The act of wildcrafting is holy.

It forces you to your knees, bends your thoughts to the Earth. It keeps you bowed as you do the sacred work. Your movements become sacraments, soft fingers amongst the delicate petals, soft prayers dropped from your lips as you turn your attention to the plants before you.

Each plant holds its own source of holy. There is the thrill down your back at the sight of the bounty, the outstretching of arms to welcome you home.

Nettle demands your attention. Be careful where you step, careful where you put your hand, careful of your words and your thoughts and your actions. She teaches us the art of anger, to sting only when rubbed the wrong way. She reaches for the sun and laughs at our fear.

Violet is so soft, you must bend low to hear her words. She sings of protection, not from action, but from the warm embrace of arms. She speaks of the heart and the joy of home and family, hearth and heart.

Dandelion roars into the sun. She sings loudly of creating your own path, digging deep deep deep, stretching up up up, riding the wind of joy and abandon. She dares you to pick her, laughing at our bumbling attempts to draw boundaries.

These are the church, where I bend before my teachers. These are the hours of sacrifice I share amongst those I love.

This weekend I led my very first oracle session. I’ve been wanting to do one for years and modeled it on Diana Paxson’s group. But I wasn’t really prepared when the Gods presented me with the opportunity out of the blue. And a week of prep? Really? Come on guys.

I decided to use the skills and tools I have come to count on in my private work. So I put out an S.O.S. call to my bestie and another really good friend who I knew was an experienced practitioner. We set up a makeshift high seat and figured out the best way to get people to and from. I also used my drumming (via my phone) and Belladonna flying ointment (via a reputable source) that I have worked with before. I journeyed to the Well and used the surface to answer questions.

What I liked: The people loved the opportunity we presented to them. About half the group had questions and a few wanted to talk about it after, which I was fine with. One woman needed a lot more clarification when the Well didn’t provide an immediate answer. I loved working with the 2 people I chose. I felt safe and was able to focus on my job.

What I didn’t like: The wind smacking the makeshift veil around my face, the chair hurting my back after awhile. We were also too close to the main group and it was distracting.

Changes for next time: a different area, maybe inside. I also need a lot more prep time to get securely stationed by the well. And we need to devise a way to bring the oracle back up. It took me a long time to recover. I think next time I will give the questioners more time as well.

He comes to me in the middle of the blackest of the night, between the beams of the moon. He whispers to me of rotting flesh and broken bones, blood gone black from decay. He whispers words of poetry, of the process itself, of the art of Death, of the action of decay. She is the movement of the shovel through the dirt, He is the scream of the vultures, the crack of the rope as we slip sideways.

He is the Dead God hanging on the Tree, already having leaked his offering of blood into the waiting Earth. He is the battlefield after the last cry of metal upon metal. He is the process, always the process.

This is the God who beckons to me, the balance against the pale white and silence of Her grave. This is the smell of rotten fruit and the buzz of flies, He who moves into the Silence like a fat toad in the mud, waiting for its prey. I don’t know His name yet, or even if He has a name. He is unlike any other deity I have ever come across, foundational but kept separate. It is He who takes the offerings of the Sacrificial Kings, who choose to die in order to live. It is He who consumes life, cell by cell.

He asks me to hold the space, keep the tension, allow the process of decay and breaking down to occur in the world and the lives around me. He asks me to see the entirety, to see beyond this tiny grain of here and now. He asks me to sit in the rotten wounds, keep company with the maggots, allow the scent of the carcasses to perfume my outlook. He asks me not to be scared but to embrace the necessity of His work. He pushes me and pushes me and pushes me, until I am coming apart at my seams.

And I am coming apart at my seams.

Leadership (when it sucks)

My local group, Nebraska Heathens United, is starting its third year.

Being a leader means that you get to stand in the line of fire and take all of the mud slinging.

So be it.

Lots of time for hot showers. :)

Sacrifices in the Name of the Gods

When we speak of polytheism, we speak of bringing the Gods into our daily lives, and visa versa. Most of us are okay with this, we feel comfortable as long as the relationship still allows us to live our lives, on our own terms. But what happens when it doesn’t? What do we do when the Gods push us and push us, when They tear down our walls and walk all over our comfort zones? Is this like a bad BDSM relationship where the Dom isn’t listening to us scream the safe word? Or do the Gods know better than us, really know what we need and desire for our lives to be better lived? What happens when the Gods start demanding real sacrifices of us?

The last few months have been rough here in my little world. The balance of mundane and spiritual started to lean heavily towards the mundane. My step-daughter moved in with us full-time, which requires me to be a parent to a teenager 24/7. And when we refer to her as “hyper-verbal”, believe me, that is an understatement. I was initiated and accepted to two different seminaries (yay!) and then discovered, in November, that my job was downsizing and I was being let go. So this has been a very difficult time in the mundane world.

The interesting part of all of this is that, as my stressors multiply in my life, I am forced to confront my deep dark emotions and fears head on. All of them, all at once. And as each one forces me to face it, I am simultaneously struggling with the concept of sacrifice.

Sacrifice comes from Latin and means to make holy or sacred. Sacrifice is not something that we just do or that just happens to us, rather it should not be a passive verb in our lives. When we sacrifice something we make it holy and sacred in the act of the offering. Simultaneously, sacrifice is not something that we can be forced into. When the offering is forced, it remains just an offering. It is the choice behind the action that transforms it into something sacred. That is why even the smallest crumb or tiniest drop of something, when offered from the heart, can become a holy sacrifice to the Divine.

So, how do we decide what to offer up as sacrifice? What suffices?

In my opinion, the gift should be equal to the gift. In short, our sacrifices should hold the same weight as the blessings that we are asking for. Blessings are not payment for sacrifices, rather sacrifices are our acknowledgement at the enormousness of the blessings.

For me, the sacrifice is in aligning myself closer to my Goddess. (This is very personal, all nasty comments will be deleted. This includes anyone who wants to try to advise me to keep fighting. Those comments are just as devastating as any nasty ones could be.) I was diagnosed with infertility a long time ago, not long after I reached adulthood. This information has both devastated and informed my life. Choosing to fight the infertility is one form of sacrifice, that of time and money and resources that could also be used in other aspects of my life. Choosing to give up my dream of birthing a child is another form of sacrifice, one that brings me to my knees even as I know this is my choice. This means that the only child my body has ever help is the one who died in order for me to experience death and become a shaman. This means that the only child I will ever truly parent came into my life fully grown.

But this is my sacrifice, my choice made sacred because it aligns me to my Goddess, She who has only mothered the dead babies, She who nourishes untold legions at her table, She who knows the depth and breadth of grief and chooses to keep going. I choose to give up my dream of a child because fighting against the tide would take resources away from the one I am now responsible for. I choose to give up this dream because the world is a dark place and my being the best shaman I can be means that I bring a little light back into it.

I make this sacrifice because it is mine to make, and the act of making it allows me to transform it into something beautiful, the way Death transforms grief. I make this knowing it alters the course of my life.

Not all of us are called to sacrifice. For some of us, the calling can be the scariest thing ever. For others, it seems like nothing until the weight of the sacrifice is upon us and we are living the reality of our choices. Either way, our constant struggle to align our lives with the Divine is what living is all about.

A random break in the usual to push a cause that is close to my heart

For the last year, my Wiccan group, The Order of the Red Grail, has been meeting in park shelters, random backyards, and anywhere we can find space. The local UU, where we would usually meet, has been under construction for renovations, and their makeshift home with the Methodists was not pagan-friendly. This has really made us aware of how much we need our own space, and we have decided to start an Indigogo campaign to crowdfund this. We are looking to create a landscape and retreat that would benefit the entire pagan community of the Midwest.

Any donation, even if it is just a dollar, will help us tremendously in our goal. The other way you can help us is by spreading the message through facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, blogs and any other way you have to reach the wider pagan community. Feel free to reblog this post. Pagan land in any part of the country allows the entire population to be one step closer to freedom and protection.

Here is the official link: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-red-grail-spiritual-retreat-center

When we alter our appearance, when we can no longer hide behind our shields of “normal” or “one of them”, we stop putting effort into “passing” and start putting our energy towards our jobs. If that is spiritual or magical, this entire process frees us up for wild, primal self-discovery. It doesn’t matter what the transformation looks like, or what the external result is. It is the internal changes, the changes of the soul, that help us create a new identity and a new way of thinking of ourselves and our role in this life.

Who we become, then, is, in the end, entirely our choice. It is the alchemy of the act of changing itself that hold the magic, the fire. There is more power in our stating “I am…” then there is in Their conferring a of the same title, “You are…”.

This act of rebirth is a dirty, painful, messy, tragic, unforgettable rite of passage. And it is one in which we are asked to be active and wildly, unapologetically present. This is our rebirth, our lives that we are carving out of the mud and sweat. This is our link all the way back to our ancestors, our genetic heritage made active in this century. We can be as civilized and posh as we want to pretend to be. But the act of rebirth reminds us quite quickly that we are animals, searching for the spiritual.

When your Gods point to the act of rebirth and tell you that this is the next step, do you squirm and whine? I do. No one really relishes their pain and anguish. And if they do…. well, they probably aren’t doing it right, and they are probably being asked to repeat the same initiatory rebirth over and over.

And yet… sometimes I do look forward to it. I get tired of playing the games and kissing the asses. I get tired of pretending I’m not weird and disconnected and wanting very little to do with this side of reality. I look forward to the fire because it never lies. It may rearrange my soul and realign the fire and the ice that makes up my very being, but it allows me a pure truth that I can often find nowhere else. So I may whine and beg but somewhere in the prodding I become aware again of who I am. I begin to feel the mud and the fire and the ice and the wolf and the singing of the entire Universe in my head. And I begin to hit the “sweet spot” again, begin to feel this side and that side, the minute and the enormous simultaneously exist within my DNA.

And it is that sensation, that pure power pumping through our veins, that leads us to our true power. Whether your magic lies in your emotions, your knowledge, your reality, it all starts with a pure understanding of who you are at your core and where you stand within this world. People who cannot find their magic often do not know themselves. Ergo the need for rebirth.

Our power also lies in our connection to our “Others”, whomever they might be. Its very human to pretend that all we are is human and that all we have is human connections. We have “pets” and “backyards”, but we are just one part of a huge community, one that includes this side of reality and the other side of reality. My connections lay in the Jotuns of the Ironwoods of Jotunheim. While I look human and sound human, there is much power in being able to embody my role as a Shaman of the Ironwoods. And there is a specific purpose in reminding others that we are surrounded by those who are not human. Even the bacteria in the soil has something to teach us, when we remember to stop and take in the lessons.

I am not sure the point of this rambling, beyond that I was asked by Angrboda to write it out.