Blog Archives

R.I.P. Ochani Lele (Stuart Myers), beloved child of Obatala

It is with deep sadness that I woke today to find that my friend and mentor Ochani Lele had died. He has had a rough couple of years and six weeks ago, he took a bad fall in his home and was {mis-}diagnosed with a torn rotator cuff. When the pain did not cease, he returned, several times to the doctor and finally demanded tests, which his doctor did five weeks later. It turned out that he had a broken neck but during the course of treatment, doctors discovered he also had stage four cancer. He was immediately moved to hospice where he passed away yesterday (November 27) at 7:30 in the morning. He was with his dear friend, Flavia, a child of Yemaya, who is now taking care of final expenses.

Stuart impacted so many people, both within Lukumi and without. He was generous to a fault with his time, constantly offered classes and wrote books trying to help those who wanted to learn how to honor the Orisha better, to live their lives more fully, to develop as pious, devout human beings. His work as a diviner was extraordinary and above all else, he was a gifted and good man. He will be missed, and the world is a poorer place without him here.

May the Orisha receive him and may he eat honey out of their hands.

For those wishing to donate to his final expenses, you may do so here. My house has given what we can.

Ochani lele


A loss in the Greek Polytheist Community

I just learned that Vlassis Rassias, 60 year old polytheist and activist (moved according to this blog to begin working to restore polytheism after seeing a Greek Orthodox monk smash a statue of Zeus outside the Athenian Ministry of Education), co-founder and General Secretary of Ysee has died. This is a great loss to the Greek polytheistic community and indeed polytheism in general. Mr. Rassias had been working toward the restoration of Greek polytheism for thirty years. 

May Hermes guide him home and may he eat honey from the hands of his ancestors as they welcome him and celebrate his achievements. His was a life well lived, in service to his Gods, in service to his tradition. He will be missed by many and his work continues. 

The link above provides a link to an online memorial where people may leave virtual flowers. 

(photo of Mr. Rassias below from the YSEE fb)


RIP Sir Christopher Lee (1922-2015)

I logged online this morning and discovered that Sir Christopher Lee died on Sunday. He was an amazing actor, an intelligent human being, and really came to define a genre. He also served in the SAS in WWII (and as a colleague of mine just informed me, during the filming of “Lord of the Rings” schooled Peter Jackson in how someone reacts when stabbed in the back!). We lost one of the greats on Sunday.

His film “Wicker Man,” one that he himself considered one of his best, was to me astounding. It is a mythic tale of sacrifice and piety and brought quite a few people of my personal acquaintance to Paganism or Polytheism. I saw it posted on fb that Lee was pagan himself but I haven’t been able to confirm this.(Edit: just had several people clarify that he was Christian). Still, as an actor the tales he told inspired us and his work remains a lasting monument to his genius. We need our artists, our actors, our performers, musicians, and dancers. They lift us up out of the mundane muck and spirit-destroying despair of our world. They inspire us and show us ways to be more than we think we can be.

Formal obits can be found here and here, here and here. I”ll be pouring offerings to his spirit tonight. May his journey to his ancestors be swift and sure and true and may he be met in the halls of his dead with joy. Travel well, Sir. You will be missed.


End of an Era

I found out today that legendary Bolshoi ballerina Maya Plisetskaya died of a heart attack in Germany. For me, as a former ballet dancer, this is really the end of an era of ballet. Plisetskaya along with Maryinsky trained Galina Ulanova really defined a generation of Soviet dance. She was known for her power, passion, and dramatic flair. There are clips of her dancing into her *sixties*. She was a power-house. A full obituary may be found here and here. (the latter has several clips of her dancing).*

When I was small and just starting to study dance, wanting so desperately to excel (and having no one in my life who remotely understood or supported my desire/obsession), Bravo channel would show ballets every weekend, quite often the Bolshoi and Plisetskaya was one of the first ballerinas whom I saw perform (albeit it on tv, in broadcasts of performances at least a decade old). The choreography was nothing special (most of it was soviet era crap — that period was not known for its glittering choreographic genius) but she was fire. I wanted to be just like her as a performer when I grew up. I would have sold my soul at the time for the opportunity to study with one of the Russian schools. That training, rooted as it was not only in Vaganova style, but through Petipa and Ivanov to the greatest of the nineteenth century European schools turned out phenomenal dancers. To this day, in my heart of hearts, I don’t think American ballet schools come even close.

Ballet is an art form where the entire tradition is transmitted one dancer to another. Each dancer, particularly one of Plisetskaya’s calibre is a living repository of history, continuity, and the lifeblood of the tradition. No matter how careful the recording of a ballet, there are nuances that can only be communicated from teacher to student. Plisetskaya was a blazing jewel in that strand of lineage transmission. She was one of those dancers whose work sustained the entire tradition, a generation, over the stages on which she danced, a living icon to those students who sought to follow in her footsteps.

So may she be hailed.
May her journey to her dead be swift and sure.
May she be met with joy amongst her departed kin.

We in my family don’t get to serve the muses so, but we do get to foster there for a time and do our part, and come away ravaged, sometimes broken, but always transformed. For the time i spent in her world, bowed under the scintillating, seductive discipline of the daemon that rules that art, I honor her passage into the firmament of the dead.

Maya Plisetskaya 1925-2015


Rest in Peace: Dr. Karen McCarthy Brown (d. 3/4/2015)

karen brown

Wow. I was shocked when I learned today of Walter Burkert’s death and equally shocked to read, just a few moments ago, of the death of Dr. Brown. Her book “Mama Lola” was ground breaking. I remember having to read it in my Religious Studies classes and I cheered when I discovered that as a result of her work on that book, she became an initiate into Haitian Vodou and mambo.

She was an amazing woman and a courageous scholar. A full obituary may be found here.

May she be welcomed by her ancestors with joy.

Rest in Peace Walter Burkert (2/2/1931 – 3/11/2015)

walter burkert

A brilliant and insightful scholar whose work influenced not only a generation of scholars in the study of Greek Religion but also the development of contemporary Hellenismos/Greek polytheism, Walter Burkert died this week in Zurich.

He was especially known for his work on sacrificial ritual and was the author of such influential works as “Homo Necans,” “Greek Religion,” and “Ancient Mystery Cults.”

He will be missed. May his journey to his ancestors be swift and may they welcome him with joy.