Monthly Archives: October 2015

An Open Letter to John Halstead

Brilliant and far more measured than I could have produced.

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Sekhmet is NOT a “Mother Goddess”

Statue_of_Sekhmet_in_the_Turin_Museum,_Italy

I’ve been reading quite a bit on Sekhmet lately. She was the first Goddess that ever came calling for me and I was ordained Her priest in 1995. Eventually, right around the time I was ordained, She directed me toward Odin, but I still have powerful devotional ties to Her. She’s one of the Goddesses that is bright and shiny and very popular in certain segments of the Pagan community and frankly, I think She’s one of the Goddesses that gets shown the most disresepect. To put it bluntly, I really get tired of people taking Warrior Deities, like Sekhmet (perhaps especially Sekhmet) and trying to turn Them into lunar, and/or “Mother Deities.” She is not, god damn it, a Mother Goddess. She may be the mother of the God Nefertem by some theologies but that does not mean She is a “Mother Goddess.”*

I was going to write about this at length but I think my colleague Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa said it better than I ever could:

This false idea of Sekhmet as a squishy, cudly lion or generic “Mother Goddess”, crone, wise woman, etc., comes from the New Age hippie generation of the Goddess community who are unable to approach the authentic textual sources we have which confirm that the ancient Egyptians venerated and very much feared Sekhmet as destructive goddess known to bring plague, storms and Her “Seven Arrows”, which could annihilate humankind. Sekhmet was NEVER the “Mother Goddess”, crone or wise woman to the Ancients. She was a war goddess FIRST, and a destroyer. Her reputation as a healing goddess emerges later, but the warrior goddess always predominated, and does to this day.

I was having just this very conversation yesterday with the Arch Priestess of Temple of Isis Nevada, and she was expressing her disgust for the New Age view of Sekhmet as the crone, wise woman, shaman/ healer archetype, which has absolutely nothing to do with the very real history of how this great goddess has manifested in the historical record, in the authentic texts and temple inscriptions. We know the Egyptians feared Sekhmet, and did everything to appease Her wrathful nature. They knew that Sekhmet is as likely to curse as She is to bless, to kill as to grant life or heal.

I was ordained as a Priest of Sekhmet by Lady Olivia Robertson, and when she performed my anointing, she said to me, “like Sekhmet, go forth to combat evil!” Sekhmet has always been a warrior, a destroyer and a goddess of divine vengeance. She destroys those who dishonor the names of the Gods, those who refuse to live by Ma’at, and those who become enemies of the Gods. Sekhmet is not a Goddess of mercy or kindness in a human way we would recognize. She gives no quarter, She does not stroke the ego or make us feel better in our ignorance or complacency. She wakes us the fuck up in the rudest manner possible, and She is truly a terrible goddess, a holy terror. She cannot be other than feared and venerated without conditions. She receives our pain and suffering as an offering, and She may very well be our annihilation. (–Ptahmassu Nofra Uaa, quoted with his kind permission).

I see the same thing with other Warrior Goddesses like the Morrigan. These Goddesses are immense and fierce and I can understand the impulse today to soften Them, but I think we need to diligently resist that impulse. These Goddesses aren’t there to make us comfortable, They’re there to be venerated and doing so can be a life-changing practice.

*and this is not even touching on the insipid way we tend to present Goddesses Who ARE Mother Goddesses.

Dastardly Divisive Doublespeak

So Halstead, not content with bombarding VeiledWitch is going after Sarenth Odinsson now. Well, I happen to agree with Sareth: if you do not believe in Gods, then fundamentally you cannot be said to hold anything “sacred.” It’s simple linguistics.

The word ‘sacred’, from the Latin ‘sacer’ specifically means ‘belonging to the Gods.’ No Gods; nothing sacred. It’s bad enough he wants to remove the Gods from Paganism, but now from vocabulary words too? Atheist, please.

In case Latin is too high brow for him (though he claims to be an attorney, so I would think this type of linguistic analysis would not be above his pay grade), Collins English Dictionary defines it as exclusively devoted to a deity or to some religious ceremony or use; holy; consecrated.

Random House dictionary says:

adjective

  1. devoted or dedicated to a deity or to some religious purpose; consecrated.

2. entitled to veneration or religious respect by association with divinity or divine things; holy.

3.pertaining to or connected with religion (opposed to secular or profane ).

Other definitions do mention “regarded as being worthy of reverence,” but they are not primary definitions. First and foremost the word itself implies connection to a Deity.

Halstead seems to be getting increasingly desperate and his arguments increasingly insipid. He’s going after some of the most vulnerable in our community and we need to support each other. Attempts at intimidation and Orwellian twisting of terms will not work.

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Odin

My friend Markos recently gave me this drawing of Odin. The art was done by W. McMillan at Pan Fine Arts. It’s much older than I generally see Him, but powerful.

Odin

The boy

This is one of Sannion’s recent poems, that will shortly be coming out as part of a collection in his next book. I love this. I’ve been teaching a class on the “Bacchae” recently and it summons Dionysos so well, so aptly. It summons His beauty and His terror.

Pagans in Danger

The recent earthquake may have devastating Pagans in the Hindu Kush. Read more here. Pray for them. Support if you can. The linked article points out they are one of the few polytheisms that have an unbroken lineage. Their tradition was never devastated by monotheism. They are important.

My Gods are Neither Sad Nor Little

John Halstead, who gets off insulting the Gods and pathologizing their worshipers as sufferers of mental illness, has done it again. Thankfully Heathen and Roman polytheist blogger Lucius Svartwulf Helsen is unwilling to let such things stand unchallenged and offered this smart and pointed rebuttal, which you can read here and here. It says a lot about Halstead’s character that to score a point he’s willing to align himself with rapists, transphobes and war criminals.

Edit: I think it’s also telling that the comments are now heavily moderated at his blog on patheos but he’s going around bombarding polytheists as a form of harassment. Like here. Thirteen comments, without any dialogue from the blog owner, is not cool.

Piety Possum says “For shame, Mr. Halstead, for shame.”

opossum

what do you do when….?

There are some days where I want nothing more than to pour myself out in devotion to my Gods via poetry, via powerful words woven in such a way as to summon the experience of being in Their presence, of the fear and trembling, the awe, the overwhelming ecstasy (in the religious sense) of being in the presence of a God. There are some days when I just want to pour myself out on my knees before my shrines, or find that place in prayer where the walls between me and my Gods come crashing down and I am eaten up by Their presence. Some days I sit down to write and I’m such a tangled mess that nothing will come out and then I just want to scream and pound the keyboard with my fists. Some days when I pray, my mind is too jangled for me to open up properly and I just want to break things and cuss. I don’t do either of those things of course, but there are times the frustration is almost overwhelming. The last few days have been like that.

They’ve actually been very good days. I have friends visiting from Australia (they return home tomorrow and we’ve had a lovely two week visit). I recently got invited to sign a contract for a year’s representation of my art at a gallery in Chelsea in NYC. I just finished a residency where I painted some pieces that even I am happy with, and I’m rarely happy with my art. I’m teaching an awesome class on Greek and Roman epic writers and having a blast. Still, I’ve been unsettled and jagged of late and pretty damned irritable to my colleagues. Part of it, I finally figured out, is that my relationship with my Gods is changing, evolving, deepening and that is all to the good. It’s not yet, however, come into whatever new structure it will soon be, and yet it is no longer what it was and I’m left hanging in the middle in a liminal place wondering where the fuck I’m going. Even knowing that most likely in a month or so I’ll be settled and working renewed and restored, invigorated with whatever new shape my devotional life is in the process of taking does little to help me now with the disorientation of having the ground – ground to which I’ve grown stubbornly accustomed—shifting quickly and inexorably under my feet.

Thank the Gods though. The last thing I would ever want is for my devotional life to stay the same. If it stays the same, I’m doing something wrong. If it does not evolve and deepen and challenge me to my core then I’m doing something wrong. If I am not feeling overwhelmed at times then I am definitely doing something wrong. Religion isn’t supposed to make us complaisant. I don’t think we’re ever supposed to rest on our laurels. Oh, we can possibly get away with doing just that for a time, but we pay for it in the end and what we sacrifice by doing that isn’t worth the paltry shallowness of the comfort gained.

Sometimes our practices change. Sometimes that can happen all at once, but more often it creeps up, seeps into one’s personal veneration, bowls us over when we least expect it. One day what used to work in opening us up to the glory of the great good Gods, just doesn’t anymore. I know what has worked for me. What about the rest of you? What do you guys do when you’re in this situation? What works for you? What is the bridge that sees you through?

Speaking

THIS. fucking this. this is what my god damned head is like most days. welcome to ancestor work. and yes, it’s important, all the more so when it’s agonizingly painful. All the social justice work in the world, no matter how good it makes people feel, won’t take the place of listening to our dead, of reconnecting, of restoring.

Sarenth Odinsson's Blog

Working with the dead is rough

They brush your mind, with little thought to how raw they feel

Their lives spill out upon you without filters, the ones who share the most, open skies raining on your head

The Disir and the Väter can be the roughest

When They speak, They speak in power

It shakes you, the voices of ages, the ten thousand and more generations of Dead, Gods, vaettir, all speaking with a few voices

Those voices thunder through you

Voices whose names have passed from memory

The recent Dead whose names still hurt

The ten thousand ten thousands and more who stand behind us

The Dead are speaking, and we need to listen

No matter how rough They speak

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Updates to my etsy shop

shamaness print for etsyI have updated my etsy site to include signed, limited edition prints of my most recent painting (which was part of a show this past week in Beacon, NY — I’m not ready to sell the original yet, though i’ve had several offers) and a smaller, original painting.

I also still have plenty of ossuary calendars left. Check it out. Everyone should own an original piece of art. 🙂