Witch way....

So, with surviving Nattig, I've struck out to read Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth, which turns out to be a very beautiful collection of hymns. The book was bought as 'good' condition, but had not only highlighting and someone else's footnotes scrawled in the margin, it was dog-eared, the corners were crappy, the outside cover was bent and part of the back was ripped up.

But hey, it's cheap. And just as a reminder, PLEASE don't write in books....it's annoying to the Nth degree.

But while I was out at Nattig, I chomped down on a piece of bacon and had an abnormal crunching sound emit from my mouth, then something was scratching my cheek. Now, personally, I've had a lot of crap that has gotten caught behind my back teeth, so I thought it was a piece of bacon. I reach back in my cheek and lo, and behold - there's a huge chunk missing. I'm guessing like a quarter of my tooth.

One of the kindly Sumerians let me borrow a nail file, which I promptly stuck in my mouth to file down the sharp end. While this is not something I would suggest to anyone at all, it did keep the tooth from flaying the inside of my cheek open, and her nails were in good shape, so I really wasn't concerned. My main concern was the idea of my tooth cracking and falling apart in such a way that I would be in intense amounts of pain. Or I would die of blood poisoning. Whatever came first. So, of course, the first possible opportunity, I went to the dentist.

They gave me an evaluation. Being that I really hadn't been into a dentist in 10 years, I don't think it was too bad. 5 cavities and the broken tooth probably couldn't be saved - it would have to be pulled.

So I go in, and during the evaluation, they surmise that I will have to be tranquilized. Because I am a high anxiety person. So...I swallow two valium and they set to work. Mind you, the scraping of my teeth wasn't too bad. But really, when the little Korean, soft-spoken doctor got at me, I was nervous. It was 10, and I know for a fact the drugs were wearing off. I was going to start climbing the ceiling. But he was soft-handed, took pictures which he then showed me, and set out to work. All the time, they commented on how they were astounded that I was such an easy patient, and that I wasn't really in any pain from the initial broken tooth. I asked them if I could keep it. I got an eyebrow quirk, but they agreed. So here it is.

I about fell out when I saw it. You could see the squishy interior of the broken tooth. No wonder they were in shock. But really, I didn't feel anything. I did, however, learn more about my teeth themselves that day than I had during any trip that I'd ever been to the dentist.

I think the most disturbing part of the whole ordeal was the way he had to use the pliers in my mouth. Granted, I got like seven or nine shots inside my mouth and they had to pause once to let me calm down (I started hyperventilating at one point, so we took a five minute break), but when he actually grabbed the tooth initially, I heard and FELT a ripping noise. I can only assume that was my nerves, ripping like the roots of a tree from the floor of a forest. Then the crunching, like rocks breaking. It was a horrible time. But...it's done.

Now, everyone heals differently. I've spent the past week sucking random bits of food out of this tooth hole. Rice. Pieces of meat. It sucks I lost the tooth...but really, it could have been worse.


Descent...listening to other interpretations....

At The First Gate, the Gatekeeper Demands Inanna’s Crown:

A crown symbolizes wisdom, age and status. Inanna’s crown is the emblem of her queenhood. In giving up her crown, she must give up her superior position. She must acknowledge that to be queen in someone’s heart is a privilege that is earned, not a right to be expected. She must also acknowledge that nobility obligates her to be generous and kind. Using her status to win relationship arguments is contrary to her goal of intimacy. Why would anyone allow someone with such arrogance and superiority into their deep, dark underworld? She must let go of being right and this is only the beginning of what she must let go.

At The Second Gate, the Gatekeeper Demands Inanna’s Scepter:

A scepter symbolizes force and the willingness to use it. A scepter is a threat, a way to control behavior.

Most people who bother to be in a relationship want it to continue and almost everybody feels a fear of abandonment, however well concealed it might be. If a relationship is seen as a contract to stay together and bond, then a threat of withdrawing love, attention or compassion is a powerful one.

This kind of threat is most effective when it is hidden; when seen in the light of day, it is clear what it is—a way to control. But a loving relationship is no place for coercion, whether obvious or veiled.

At The Third Gate, the Gatekeeper Demands Inanna’s Necklace

A necklace covers the throat, which symbolizes Inanna’s voice. A person’s voice is at once an aspect of her selfhood and a medium for connecting with others. To have a voice in a matter is to speak your mind truly, honestly and completely, leaving nothing out. However, to connect with others, you must modulate your voice, soften it and consider the other’s point of view when you speak, so that your words can be heard. You must also be prepared to listen, because communication is not just speaking—it is also hearing.

Inanna’s necklace covers her voice, thus muting her message. She might well be using the necklace to sweeten her voice, to persuade and manipulate and avoid speaking her truth. Or she may be using her words as weapons to sting and hurt. Either way, the necklace is in the way of her truth and the Gatekeeper says it must go. And if Inanna is struggling to speak, then chances are good she is having trouble hearing too.

At The Fourth Gate, the Gatekeeper Demands the Gems Inanna Wears on Her Breast:

Inanna’s gems represent decoration, charm and distraction. They draw attention to Inanna’s feminine assets. They sparkle and delight the eye, as if to say “but look how cute I am!” The gems are a way to seduce and persuade instead of really relating. They are a distraction from what is really going on.

When you feel you are losing a battle, do you switch tactics to seduction or enticement? Do you need to look good in front of your partner? The gems are distracting decorations that draw attention to your good parts rather than your flaws. What might happen if you stopped trying to look good—to your partner or to anyone?

At The Fifth Gate, the Gatekeeper Demands Inanna’s Ring:

The ring is a contract. The gift of a ring seals a bond between two. It is the physical reminder of an agreement to marry, to share one’s life with another and to hold fidelity. A ring symbolizes a pledge, a vow, a promise.

Promises are hard to keep—that is their nature. A promise to love and remain true to someone is easy to speak when the heart feels that love; but when the heart is out of touch with love—this is where the work begins. The ring is there as a reminder that love once was spontaneous, and that the work of getting back in touch with that love is worth doing.

Inanna’s mate has left her and gone to the dark underworld. She is following him there to reclaim the love they once had. He is lost in the dark, suffering: love has died. She cannot make him love her again and to forcibly remind him of his promise to love her would be cruel and would not reawaken spontaneous affection. In an earlier post, I hinted that Inanna cannot afford, while in the underworld, to take the attitude of victim. To hold the beloved to the letter of their promise when the heart of their promise is suffering is to beat him over the head with that promise. “But you promised!” is a poor welcome back into relationship.

At The Sixth Gate, the Gatekeeper Demands Inanna’s Breastplate:

A breastplate is armor for the heart. It is self-protection against life’s discomfort and pain. The armored heart feels no pain, but it also feels no love. Love cannot penetrate the hard exterior.

At The Seventh Gate, the Gatekeeper Demands Inanna’s Raiment:

Inanna’s raiment is her royal garments. They are the mark of her dignity and self-possession. They are the last thing that protects her. Her identity is vested in them. “But I’m a queen!” she cries, “These garments are mine by right!”

Without clothes, you are utterly naked and your dignity is no longer there for you to hide behind. In removing them you are removing the last vestiges of a false self-esteem. You are saying, “I need no embellishment; I am enough just as I am.” Pretense is entirely gone.

The human heart is meant to be soft and penetrable. Relationship is not a battleground.


I don't know that it is what I interpret it as, but it's a good interpretation for teaching about relationships. I'll meditate on it to see what I think.

Sharing the Drumming

They're just 30 second clips...but this is how we do it. :)


Hanging with the Sumerians

So...it's been a while. :)

It's been a while since I'd been to any kind of pagan gathering either. Because a lot can go wrong at a pagan gathering.

Firstly, there can be those people that give off the 'creep' vibe. Not everyone's a happy, loving pagan....but if you've ever hung out in the pagan community, it's kind of like hanging out with gay people - they're more accepting of you because you're different, and being different is okay. They've got their own norms (sacrificing anything living is NOT a norm, and you'll be generally shunned, honest!) and as long as you're peace-loving and friendly, most things are just accepted as differences.

Secondly, there are some groups that move out of your comfort zone. I'm not saying this is a bad thing, but some people aren't comfortable with nudity. Some people aren't comfortable with natural drug usage. Some people aren't comfortable with drinking a 'home brew' (holy crap, what's in this bottle?). Some people aren't comfortable with anyone being in close proximity. Hell, some people aren't used to outhouses, or drumming, or overly large fires. Any of these things can happen at a pagan gather, but that doesn't mean that they happen at EVERY pagan gathering. It's pretty random and low-key most of the time when it does surface. So...sometimes, you never know what you're walking in to.

For me, this one was a little more nerve-wracking in the fact I didn't know anyone or anything. Literally. Because the difference between going to a large gathering and a small one, is that smaller ones have a tendency to be ONE group, which has ONE focus. This particular group follows the Sumerian Pantheon. I know -nothing- about them. Or didn't know anything about them (I've been reading some since...). So not only do I not know about the people, I am completely ignorant of the magic involved. I'm walking in blind.

Sort of.

All cultures have a lot of the same kinds of mythos, and this particular group was doing the 'end of the year/harvest' type of celebration. The honoring of the dead. We were going out there for that kind of thing, meeting some friends, so we would not be alone in a sea of people we didn't know and immersed in a sub-culture of paganism we knew nothing about.

So....after a long an grueling night after work, trying to get things washed and packed, and a very long, grueling day of getting things last minute to make sure we were ok...we arrived about an hour before sunset.

Any good pagan worth their eye-teeth help out their community and tribe. This gathering was no different. There was a lot of meeting, greeting, hugging and helping. That's not anything I'd ever experienced from a Christian church (no offense to my friends who are Christian...I'm sure there are some really good communities, I've just never run into any), and I have a hard time explaining this to a lot of people. Even past all the offers, feeling almost shy (me? shy?), my husband and I move to set up the tent.

Now, there are a lot of things that we are hard-pressed to agree on. But one thing that people never really get to see is both of us acting together on the same task. I know how to set up a tent, but this is the first time I'd ever set up this particular tent. The husband had set it up before for the kids to play in, but we had never really used it (and the other one is MIA, I don't know where it went off to). Anyway, within a few minutes, we're scratching our heads at it, because really, it's a 'summer' tent, and we know it's going to be DAMN cold, but there are no tie downs for the windows. Resigned to the fact that we're going to freeze, we unpack the car and have everything ready, all before dark.

There was a ton of stuff we didn't have. We forgot. Between us two, we had one flashlight, some glow sticks, drinks and frozen foods, but no cooler. A bizarre assortment of things, which were supposed to be partnered with other things for reasons which would have made it easier.

That's okay though, it's another story. ;)

Anyway, the fire is stoked up, the drums begin in the darkness, and people arrive well after midnight. We try to do the right thing and lend aid to those who are strangers to us, trying to be helpful in whatever way we can. Because although we are new to this group, there is a certain amount of etiquette that goes along with pagan gatherings. You help. You share. You take care of one another. You take care of the environment you are in and you 'leave no trace' of your passing through. You are polite, you are respectful, and you walk with an open mind. You don't take pictures without permission (or post them, dear gods!) and you don't use anyone's real name unless you're given leave to. Because a lot of neo-pagans think about their people as tribe and community, almost a type of living, breathing socialism. Any person that doesn't follow these basic rules is an asshole and a moron and really doesn't deserve to be in that place.

Beyond the ranting, everyone, and I do mean everyone, greets with open arms, hugs and kisses. Total strangers. You have no idea what kind of love people project, because you accept them and they are accepting you. They want to see if you are part of the tribe, if you are coming in love. And most certainly, your answer is in your response. Do you hug back? Are you comfortable enough to touch a person you do not know without cringing?

We bring food, because food is important. It's sacred. You don't break bread with enemies, and among family and friends, food is always given freely. I wanted to make sure to express that, that I was trying to be open and honorable and caring, that I wanted to be there. I did. So I made four dozen cuppy-cakes and brought along a slew of other things. They joined well with the dinner provided that evening and there is a gentle feeling-each-other-out thing going on, where we get to meet several members of this little tribe.

And in the first night was the honoring of the dead.

Somewhere, someone's got a beautiful picture I took of the candle-lit altar which housed tokens and photographs of those who have passed on. And in the course of the ritual, the flow of the energy moves (which I thought odd...was was kind of an amoeba of energy...not just a 'circle') into the darkness, by this altar, surrounded by a mock-graveyard that looks as if it could have been real in the darkness. We speak of our honor, our love, and our longing. A chosen one (a priest?) dressed as Nergal goes from person to person, hugging them, whispering love and comfort, reassuring them that he is gently leading them past this life and into the next. I can feel my eyes water, then I think about the little green skull made in sugar by the hands of my youngest daughter to honor the dead, sitting on the altar, and how my grandparents never got to really know her. And I weep just as openly as the soft sobs in the darkness of the little makeshift tribe chorus through the night. We speak of our honor, our love, and our longing.

Then the reveling begins.

And late into the night, there is drumming and merry-making (uh, I might need to omit the merry-making details, but it's quite a bit of merry-making). People ask about my friends, because they haven't shown, and we don't worry too much - things are taken care of, problems resolved, and we meet and greet and talk and get to know one another.

Then we freeze our asses off.

Well, I think I went to be about 4 am, but it was so cold, that I probably got up about three hours later. Someone else is kind enough to stoke up the fire and the offerings of coffee are a warm welcome. Somehow, time gets eaten up and everyone's running on PST.

Now, if you don't know what PST is, you're either new to the idea of paganism or you're not pagan at all. PST stands for 'pagan standard time', which generally allows for a half an hour to sometimes three hours past the original deadline given. Sounds crappy, I know, but really, time is just compartmentalized for our benefit and illusionary by nature anyway, right? Right??

Maybe about 10-11, we stagger down the way to where the outdoor kitchen is set up. Somehow, I find myself cooking eggs. I don't mind at all, I want to help. I feel a little adrift in so many people who are so familiar with one another, and I really know no one. But it is okay, I don't burn anything, and with the other cooks, we're soon munching along. At one point, someone is kind enough to let me charge my phone.

So...I find out my friends aren't coming. Fail. Well, it's okay, I suppose. At first, I was only coming out one day anyway, but it winds up that we decide to camp the weekend. Then my friends don't come out. That's not a bad thing, because I hope that I've made some new friends in the journey. A little prep work through the day and suddenly, it's evening again as people get ready for the next ritual.

Now mind you, I've been snapping pictures along the way. I want to take pictures, because I love to take pictures and to me, this is something that should be documented. Not just because the people here might want something to look back on and remember, but because of reasons that I hope someday will amount to something. The idea is that modern America is branching out from the right-winged conservative radicals. This is not a pagan nation, but the nation houses pagan people. In America, there are so many pagans that are 'in the broom closet', but it's living history that is not getting documented for future generations to see. It's being overlooked, this 'underground movement', which will eventually, I believe, reflect the change in our societal outlook in a century or two.

Regardless, it is getting dark and the time for ritual draws neigh. The bonfire has been spread out, restacked, but not lit.

We are lead through the dark by Nergal, into the Netherworld, with galla (demons) in the woods around us. I think of this as very surreal, but very true in analogy. We are beset on all sides by hazards we cannot see, and this ancient god leads us through the darkness. I am not really fearful, but I am in awe of the passage.

We watch as Inanna tries to dethrone Ereshkigal, to seize the Underworld for herself (there is an epiphany of sorts later on, but that is another story). As these vessels have invoked gods and goddesses, I realize that in all the time that I have practiced forms of paganism (the western idea of Wicca and Druidism), that although I have heard of such pageantry, I have never actually witnessed it. I was rapt. I was in awe. I wept openly.

We were all meant to sacrifice to escape the Underworld, leaving something behind that we wished to be rid of. What I left behind was as important to me as it was unwanted, but left it I did. (Another tale for another time...) And have had a series of epiphanies since then. In regards to my life and the things that I am. Was. Wanted. We shall see.

As far as comfort zones go, there was nothing there that was out of my comfort zone. Everyone was nice, upstanding and kindly. The way a group should be. In fact, the next time I'm able, I'm taking my children. There were free-range children out there, and by the gods, I moved out towards the sticks so my kids could be free-range children too. The adults are very guarded about the kids, knowing they're able to range out a little, but keeping a sharp eye. My kind of peoples. Tribal peoples. Takes a village to raise a tribe? Probably. But a herd of good pagans will do.

But I am waking up. I am deeply appreciative for the chance to partake of this event, and I do not know if they understood how much it meant to me. It reaffirmed who I was and reminded me of dreams that long ago I'd forgotten somewhere. I hope that with this new year, I am taken closer to who I am, who I am meant to be, and able to strive closer to being that in which I wanted all along.

Gods willing.

But it promises to be a grand adventure. ;) Thanks for the opportunity.