Ghost Ship

On the night of December 2, a fire broke out in a warehouse-cum-art-studio space that was hosting a party at the time. Over a hundred people were there. As of the last I heard, the known death count had reached 30, with more than half the building left to search. A friend of mine lost friends in that fire. I grieve with my friend. Since I was writing threnoi anyway (on which more later), I was asked by another friend to write something for the Ghost Ship dead. Here it is. A Threnos for the Ghost Ship Dead Let it be known Let it be known To mortals and gods That the Ghost Ship dancers are dead Their names are many But they reached for the ecstatic And they died in flames May their journey be swift and sure May they pass lightly From the mystery of life To the mystery of death May the pain and fear Of their final moments Be washed away by Lethe May the joy of the dance Remain with them As they go their way Wherever they may go May their journey be swift and sure May they pass lightly From the mystery of life To the mystery of death May they walk in golden lands Or feast in golden halls May they find what end Calls to their deepest soul May comfort and compassion Be theirs for all time May they know ecstasy in death May their journey be swift and sure May they pass lightly From the mystery of life To the mystery of death Let their souls reach The pinnacle of their potential Let any judge pass them through Let all doors and gates be open To these dancers and revelers May all gods be kind to them And may peace be with them now May their journey be swift and sure May they pass lightly From the mystery of life To the mystery of death May the Ghost Ship Dead Dance forever as their ship Carries them beyond the horizon And into the Utter West May it sail in soothing darkness And in clean cool air Across calm waters May their journey be swift and sure May they pass lightly From the mystery of life To the mystery of death Rebecca Lynn Scott, 2016 CC Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share-Alike...

Saying No and Saying Yes

Catherynne Valente went back to Fairyland in the wake of the election. “The first magic anyone learns is saying No,” purred the Leopard of Little Breezes. “It’s how you know a baby is starting to turn into a person. They run around saying no all day, throwing their magic at everything to see what it’ll stick to. And if they say No loud enough, and often enough, and to the right person, strange things will happen. The nasty supper is taken away. The light is left on at night instead of turned out. The toy comes out of the shop window. It is such old magic, such basic magic, that most folk don’t even know it’s magic anymore.” "But we…we must say Yes to each other. We must say Yes to the needful, to the suffering, to the lonely, to those the Marquess punishes for saying No to her. We must band together, back to back, and say Yes to everyone who lost today, for we are all family now, and our loss is our new last name." The Leopard of Little Breezes is wise. (For those who don't know, Valente wrote the Fairyland books, beginning with The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. The Green Wind, the Leopard of Little Breezes, and A-Through-L are all characters from those books. They're just waiting for a new protagonist to come along, is all.)...

Birthdays, Anniversaries, and TDOR

I love birthdays, especially mine. Not because of doing anything special for them, although that's nice, but because it means I survived another year, which is a big deal to me as someone who has been suicidal. It's also a personal New Year's, a time for me to take stock. And in the same week, we have the anniversary of our domestic partnership. So that's cool, too. It's been a busy year. Just before my birthday last year, I got on Abilify, which has been a miracle for me. It's just massively changed my life. This summer, I went back to school, planning on a certificate in Database Administration and Design. I'm debating whether I want to be a database admin or a backend dev with a focus on database-driven projects. We'll see. I'm getting straight A's in my classes, with the help of Adderall, and I'm enjoying them as well. I got a job tutoring. Before I started school, I spent time studying both SQL and Ruby. I started writing the Book of the Downward Labyrinth, my tradition's Book of the Dead, with instructions both for the living and the Dead. I started Rewriting Death, where I blog about the process of writing that book. I've continued to write the Litany. I started the Polytheist Death Guild, and began attending a Death Cafe. I made some awesome dolls. I went to my first professional conference for tech, SeaGL, and had an interesting and pleasant time. Despite all the shittiness of 2016, it's been the best year I've had since the restaurant closed. It's the year I started to take back my life. And I feel good about that. But casting a bit of a shadow over both birthday (19th) and anniversary (14th) is the 20th, which is the Transgender Day of Remembrance. A day set aside every year to remember all the trans people who have been murdered in the previous 365 days. This year the total was 259. That we know of. Every year, the list gets longer. Some of that is that we hear about more of them, but some does genuinely seem to be that the numbers are getting higher. I've seen it said that murder is the #1 top cause of death of trans women, although I haven't been able to find a source for that, and am suspicious of it. Suicide is also a contender, especially for trans people who can't get access to transition treatments. Last year, I wrote some verses of the Litany for TDOR and the Trans Rite of Ancestor Elevation. Here they are again: I pray to the Murdered Trans Women 
Slaughtered for their status Who go without justice or vengeance 
May you be uplifted I pray to the Murdered Trans Women I pray to the Murdered Trans Men Slain for your difference 
Who go without vengeance or justice 
May you be uplifted I pray to the Murdered Trans Men I pray to the Murdered Genderqueer Folk And, or, neither Killed still for difference May you be uplifted I pray to the Murdered Genderqueer Folk I pray to the Trans Suicides 
You who died in despair Of a world that hated you 
May you be uplifted I pray to the Trans Suicides I pray to the Trans Activist Dead You who stood up and said No! 
You who insisted that you, too, are human 
May you be uplifted 
I pray to the Trans Activist Dead I pray to the Trans Elders 
You who held on in times before And lived long enough to pass on wisdom 
May you be uplifted 
I pray to the Trans Elders I pray to the Trans Youth So young to face the hatred in this world 
But so strong to live as long as you did 
May you be uplifted 
I pray to the Trans Youth I pray to the Trans People of Color Doubly oppressed and doubly hated 
Shining and beautiful and wonderful 
May you be uplifted I pray to the Trans People of Color I pray to the Trans Dead 
Whether you were warriors Or only wanted to live your lives 
May you be uplifted I pray to the Trans Dead...

Now on Reqriting Death

Writing Farewell to a Love While I was on a religious retreat with some other Dionysians, some of us were talking about this project, and especially for the need for mourning rituals. One of them spoke up and said that when her husband died, she had no idea of the kinds of possibilities that home funerals offered, and that she wished she’d known that she could spend more time with his body. Missed posting this Wednesday....

Aftermath

Sorry, folks, expect posts to be a bit thin on the ground for a while. I'm heartsick, terrified, and depressed, hurting too bad to write much. I posted this to facebook, which my mother (who has usually voted Republican in the past; I don't know how she voted this election because we haven't spoken yet, and I likely won't ask, but her FB feed looks like maybe this year she got it) and various family members (some of whom are conservative and/or outright racist) follow me on. I don't use this site much. I don't really like it. At all. But I figured this was a good place to say this, because of the audience. Trump has vowed to repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), and with both houses being Republican, he'll probably manage it. I get ALL of my health care paid for by Obamacare. Including the meds I need, NEED, to function. Without my meds, I would be in a psych ward or dead, having committed suicide. I cannot afford these meds without it. Since one of the key meds is around$500-700 a MONTH, no one I know can help me that that. If Trump repeals the ACA, I might very well die. Because, by the way, I also won't be able to afford to stay in a mental hospital. Trump has promised to appoint justices who will overturn Roe vs. Wade. He wants to outlaw abortion. If something awful happened, and I was raped and got pregnant, and I was already off my meds, because the ACA was gone? I would definitely be suicidal then. I'm going to be trying to start a new career and at 40 next year, and I can't afford to get pregnant. (I'm just keeping this focused on me personally to make a point here. There are better and broader points about abortion to be made, but I'm just talking about me for the moment.) While Trump himself is less horribly homophobic than much of the rest of the Republican party, he will still almost certainly pick justices who will want to overturn marriage equality, simply because he'll be picking who he's told to pick, because he doesn't have much interest in governing himself, and has said so. My marriage is on the line, too. So is my ability to eat, shop, go to the movies, and anything else I damn well please, because some people think "religious freedom" means the freedom to treat people like they aren't people. I won't even talk about what this means for my wife, who has it even worse than I do. If you voted Republican at the national level this year -- and I mean Senate and House as well as president -- and any of these things or any of the dozens of other awful, horrible things that could happen, do happen? I hold you personally responsible. If I can't get my meds, and so can't work, and maybe I commit suicide? That's YOUR FAULT, because you voted in the people who did that to me. If I need an abortion and can't get one, and that pregnancy wrecks my life or kills me because I had now access to medical care? That's YOUR FAULT, too. If my marriage ceases to be recognized by the federal government, and my wife and I lose our cherished protections because of it, and ANYTHING bad comes of that, that is YOUR FAULT. If you love me, and you vote for Republicans... the message you are sending me is that your money is more important than my health, my rights, or my life. That's what you're telling me, right there. No amount of trying to convince me it's something else will work. Voting Republican means, and has meant since I was 16, wanting to put people into office who want to hurt and/or kill me, because you like your money better. So. Know that if you're family or a friend, I still love you. But if you vote Republican, then I can't trust you to have my back, because you're already stabbing me in it. Not gonna respond to any comments on this. Not gonna talk about it with anyone. Not interested. I know that less than a quarter of the populace actually voted for trump (there was only a 46% turnout, and less than half of those who voted, voted for Trump), but that still means that more than half the populace didn't think my and other people's right were important enough to vote for. I knew my country didn't give a fuck about me before, but wow....

Field of Dreams, the movie

So, after that message at Samhain -- a message that wasn't even for me -- I decided maybe I should watch this old movie, give it another chance. I remember seeing it when it was new, probably on VHS. My dad liked baseball movies. I think I liked it at the time, when I was 12, but as an adult, I just assumed it was cheesy, corny, if I thought of it at all. A lot of 80s movies were. And Kevin Costner, though he was a big, big star in his day, is kind of a joke now. Ever since Waterworld, a movie that doesn't quite deserve its reputation. But now, as an ancestor worshiper, it looks very very different. Spoilers ahead. Ray Kinsella came of age in the 60s, attending Berkeley, as far as he can get from New York. Alienated from his father, missing his dead mother, he simply ran away. His father was an old-fashioned man who once played a season in the minor leagues, and whose hero was Barefoot Joe Jackson, one of the Black Sox, the eight men permanently suspended from professional baseball for supposedly throwing the 1919 World Series. Ray's parting shot to his father was that he couldn't respect a man whose hero was a criminal. In the 80s, Ray's wife Annie convinced him to buy a farm in Iowa. One day, out in his cornfield, Ray heard a voice whisper to him. "If you build it, he will come." Again and again he heard it. No notion of who "he" was, none of what "it" was, until he had a vision of a baseball diamond there in the corn. So, with his wife's support, he plows under a couple of acres of his crop, and builds one. (If this movie were made today, she'd fight with him about it, not support him, and their little girl Karen would be a teenage boy.) A year went by, and then one evening as he's trying to figure out the bills with his wife, as they agonize about the diamond that has cost them crop land and might cost them their farm, his daughter says, "Daddy, there's a man out there on your lawn." And there's Barefoot Joe, who just missed the field and the play. And then with him come the other Black Sox, who missed it too. Men dead for decades, back at their prime but with all their memories, back to play ball, walking out of the cornfield. The voice comes again. "Ease his pain." After a book-banning incident at the PTA, Ray decides that the "he" in this case is Terence Mann, his favorite author from the 60s. Finding an old interview in which Terry said he'd seen Moonlight Graham play the one half-inning of one game he got in the majors, and that his childhood dream had been to play a game with the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field, Ray sets out to take Mr. Mann to a ball game, and eventually to his own field in Iowa. After some initial reluctance, Mann joins Kinsella at a game, where both of them hear the voice whisper, "Go the distance" and see the stats for Moonlight Graham appear on the scoreboard. Together, they head for Minnesota, on a baseball odyssey. There, they discover that Archibald Graham became a doctor after retiring from baseball, and has since died. But on the way back to Iowa, who should they pick up on the side of the road but a very young Graham. Graham joins the ever-increasing number of dead ball players on the Field, which turns out to be lucky, as he's able to save Ray's young daughter from choking on a hot dog. But having become his older self to do it, Archie can't go back to the game, and he vanishes into the corn all the players come out of. Ray and Annie's financial situation is getting worse and worse, and Annie's brother Mark is trying to convince them to sell to his group so they can stay in the house, before the farm is foreclosed on. They refuse, standing by the field and the ball players, the latter of which Mark can't see. But Karen and Shoeless Joe both insist that "If you build it, they will come," that the existence of the ball field and the game will draw people from all over, people who don't know why they've come, but come they will, and they'll pay for the privilege. And then, finally, one more player steps out of the corn and onto the grass, a young rookie from the minors name John Kinsella. The "he" the Voice keeps talking about. Ray's father, whom he never apologized to, who never met Annie or Karen. And Ray gets to...

Field of Dreams and Mirrors

Halloween night, I did my regular ritual, including a brief check-in with my Dead via oracle deck. (I used to do a whole thing for the Dead on Samhain, but the farther into Hellenism I get, the less interested I am in that.) And then I put down a few more cards to see what happened, and what happened was a message for a friend. Part of that message was, "If you build it, they will come." Which made me snicker at first. I mean, really, that kinda cheesy 80s movie Field of Dreams. Kevin Costner. What a funny thing to reference. A movie about a man who builds a baseball diamond in the middle of a cornfield. And then a bunch of... dead... ball... players... show up... Huh. Way more relevant than I thought. Maybe I should watch that movie again... Which led to a new verse for the Litany: We pray to the Athletic Dead From ancient Olympians to modern players All you who strove in physical contests Who reached for the prize of pure motion We pray to the Athletic Dead Writing that verse led to writing others, seven in total, but I'll save the rest for the next edition of the book. A few more bouts of inspiration like that, and I might have enough for it by Anthesteria. And then somehow my wandering thoughts got onto the Dead and mirrors. It's a long association. The idea that the newly Dead can get caught up in or confused by mirrors leads to the tradition of covering them in a house of mourning. The tradition of mirrors as windows for the Dead and other spirits (think of Bloody Mary). And a classic tool for a Necromanteion, or oracle of the Dead, is a mirror that never sees more light than that of a single candle. And so on. And it occurred to me that a small mirror might not be a bad feature of an ancestor shrine, so that they can look at you and see themselves in you, and so that you can look into it and see them in your own face. I think it's not what I want for my shrine -- I want a serious necromantic mirror when I add a mirror -- but it might be nice for someone else's....

Now on Rewriting Death: A Certain Kind of Death and Cemetery Law

Today there was a glitch that means there are TWO posts to read on Rewriting Death. Movie: A certain Kind of Death A Certain Kind of Death is a documentary from 2003 about the work of the LA Coroner’s office and legal processes that surround dead bodies. The movie tracks several bodies after their discovery through the process of trying to find next of kin, looking for any funeral plans they might have made, checking to see if they have the money to cover their own disposition or if the county will need to cover it, and more. It shows the process of cremation, including shrouding the body, putting it in a cardboard coffin, putting it into the crematorium, manually breaking up the bones and sweeping out the ashes. For those who are interested in the process, it’s a good, straightforward look at the work of the unsung members of the coroner’s office. It’s nothing very exciting cinematographically, being very simply shot, and there are some images of bodies that have been lying in place for days or weeks that are fairly gross. It’s certainly not a movie for everyone. Research: Cemetery Law by Tanya D. Marsha and Daniel Gibson, Funeral Law Blog, and Papers Tanya D. Marsh has rapidly become an invaluable resource for me, although very little of my reading of her work will actually make it into the book. Instead, her work informs how I talk to other polytheists about the practicalities of death....

The Purpose of Wailing

A nigh-universal feature of Greek funerals was the wailing of women, as they beat their breasts and tore at their hair. This was originally the province of women of the household of the deceased, but they were eventually joined by professional mourners. Modern scholars tend to dismiss wailing as "a show of excessive grief", as if it were a kind of conspicuous consumption of mourning, and not genuine. This, to my mind, is offensive, myopic nonsense. Just because our society expects us to be more restrained in our grief, and are embarrassed when people contravene that, doesn't mean that when other cultures do demonstrate great sorrow, that they're somehow faking it. Wailing, and its Irish cousin keening, has been a part of funeral tradition in a number of cultures, and there's no reason to believe it's anything other than genuine from family and friends. Hired mourners were there to show extra honor to the Dead, to say that their death affects the whole community, but just because hired mourners grieved on command doesn't necessarily mean that they did not grieve truly. Just as some people now feel that any death diminishes us all and should be mourned, some people then would have mourned any death. True grief is hard (though not impossible) to fake. I'm sure I'll write at greater length about this on Rewriting Death, and especially about the parallels with keening, which I've been studying a little, and listening to examples of. The most moving is this example of actual funeral keening: The very few others I've found on YouTube have been songs or improvisations, not recordings from actual funerals. I'm still looking for more. If you happen to know of any online, please let me know at hexdotink@gmail.com. I did some trancework around wailing and its possible purpose as a way to speed the soul onward, and was told, "The purpose of wailing is to give voice to your grief." I'm holding tight to that....

Now on Rewriting Death: A Comic Look at Death Preparedness

A Comic Look at Death Preparedness This summer, Randy did a storyline (beginning here; content note: first comic mentions a sex toy) in which main character Davan and his wife Vanessa discuss death preparedness. It’s far from the only time S*P has addressed serious topics, including Alzheimer’s, miscarriage, and the sudden death of a close relative. It is the first time I’ve ever seen a comic — any comic — address the necessity of wills, life insurance, and funeral wishes, and the fact that none of us can guarantee that we will live long lives....