deities, ourselves, and our craft. We concentrate more on what’s behind us and at our feet than looking to where we’re going. So newsflash my community, our planet’s falling apart. Human habitual dependency on a lack of responsibility is destroying our oceans, our land, and all the balance found within. Global warming is rapidly the new fear of the Devil. Alternative energy is being ignored while finite fossil fuels are extracted in strengthening numbers. Organic farms are being forced to spray pesticides on their crops by companies that pay the counties to do it, and then charging the farms afterward. Our women are still drastically underpaid and disrespected in the workforce, and many of them expect it and take it because they’re taught to do so. We eat dramatically huge, unnecessary portions of food in this country like it’s your last meal on Earth. And many of that is pumped full of chemicals and artificial flavorings because the manufacturers can get more bang for their buck that way.

When was the last time you bit into the sweetest tomato you ever tasted right after you picked it from its vine? When was the last time you summited a mountain, in pain and exhausted, and watched the sunset with tears in your eyes? Have you ever carved the face of your god out of wood or clay, carefully and respectfully widdling away every shaving to reveal that face you see every day in your heart? In the song, Silvera by Gojira, Joe Duplantier sings, “When you change yourself, you change the world”. I am a big believer in this concept. I believe a pagan boot camp retreat could help change people in our community for themselves and for the planet. I hope someday I can make this dream come to fruition, because not only do I believe the future of our religion could benefit from it for its survival, but also for our democracy.

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Discrimination found in Heavy Metal

I’m standing toward the back of the crowd on the bottom floor of Studio Seven in SoDo with my roommate, Danessa and my friend, Roxanne; trying to listen to a shitty opening band patiently. My feet are killing me. A small price to pay, however, for a great black metal band that was to come next! My roommate had bought us tickets for my birthday as soon as she had heard they were coming to town, knowing I’ve been dying to see them again since I went to their concert last summer in Europe; it was such a good show, I even wrote about it in my diary. And here I was, about to see them again for the second time in one year (pumped!).

Impatiently, Danessa left to check out the bands’ merch tables located just behind us. As she was scanning the shirts and hoodies that belong to the upcoming headliner we were there to see, she noticed something strange printed on one of them: 503. On the back, was an image of army tanks. The 503rd Heavy Panzer Battalion was Hitler’s most prized tank battalion used for Nazi Germany in WW2. Being a history buff, and having Jewish in her family, she brought it up to Roxanne between sets. I brushed it off as empty shock-rock that didn’t mean anything. Roxanne, however, knew of the band’s notorious racism. Apparently, they’re very open about it and were kicked out of several venues for their proclamations against Muslims and Jews. Being Polish herself, she just chooses to separate the music from the artist mentally. Danessa was visibly sickened from this information, but not because of their beliefs. But because she financially supported them expressing this to their fans, verbally and through their merchandise, supporting their cause by purchasing two tickets to their show. However, knowing it was my birthday, she pretended not to be bothered as they came on. The crowd cheered and hollered when they began their first song. I tried to be like Roxanne, and segregate my personal thoughts from the music, but I was having a hard time; my stomach was turning. As someone in front of me raised their arm forward with the sign of the horns, I thought, ‘That’s just a few fingers off from an entirely different gesture’. And that was it I was done. I hugged Roxanne goodbye as my roommate, and I left.

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for racism, homophobia, and misogyny to occur in the world of heavy metal. There have been several bands over the years who have shown up in the news, Rolling Stone, and social media for exclaiming their views on white supremacy and screaming discriminatory comments toward the crowd about gays and women. And there’s been a ton of articles and similar blog posts within our metal community discussing this subject. And I’m not trying to prove a point here or to place blame. I’m only sharing my views on this matter. If you haven’t noticed, I have chosen not to mention any band or artist’s names in this blog post because it’s not about finger pointing to anyone specific, but about an issue as a whole. Plus, I don’t feel the need to bring any more attention to these bands, even negative attention because I feel they don’t even deserve that.

I got to talking to my black metal-loving friend Gemma, who also saw that band with me last summer in Europe, about the subject of racism and Nazism found in black metal, and other subgenres. She had said to me, “…art – especially performance art like music – is a relationship between the artist and the audience. I guess in that sense, it’s not even a political statement to boycott hateful bands, it’s just relationship incompatibility. Because art is important to me, I continually fall prey to “beauty is truth” trope, and, finding “truth” in the art that appeals to me, I attribute some sort of wisdom to the people who create it. I can’t get how someone can create expressions of the highest human ideals while being a total dick in regular life (I guess I’m typically American in my distaste for complexity that way). Especially when it comes to black metal. That art actually is ugly, so we shouldn’t be surprised when it comes from an ugly place, like a heart filled with hatred. I mean, [that band] has been around since the early days, they used to hang with sick fuckers who killed each other and burned churches. And I think that’s why hate’s more common in black metal than other genres. Probably there’s an elevated level of stupid in any genre that sounds aggressive and celebrates ugly, but black metal was literally invented by psychopaths, so of course they’ll attract more of the same”.

 
Who has the time to research every….single…metal band to determine their political stance on minority ethnicities? Many of the lyrics are so hard to understand, being pronounced with screams, most of the time I have no idea what they’re saying. Maybe the black metal I blare into my headphones while I’m doing my school studies is some really hanus shit. Or maybe it’s about buttermilk biscuits; I don’t know! I just like how it makes me feel. And so the majority of progressively minded metalheads are a Polish Roxanne; choosing to look the other way and concentrate only on the way they feel when they hear this music. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t blame Roxanne, and I don’t blame metalheads who choose to do that; it’s hard to let that feeling go. But for me, if I learn this about them, I can’t not let that go. This “don’t ask, don’t tell” copout may work for some people, but not me. As a child, I was raised by discrimination at home and taught by prejudice in school. I’m done with it; I’m too old and too impatient for that anymore. I just don’t get the point of being racist, especially in today’s world of international business and social media. And how do you expect to do business out of your art when you act like that? Because it is an Art of Hate, and that’s the excusable point. As soon as they get offensive, their managers may shake their fingers at them when the reporters make it viral, but then they’re touring again and back on the charts.

Hate does not have to exist against each other. The reason I love metalheads is that of how loving and accepting they are toward each other. If this comes from a place of understanding what it is like to be ostracized as metalheads, then why can’t it be that way toward others who have felt the same? And what of the metalheads that are not Caucasian or heterosexual or male or all the above? Are they not equipped to be as metal as you? Why waste this on minorities and not direct it toward disagreements of your government? Be constructive and make a difference by calling out the politicians, the injustices of the privileged, and those that dress to the nines in corruption and genocide. What do you plan to accomplish with public degradation, because it ain’t gonna progress in this world; sorry to be a newsflash. It’s 2017, not 1939, move with the times or get off the stage.

(Good lord, two heavy posts in a row. Maybe my next one should be about tofu or underwear.)

Know Thyself

What a winter. I haven’t posted here for three and a half months with lots of reasons for this, of course. Going to Christmas parties, Solstice parties, and hosting my own and first-ever Yule party. Work always gets busier this time of year and the class I was taking at the time was the hardest one for me yet (woe to the Algebra student). I drank and ate a ton and never went to the gym and so I developed my annual “winter belly”. And then of course the new president of the United States was elected and inaugurated, shocked the country and the world, and created a butterfly effect everywhere.

For some people, when life gets very real and very crazy like this, they lash out in anger and protests. Emphatically going through the motions. However, I tend to close up. I’m a rabbit after all, and so I burrow myself deep into the Earth until I feel it is time to emerge again. You could accuse me of hiding and retreating and not doing my part to fight or participate, sure. But that’s not true, either. I am fighting, everyday. See, I am in school not to better my education, my income, and change careers because I’m sick of the art community. Those are added bonuses, whipped cream on a mocha. I am getting my Bachelor’s in Environmental Science so that I can make a difference. So that I can be one of the many who will help to recover this planet from our destruction. Every single day I log onto my student website, I am fighting. Those who are marching for women’s rights and for the rights of every minority; they are fighting and representing their freedom of voice. And so am I.

My original plan when I graduated was to go onto grad school and earn my MBA or MS in Environmental Policy and Management. Very vague degrees that allows me to find a career in a multitude of options, which was kind of the point since I’m still very new to this field in a professional sense. Then the inauguration occurred. The impossible was just made possible and every small seed of hope I had for it to be annulled-due to Russia’s involvement, Jill Stein fixing everything with a recount, someone leaking vital and criminal information, or Ashton Kutcher telling us we’ve been Punk’d-dissolved. That shitty morning after feeling sank in with the world’s biggest hangover headache. And I suddenly remembered Obama’s challenge from his farewell speech: “If you’re tired of arguing with strangers on the Internet, try talking with one of them in real life. If something needs fixing, then lace up your shoes and do some organizing. If you’re disappointed by your elected officials, grab a clip board, get some signatures, and run for office yourself.”

Challenge accepted.

I changed my grad school plans and decided right then and there, that I was going to law school and earn my Juris Doctor in Environmental Law. With a shit ton of dedication, time and money, internships, and experience; I will shoot to work for the federal involvement of environmental quality and laws of protection. I will help oversee and care for the National Parks and reserves, recommend actions and decisions to the White House, remove or enact legal implications, and help to make a major international difference. And if this doesn’t end up becoming my career with this education, then worst case scenario I will work for a local courthouse with a job title of Nature’s Lawyer. Which is still pretty badass and effective in my book! If Trump is going to push for more finite resource industries like coal and oil and ignore climate change, then I need to step up my game so as to compensate. It is why I’m here and what my god asks of me.

It’s a high, let me tell you; finally knowing your purpose and what you want to be when you grow up. Your path laid right out with no other trails. I understand things can change and shift and I am open to allow this. But I know without a doubt, since I was 12 years old, that environmental advocacy is who I am. I encourage each of you, if you feel stuck or depressed with your career or with the current state of America, to ask yourself, ‘Is this me?’ And if it’s not, then it doesn’t matter how old you are or how much debt you have or will have if you changed, make it happen. We may have multiple lives, but this is the only one you get as this person in this body on this planet. You owe it to yourself to not waste a moment more of it not living it to your full potential of happiness and change.

“Most people in this world have no idea why they’re here or what they want to do. You do. You have a mission, a reason for being here. You’re not here by chance.” -Buffy Summers (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, season 7, episode 12)

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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

 

A Great Dragon

I watched the horses run freely together along the Atlantic coast in the setting sun as my ride takes me southbound toward Reykjavik two days ago. This is my last day in Iceland. The melodic black metal sounds of Zhrine play in the rental car’s CD player, a band the three of us had just seen perform in Iceland’s annual metal festival, Eistnaflug. A perfect soundtrack to the island’s desolate landscapes and dramatic cloud cover.

I was an idiot to think this trip was about a metal festival. I was an idiot to think this was a trip. It was a journey. A pilgrimage. A clearly undiluted, loud message from the gods that read: Get over it.

I backpacked along the southern route of the Ring Road in Iceland to get to a tiny ass fishing town on the eastern coast with a population of just over a thousand. Kinda like that quaint little Practical Magic town, only minus the pious locals and hot witches. And like Vikings coming ashore to take over the village, so do the Metalheads for four days every year in July. Two-thousand of them. And I walked/hitchhiked/camped 440 miles to be one of them. I was rained on, attacked by seagulls, constantly pestered by flies, and sunburned. I feared one of my rides was going to kill me, my pack weighed heavier each day, I got blisters on top of blisters, and the skin on my hipbones rubbed raw. But these were just surface annoyances. Toothpaste stains on a mirror. The real weight every pilgrim knows is the weight and the battle within. Here I am; surrounded by mountains, sunlit glaciers, the rolling sea, rivers, and fields upon fields of moss, lupine, and lava rock. Either the land of Faery or a supersized diorama for a little boy’s choo-choo train. And I’m bawling my fucking eyes out. I must be the only one in Iceland who does this. Pushing my physical self to its limits and surrendering to trust in the generosity of others, dished my demons out.

Get…over it.

No one can fix you but you. And sometimes it takes the absolute visual definition of natural beauty, the kind that cannot be explained by any language or camera, to make you see the absolute visual definition of darkness. Once I got to my destination, I set up my tent at the festival campground and met my neighbors. I was very fortunate for two reasons: 1.) These particular Icelanders were awesome. They’re very simple in life, utilize their resources, live for laughing, kinda backwoods, and don’t give two shits about differences because they have enough shits on their own plates to worry about yours and 2.) Metalheads are a family. Always. No matter where from, we are an ostracized niche and so we understand one another and will always be there for each other. I had an absolute blast with this group camping by me! Four days of canned Viking beer, black cloth and corpse paint, the most amazing live Icelandic metal music, laughing until I cried, and the ice-cold stillness of a mountainous fjord. What is there left to keep you from living when you’ve already ditched what remained of your identity hundreds of miles ago?

Like Americans to shopping malls, Icelanders are to swimming pools. For every morning hang over, we would zombie walk to the local swimming pool and wash the stench and headaches away from the previous night in showers, two pools, two different temperature hot tubs, a sauna, and a huge kick-ass water slide! One day whilst soaking in the shallow pool, I met a purple haired chick and a bearded man. Come to find out they were from Seattle, too! Furthermore, we shared the same flight back. So obviously I hit them up for a ride and for three days after the festival, we explored the mythical wonders of northern Iceland. We soaked in geothermal pools and explored the haunting lava towers of Dimmuborgir. We drooled in the Motorcycle Museum and laughed at the awful tour guide for the ruins of Erik the Red’s homestead. We sipped coffees in Akureyri, looked within the majestic falls of Godafoss where the gods fell, boarded a Viking long ship, and shared our interests and lives. Who knew something so serendipitous would have been pool soaking a foot away from me? All we have to do is say hello.

Clearly I was getting over it.

They took me all the way to the Keflavik airport where the huge art structure of Valhalla’s rainbow bridge stood erect. As I sat in seat 34D for 7 hours, listening to Gojira on my iPod, I thought of having to immediately jump back into school and work and all of my mundane routines. I thought of the stress, number crunching, and tasks waiting for me in Seattle. And then I smiled, knowing it was all a petty nothing in comparison of who I am and what I can do.

“…But I grow impatient
Cannot stand the wait
And I start to dig
Within me
This tunnel to I
In this region of me
A great dragon is lying
On the wealth of a mighty world
My own world inside
I saw- I saw monsters”
-Gojira
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