One: Pilgrimage Stuff
I’ve been trying to figure out what in the many-worlds They’re on about with this trip. I got a little bit of an indication the other day when several disparate threads seem to weave together a bit. It seems, though, I won’t fully know ’till I start, which is in three weeks.
I’m brutally excited, and my dreams are beginning to bend towards those places. I’m also a little nervous, honestly, but not about money or logistics. So many of the things I saw last year still linger as incomplete threads, and, well, I’ll be going specifically to places where my gods were worshiped. There’s a sense of sacred dread about it.
My budget for the whole trip (three weeks) is 1500 dollars, including already-purchased airfare, with a bit of leeway for emergencies, etc. I’m pretty certain I’ve over-budgeted, which is a good feeling. My five week pilgrimage to France and Germany last year cost $2000 including air-fare, and I had some money left over.
Two: Hugs from Ceridwen Are Expensive!
Funny, though. I stumbled upon descriptions of a much shorter pilgrimage that people took to Wales last year. I guess they paid $2500 (not including airfare) for a week.
I’m not sure how that works. I sort of would hate to be the guy who shows up somewhere and says, “hey! You know how you all are spending $2500 for a week to meet gods and ‘get your Mabinogian on?’ Gods don’t cost money!”
They weren’t camping or hiking up druidic mountains alone, I guess, but from one account I read, at least one got to sit on “Arianrhod’s throne,” to hug Ceridwen in her cottage, and to share blood with Merlin, so I guess the cost was worth it? Also, they got blessed food! And returned with sage observations about how the Welsh love Native American wisdom.
This stuff worries me a lot.
I’d hate for anyone to think you need money to see the gods or spirits. If anything, having money kind of gets in the way. All those cultures with really strong connection to the land and the dead and the gods? They’re poor, or at least poor in what we consider wealth. Rich in tradition, and time, and relations, which we, subjects of Modern Capitalism, have none of.
But who’s richer, really? And to be fair, the folks rich in all of those things that we don’t have are only actually money-poor because we’re taking all of their resources and turning them it into things to sell each other and then throw away so we can buy more.
So in high, modern, wonderful Capitalism, we’ve got ‘Core Shamans’ who give corporate employee transformation workshops in Seattle for our ‘post-tribal’ society, a shamanism for the shopping mall and the urban elite, free from all that messy rawness of cultural relations. They promise that you can keep your car and computers and big houses and wide roads and still live a rich life in the Otherworld, even as we destroy all the gates between ours and Theirs.
No wonder we’re all a mess and want a hug from Ceridwen.
Three: The Shopping Mall of the Gods
Did you read Crystal Blanton’s essay on The Wild Hunt? A few commenters got close to the issue (but then derailed themselves) when they spoke of the way that Capitalism affects our search for knowledge. Capitalism is a kind of social relationship in which the only responsibility people have to each other is one of producer/buyer, or owner/worker. Older forms of social relations still exist, but they are sublimated and crushed by the omniscient market logic and the molestations of the ‘invisible hand.’
This infects Paganism pretty heavily, and I worry. Wisdom shouldn’t be a commodity, nor should the gods or other beings, (human or non) be commodities. Compensation for time spent teaching makes sense, certainly, but I worry that people get fleeced because they’re willing to pay whatever the cost to get wisdom and see things outside of themselves.
Another matter. 2500 dollars to give Ceridwen a hug? I suspect we’re not talking about the same Ceridwen here. The one I know demands some pretty damn harsh stuff from you, lots and lots of death that you can’t buy off with the year’s wages of 3 average Haitians. But maybe Merlin’s a bit costlier, I don’t know. He’s not a god, so maybe he’s got more expensive tastes?
I’d like to think no-one is too poor to get a hug from Ceridwen. At some point, we’re gonna have to look really hard at this Capitalist stuff in Paganism. But that brings me to the next matter, and why one might be wary of such things.
Four: ‘Non-Activist Magic Workers Unite!’
I got invited to attend the online Pagan Activist Conference for free this coming weekend, which is pretty exciting. Also, I had no money to spare for it, so I’m really glad this was offered. I fortunately have next weekend off, as I’ll be making candles and finishing up thank-you cards for all the funders of my indiegogo campaign who contributed a little more than one year’s worth of an average Haitian’s wages so I could go to Newgrange.
The cost of the weekend’s worth of video discussions is $40 (half-a-month’s income for a Haitian, or half-a-day’s income for me), so it’s likely quite affordable for most. I’m very interested in hearing some of the presentations, and will be writing about some of them afterwards.
But on activism, I stumbled upon a few conversations I wish I hadn’t. One of these was someone suggesting there needs to be a defense written of Pagans-who-don’t-care, because ‘activists’ are really alienating people with their challenges.
But on the other hand, T. Thorn Coyle wrote a piece last week that made me cry and feel a little less weary and wary.
I’d just finished reading Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything (which I’ll be reviewing next week for The Wild Hunt), and I’d just understood that the biking trail near my forest (named for Chief Sealth–the cruelest of insults) runs under the Olympic Pipeline, and I’d been wracking my brain trying to figure out if there’s even a place in Paganism for people who care so much that they say stuff that no-one wants to hear, and then I read her piece.
I’d like to think stuff like that makes a difference, but then there’s also this weird backlash, displayed in the quote above, as well as a conversation I wished I hadn’t seen from a friend quite obviously venting about my anti-Capitalism.
This is awfully exhausting and makes me want a hug from Ceridwen.
I’m reminded, though, of an argument I’ve heard trotted out too many times about why the Black Panthers failed in their efforts for equality. In essence, they state that they “failed to court white middle-Americans” and instead became too extremist, as if it is somehow the responsibility of an oppressed group to bow to the sensibilities of their superiors.
An interesting thing to note, too, as brought up by Tavis Smiley in his recent work on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the real backlash against him came when he began preaching an analysis of racism which extended to American Imperialism and Capitalism itself. Some things can be questioned and you get lots of friends. Question too far? Well. You know how that went for him.
So I find myself quite curious how this will all go for us. On the one hand, you’ve got an incredibly fascinating list of people who constantly attempt to get at the core structures of oppression, particularly in a Pagan framework. Pieces like Peter Grey’s Rewilding Witchcraft have quite an effect for a little while, before a host of essays defending the comforts of modernity and the honor of not caring eventually close the traumatic wound opened by those thrusts, impassioned pleas to return to that mythical time when Witches didn’t care about the world around them.
And mostly I think the backlash comes when we begin to question our complicity in the systems which create inequality, because then we have to see all the pain and sorrow and subjugation and violence that goes into our comfortable lives.
This makes me want to go hide in my forest. Except my forest is gonna die because everyone wants Capitalism and gasoline, just like all the other forests will die.
So there will be no forests for any of us to hide in.
Five: In Review
And on forests and complicity, and as I mentioned, I’ll be writing a review of Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything for The Wild Hunt. I’d like to think it would. It should, anyway, but some mirrors are awfully painful to look into. Also, it kinda hurts to write about it, as she quite clearly proves something that even I, in all my anti-capitalist zeal, still sometimes held out hope on. That is, we really cannot have the stuff we’ve got now and not flood our cities.
Before then, I’ll be posting a review here of a fantastic little book I was sent last week, God Speaking, by Judith O’Grady. Some of the most fun I’ve had reading anything in quite some time, and one of those books you know you’ll be glad you read 20 years on.
And I hadn’t linked to it here yet: Lilith Dorsey wrote a review of Your Face is a Forest for her blog on Patheos. She has the distinction of being the first person to ever make a .gif of my words (to my knowledge)! I’m honored, and also slightly embarrassed I’d forgotten I’d written those words and had to look them up.
Six: And On the Book
If anyone would like a review copy of Your Face is a Forest, or if anyone is facing hardship (poverty sucks!) but would really like a copy, please let me know through my contact form. It’s not a hug from Ceridwen; it’s a book. I’d like to think my writing helps people see the gods, ’cause that’s what I told them I wanted to try to do. But that’s mostly up to them and whether or not you take your headphones out and turn off your television and go looking for them.
Also, if you’re in Seattle and can run into me before I go to Ireland, I’ll have copies to sell in person soon. I expect an order I put in to arrive just before Thanksgiving, at which time I’ll send out all the signed copies for contributors to my pilgrimage fund. We can drink tea together in my forest.
Seven: Ancestors Slipping Through the Living
Ceridwen does give hugs, though. Sorta.
Last night, while adding another book to raise the altar for the Trans-Dead, I came close to tears, feeling suddenly my own exhaustion with attempting to be something different from what the world attempts to fit you into.
That’s something any gender rogue has to face daily. I pass quite well as a cis-gendered straight man (despite being gay and also feeling not-entirely-male), so the struggles I’ve had to go through to be “myself” are not the same. Still, after a dream which was not my-own, I’m starting to relate better than I had before I started this, and to find my relations with the dead and ancestors to be changing.
This is also related to a piece I offered to write for another on behalf of The Mothers, and I’m not sure fully how this fits. But no small amount of people, friends and strangers on the street, have found themselves talking extensively about dead matriarchs to me. Last night on the street, an old man was in tears as he told me how beautiful his mother had been, and I hadn’t said a word about the matter to have triggered this conversation. And while making dinner with a friend, his conversation constantly turned towards his deceased grandmothers, and little things I’d do remind him of them.
That’s been, thus far, how ancestor work has been for me. Open yourself up to them and they slip through of no design of your own. I mostly get to stand and watch and sometimes interject. ‘Leave out a cup of some tea the way she liked it,‘ I said. Because what else can you say? And that bit was pretty obvious.
But if my experience with the rite thus far is even slightly typical, I think everyone else involved could probably use a little extra solidarity. The dead are not easy to work with, particularly those who were hated, fought against, chastised, bullied, ostracized and often times violently killed in life on account of what their experiences forced others to confront.
I have so much to learn from them. The cost’s pretty high, but there’s no money involved. It’s pretty worth it, though, and I suspect this is what Ceridwen’s embrace is really like.