How I Ended Forced Possession in My Mediumship Group

 

In my local area, the problem of spirits and powers foisting non-consensual slavery on people and individuals experiencing uninvited possession is pretty damn bad. I have been exposed to homes of practitioners who have had to ward their homes so strenuously that I couldn’t walk into them without getting a migraine.
I wanted a non-ward solution for a few reasons.
1. Ow ma head.
2. Warding creates a tolerance effect. Think about it like this: you don’t ward because you expect that the random spirits passing through are going to respect your group and your space. You ward because you believe you need wards to be safe. In a sort of pavlovian way, once you’ve been exposed to the idea of wards, you want to put them everywhere. You feel unsafe without them. Just as fast as your mind can concoct the imagined consequences of a lack of wards, the astral responds to your will, and astral stuff happens in the rough shape of what you are imagining.
3. If I call you over to my house, then lock all the doors and windows so you can’t get in, hang up the phone and start talking to you, who am I talking to? Myself. That’s who I’m talking to. I’m talking to myself. I have been in too many spaces that have warded out the actual deities they wanted to invite in and venerate.
4. Energy naturally circulates. Until you cut yourself off from it. So, if you have a bunch of people doing a devotional, and they are all out off from the natural sources of energy outside the circle, they are mostly tugging on one another’s energy. That energetic dynamic, translated socially, is drama. It’s the constant trying to be the center of attention because it is the only thing that feels spiritual or up-lifting. Your aura, until you start monkeying around with it, is a self-cleaning thing. It’s only when you set off it’s delicate balance by jamming unnatural stuff into it, or wrapping it too tightly, that you are likely to get an infection. Purifications are important, but so is cultivating natural stability.
5. How the hell is it that Jews in synagogues raise all that damned power by chanting divine names, and no one ever gets a negative spirit or something stuck to them? They do not cast circles. They do not use wards (unless you count the mezuzah — though I’d argue that it’s meant to simply be a visible reminder of the tribal contract). People roll in and out during every part of the service. Children run in and out of the sanctuary during services and throw candy wrappers everywhere. And everything is fine. The problem has got to be with our expectations.

My Hypothesis: If I Clearly Communicate The Expectations In The Context To All Humans Involved, The Expectations Will Be Respected By Both Humans and Spirits.

I had my community agree to the following community guidelines and rules, shortly after Pantheacon 2016:

Article I. Divine Affiliations

There are three levels of participation in this contract for spiritual beings. The same levels apply for our dead, the fae, certain spirits of place, spiritual familiars, spirits of various types, dragons, and deities.
1. Acquaintance. This means that you are welcome in our working space, but we will not be doing any active spiritual work with you in the context of the group. You may or may not have devotionals hosted for you, and you may or may not receive offerings.
2. Friend. Once you have proven that you can be trusted to respect our boundaries, we will start to do active spiritual work with you, provided that you desire this. This may include slightly higher woo devotionals, guided meditations, and rituals to purify our individual and group connections to you. This level of participation may or may not involve trance, if individuals have that sort of relationship with you.
3. Patron. Once the group has worked through its filter with you, we will begin to work with you more intensely. This might include private or public trance parties and/or devotionals. If you make it to this level, and you are a Greater Spirit (dragon, deity) we will create an initiation for you, or perhaps several.

Article II. Rules of the Road For Spiritual Beings

Entering into our space implies the following agreement:
  1.  You will not harm anyone in the space
  2. You will not force anyone into anything. You will not force people into contracts or agreements. You will not force people into altered states that were not planned during the session. You will not forcibly possess anyone. You will not initiate any sort of physical or spiritual intimacy that was not asked for.
  3. If you are asked to depart from your channel, do so as quickly and gracefully as you can.
  4. You will obey the terms of short-term contracts that are drafted for the purpose of our workings if you signed them.
  5. You will not follow anyone home unless they specifically verbally state that they wish for you to do so at the event you attended.
  6. Don’t make anyone sick. Do not give them headaches unless you are a deity of headaches, or nausea unless you are a deity of puking. Endeavor, to the best of your ability, to prevent and/or fix this sort of thing.
  7. Do not passive-aggressively tolerate a person’s behavior when they are with us, then maliciously “punish” them later. Use your big kid words instead. We are all adults here.
  8. Do not consume foods that your channel is allergic to. Respect their dietary restrictions and taboos. Do not drink if you are riding a person who is in recovery. Do not take any sort of prescription or illegal drug unless it is specifically stipulated in your short-term contract with your channel.
  9. When you are riding a human, you are a guest in their body. You are a guest in our space. Don’t be rude to your hosts. Don’t demean people. Do not reveal embarrassing information about those whom you are riding. Don’t use their body in a way that they do not want it to be used.
  10. When riding a human, you will not delete the entire contents of their memory for the time that you were present. Please do delete from their memory any private conversations you have with other humans. Likewise, don’t go blurting people’s private business to other humans.
  11. Don’t ride the people responsible for monitoring the channel or the energy of the space.
We reserve the right to suspend rules under certain circumstances, but this can only occur if all present agree to it by a unanimous vote. This can happen quickly, if need be.
If you are invited into our space and subsequently fail to follow these rules, we will investigate whether or not you were responsible, or whether the group or individual filter might be at fault. If you are found to be guilty, or if this happens more than three times, you will not be invited back into the group setting.
There are no acceptable circumstances for violating these rules without discussing it with us. If you have reason to request a suspension of the rules, please signal us by “muppeting” (scream and flail). This will alert us to a problem, and we can listen in more detail. If it’s not important enough to warrant screaming and flailing, it is DEFINITELY not important enough to ask us to break the rules for.
As an aside, we have never, not once, even had a *request* that our rules be changed or suspended. As a Universalist Polytheist group, there were Greek, Roman, Middle Eastern, Irish, Gaulish, and Norse deities involved over the course of that year. We worked with deities who are, elsewhere in the community, reputed to frequently violate people’s consent. There was not one complaint of any kind. NOT ONE.
In short: none of the gods had some grand spiritual need to do us harm. All of them were willing to play ball once the expectations were clearly articulated. 

Article III. Rules of the Road For Humans

The humans in the group are also responsible to one another.
  1. Respect no. If, for any reason, a person says no to participating in a ritual, having a particular experience, being touched, or consuming any substance, that “no” will be respected.
  2. Respect yes. We are not here to second-guess each other’s life choices or spiritual paths. If a person is in a consensual relationship with any sort of entity, we must respect that choice.
  3. Be honest. If you are non-amnesiac during full possession, please disclose that to the group. If you are not sure who you are channeling, or whether you are actually channeling, please let us know. We are here to help each other with that sort of thing. If you anticipate a problem with an activity or exercise, tell us. If you are having strong emotions and think they might be coloring your perceptions, tell us.

Article IV. SIGNS OF DISTRESS

  1. If, during a trance session, the body scratches its left wrist with the first two fingers of the right hand, that means that whatever is riding them needs to leave.
  2. If you are feeling overwhelmed by energy and need help grounding, raise your hand.

Results: Problems Extinguished… Unless We Had Guests

For a number of months, we had a stable group with no additions and no subtractions, and we had no problems.

The very first time we added someone new, she began to experience a spirit being pushy about carrying. I scolded the spirit, saying, “I don’t know who you are, and I don’t want to know. But that is how you get yourself banned from this group. Back off, or I might get curious about your identity, and add you to the no-fly list.”

Whoever it was backed off immediately and without hesitation. I had the new person read the contract, and we rolled along without any incident.

Until more new people came in. This time, one of the old-time members was feeling some unidentified spirit push to be carried.

“No.” I told the spirit, “This is not trance mediumship time. We ban people for violating our boundaries.” Again, whoever it was backed off. And so we shared the contact with our guests, too, and the problem, again, ceased.

In other words, when new people brought their old expectations in, it generated problems such as we see elsewhere in the community. The problem is cultural.  

In future, we plan to simply read the terms of service to people right after they walk in the door. 

Conclusion 1: Spiritual entities try to ride humans to get attention and forge relationships. If it is made clear that the group has no qualms about putting spirits, deities and powers on the “no fly” list for certain behaviors, those behaviors will not be evident in the context. 

Conclusion 2: **Whether or not the humans have been made aware of the rules for spiritual beings mattered. New deities did not need the rules read for them so long as there were no new people. New people brought a change in the way spiritual entities manifested. Acculturating the humans profoundly changes the apparent behavior of deities, powers, and other spiritual beings.** IE, this rape culture nonsense is definitely filter.

 

Hermes Wrote This Hymn to Harmonia 

I call to Harmonia, daughter of Ares and Aphrodite, patroness of King Cadmus, Goddess of Serpents, exiled dragon of Olympus, draw near, incline to my prayer, hear the words of your humble supplicant:

On a bed of shame and pride were you conceived, where Aphrodite defiantly lay with her love in the presence of her owner, whom Zeus promised her without asking.

All the gods gathered round, and heaped up scorn. Apollon cruelly laughed.
You set her free, and her bride price was returned, assuring freedom to the mighty goddess of love.

For nine months she carried you, pregnant belly unashamed, and when she delivered you — the king saw only a problem.

In your infancy, Zeus promised you, little understanding what you were, and sold you away. With you, the hope of the gods — for on that day, Peace Herself left, and darkness descended in the high mountain. A mortal you married, a mortal you became, and died a mortal’s death.

Heaven and Earth, Sea and Fire, Life and Death had no reconciler. Snakes slithered aimlessly, and the crops ripened out of their season.

Hated, bitter hatred, brewed in the hearts of men, and they fell away, harboring love for an alien god, a god of destruction, a god of annihilation, a god who called up rivers of blood. And it was the blood of the devout, Harmonia, the blood of those dear to all who dwelt on high Olympos.

Dear goddess, your exile was their exile. Your exile was our exile. Your exile was the exile of every righteous soul, every pious man or woman who still honored the gods in their hearts.

Thus did Hermes descend to Erebus, seeking you, but he found no one.

“She has not been through my door,” Persephone told him. “Not Cadmus, either. And I know not what became of them.”

And up to Helios went Hermes, asking if the sun’s all-seeing eyes had spied where Harmonia had gone.

“I saw her die,” Helios replied. “My eyes see only what is upon the Earth. The spirit realm I cannot perceive, though the Sibyls of their people spied dragons, a winged serpent of grey and one of various hues flying over the citadels.”

Hermes disguised himself as an old man, and going in that guise, approached the Sybils.

“Tell me, young ladies — a coin for your troubles! — Can you tell me what became of Harmonia, the wife of Cadmus, the mother of Semele, that Grandmother of the wine god, after she died?”

“What you ask is beyond our ken, clever messenger, son of Zeus.”

And Hermes unveiled, revealing his true self.

“If even those sharp eyes have not seen, there is no one left to ask!”

“Not so,” the Sibyl answered Hermes. “For there is an oracle greater than us who dwells in Cyprus, and she knows the coming and going of all souls, and even sees those who escape the halls of the dead and the eyes of the psychopomp.”

Thus Hermes set off for Cyprus, looking for this oracle.

In Cyprus, finding her, he posed his question again — the woman, stark and aged, with skin like leather and hair like a pile of down feathers answered:

“Blood has fallen, Argeiphontes, ” answered she, “And more blood will surely fall  until Zeus shall bow his head and rest his crown upon the altar of Harmonia.

If it is the goddess of peace whom you desire: you cannot command peace, nor force peace, nor own peace, nor even find peace in death. You must devote yourself, body and soul to the work of peace. Then, and only then, peace will come to you.”

Hermes tipped his hat to the oracle, and set off on a long journey, into the kingdom of the god of annihilation, and in his court made peace. And he devoted himself to peace.

For many long years, Harmonia, did the messenger of gods lay up offerings at your altar. For many long years did he seek you, in the recesses of his heart, and took up your sacraments.

And he calls still, Harmonia. Hear this, the call of the god of diplomacy. Hear this, the call of the god of peace. Hear this, the psychopomp’s earnest prayer:

Holy Harmonia, daughter of love and war, come. Drink this wine. Hear this supplicant’s call. Be present among men and gods once more. Release the bound, free the oppressed, return dead hope to the living gods, and be welcome once more upon the very heights of Olympos.

Answer, and to you I will sing another song.

Sacred Dissobedience 

 

Deity: You seem to be in a good situation, with respect to your household. Which of your gods set you up?

Me: I… Actually you can’t credit my gods with this one. Every last one of them told me to stay away from him. I married him anyway. So that’s all me.

I got to thinking about where I’d be today if I had obeyed the gods on this issue.

I never would have finished college. I’d be living in a place isolated from any sort of suitable pagan community. I never would have learned Kabalah, or Ceremonial Magic. I would have been unable to bring those exegetical techniques to Hellenismos.

I would be struggling with poverty. I might not have access to suitable doctors to manage my health conditions. I would be in pain most of the time, and possibly not even know why.

A core tenet of Consent Culture is that each individual knows their own needs best. The gods may be wise with respect to the world, but they do not know me as I know myself. They don’t suffer what I suffer, they don’t live in my body, or drink my water or breathe my air.

It’s clear to me why they didn’t want me with my current mortal husband: he’s in the way of their aims. In order to spend my time or money on any spiritual undertaking, I need to negotiate with him. He’s an obstruction to them.

I must balance what he costs them with what a lack of him would cost me. When I made the decision to stay with him, I did, in point of fact, ask Hermes what he thought. Though every other deity said my disobedience was hubris, Hermes said, “No. If you think this is right, do it.”

Was he completely pleased? No. But he always defers to my sense of what is best for my situation. That is love: a commitment to do right by the beloved. And for this, I will honor him until I die with the highest of honors.

A core tenet of Rape Culture is that those with power have the right to inflict their will on others. If I was an adherent of rape culture, I would be very comfortable saying that what I need means nothing, and that the gods may do what they like with me, to my detriment or not, because they are gods and I am mortal. It would be no more complicated than that. I would accept that saying no to them invites a risk of violence against my person. If it is what men do to women who say no, I should certainly expect no less from my deities. I should be quieter. I should be less noticeable, if I don’t want this sort of treatment. I should make my offerings when they are due, and never when they are not. I should be no more and no less pure than anyone else around me so I don’t stand out. If pursued, I should demure, give unclear and indistinct answers to avoid their rage at being told no.

THIS. IS. RAPE. CULTURE.

And nothing about it is sacred to me.

Instead, I look out for myself. I take care of myself. Instead of living in poverty, I am financially stable. I have the best medical care money can afford. I live where Pantheacon happens. I have access to large spaces for classes and ritual. I have money to give other Pagans and Polytheists a hand up when they need it. I have vitality and energy, and most importantly of all, time, to do their work. Because the god who loves me committed to working with me, rather than establishing his dominance over me by working against me.

If I had obeyed them, I would have done them no service. Hermes knew enough to trust my sense of myself. But, then again, he has and –I believe– will always go to bat for me. And that investment he made in my personal sovereignty and my right to self determination has paid off for him and his entire pantheon a hundred fold.

The gods have profited because of his commitment to consent culture. They have profited because I disobeyed them.

Remember that the next time someone says, “We don’t have the right to say no.” We always have the right to say no to power. Sometimes, saying no to the gods and following through actually helps them in the long run. Sometimes, resisting the government benefits the entire country in the long run.

Disobedience is sacred.

Harmonia and Hephaistos

I. Harmonia

Who fucked you?
It wasn’t me.
Why then, this cursed jewel?

Who wronged you?
Was it my mother?
Your brother?

No.

It was he who sold you a lie
That Passion would wear chains
That Heart could be kept indoors

She was drawn, my mother, from the sea
But she is a raging conflagration
Place her in your prison
And she will burn it to the ground
As surely things fall when dropped

The one who told you that Love
Could be bought and sold
It was he, he who wronged you
We both know who I am talking about
Why then, this robe, dipped in crime?

I am Peace.
Do you wish to War with me?
I am Harmonia.
Would you send me away from the gods?
I am Concord
Between fellows
Between gods and men
Between you and your own broken heart

Know this, uncle of mine:
I never stay where I am not wanted

II. Hephaistos

I know what Zeus was thinking
As he watched me work the forge
If such a fire could be contained
So could She

Yes, she did
She burned my house down
And my heart
My dignity, too

But Zeus didn’t wrong me
He couldn’t have known better
What does he know of fire?
His lightning was a gift
A purchased bauble
But I knew.

I burned myself.
Against my better judgement.
I knew what I was looking at.
But in that moment
I chose to be a moth.

That jewel’s not cursed
That robe’s not dipped in crime
It’s just imbued with your divinity

Gentle Harmonia, your Godhead
– Thrashes –
They who use power to oppress
Until there is nothing left
But tears and bleeding
Smoking ash and rubble
Rent garments and cautionary tales

And your descendants
Were royal.

Re: Imposters

This morning, while brushing my teeth, I heard the following dialogue.

Spirit: (at me) “God, I really hate you.”

Hermes: ?! “Who the hell are you?”

Spirit: “I’m Hebe.”

Hermes: “Uh, no. I’m pretty sure that you aren’t.”

Spirit: “Isn’t it a matter of opinion? To some people, I’m Hebe.”

Hermes: “I’m Hermes. I know Hebe. And you, little one, are not Hebe.”

Spirit: “How do I know that you are Hermes? What evidence do you have?”

Hermes: “If you were Hebe, you’d know for certain whether I was or not.”

Spirit: “I think not.”

Hermes: “Welp. You know what they say. Shoot ’em all and let Persephone sort ’em out. Down we go!”

Spirit: (Begins screeching)

Hermes: “Yeah, that? That never works. Come along.”

He extends his chlamys, raising the golden wand, and they both vanish

The following struck me about this brief interchange:

“God, I hate you.” — Hate, as I like to say, generally boils down to fear. Even when it boils down to envy, envy is a manifestation of insecurity. Insecurity, in turn, is fear that a person isn’t good enough. Spirits who are consumed by hate are generally bottom feeders. 

“Isn’t it a matter of opinion?” — Well, isn’t it? We certainly treat it like it is. We have no community standards for manifestation that we can agree upon, really. If they drain you and you suffer as a result, some will call that Shaman Sickness, so having their own energy isn’t a universal criteria. If they are cruel, some will say that mythology supports an interpretation of cruel gods, so they don’t really need to be spiritually evolved, and they don’t need to have dealt with their own shit. If they fail to give us blessings, some will say that the gods aren’t obligated to help us, so they don’t really need to be able to wield the forces they claim to rule over. If they create spiritual problems, or set us back spiritually, some will say that “the gods aren’t safe.” So they don’t really need to possess any particular wisdom, or know anything about building relationships with humans.

She’s right. It’s a matter of opinion. Any spirit whatsoever can pass themselves off as a deity in our current environment. It will be valid to someone. And just one or two someones is all a spirit needs, really.

“Uh, no.” — Hellenic gods, on the other hand, never have and never will accept pretenders in their presence. I cannot speak for other pantheons, but I would assume that we could expect something similar, regardless of where we went.

I believe anyway, prayers are always heard by the deities to whom they are addressed. I hardly ever pray to “you.” Excessive use of the deity’s names assures that whatever the working, the deity is at least aware of it. And if there is an interloper, they’ll be dealt with.

“Shoot ’em all and let Persephone sort ’em out” — If you question a manifestation, it’s useful to have a good relationship with some several psychopomps. That way, whatever spirits might be hanging around can be escorted to where they belong.

This really sort of cements my conviction that I don’t want to be doing any mystical work without Hermes and Hekate nearby.

“Yeah, that? That never works.” — Spirits put up a fuss when you try to move them along to the afterlife. Probably, if I am calling Hermes and/or Hekate for this work in particular, I really ought to give them something nicer than if I’m calling them for help with magic or money or something else which doesn’t involve screaming, tantrum-having dead people.

 

Your Sense of Self Matters

No matter what you do, you are stuck with yourself. You can pack it down, put a mask on it, cast a glamour over it, or lie your face off about it. But at the end of the day, when you climb into your bed, there you are. The farther away from yourself you are, the more wholly miserable your life will be, no matter what else you have. The more you ignore yourself, the less you will understand about yourself. The less you understand about yourself, the less possible it will be for you to understand your motives, control your actions, or to grow as a person.

Despite this, too many spiritual paths teach that destruction or nullification of our sense of self is a good thing. Somehow, being self-effacing and not having our own goals, aims and desires is praiseworthy. Not having opinions, not taking sides, not making any kind of judgements about anything is somehow a more evolved state than the alternative. And I will tell you why.

A Person With No Sense of Self Is Easily Controlled

A person with no sense of self, no opinions, no alignments, no convictions is a person who its easy to control. They have a self, I assure you, buried five layers deep. They have lost touch with their internal compass. They have no plans. All they do is react. They are reluctant to speak out against injustice, because their non-judgment dogma has warped them into thinking that the oppressor’s viewpoint is just as valid as that of the oppressed.

Losing touch with your sense of self means losing touch with empathy. It means losing touch with moral indignation. It means losing touch with everything inside of you with power to plan, to resist, to fight, to succeed.

Without A Sense of Self, Self Becomes A Stranger

When, at last, your long-neglected soul emerges from obscurity, you will not like what you see. To paraphrase Engewook from the Neverending Story: kind people discover that they are really cruel. Brave ones discover that they are really cowards. Confronted with their true selves, most people run away screaming at their image.

At the end of the day, you are the only person capable of growing and developing you. If you can’t see you, you can’t assess what you need in order to grow. No one can do your inner work for you.

A deity can’t change you into something or someone else. You might want them to, because you don’t want to be who you are. They can’t. It doesn’t work that way. There are hundreds of people who tried to “pray the gay away.” No dice. The fact that it doesn’t work has been clinically proven. The damage it does is statistically measurable.

Initiation can’t change you into someone else. No, not even alchemical initiation. That’s not how it works. You don’t do Plant Alchemy to turn bay leaves into a zebra. The Alchemical Process makes bay leaf into the purest distillation of the essence of Bay Leaf.

Apotheosis doesn’t change who you are, either. It just makes you more of what you are already.

Without A Sense of Self, You Cannot Know Your Purpose

The essence of you is not incorrect, or wrong, or in need or erasure, regardless of what the various clergy people, or your family, or your teachers in school led you to believe. Your life’s journey isn’t to become someone else. It’s to become the best version of the person you already are.

You are here for something. You are here to do something that, I believe anyway, you chose. The self that you have is right for that purpose. The hard part is actually just figuring out what the purpose is. You’ll know it when you find it, because your heart will sing, you will feel complete, and no source in Heaven or Earth or Hell could ever separate you from it.

You took with you into this life only what you needed. Who you are and what you can do is tailored to that specific purpose. If you try to ignore your sense of self, you cannot possibly know what you came here for.

Your purpose is not a deity, though sometimes a deity can represent your purpose to you (if their purpose and yours are similar). It is not another person. It is not some particular religion. It is not a job or a career. These are things we tell ourselves because they are easy to latch onto. I’m not saying that they are unimportant. They’re plenty important. They can each, in their own way, be an expression of your purpose. But if your deity up and leaves you forever, or you get divorced, or your children grow up and leave the house, or you lose your job, your life isn’t actually ruined. It’s not time to give up and die.

It’s better to absorb this truth early. If you don’t, you will almost certainly lose each of these things in turn along your spiritual path. And people do. And they call it “resistance” or “karmic acceleration” or “ordeal work.” They falsely believe that it is the suffering that’s important, and teaches the lesson. Au Contraire. What is important is re-connecting with the self, and sometimes, the only thing that our powers can do for us is to take things away until we have nothing left but self, in the hopes that with fewer things to confuse us, we’ll finally take a look in the mirror.

Sometimes, you need to find yourself to find your purpose. Sometimes in finding your purpose, you find yourself. The whole Big Fucking Deal about Knowledge and Conversation with your Holy Guardian Angel is just that. It’s about finding your purpose and yourself.

Without A Sense of Self, We Are Shitty Mediums

 

I promise you this: you will never achieve true knowledge of what is other until you know what is self. In order to discern what is a deity or spirit talking, you need to be intimately acquainted with your own inner voices, so that when you hear them, you will know that it is not deity, no matter how closely that aspect of yourself may resemble a particular deity.

No, you cannot just erase yourself. Not even temporarily. Certainly not permanently. No, your soul never goes to sleep. No matter how deeply you are in trance, you can never silence your true spiritual essence. You can only perceive what is self, and what is other, and emphasize the expression of self, or other, as needs dictate.

Recall the days of your youth. When you were coming to terms with potty training, you fixed and joked about all things excretia. In adolescence, the changing of your body and sexuality, these things were the “big thing” that you focused on, talked about and processed. Self-absorption is completely inevitable until we fully self-actualize, and come to terms with having a unique and independent self.

Until the understanding of self is achieved, we cannot do anything other than create gods in our own image, since the struggle to self actualize occludes any ability to understand other. The true face of divinity can only be perceived after finding the true face of the self.

And if you hate yourself, if you are trying to get rid off yourself, you have already lost that struggle.

So make peace with yourself. Resolve to accept that you love what you love, care about what you care about, value what you value. Be delighted by what delights you unapologetically. Cling to your ideals with the full force of your being. Pursue those virtues you honestly hold in high esteem with all the zeal and vigor you can muster. Love the heart, mind, and body you have.  Don’t let anyone ever tell you that you are deficient because you aren’t someone else. You do not owe it to anyone to be someone you are not.

 

 

 

 

An Activist’s Deipnon for Hekate

I’ve got nothing for a pre-amble. These are trying times. Every day brings a new assault on someone’s rights. I’m pissed, and I’m tired of hearing rationalizations about why certain people are entitled to systematically mistreat, oppress and do violence to our most vulnerable.

If you are feeling me on this, I want you to read this article on self care, stat. If you are in a TL;DR headspace, let me give you the most important thing the author said:

This is really important, because at some point it will become too much to handle. You can cope by shutting it out for a while — binge watching Netflix, playing with your dog, going to yoga. But if you don’t do that, if you try to maintain this fever pitch of anguish and fear and outrage, something far worse than a little down time is going to happen. Your brain, to protect you, will just turn down the volume on the outrage and adapt.

You will stop being shocked by the latest scandal and horrified by the latest attack on civil rights. […] And that is the worst thing that could happen, because THIS IS NOT NORMAL, and democracies fall when their people stop resisting.

 

1ec0dc4970bfb377457fd0b16627c62e.jpg

No joke, people. Constant emotional distress is really, really not good for you.

This is solid advice. I see you. I hear you. So many of you are exhausted and burned out already. No one can sustain constant emotional anguish, and even if you could, it would help no one.

We need to do more than just be aware and outraged. We need to think and plan. We need to communicate. We need to take action. We need strength for a long, long fight.

Rage and fear cloud our judgment. They destroy our eloquence when we most need to convince others. They paralyze us. Over time, the elevated stress hormones will eat away at our physical well being, too.

So how do we cope?

In the ancient world, people were surrounded by the pervasive reality of grief and horror. Their friends, even their children, often died of what are today preventable diseases. It was unusual to not know someone who died in childbirth.

Wisely, the ancient Greeks had a pressure valve which prevented this pervasive grief from paralyzing them. They set aside certain regular times for feeling the horror, feeling the grief, the fear that surrounded mortality. In so doing, they prevented that anxiety from invading their every day life. That, in my opinion, was one very important function of the Deipnon.

We need time to feel our emotions fully, undisturbed by other concerns. We need a pressure valve.

We also need concrete plans. Feeling helpless and outraged is more than twice as bad as feeling outraged by itself. Even small victories will put wind in our sails, and keep us from sinking, so to speak.

We need to feel validated. Literally, in order to keep going, we need to validate one another. It’s why we bother sharing the news on Facebook. We want to see that we are not alone in our feelings about whatever the thing is. In person, or even just in some forum where you can hear someone’s voice and see their face, I promise, is many times more cathartic than likes and comments on your Facebook feed, or Twitter.

More than that, we need to feel like we have divine backing in our endeavors. Who better than Hekate? In addition to being a goddess of travel, or magic and of change, she is also a goddess of lost souls and discarded things. Way back before it was ok to do, she occupied the position of a goddess who, while unmarried, still consorted with male deities and bore children. Societal rules and roles mean fuck all to her, but empathy and compassion mean a great deal.

So here is what I am going to recommend…

An Activist’s Deipnon.

There are many ways to celebrate the Deipnon, but the Deipnon always centers around the New Moon, Hekate, and the dead.

I. Clean Your House

The ancient custom was to sweep the floor. Do that. Save the floor sweepings (or whatever wound up in your vacuum bag). Find all the news articles that felt like a punch in the gut and print them out, then clear the cache or hide the post. Did you get hate mail? Have a shitty conversation with some bigot online? Get harassed on a social media site? See a meme that made your blood boil? Print that out, too. Then archive it so that you don’t have to look at that nonsense again unless you are using it to take legal action.

Clean your altars. Go through your cupboards. See if there is anything you have been holding onto which should be donated to charity, or which you should, in some other way, let go of.

II. Get Together and Purify Yourselves

You will need khernips with hyssop, incense and a bundle of herbs. Check in advance if anyone is scent sensitive, and adjust accordingly.  

Water and smoke cannot purge a human heart of grief. No energy working can expunge our unexpressed rage. Purifying ourselves starts with catharsis. Talk about it. Talk about all the outrageous things that happened since you last got together. Cry. Scream. Howl. Commiserate. Be outraged together. Have your grief witnessed.

Show each other the news you collected and printed out. Share information. Fact check. Look into possible courses of action which could help those who are most affected. Read what people from the affected demographic are asking you to do, concretely. Concrete, positive action is important, here. What charities can you raise money for in the coming month? How could you go about that? Where can you volunteer to make a difference? What objects can you donate?

Come up with several concrete plans that you could do, individually or collaboratively, over the next month.

When all that has been done, sprinkle everyone with khernips and hyssop, and incense them. Offer for people to wash their hands and faces, too. When you are done, declare the people pure. This not only brings a ceremonial closing to this part of the ritual, but sanctifies and defines whatever state we are in at the close as sacred in its own right.

III. Light a Fire

If you cannot light a fire, simply set some bread to bake in the oven, or put some stew in the crockpot. The important thing is that this is a recognition of the hearth, which is the center of the home, and central to life. 

Say a prayer to Hestia. This is a time to be thankful for what we do have.

If you have an actual fire, throw the printings into it, and let them go. If you don’t, soak them with water until the ink runs, and then throw it out (or, if you are crafty, make it into new paper to write your social justice spells on).

IV. Go to the Crossroads

You will need cream, oil and honey as a libation for the dead. You will also need a wine libation for Hekate. Bring your floor sweepings. 

Any intersection will do, whether of roads or paths or even walkways. Stand at the crossroads, invoke Hekate. Call out to her in her aspects which pertain to caring for the marginalized, the empowerment of women, and caring for the dead and the discarded. Make a wine libation to her.

Place the floor sweepings at the crossroads.

Read the names of those who have lost their lives because of bigotry. Read a list of the freedoms we have lost. Pour out the libation to the dead, and implore Hekate and Persephone to assist them in returning to the world of the living.

And then resolve, with the dead and the goddesses as your witnesses, to choose one of those plans you articulated earlier, and to do that over the next month. Make that choice knowing that it is as much as you, as an individual can do. 

Then walk in procession away from the crossroads and don’t look back. 

That last part is ancient custom, but here, it isn’t about avoiding bad luck. Not looking back is about certainty. It’s about having zero regrets about the path you are now taking. And it is about leaving your rage, your grief, your fear with the goddesses and with the dead until you return the following month.

It is about leaving behind what exhausts you in your activism, and moving forward, without a moment’s hesitation, to do what needs to be done next. It is trust that you will not forget your outrage, because you are coming back for it.

V. Going Home

Before you cross back over the threshold, purify yourself again with the hyssop, khernips, and smoke.

Then go inside, enjoy your fire and/or your meal, and finish with a toast to Hestia, giving thanks, again, for what you have.