September 26, 2016

My Polytheism Redux

Now that I got some essential bits of political folderol out of the way, let me talk more about #mypolytheism. My polytheism is all wrapped up in death and the Dead. And in Monsters.

Pretty dark stuff, I suppose, but somehow I get a good giggle out of it fairly often. And, in truth, I find that these topics buoy me up, lift me above and free, rather than dragging me down. They keep me energized and out of depression. Which I suppose sounds odd to someone who's never practiced deathwork.

I feel strange claiming that term, although I suppose it fits. The strangeness comes in here: I always thought deathwork was work about the moment of passing from life into death, in all the many ways that phrase could be taken. And of the many things I have so far undertaken, this is something I have not done. I have not attended a death. I did not attend the death of the grandmother I hated; although I offered to, my family did not want me to come home. I did not attend the death of my "bonus grandmother", my good grandmother's housemate, who had been simply another grandparent all my life. I was not offered the option to go; only her blood relations were, and my grandmother, and I suppose that's fair. (I didn't make it to the funeral either, though, and that hurt. I held an effigy funeral in my backyard.) But deathwork is more than that, and I guess it's what I do. I study the Dead, both the spirits and the history. I venerate the Dead, my Ancestors and others. I study how dying is done in this country, and consider how I want to die in this culture, and am turning to finding ways to make death better in this country. I'm taking power from this. I immerse myself in the traditions of death so that I can write the funeral rituals of a tradition, and I have offered to go myself and perform the funeral rites for any initiate who dies. I hope and plan to train up others to be specialists in the deathwork of my tradition. I do deathwork.

I also work with monsters. I work with figures from my Starry Bull Tradition, many of which are pretty monstrous, and which instruct that I should find the monstrous within me. But then there is my work for Hekate, in which I call on the Monsters of her retinue, those who follow her on her long ramblings. The Lampades, Underworld torch-bearing nymphs, who show themselves to me as nine. Empousa, the lamed, crippled, disabled, shape-changing Monster who pursues and never rests. Lamia, a shark Monster, not a snake one, who has had her eyes put out, who waits in the salt sea to devour men and terrify children. Mormo, she of the ten thousand beautiful faces, one of which may even be your own. The Gorgons, three or two or one alone, beautiful monsters with snakes and wings in their hair. They seem to expect that some day I will join them.

I worship the darkest faces of Dionysos, and revel in them, even as I revel in his role as Lord of Joy. He's both the terrifying and bloody Bull, and the one who transforms my madness into ecstasy. I worship Hekate, who has frightened so many over the ages. She protects me and holds me close, gives me strength and empowers my choices. Neither of them is balanced or whole without all those aspects of themselves. I am not balanced without all the faces I wear, either. It's not so simple a matter as dark and light. There is strength and joy and comfort in the dark, and there is harm and terror in the light. Nothing is complete without all of it. Nothing is truly polar. It's not even a one-dimensional spectrum. Everything that is real exists in multiple dimensions, has depth and width and height.

I find comfort and consolation and fortitude in what others think is dark and morbid. That's my polytheism.