Is it a poem? Is it a spell?

I don't know, but it keeps growing. Here's the current state of it: The Hekate Pot Into the Pot go letters and words Into the Pot go beasts and birds Into the Pot go skull and bones Into the Pot go herbs and stones Into the Pot go leaf and vine Into the Pot go milk and wine Into the Pot go honey and blood Into the Pot go earth and mud Into the Pot goes the hanging rope Into the Pot goes water of seven rivers Out of the Pot comes Hope...

Here comes August

Last night, a strange thing happened. I felt almost eager for August to arrive. Normally, I dread this month, and feel much as Al Aronowitz did about it. August is the dead time, the dry time, the mad time. Every August, I feel sick, ungrounded, uncentered. This has long been an irony in my life. August is the month most sacred to Hekate, precisely because it is the dead time. The Dog Days of Summer are hers, under the influence of the Black Bitch's Dog Star. This is the time when she wanders the earth, when she hunts, when she comforts weeping Demeter and prepares resolute Persephone. It is her time. But I think that is precisely why it is so hard for me. It is sacred, but I have had trouble connecting to the sacredness, because I am so distracted by what the heat does to my body that I have had trouble involving myself fully in it. It has, I realize now, looking back over the past three years' archive of August posts, I begin to see an arc of change. Focusing more on Hekate and the Dead has grounded me more during the past few Augusts. And, unlike the past three years, this year I have an air conditioner for the bedroom against, which will make it easier to sleep and help with some of the physical impediments. This year I am already more focused on the Dead than I have ever been before, with not a nightly ritual from the Litany, but the introduction of the chief two figures of my spirit court -- I really must post about them -- and a ritual they gave me to open the way for the Dead who need help moving on called Pouring the Cauldron, which I now do every few weeks. (I need to talk about that as well.) Last year, August was relatively uneventful. I was focused on school a lot, being in my first quarter there, but I found the time to watch, read and listen to quite a bit of horror and ghost story. The year before, I focused my August on establishing a practice with the Dead. The year before that, I spent the whole of August praying solely to Hekate. This year, I feel secure in my practices with the Dead, I've just finished a period of more intense focus on Hekate (yet another thing to write about), so I don't feel the need to repeat my activities of 2015 and 2014. I will be watching a lot of horror -- my list this year is quite possibly longer than I can finish, but that's another post -- and I have another project, the investiture and consecration of a new tool, a Cauldron or Pot of Hekate. I think those two things will hold my focus on the sacred nicely. August also holds the birthday of my wife, which she doesn't care much about but I do, and a new friend I care a lot about. I'll be leaving for Florida and North Carolina for two weeks at the end of August, to go to my grandmother's 90th birthday and see various family members. And I'm actively looking forward to this year's horror movie fest. Weird....

August Horrorshow

I think I'll do something a little differently this year, and keep track of what ghost stories and horror tales I consume. I'll write it up as I go and post it at the end of the month. (And now August is over, so I'm posting it.) Watching: Stranger Things, Netflix series, August 4-5 - Excellent TV, but not as scary as I'd expected. Young geeky boy in a small town in Indiana in the early 80s goes missing. Young girl with no hair turns up around the same time and can do strange things. People at the local vaguely-named government facility are freaking out and wearing containment suits. Creepiness ensues. Highlights include a Christmas light talking board, the totally awesome girl, the also awesome big sister, and lots and lots of D&D and Tolkien references. 8 out of 10, would watch again. Still, not as creepy as I wanted it to be. Not sure if that's me or the show. The Babadook, movie, August 5 - This is the one I didn't get to before August ended last year. Australian horror movie. A widowed mother and her sx-year-old son are struggling in so many ways. One of them is that the boy not only believes in monsters, but is convinced that he has to protect other people from them. So he builds shoulder-mounted catapults and dart-loaded crossbows. And takes them to school. Weird kid, obviously has some problems. Then one day he finds a pop-up book called Mr. Babadook in the house and asks his mother to read it with him. It tells about the really quite scary Mr. Babadook who, if you let him in, will make you want to die. If you don't believe in him, though, he only gets stronger... Boy believes, mom does not. Bad shit goes down, and there at the end there's a really interesting POV shift. I liked it a lot. The mom was good, the kid was good, the Babadook was an awesome monster and I want to adopt him. I was not as scared as I expected to be, even though I watched with my finger on the pause button. I'm really starting to think something's changed in me since last year. The Witch, movie, August 12. In Puritan New England, a family is banished from their town for having a variant view of the Bible. In the wilderness, things start to go wrong. A blight destroys their crops. While the eldest daughter is playing peek-a-boo with the (unbaptized, because of the whole banishment thing, this is a plot point) baby, and between one moment and the next, he's simply gone. Next, the young twins start playing with the black goat, talking to him, and refusing to obey their elder sister. The eldest boy goes missing in the woods overnight, and returns desperately ill, possibly bewitched. The children are convinced there's a witch in the woods. Good movie, very good, but not scary. The Possession, movie, August 12. A girl whose parents are recently divorced finds a dybbuk box, a chest used to imprison an evil Jewish spirit. Somehow, she manages to open the puzzlebox. Black moths, broken glass, white eyes, floating kid, convulsions, creepy voices. For a change, Jewish and not Christian folklore, including a Jewish exorcism (which I have no way of knowing how accurate it was). OK, this one was scary. I got through it only hitting pause once, though, and that was for other reasons. Big moths are going to freak me out for a while, and I suspect I'll be having that dream where I lose all my teeth sometime soon. The Shrine, movie, August 20. A reporter, against her boss's explicit instructions, takes an intern and her photographer boyfriend to Albania to investigate the disappearance of a young backpacker -- and five others over the past fifty years. Outside a small village, they find a strange cloud of dense fog hovering in and above the trees. Inevitably, they try to explore, and see something really disturbing: a statue of a demon that moves and bleeds from the eyes. The villagers, of course, have already tried to run them off once before, and now begin hunting them. There's a whole thing with an eyeless spiked mask and a sledgehammer and creepy priests. By far the goriest movie I've seen so far this month, and the one with the most jump scares, but I wasn't particularly impressed with it. The Lost Boys, movie, August 20. The cheeseball 80s classic vampire movie. I don't like vampire fiction, but even I'll watch this, since my wife wanted to. Silly, not scary, but I'm counting it. Monsters. Horns, August 23, movie. Despite the Halloween release date and the marketing, this turns out not to be a horror...

When August Comes Around

Aaaand it's back. August. The month I hate the most, which is also the month most sacred to my goddess. Whee! Last week was hot, hot enough that I was unwell, and much hotter in the house that outside (as it always is; we have big west-facing windows and little ability to get a cross-breeze going, resulting in the house becoming a greenhouse). But overall, it's been a fairly pleasant summer, weather-wise. The June Gloom continued through most of July, and over the weekend it cooled back off. It was 55F when I left the house this morning! Woo! This August I will once again be honoring Hekate by reading, watching and listening to ghost stories and horror tales. For reading, first I'm finishing up my current book, The Burning City by Alaya Dawn Johnson, which has a bunch of death spirits running around. Then on to the ghost stories! I have two megapacks of ghost stories to pick from, plus Ghosts by Gaslight, ed Jack Dann and Nick Gevers, which is steampunk ghost stories, and This House is Haunted by John Boyne. (ETA: Also, Irish Ghost Tales by Tony Locke.) For viewing, the list includes The Babadook, The Shrine, The Witch, Horns, and The Possession (wow, lots of definite articles). Also giving Stranger Things a try, which may or may not count as horror, depending on who you ask. And for listening, well, I've already been enjoying the No Sleep Podcast, which is a podcast of horror stories from Reddit. (Not horror stories about Reddit, of which there are many, but horror stories posted to Reddit.) This year there's less of a ghost theme and more of a scary-stuff theme, but I think that's suitable....

A Party to Which I Am Late

But glad to have made it to! During my trip to Oregon, I had the good fortune to (re)meet Genevieve Williams and Ray Snyder, one of whom kindly fed me and the other one on our way to and from the retreat. Turns out we'd been at several of the same events, and had even interacted a bit. One of the things they'd been up to since the pancakes (apparently, I am remembered for the pancakes) was writing a podcast called The Hermes and Hekate Roadshow. Today I got the chance to listen to the first (and so far only) season while on a long and fruitless bus ride. It's a great show, written by people who know the pantheon and mythology, and, like many writers now, wanted to see what these gods might be up to in modern America. By my standards, they did a lot better than most of those writers. There's acknowledgement of a lot of aspect of the gods that most people nowadays miss -- such as that Hekate is not under the authority of Zeus, and that the gods of Olympus give her honor. There are reference that attendees of the Spring Mysteries Festival here in Washington may recognize, particularly since both of them used to write for and take part in it. There are also plenty of pop culture references from their -- and my -- childhoods, including Star Wars, Ghostbusters, and He-Man. There are local touchstones for the PNW, too, like Elysium Brewery here in Seattle and Voodoo Donuts in Portland, OR. But best of all, these are the gods as I know them. This is my Hermes, light-hearted and clever and quick with a joke. More importantly, this is my Hekate, snarky and a bit cranky, but caring very much for mortals. And the two of them together, palling around, solving crime. (No, really.) This is what I imagine a road trip with the two of them, on motorcycles, would be like. Enodios and Enodia, together, on their highways and byways. Glee! So few people seem to encounter the same faces of Hekate, especially, as I do. It's a joy to hear someone who does. There is, I'm told, a second season recorded, but their producer has been awfully busy, so it's taking... well, a while. He's less busy now, though, so we may be seeing this podcast again soon. It's up on iTunes as well as the website. Go give it a try....

Roman Ring Key

This is one of those small but precious possessions. It's a Roman ring key. Not a ring for keeping keys on, but a key that is worn as a ring. Probably for a jewelry box or small casket. Tumbler locks have been around since something like 1000BCE, and were quite common throughout much of the ancient world. In Babylon and Greece, they were long bronze rods, and women would carry them resting on their shoulders. Rome refined keys and locks considerably, making them both smaller and more beautiful. They became status symbols for people with property to protect. Locks for small boxes, not only doors, became possible, and resulted in pieces like my own ring. I, of course, bought it as a symbol of Hekate. If you, too, are a follower of hers, you can find Roman keys relatively inexpensively -- often $50 or less -- on eBay. (I know, that's not actually inexpensive, but for a two-thousand-year-old object it is!) You can see the way the teeth of the key are shaped, much more intricately than the earlier keys shown at some of those links. The key itself actually stands quite a ways off from the finger. I can't help but think that it must have caught on things fairly often, so it may not have been worn as jewelry, but been hidden away someplace. And, as you can see, the ring itself is quite small. I can only fit it on my pinkie finger....

God Nights

A new practice I've been working on taking up is having designated nights where I make offerings to and contemplate one of the gods with whom I am most involved. A night for Hekate was already built in -- the deipnon on the night of the new moon -- and I'd been making offerings and sometimes doing oracular work for Dionysos on the full moon. Since I'm looking at both starting up a business again and going back to school, upping my worship of Hermes seemed like a good plan, and I was finally putting together a separate altar for Ariadne, and it just seemed to come together to add them on the first and third quarters respectively. They mostly aren't a big production. Offerings and contemplation, usually just chilling out a bit with them as it were. If I'm going to do bigger ritual for them, it will be on those nights, but most of the time there's no reason to. A couple of weeks ago, I was set to babysit my friends' kids. Their 11 year old has been known to join me for worship from time to time, and is particularly fond of Hermes, whom she likes to call "the God of Fast". (She likes speed. I dread the day she learns to drive.) It just happened to be the same night as the first quarter, so I asked her if she'd like to join me for it. We made offerings of candy from her private stash (I'm still working out exactly what the best offering for Hermes is, but so far he seems to like sweet things), and read each other stories about him. She read to me from Greek Mythology Link, and I ended up reading her this story from Myths Retold, which puts various myths and legends into some of the more excited forms of net communication, full of sentence fragments, digressions and casual cussing. Like this: Yes it is greek history time again which means it is time to learn about assholes or really, one asshole generally when we talk about history we tend to focus on one or two assholes at a time (or else whole huge groups of assholes that run in packs leaving great greasy black trails of shit all over everything but that’s gross so today we’re only talking about one) (From Alcibiades is Handsome as Hell) Also it has really entertaining lines like referring to a certain superficially similar set of trickster-messenger gods (including Hermes) as "just a fast-moving jerk clown swinging more dick than a playground full of private detectives." So that seemed appropriate for a Hermes night. I wouldn't read from that blog for most gods (although I should really look up anything it has on Dionysos), but I figured Hermes would be amused. I haven't been as consistent in observing these as I might like so far, but when I do manage these evenings, they feel good. A little time taken apart from everything else just to be with my gods. Brings me closer to them....

Dead August

I've been feeling a strong pull to work more and more with the Dead this year. Between the Dionysian Dead theme (most of which was behind the scenes) for the Filled With Frenzy ritual and my own tradition of August being the Dead Time (which has multiple meanings), I've been putting off getting really deeply into it until the start of August. Now I'm devoting August to work with the Dead: the Dionysian Dead, the Hekataian Dead, the Ancestors, the Many Dead of the Litany. Any Dead. I kicked it off with the ritual group Bakcheion's private offerings and prayers to the Dead on Friday Night. I dressed in what became my "adventuring clothes" for the weekend, a black shirt with many tiny silver foil stars and black leggings with rhinestones up the side seams, plus my Dead Mask, a custom piece by my friend Dmitri at Tormented Artifacts made specifically for my ritual work with the Dead. I found myself at the lead of our procession (oops, I hadn't looked up where the park was; I put myself in the hands of Hekate, and found it anyhow). Originally, this had been a thing I meant to do for myself ahead of time. I told Sannion I was doing it, and he said, "Can I come?" Sure, I told him. "Can other people come?" Sure, but I don't write rituals for people, I'm just going to make the offering and say the prayers and that's it. "That's fine." Only we got to where I decided we were going, and I turned around and everyone was staring at me, expectantly. Well, shit. So I took the verses of the Litany that I wanted to use for the night, and made them a call-and-response. We pray to the Many Dead We pray to the Many Dead All over the world and throughout history All those who have gone before me We remember you, and hold you in my prayers We pray to the Many Dead We pray to the Many Dead We pray to the Beloved Dead We pray to the Beloved Dead Our ancestors of flesh and spirit 
We remember the names of those We knew We praise those whose names have been lost to me We pray to the Beloved Dead We pray to the Beloved Dead We pray to the Blessed Dead We pray to the Blessed Dead Those who lived great lives 
Those who were the chosen of gods 
May you continue in joy and glory below We pray to the Blessed Dead We pray to the Blessed Dead We pray to the Restless Dead We pray to the Restless Dead You whose names go unspoken You who died with things undone May you find release at last 
We pray to the Restless Dead We pray to the Restless Dead We pray to the Dionysian Dead We pray to the Dionysian Dead To the Children of Earth and Starry Heaven Whom we hope someday to join May you revel forever at our Lord’s side We pray to the Dionysian Dead We pray to the Dionysian DeadWe pray to the Many Dead We pray to the Many Dead All over the world and throughout history All those who have gone before us We remember you, and hold you in our prayers We pray to the Many Dead We pray to the Many Dead I told them that I had an offering, a promise, to make to the Dead, that anyone who wished to was welcome to repeat the lines after me, but that it was heavy, and they might not want to. Much to my surprise, two or three of them joined in, repeating each line without knowing what the next might be. I pray to the Silent Dead You have no voice; use my tongue to speak You have nothing not given to you; take my offerings You are with us always; let me know you I pray to the Silent Dead Which is scary, when you think about it, but that's what this August is about for me. And then I had done everything I meant to do, and they were still all staring at me. So I asked them if anyone else wanted to say anything to the Dead. That seemed to work. I performed the Invitation to the Dionysian Dead at the main ritual, too. Blessed Dead! Who walked, parched, past the river! Who found the spring of Memory! Who knew to say that you were Children of Earth and Starry Heaven! We are children of the same parents! We cannot yet come drink with you. We invite you to come and dance with us now! So that worked well for me. Sunday was wrapping up with Bakcheion and some Starry Bull stuff and...

Empousa, who follows behind

clop-clank, clop-clank, clop-clank Behind you, on the road. What is that sound? When you look, there’s nothing there, but still, the sound follows you. clop-clank, clop-clank, clop-clank Slowly, slowly it gets closer and closer. It’s an old, old campfire story. The footsteps that sound wrong, that follow you, usually in the dark, but when you look, there's no one there. You can’t escape them, though you might be able to avoid them for a while. They’re coming for you. Eventually they’ll catch up. Empousa is an ancient Hellenic iteration of the tradition. A monster (from the Latin monstrum, that which is shown forth) of Hekate’s retinue, with hair of flame, with one donkey’s leg and one leg all of brass. A shapeshifter, though, who could come to your bed in the night and seduce you, then devour you. When she followed you on the road, you could drive her off for a while by taunting her, making fun of her. But she’ll find you in the end, if her mistress commands it. There’s no escaping her in the long run. Empousa is a creature of the roads, hunting travelers at Hekate’s will — or whim. She’s both terrifying and comical. A shapeshifter, yet unwilling or unable to shed her strange form. Inescapable — unless you drive her off by making fun of her. Why do taunts upset her so? Why, if she can change her appearance, does she keep what many would consider a deformity? Why does Hekate send her to frighten travelers at all? I’m attempting to work with some of the monsters of Hekate’s train. Empousa is the first. When I have built a relationship with her, I’ll try Lamia, and then Mormo. Eventually, the Underworld nymphs known as the Lampades. I make offerings of lavender to her, as suggested by the strophalos oracle, which also told me to accept her as a guide. I call her, invite her into my dreams, and drink dreaming teas to try to open myself. So far, I have had only one brief glimpse. I expect her to take other forms, to be a dream-lover, waiting for me to see her, and once I caught her that way, and she laughed, pleased with me. But since then, no matter how I call, my dreams remain dry. I’m patient. Eventually, I’ll find her, or she’ll find me. Empousa... I call to you, Empousa With your hair of flame With one leg of an ass And one leg of brass Relentless pursuer Shapeshifter, seducer I call to you, Empousa Come to me, and let me know you...

Following the Piper

It's been a long while since I had an encounter like yesterday's. I was so busy for a long time, with the restaurant, with school before that. And then after the restaurant, I was so depressed that I turned away from things for a long time. I've been getting back to it in fits and starts, but it's been hard to really settle in. Yesterday tells me I'm making good progress. I'm seeing the things I ought to again. The guideposts are coming clear. There are encounters that anyone might have, and there are encounters that only those trained in spiritual and magical technologies can have. Yesterday was one of the former. Anybody could have gone and talked to that guy. Not just anybody would have recognized it, though. I did, which is good, because I damned well ought to be able to. But better, I chose to go and have it. After turning away from things for too long, I looked out the window and saw him. I hollered a compliment. And then, finally, I got dressed, and I actually left the house and went out there and spoke to him. Listened to him play. Petted his dog. Talked a while. I did something. I chose, actively, after being passive for too long. I reached up out of the morass of depression and caught hold of a big thing, and pulled myself up to take a deep breath of fresh air. I need to become more active, to start making choices again. Hekatean as well as Dionysian. Pick my own road, and walk it. Time to find something new, and start it. I did a tarot reading before bed, Beth Maiden's Begin now, with what you have spread, just to get a sense of where I was starting from. An important thing to know before setting out. I got some interesting results. The Sun as my goal. The Wheel and The World in my base. The Page of Pentacles, my favorite significator many years ago when I started reading, in my beginnings. Promising. I think my next reading should be with the Daughters of the Moon. It's always been a very dream-and-vision sort of deck, feeding me images to watch for, touchstones, signposts along the road, rather than concrete instructions, the way the Mythic or the Visconti-Sforza do. Possibly time to do some dreaming as well. Soon....