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...

Following up on the ancestor dream

After some thought and divination, I've finally done something I've been thinking and talking about doing for months. I called the Spiritual Care Offices of three local hospitals and volunteered to be put on their lists of people who will come pray with (or, in the case of pagans, do ritual with) patients and families. I learned about this from a hospice chaplain I know through Death Cafe. Hospitals usually simply have no resources specific to paganism or polytheism. How could they? Our communities are so small, and so few people know that this exists. I encourage anyone who has the interest to do the same. Simply call a local hospital and ask for the Spiritual Care Office. Tell them you want to volunteer to pray with pagans and polytheists. Most hospitals don't allow flames, which rules out candles and incense. I suggest LED candles and electric oil diffusers. (I have lots of battery candles, but can't currently afford to buy a diffuser. :P )...

Ancestor dream

I dreamt last night that I was walking in a garden of an old, huge Gothic house on an island, and there I found a woman who looked something like my mother, but wasn't. "Mom?" I said. "No. I'm your great-grandmother." "Lil?" "No. Another one. It doesn't matter." She told me that my project (there was some project I was working on, in my dream, something with food plants, but it's not the clear part, so what it was isn't relevant) wasn't helping enough people, that I needed to be putting in more skin. That I needed to be helping more directly. (In the dream, I started giving the plants away to people who needed to be able to grow their own food.) It stands out so clearly, now I'm awake. So different from the rest of the dream, that melted away quickly. So I'm taking it as a true visitation. But I'm not sure what to do with it. My big project at the moment, of course, is The Book of the Downward Labyrinth (the book of Starry Bull funerary rituals I'm writing), and the Polytheist Death Guild. I want badly to become a death midwife, which would allow me to help people more directly, but I can't afford the training. I'm having trouble affording the basics right now. I don't have many readers, but those of you I do have, if you know of any pagans or polytheists who've lost someone and want help planning funerals or mourning rituals, please feel free to point them at me. I can be reached at hexdotink@gmail.com. Other than that, all I can think to do is keep writing, and publishing the generalized versions of things to Polytheist Death Guild so people have the tools to do things themselves....

Trans Rite of Ancestor Elevation, Days 5 & 6

I did pray last night, I just didn't get the verses up. 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 Zoraida Reyes Trans woman and immigrant Who stood so proudly for both groups May you be uplifted I pray to Zoraida Reyes 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 Leslie Feinberg Staunch comrade and moving author Whose words and life connected with so many May you be uplifted I pray to Leslie Feinberg...

Ancestors at Samhain

Though I'm mostly Hellenic now, I still have a lot of Wiccan influences on my practice. They work for me, and they work for my gods, and I keep them. One of these is honoring my ancestors on October 31. August is my time to do serious work with the Dead, but Samhain remains a time to have a little quiet ceremony for them, a time to remember. This year, I finally got my new Ancestor Altar set up in time. Simple, but fitting. Two of my own handwoven Ghost Masks. Between them is my Dead Mask, that I wear to work with them, by Tormented Artifacts. The small round silk bag on the left contains a small amount of my Granddad's ashes. On the right, an Indian brocade silk scarf that belonged to my mother-in-law Molly, who died when my wife was in her teens. This is the first time I've explicitly invited her into my home. I did so with the permission of my wife and her brother, who's a Heathen. My brother-in-law tells me that a number of people, including himself, have had experiences with Molly in the years since her death in ways that have a lot more to do with this kind of ancestor veneration than with more popular ideas about ghosts in our culture. I also invited Molly's sister Buffy, who died much more recently, and who I exchanged a few emails with, but never met. Also on the altar is a cd of pictures of my family. Eventually, I'd like to get an electronic pricture frame for the altar, that would cycle through as many picture of our ancestors as I can get. The next thing I'd like to do is to make a series of small masks out of clay, with the names and dates of ancestors I or my wife knew, as individual memorials, to represent death masks. The pumpkin is there as offering, because of a recent UPG that pumpkins are a chthonic fruit, like a New World pomegranate, and suitable for the Dead. The teacup is filled with wine. Not making an appearance is the mourning necklace I made when my paternal grandmother died, which included her wedding ring as part of it. By policy, I don't invite her spirit into my home. She was cruel and abusive, and I don't want her here. But I did mean to put the necklace on the altar. I can refuse her entrance, but I can't deny that she's an ancestor. I just couldn't find the thing. Ritual was very simple. I just invited them in, made offering, played Molly's favorite song ("Bridge Over Troubled Waters" by Simon & Garfunkle) to make her feel more welcome, spent some time with them, and was done. As ever, I did not ask them to depart, but invited them to stay with us as they liked. Brief and simple, but satisfying....

I Pray to the Dead

Working on the Bakcheion ritual for Many Gods West (which we are still trying to raise money for), I am working with the Dead again. I want to establish a more regular practice with them, and possibly a necromantic one as well. At the same time, though, I've been sick, and there have been multiple miserable heat waves, leading me to scale back to the absolute most basic form of my practice, which makes expanding it at all even harder. I've been chatting with a friend about it. They're just establishing their practice as a Hellenic polytheist, and want to work with their ancestors, but are feeling a bit uncomfortable with it, partially just from being so immersed in pop culture about ghosts, and the show Supernatural in particular. I told them I've been seeing a thing around recently, I think it's a new book, suggesting that it was only after the Civil War that the American ghost story (as opposed to English ghost stories, which are their own genre) really got started. Particularly lost and wandering ghosts, like hitchhikers, certain kinds of vengeful spirits, particular battlefield spirits. That it was a psychological response to the war, an attempt to make sense of it, to deal with the aftermath. And I totally buy that. But I also wonder if that's the only reason. I said to my friend: It was an incredible psychospiritual trauma for our nation. It changed the way we, as a nation, thought and spoke about the spirits of the dead, and I strongly suspect it changed the way spirits here actually behaved. SO many dead so suddenly, so afraid and so angry when they died, with a much smaller number of spirits from the same cultures already around to help them, as had been the case before. And for the living, so many simply gone, usually just never heard from again. No confirmation that they were dead, of when or how. Just gone. All their sad hopes and dreams pinning spirits here. Families still dreamed, for years and decades, that their missing loved ones would come home, some dark, foggy night. Perhaps some did, and then were gone again, in the morning. And I made some suggestions to them on getting started. They've been reading Galina Krasskova's Honoring the Ancestors. I haven't read it, but Galina is good at what she does, so I assume it's a good book. But she's a spiritworker, a strong and devoted and specialized one, and from what my friend was saying, I was wondering if the book was maybe not a little too specialized for some people who are just finding their feet, taking their first steps. So I made a few suggests, just to get them started: It's always good to start where you are. Set up an ancestor altar. Nothing bit or fancy. A corner of a desk or end of a bookshelf. Put things there that are mementos of dead relatives. Throw in representations of ancestors of the spirit, too. Actually, a good way to start is simply to assemble for yourself an album. Old photographs, drawings, whatever. If your family won't let you have the physical pictures, scan them or take a photo of them. You can even assemble your album entirely digitally. For those too long dead to have had photos, even names and descriptions, or stories about them. Quotes from ancient poets. If someone has assembled a family tree, that's a good thing to include, too.... Before you go to bed, open the album to a random page or image, speak a brief prayer to your dead, pour out a little water or honey or milk. Thank them for their lives and love. That's all. That is the beginning of ancestor work. This reminded me of a project I've wanted to take up for a while, as a devotional act: genealogical research. So I'm starting to poke at it. My maternal uncle has actually done a huge amount of work on that side of the family, which is awesome and gives me a great place to start. On my paternal since, though, things are a little messier. My aunt, while she was still married to my uncle, did quite a bit of research on our family. She says that when she left him, she left all of that information with him. He says he has no idea what she's talking about or where it is. She's considerably more reliable than he is on most things, but all of that is still just gone. So I'll have to start fresh there. There are a bunch of genealogy sites that allow you to network with others, which would be a huge help, but ones like Ancestry, Geni, and MyHeritage, which are good for that kind of...

Mountain Momma

I’ve been keeping away from discussing the poisoning of the water in West Virginia, largely because it hurts me. My father is from Huntington. I still have relatives there, although only one or two I know to talk to. There’s a cabin there that still belongs to distant cousins that my ancestors built with their own hands, that the great-great aunt I was named for (Ader Rebecca) was born and died in (well, she fell asleep on the porch smoking her corncob pipe and the bottom burned out and the coals caught her gunnysack dress on fire, and she had second and third degree burns over 75% of her body, but she managed to make it a mile up the road to the neighbors and then lived three days in the hospital; she was in her 80s). Out back of it is a private graveyard with five generations worth of headstones, and looking at those headstones, all in one place like that, was amazing for me, especially since all my other ancestors’ and relations’ burial places are scattered. I’ve only been a few times, and the last was nearly 15 years ago, but I have never found the landscape to be less than stunning beautiful. Truly, it has some of the most amazing forests and mountains I have ever seen… and the most depressing towns and cities. Wild Hunt linked today to piece by Anne Johnson that talks about the more general situation in WV, putting the water contamination into some context. As an expatriate Appalachian, I can tell you exactly why people want to live in West Virginia. It is beautiful. If you can step out on your back porch and lose your breath in awe of the vista beyond your house, you live in West Virginia. Many of the people who live there have ancestry going back centuries. I could wax poetic, as some bloggers have, about the ecosystem, and the sense of place, and the grounding in tradition, and all of that. I'm not a poet. I tell it like it is. West Virginia is beautiful. If you live there, you don't want to leave ... especially for some big city in some flat tidewater state. But West Virginia is a mess, isn't it? West Virginia has been ruled by big monied interests since the first tunnel was dug into the first mountain in the pursuit of coal. The politicians are on the payroll of Big Coal, and they have been since that first tunnel was dug. The current crop of Democrats are only Democrats because Lincoln won the war ... they act like Republicans and are often the serious movers and shakers behind efforts to squelch the EPA. How do they get by with such antics? By persuading their constituents that the EPA will raise the jobless rate, and environmental activists are by and large replants from other areas of the country. (That is certainly not true in either case, I'm just giving you the politicians' talking points.) Go read it. It does a better — and much more knowledgeable — job of talking about the things I really wish I could....

After Samhain

I did not finish the second mask in time to have it on the altar for my dumb supper. That's ok, it's done now, and can go on the ancestor altar. Little bit narrower face, narrower nose and mouth, eyes less open, mouth more open. It looks rather like she's talking -- something all of the women on both sides of my family have always loved to do. There's an interesting piece up over here about choosing who to honor when your family has a long history of abuse, and designating people as "ancestors" of your mind or spirit. Two small things about this, not really arguments: I have a Thing about people taking for their religious name the name of a god. It seems presumptuous, hubristic, to me. This is very much in keeping with Hellenic traditions, where there were names given that referenced the gods, but were not the names of gods: Apollonios, Dionysios, Hekataia. (Even Herakles was one of those originally, referencing Hera.) It rubs me the wrong way to actually call a mortal by a god's name, and so I tend to avoid it whenever possible. Thus, while I really like the way that blogger writes, and enjoy her blog very much, I'm not very likely to refer to her as Hecate, Daughter of Demeter. She gets to call herself whatever she wants, of course, and within many Wiccan traditions, taking a god's name or epithet as an initiatory name is perfectly acceptable. But I'm a dedicant of Hekate, and calling someone else by that name makes me wince. The other thing is that she claims Dorothy Parker as her "older sister or wonderful aunt that [she] never had," which hits a pet peeve of mine. There are a number of awesome things to admire about Dorothy Parker: her wit, her writing, her activism later in life (she left her entire estate to Dr. King; her home is still owned by the King Foundation, and her ashes are interred there). But I think there's this tendency to ignore that she was, in fact, vicious and cruel to many people, including those close to her. There's a reason the Algonquin Round Table was referred to as the "Vicious Circle," and indeed the members referred to themselves as the "Vicious Wits". They would set out to ruin the careers of people they'd taken a dislike to. They were incredibly mean to each other, although no outsider was permitted to snipe at any member of their group. They were elitist and nasty. People who act this way towards others do not hesitate to do the same towards family. Dorothy Parker would have been a terrible older sister, and probably aunt, cruel when the mood struck her and unforgiving of faults or errors. The way people valorize her without acknowledging any of this makes me tear at my hair. The offhanded line "Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses" is still tossed around as a taunt to girls and young women who do wear glasses, often by people who have no idea where the line came from, and was certainly aimed at me a few times. It's just a piece of casual cruelty that often gets quoted as clever, when honestly it's just mean and rhymes. And Parker's meanness isn't even one of those things you have to go read up on her to find out, like knowing that Tesla supporting eugenics or something. It's one of the things she famous for. She made her bones on being vicious, and was proud of it. How on earth do you ignore that? Enough of that. I probably shouldn't have gone off about either of those things, but the first one always bugs me, and I just watched a historical movie with Parker in it that did the same thing. Sannion put up more than a dozen posts between the thirtieth and thirty-first, most of them of interest to me, but this one was something of a revelation for me. One of the better-known bits from the Orphic lamellae -- golden tablet on which were inscribed instructions for joining Dionysos Chthonios at his eternal feast in the Underworld -- is the passphrase initiates offer to the guards, which is usually translated as, "I am a child of Earth and Starry Heaven. My name is Starry." Sannion took a look at the Greek, and even thought he knows only a little of that language, he noticed that the last phrase was, "Ἀστέριος ὄνομα", or "My name is Asterios". Asterios is a proper name, and was indeed the personal name of the bull-headed son of Pasiphae, more usually known as the Minotaur. Ariadne was the daughter of Pasiphae and Minos who gave Theseus directions to walk the Labyrinth to kill the Minotaur,...