Honoring My Beloved Dead– Trish, Chris, and Jinah

 

IMG_20170520_154751.jpgI know it’s the wrong season for this, but I didn’t get around to honoring Trish during the Samhain season. Feelings of guilt, compounded by the fact that Chris and Jinah just recently passed, made me want to write about the three of them now, rather than waiting until Samhain.

 

Trish

I was working the night shift at work; something I wasn’t accustomed to. It was a rough day and I needed to blow off some steam after work. I called all my friends and they were already in for the night before I had even left the office. Despite not having a partner in crime, I decided to go out on my own. I went to my usual bar in hopes that someone I knew would be there. Luckily, Trish was there.

Trish was a regular at the bar and I saw her almost every time I went out. We didn’t talk a lot, but sometimes our smoke breaks would sync up, so we’d talk outside. I considered her an acquaintance, but after this night, she became a friend.

Another man was at the bar and he began making homophobic comments. I asked him to stop and he responded by calling me a “fag.” Like most gay men, this is a trigger word for me and I was ready to fight. Before I could say anything, Trish stepped in.

“Joe might be a fag, but motherfucker, he’s our fag. So, if you’re messing with him, you’re going to mess with all of us” Trish said. At over six feet tall, Trish was an imposing figure. The guy paid his tab and left quickly thereafter. I had never felt so protected by someone who was basically a stranger.

Not long after, I stopped going to this bar. One of my friends broke up with her boyfriend, who also frequented this bar. We stopped going to avoid unnecessary drama. After almost a year, I got word that Trish passed away unexpectedly.

A few weeks ago, my friend Jamie asked to go to this bar in hopes of running into an old coworker. I agreed and was excited that I would get to see people I haven’t seen in years, including Trish. That’s when reality hit me. Trish was gone, I would never see her again.

 

Chris

Chris was a coworker at my previous job. He was a supervisor in our inbound sales center and I was a sales coach who focused mostly on our retail locations. That being said, I didn’t interact with Chris all that often. Chris had a myriad of health problems that eventually took him away from work for a while. While he was out, I covered his team. His return coincided with another supervisor leaving on medical leave, so I moved on to cover the other team.

Chris was a lifesaver for me. Whenever I had questions or needed support, he was there. He was also one of the few people on the floor who had as much nerd-cred as me. We spent so much time talking about comics and video games. He made work fun.

When I was offered a new position at a different company, the rest of my peers were resentful. They felt that I was leaving because I didn’t want to work with them anymore. Chris was the only one who saw that I was leaving for a better opportunity. He wished me well and helped me understand that I ultimately had to do what was best for me.

Chris passed away a few weeks back. I hadn’t seen him since I left my old job. The world definitely lost a good soul when he died.

 

Jinah

“So what are you going to do when we don’t hire you” the voice said from the phone on the desk in front of me. I was caught off guard. I answered the question and eventually this portion of my interview ended.

Jaime, the manager who was present in the room with me, shrugged afterwards and said “Sorry about that. Jinah’s just a little rough around the edges.” I left the interview knowing that I didn’t get the job. Fortunately, I received the official offer the next day.

When I began work, I sat a few seats away from Jinah. She was a middle-aged woman who had recently returned from medical leave. On my first day, she handed me a $10 bill and said “go get me Jimmy Johns.” I was shocked, but ultimately complied, because I wasn’t going to make a woman in a wheelchair go get her own lunch.

Over time, her rough demeanor softened and we became close. I enjoyed her candor and her impatience with stupid people. She made me laugh every day. Her battle with cancer was tough, though she tried to hide it. Over the past six months, I watched her deteriorate mentally. I knew she was sick, but I didn’t realize how bad it was.

Last week, Jinah went on short-term disability at work. By Thursday, she was moved to end of life hospice. On Monday, she passed away. It hit me harder than I expected.

I was cleaning my desk out at work and I found a card from Jinah. I had the flu a few months ago and she gave me a get-well card. It was amazing that Jinah, who was struggling with her own health issues, took the time to wish me well on a trivial concern.

 

Today, I lit three candles on my altar.

Trish, I thank you for your protection and your laughter.

Chris, I thank you for your wisdom and your support.

Jinah, I thank you for your candor and your guidance.

Blessed may you all be, in this world and all others.

Spring Reiving

I first learned about the concept of reiving, or the process of ritually cleaning, clearing, and preparing your magickal work space in the book Witchcraft: Theory and Practice by Ly de Angeles. What started as practice of clearing my ritual space before a hefty ritual, slowly evolved to involve my home and surrounding property.

The first step in the process is extremely mundane. In fact, it involves the stuff that normal spring cleaning entails. I wash the walls, clean the baseboards, vacuum the floor. You name it, I do it. I even move the fridge so I can clean behind it. This is also my annual closet clean out. I take out everything that I haven’t worn in a while and set it aside for donation.

At this point, I’m usually a sweaty, dusty mess. I lay out some clean clothes and take a shower with intent. I ritually purify myself with sea salt and lavender oil. I then move to the center of my home.

On the coffee table, I place a dish of incense. It’s made of equal part sage, clove, and copal. Also on the makeshift altar is a dish of burning charcoal, a dish of sea salt, a chalice of water, a glass of red wine, a single white candle, and my athame.

I light the candle and ground myself. I cast a circle with my athame around my altar. Once the circle is cast, I visualize it expanding around my entire house. Once this thought it solidified in my mind’s eye, I push the circle out to cover my entire property.

Next, I place the tip of the athame in the salt to bless it. After I add three pinches of salt to the chalice of water, I sprinkle the water around my house working clockwise. I then move outside to sprinkle salt around the perimeter of my house. Side note – I typically do this late at night to avoid my nosey neighbors. Once I move back in the house, I toss some incense on the coals and repeat the process of smudging my house and the outer perimeter of my property.

When I return to the altar, I place the censer back in its place. I ground, once again, before picking up the glass of wine and sitting on my couch. Once, I’ve finished the wine, I head to bed, letting the circle dissipate, forming a natural ring of protection around my home.

Finding a Patron Deity

My study group has begun discussing deity. The conversation has been a little lacking, so I got the conversation started by offering up the deities from various pantheons that I have established a working relationship with over the years. One of the members of the study group then asked if how to best go about finding a patron. I thought it was a great question and wanted to “test-drive” my response here before I shared my response with the group.

People in my study group tend to fall into two camps. The first group has never worked with deity before and may not be well-versed in mythology making it more difficult to pin down a deity to work with. Since several of them don’t see research as particularly magickal, I wanted to develop a ritual to open themselves up to a deity’s presence.

For this ritual, you should gather a few offerings. It doesn’t necessarily matter what these offerings are, as long as they speak to yu. After arranging the offerings on your altar, cast a circle. Then, light a new candle, in any color, and make the following call:

“I open myself up to the higher power that I need at this moment in my life. I ask that you, my Patron, make yourself known to me. Light the path that leads to you. Accept these offerings as a token of my commitment. So mote it be”

The candle should be allowed to burn down, even if you must extinguish and relight the candle over the next several days. Allow the offerings to remain for as long as possible as well. If you must dispose of them, leave them in a natural place.

You should begin feeling pulls from or receive signs to identify the deity that wants to work with you. Research this deity and determine how working with this deity will be of benefit to you.

The second camp of study group members have an idea of which deity they want to establish a relationship with, but don’t know the best way to go about this. The next ritual is to help make the initial connection. For this ritual, I will use the Goddess Hecate as an example.

As with the first ritual, I would assemble an altar with offerings and images of Hecate. I would lay out a vase of red poppies, a chalice of dark red wine, three candles (white, red, and black), and maybe some salt arranged in the shape of a crossroad. After casting the circle, I would recite a hymn to the Goddess.  For Hecate, I would borrow from Ovid and say:

“O night, most faithful guardian and Mother of these mine Mysteries, and all ye golden stars who with the moon floating near, succeed the fires of day, and thou, divine three formed Hekate, who knows my desire and strengthens my arts of magic; and you, O kindly Earth, who offer your potent herbs to my power; and airs, winds, mountains, streams, and lakes, and all you spirits of the groves and of the night! Be with me now!
By your enabling power, at my Will, broad rivers shall flow from their astonished banks, back to their source; My magic song shall sooth the angry sea and rouse when quiet; At my whim, I bring the clouds and make them flee, I both call the howling winds and quell them; By my art I break the throats of serpents; the living rocks and mighty oaks from out their soil I tear; I move whole forests, bid the mountains tremble, the deep earth to twist and groan, and for ghosts to rise from their tombs. Thee too, bright Moon, I draw down”

Afterwards, I would state my reasons for calling Hecate to me. I would explain why I feel drawn to her and ask that she become my Patroness. I would then present the offerings to her. Finally, before closing the Circle, I would release her, but ask her to stay if she wished.

Ongoing, I would pray (yes, pray) to Hecate each day and evoke her presence into any ritual or magickal work I undertake. This would allow me to get to know her on a spiritual level and to continually open myself up to her guidance.

Hopefully, these rituals will work for you, as they have for me in the past. Let me know what other practices would be helpful in establishing a relationship with a deity.

The Kala Rite

I just finished listening to the audiobook Witches of America by Alex Mar. The book details the author’s journey into Occult America. The author spends a lot of time speaking of her interaction with initiates of the Feri Tradition. One of the rites detailed in the book is the Kala Rite and I found it an interesting and simple daily practice that I wanted to share here.

According to Storm Faerywolf, kala is the Hawaiian word for “loosen, untie, or absolve.” The Kala Rite seeks to transform any energetic blocks into power that the witch can use to their advantage. All you need to perform the rite is a glass of fresh water.

After you ground and center, begin to visualize something you wish to be free of. Bring this to the surface, allow the feeling to nearly boil over. When the energy peaks, take three deep breaths and will the energy to fill the glass of water. The water should now appear to be thick, black, and toxic in your mind’s eye.

Now, begin to raise power. Feri Witches prefer to use Blue Fire, a term for Feri energy, but you can use personal energy or draw on energy from the universe. Once you feel charged, place both hands over the water and see the toxic liquid begin to lighten and shimmer with energy. The water will now be transformed into an elixir of power humming with divine light.

To finalize the ritual, drink the water and allow the energy to transform the blockages you are experiencing. Once you urinate, the negative energy will be removed from your body.

I’ve practiced this a few times over the past few weeks and I feel that I have had great results. In fact, I think I will begin researching more about Feri practices and sharing them here.

Honoring My Beloved Dead – Linda

When I was in middle school, I met a girl named Mary who would become one of my closest friends. Later when I came out, she became a fierce protector and loyal ally. Standing by her side offering support was her mother Linda. Throughout the years, Linda was a surrogate mother when I needed to run something past her before talking to my parents. She was pivotal in making me realize that I was in control of my life and I could choose what I wanted. However, Linda was also incredibly willing to tell when I was being irresponsible or thoughtless.

When I grew up and moved away, Mary and I lost touch for a bit. We synced up again on my 21st birthday, but didn’t remain close. It wasn’t until a few years ago that she moved back to Columbus and we began hanging out more.

Last Halloween, I went to Mary’s house for a small party. Linda was there and we spent several hours discussing what was happening in her life since we last talked. Linda brushed that topic off and asked how I was doing.  Mary, Linda, and I talked all night and it was probably one of the best nights I had in while at the time.

A few weeks, maybe months, later, Mary and I got into an argument stemming from each of us having too much to drink. The next day, I got a call from Linda. She acted a mediator and all but forced Mary and I to work out our disagreement.

A little more than a year ago, a friend sent me a text to check Mary’s Facebook page. When I did, I saw that Linda has passed away the night before. Linda was out mowing her yard. Her neighbor felt that she was mowing her lawn too late in the evening and shot her.

My friend group from high school surrounded Mary with love and we made sure she was taken care of while grieving. A few weeks ago, Linda’s killer was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison. The sentencing brought some much needed closure for the family and for that I’m thankful.

Today, while writing this, I read back through her obituary. Linda was a single mother who worked her ass off to provide for her family. She started off as a phone operator for a local railroad company and worked her way up to Superintendent of Operations. She graduated from BGSU magna cum laude. She was an activist working for social justice and environmental conservation. She was an amazingly generous and overall badass lady.

Tonight, I light a candle for Linda on my altar. I thank her for her guidance and ask her to continue guide and protect her family.

 

Honoring My Beloved Dead – the LGBT Ancestors

Most of the people I celebrate during Samhain are people I knew personally in my life. However, today I want to write about people who helped pave the way for the rights of LGBT people.

In October of 1998, I was 13 years-old and had been closer to accepting my sexuality. I told a few close friends and my family, all of whom were extremely accepting. Soon after, a friend told someone else and the rumors began. I was the victim of taunting and got into a few fights, but overall, people were adjusting their attitudes towards me.

On October 7, 1998, Matthew Shepard was brutally attacked in Laramie, Wyoming. As news coverage continued, I learned that Matthew Shepard was attacked for being gay. Days later, Matthew passed away from the injuries he received during the attack. This was the first time I really understood how dangerous it was to be gay in a small town.

Willard, Ohio, where I grew up, was pretty similar to Laramie. The town was situated in an area dominated by farming, railroads, and factories. Saying Willard was conservative in an understatement. I’m pretty sure there are still more churches in Willard than traffic lights. With this in mind, my safety became a constant worry. My family wouldn’t let me walk home from school anymore. My friends and I were resigned to spending time at each other’s homes, and the taunting and physical threats increased.

However, after Matthew’s attack, the presence of LGBT allies increased. I remember being shoved in the locker room in gym and having to (aggressively) straight football players come to my defense. Another time, I was being bullied while waiting for my parents to pick me up. A parent of another student overheard and waited with me until my parents arrived. Although I felt like an even bigger outcast than before, I was humbled by the support I received around me.

One of my biggest bullies was this guy named Chance. He came from an ultra-conservative family and made it his mission to make my life hell. I didn’t take it too seriously because he was a grade lower than me and by the time he began his barrage of torment, I had grown more secure in who I was. I remember that we had a conversation during a study hall one day. He tried to harass me by saying “How can you be so disgusting? Are you really okay with people thinking you’re an abomination?” I simply replied “Yeah, I couldn’t care less what someone like you thinks about me.” That was the end of the conversation and I don’t recall any other encounters with him.

The year after I graduated, I got word that Chance had killed himself. I didn’t ask too many questions, but felt sad that someone would kill themselves before they really had a chance to live. A little while later I heard that Chance had come out to his parents, who abused him physically and mentally, before ultimately disowning him. I’m not sure if any of this is true because small towns are ground zero for rumors, but in a sick way it made sense to me. People tend to project their own insecurities onto other people.

On Samhain 1998, I lit a candle of my Samhain altar for Matthew. I mourned his death, but thanked him for giving the ultimate sacrifice to bring national attention to the dangers of being gay in the U.S. On Samhain 2004, I added a candle for Chance. I prayed that regardless of the situation that led to him taking his life that he would find peace in the next life.

After reading Gay Witchcraft by Christopher Penczak, I found an ancestor prayer for the leant their hands to the gay rights movement. Every year since, as I do now, I light a purple candle on my altar and recite this prayer.

 

“To Sappho and Socrates, Aristotle and Alexander, we call to the ancient ancestors of our tribe.

To Caesar and Hadrian, we thank you for your power.

To Michelangelo and Leonardo, we thank you for your visions.

To Byron and Whitman, Wilde and Stein, we thank you for your words.

To Uncle Aleister and the Faeries past, we thank you for your magick.

To Those with the Triangles who died in the concentration camps.

To Harvey Milk, Matthew Shepard, and all those who gave their lives in the struggle for awareness, equality, and healing.

We thank you for paving the way for us. Blessed may you be in this world and in all others[i].”

 

[i] Adapted from Gay Witchcraft: Empowering the Tribe by Christopher Penczak

Honoring my Beloved Dead – Anna

My grandma Anna was an amazing woman. Before having 11 children, she followed her dream of getting a college degree from Berea College in Kentucky. Granted, she pursued a degree in Home Economics, but she was vocal about the necessity of an education.

One of my earliest memories of my grandma is when she came to visit my family while we lived in Florida. There was nothing she wanted to do more than to take her grandsons fishing. I remember sitting on the jetty in Port St. Lucie with her all day. I don’t remember catching anything, but I remember having an excellent time. After we left the jetty, she took my brothers and me to a Chinese restaurant. It was my first time eating Chinese food, and we gorged ourselves on fried rice and dumplings.

My grandmother was one of the hardest workers I’ve ever met. Because of this, she didn’t tolerate laziness. She passed her work ethic down to her kids, and I got my strong work ethic from my father. My dad says that I also got her temper, passion, and quick wit from her too.

My mother told me that she learned to cook from my grandmother. Apparently, my grandma was not happy that her oldest son married a woman who didn’t know her way around the kitchen, so she made sure to fix that. My mom says that she was offended at first, but is grateful that Anna took the time to teach her. My mother and I spend a lot of time cooking together now. In fact, I inherited a few of Anna’s cast iron skillets. I think of her every time I use it.

Today, I place a bobber on my altar and will prepare a meal of fried rice and dumplings using Anna’s skillets. I remember her and thank her for helping my mom to give me the love of cooking and for helping my dad to instill a strong work ethic into me. I’m also pretty stoked that she passed along her fiery nature to me.