Wednesday, April 13, 2016

This Blog Has MOVED!

Hi folks!  I somehow managed to neglect to announce here that I was invited to join the Patheos Pagan Channel and so this blogged has been moved over there since mid March!  I'm slowly archiving and introducing some of my favorite posts that are located here on blogspot over to Patheos, in between the new posts - of which there are several!

So reset your RSS feeds to

Thanks so much!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Magick of Being Silent

It's very easy nowadays to get caught up in the "Information Age." In a daily feed where you can see people sharing photos of their daily meals, celebrities being open and vocal about mental illnesses/sexual preferences/gender identity, and hot debates about whether or not an issue is making the "media news" and why or why not, it's hard to imagine that there is information not being shared.*

We tend to fall into the frame of space that if it's something we're seeing, then it's being talked about.  And if we're not seeing it, then people must not know or must not be doing it.

I hadn't really thought about it until I heard a few very different interviews, where the subject made blanket statements about aspects of Paganism/Esoterica/Metaphysics based on what they had or hadn't seen, which lead to their positions/conclusions/actions.

But that's not really accurate.  Not everything exists in the realm of the online world or in the public space.  Not everyone puts everything out there.  Even people who talk and write a lot (like me) don't show or talk about everything.

The repetition of those similar phrases being sounded off, poked something in my head.  It seemed rather ironic that within the context of mystery and oathbound traditions, to assume everything's been said and put out on the table in the modern day. That everyone's daily practices and explorations are what is shown to the rest of the world. The phrase "to Know, to Will, to Dare and to Keep Silent" also popped into my head, which has multiple interpretations depending on the tradition that has embraced it. (Also similarly, rule number one (and two) of Fight Club is "You do not talk about Fight Club.")

You may be saying now,"Hold on, wait up, didn't you have a post about how there really are no secrets?" Yes. But let's look a little closer at the "to keep silent" part.

In my opinion, it's not so much about secrecy as it is about the things that are left unsaid within the public space. The unspoken can protect identity, maintain privacy, and respect others' experiences.  Also, not everything is meant to be consumed in the open, but is best revealed within the shadows, in a space without words. Lastly, consider how are the words being used in the first place? Do you really need to prove what you know or where you have been? Sometimes yes, most of the time no.  There isn't a magickal bingo card with spaces you must fill to prove your worth.**

Personally, there are aspects of my path that I choose to reveal, and others that may remain hidden. And these aspects can shift and switch places over time. I don't have to hang out all of my labels and flags of experience out on the line.  There are also things I'm still unraveling and discovering, still working out in my own space - the cauldron is still brewing, so to speak. When I do write or talk, I share to document some of those experiences, to open doors or windows for others, to put some light on the path. But that doesn't mean I'm illuminating the whole path with bright LEDs.

It's also important to realize that many people either don't feel the need to share or write about their experiences or their path openly.  The public outlet is simply not for them. Some people aren't even online (really!). It has nothing to do with hiding anything. It doesn't mean that they're not practicing, not experiencing, or not doing, just because you don't see the evidence of that. Your slice of life is your own view - which can also mean sometimes you're not paying attention for one reason or another.  Nor does the Universe see fit to show you everything in your "feed" of life.  I find we discover things when we're supposed to - if we're paying attention.

Use silence to reflect, consider, and investigate - both inwardly and externally, but never assume. There is more left unsaid than we can ever see or know. Which is a pretty amazing, beautiful and scary thing.

*To be clear, I am not passing judgment upon any of these things, just commenting on the range of sharing we see in any given day.

**I do want to mention that sometimes silence is a warning.  If someone is making big claims, but their history is mysteriously vacant and vague, take heed. Someone who is secure in their path can back up their history and be direct when asked about it. 

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Which What Where? Pulling at Threads...

Even though I have been easing myself back into the realm of the Pagan community for a couple of years now, I still have a bit of Rip Van Winkle particles clinging to me.  Several long road trips and extended time in the studio have allowed for dedicated listening to a variety of podcasts, varying from specific practices to general commentary on the community.

And I must say, I find it rather fascinating to see what's being argued about these days.

Twenty years ago, one of the biggest pressing issues was interfaith working and religious rights - getting the variety of paths under the Pagan umbrella recognized for being valid, fighting discrimination, and working to educate others.  This was the time of the founding/organization of Pagan Pride (in a more formalized way, or attempt at), the Pagan Leaders Summit, working to get Pagan recognition within the armed services, schools, press, prisons, etc.  I was in the thick of it, hosting the first Rhode Island PPD, being an associate editor of Crescent Magazine, founding a college Pagan Society (that grew beyond that quickly), creating public events, lecturing at colleges about Paganism, among other things (makes me tired just thinking about it!). For the most part, looking back, there has been much success in accomplishing many of these goals thanks to many minds, hearts, and hands. That's rather amazing!

Within the community, the arguing (ahem, issues) back then seemed fairly split between tradition authenticity/validity and Wicca vs. Witchcraft/witchcraft.  I have to say, in my 20's, I got rather tired of explaining that no, I wasn't Wiccan, though we had plenty of folks in the open path group that were.

I'm glad to see that for the most part, nowadays there's recognition and respect in the validity of one's path, regardless of its supposed age. The discontent seems to have shifted more to "are you doing it right?" - and "it" being akin to describing an invisible elephant floating in the middle of a black hole.

Stepping back, it looks to be largely all about semantics: What and how are you labeling yourself? What does that label mean to you, me - in Indiana or in Italy or in India? Are there gods? What are they? Are you worshiping them correctly per your method of understanding them? Is it spirituality, religion, or practice? Is it a vocation or state of being? What is your purpose? What is your responsibility? What do these words mean and who used them first, last, or is there something better?

I think it speaks highly of the efforts of twenty years ago, that instead of our primary worry being about our rights to practice whatever we do - without immediate danger of losing jobs, homes, family, lives (though not true for everywhere, even in parts of the US), we're neck-deep in exploring the academic and esoteric - examining the threads that make up the tapestry versus worrying if there's a place we can safely hang the tapestry in the first place.  That's also pretty amazing.

The tricky thing is to be able to not get bogged down in creating more marginal within the marginal.  Whether you see your path as a religion, a spirituality, a vocation, or some other sort of practice - it's precisely and primarily YOUR path.  Your relationship to the world - be it the plants, trees, animals, gods, electrons, or donuts - is specific and unique to you. There are surely similarly among paths and even within traditions, but your connection to it all is still unique and different on the level of the thread in the larger tapestry.  Regardless of what you call it.

Labels help us identify and describe - and words have meaning and power  - but that meaning can change - from place to place, person to person, time to time.  So we need to reach beyond the words and find the similarities and seek to understand differences.  We can talk about what we do (if we choose to do that at all), without degrading or dismissing other paths.  We can compare and contrast without condemning. We can share our beliefs and describe our journeys while simultaneously not invalidating the experiences of others.  We can listen to why others choose the words they do, and learn more about ourselves in the process.  If we wish to talk about why something is wrong, we need to be willing to talk about how to do it right.

Walking your own path doesn't mean trampling over others.  Sometimes we overlap, sometimes we run parallel, and sometimes we meet at the crossroads.

Above and below all things, be armed with respect as you encounter others - and we'll be amazed when we look back in another 20 years.

Friday, February 19, 2016

PantheaCon Ramble 2016!

The Owlkeyme Arts Booth at PantheaCon, 2016
I need a mini-PantheaCon to come down from PantheaCon. (I refuse to say the return to reality was harsh, because it's all reality...I just want a bit more P-Con time.)

The Prep:
Last year the band toured after P-Con, this year we toured before, which meant a LOT more planning on my part to get everything done for the booth before we started on the road. Somehow I succeeded in accomplishing most of what I wanted to get done. We did end up having to take two cars down to the Bay Area to fit everything for booth and band (yes, there's a mini-van in our future), but the upside of that was 14 hours of listening to podcasts on my own. (My favorite podcast out of the bunch I listened to was Down at the Crossroads - I made the band listen to at least 4 of them with me again when we got it down to one car).  I may have yelled aloud at a few points (to no one in particular, though the Oregon countryside may have taken offense), but mainly it made for a strong inspirational brew of thoughts, images, and music (to come!) - and a fairly good frame of mind heading into the tour.

The tour itself went very well - much more smoothly than last year on several levels, with full shows, less traffic, and great vibes.  The following week landed us at Anaar's, where we caught up, brainstormed, prepared for our workshop, and helped each other get ready for PantheaCon.

Friday morning, I was fairly well-rested, packed, and ahead of schedule. Then I turned the key in Tiny Blue Car and a wealth of dummy lights were ablaze - that made no sense to be on while the car was in park, so my gut said electrical blurp (and was proven right).  Perhaps the universe thought I needed to be stressed about something, since everything else was going well!

2015 was the first year I'd returned to having a booth at P-Con - which was largely successful in huge ways, but the set-up had nearly brought me to a nervous breakdown.  This year I was determined to have a smooth set-up, and made some key adjustments, resulting in a MUCH better set-up experience. With the booth set up at a decent pace without stress, I got to enjoy the rest of the morning and afternoon seeing the hotel swell with P-Con attendees, seeing old and new friends alike.  I had hoped to make some of the programming, but with two bandmates in various states of plaguedom, I was content to connect with folks at the booth.

As we rolled into evening, shut the booth down, got a decent meal, then got ready to present "Possessing The Dark: Choreolalia - Speaking In Dance" with Anaar.  It had been 10 years since we last offered this workshop together, so we had taken some time to update and revise it to get the best flow for our audience. We still did some adjusting in the moment to account for the room, the number of attendees (a LOT!), and the overall flow of the workshop. Overall, very satisfied with how it went, and it's always a pleasure to work with Anaar. We're plotting more things together.

Being already on a tour schedule (I switch to about 6 hours of sleep instead of 8), and paranoid about being late, got up and moving fairly early on Saturday.  Managed to do a real breakfast, get the booth set up for the day, and off to my "Power of Line & Symbol: The Art of Sigil Magick" presentation rather early to find the room already quite full. At first I thought the previous event hadn't ended yet, but nope...all these folks were waiting for me.  And despite having taught how many dance workshops and metaphysical classes over the years, I was feeling a bit nervous. Once the tech was ready, and we moved some tables to make some more room, I announced to the class that if anyone was hoping for traditional, ceremonial magic-style sigil work, now's the time to leave, because that's not what we were going to talk about. Not a single person budged.

And off we went.  The culmination of the class was working together to design a sigil for PantheaCon - the theme for this year being "Making Changes." Folks called out intentions we could focus on to help make it a great con experience - and keep going from there out into the larger community.  Then we used the basic design vocabulary I had introduced to design the image you see on the right.

The response to the sigil workshop was truly overwhelming and wonderful - and I found out they sadly had to turn a lot of folks away, and I was asked to offer it again next year.

And after that, the rest of the day was swallowed by the booth, which was hopping for the rest of the time we were open!

And somewhere my brain thought I had the evening off (it desperately wanted that), but nope, I had been invited to perform in the Hero's Journey Through Bellydance Show at 9pm. No time to eat, so off to get into costume and head over the ballrooms.  The show managed to score a larger room this year, which was great, and there was a lot of thought put into all of the very diverse performances.  Alas, there was a serious sound tech issue that swallowed a fair bit of the music, but the performers made it work and I think for the most part, the audience didn't know as it was happening. (My piece turned into an instrumental...which was hilarious, because I had been performing to the song live all week on tour, and was on stage wondering if the recorded version had a much longer intro...).

I don't quite remember Sunday morning, but much of that day was involved with band business: arriving and coordinating band members, loading in equipment for the Mythpunk Concert, and me alone at the booth. Had to close the booth down earlier because the concert started at 7, and I needed to get into costume again. This year the show didn't conflict with the bellydance show, but holy moses, the Feri Revival was next door, and that was a huge crowd of folks waiting to get in!  Still, parts I (us) and II (Pandemonaeon) were well attended and folks had a great time.

Monday morning came pretty hard, as did some variety of plague, but it was a lovely morning and afternoon of saying goodbyes.

I did get to spend some time in the hospitality rooms throughout the weekend (in the evenings) - mainly Black Rose (shout out to Devin and Storm) and Hexenfest suites, and a quick run-by the Llewellyn suite for the meet-and-greet/social as a soon-to-be-published author of one of their titles. I especially enjoy Black Rose because of the mood and interesting folks to talk to - generally without the awkwardness of being hit on.  (Though I'm rather oblivious about that anyway...)

Overall, I am really humbled and amazed by the reactions to my art and to my presentations.  Many large originals (and many more prints/jewelry/coloring books/etc) went to new homes, and I accepted a few commissions as well. I felt like it was a huge affirmation that I'm on the right path with all of my work.

I really enjoyed the vibe of the whole convention this year - it felt really positive and wonderful.  I had great interactions with staff, volunteers, and met so many folks. I'm lamenting though that I didn't get to spend as much time with certain folks as I hoped, nor did I really get to attend any other presentations.  I'm already eyeing the schedule for Paganicon in March and feeling like it's going to go the same way.  I really need to see what I can do to get more personal time in my schedule, and make sure I get to attend more things. Probably will be a combination of limiting myself to giving only 2 presentations, and making sure I have (healthy) booth help.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Call Out for Cauldrons!

As you may or may not know, I am in the midst of writing "The Witch's Cauldron" which will be published in 2017 by Llewellyn.  This book will be part of the series that started with Deborah Blake's "The Witch's Broom" and the recently released  Jason Mankey's "The Witch's Athame" - and others to come as well. Each of these books include tidbits from other practitioners (besides the authors) sharing their thoughts and practices on the subject matter.

If the cauldron is integral to your practice, and you have some favorite lore or commentary you'd like to share for publication, please send your writing via email to owlkeyme.arts(at)gmail(dot)com by January 24th.

Thanks so much!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Crossroad Vision - Or - We're All Naked At The End

About this time 6 years ago, I was interviewing for what would be my last big corporate job. I was asked what I would call my best and worst attributes. My answer was the same thing for both - that I am rather even keel in personality and approach. Meaning, that I am extremely calm and level-headed in the face of utter chaos, which is highly desirable for designers who are often faced with needing to pull a miracle out of a hat with a deadline of yesterday and no resources. It really takes a lot for me to rage-flip the cosmic tables. Inversely, when good things happen, I tend to take it all in stride, which I have discovered can be maddening (to others) in a corporate environment where much enthusiasm is faked.   (Really, to get me to appear super-excited, there needs to be a combination of sleep deprivation, booze, cake, and either bunnies or kittens, preferably both.)

And more than half a decade later, I have discovered that I continue to expand and deepen this approach in relation to most things, tempered with experience and soaked in memory.  I find it hard to get riled up over whatever is "the worst thing ever to happen to" (dance, Paganism, art, you name it) that week. Nor am I quick to embrace "the best thing ever to happen to's" either.  At this point I can look back at over 20 years on the Pagan Path (and coming on 17 years in dance) and note multiple examples of best and worst things ever that have come and gone.  But more importantly, I can see how change has had a role in growth, acceptance, diversity, representation, and community structure. I can reflect on remember the stories my mentors and elders have shared with me from the years before, can see the changes in my cohorts and contemporaries, and watch the next generation blossom and shift in the winds.

I call this vantage point "Crossroad Vision."  You are able to see where you are coming from, what's happening now, and you get a glimpse of the future. And the calmer you are, the farther out you can see. Though it can be rather frustrating to have this multifaceted grounded view of time while others are flipping their respective shit in the hot moment (for both sides of the equation).  One can get lost in despair about change not happening (at all or fast enough). But Change, it can be a slow, sneaky motherfucker. It rarely happens under your direct watch, and much more quietly and smoothly then you might think.

So I wanted to share this little metaphor about how ideas appear and cause change over time.

Let's say you are going to a week-long outdoor spiritual festival in the woods. It's clothing optional and you're camping. You practice the metaphorical interpretation of "ye shall be naked in your rites" versus the literal view, so being naked in front of other people is so NOT your thing.

Day 1: You arrive late in the afternoon and drive as directed to your camp site...turn the corner and get a full view of someone's naked butt. AH! Overt! Overt! You try and focus on the road and spend quite a bit of time getting your camping set-up just right before it gets too dark.

Day 2: You wake up finish setting up the grounds, and decide to go on a walk...and OH MY there are more naked people.  WHERE DO THEY PUT STUFF? THAT'S A LOT OF SUNSCREEN...WHAT ABOUT BUGS?

Day 3: As you settle into a workshop circle, you note there are 3 naked people. Yeap, them people be nekkid. That's a thing.

Day 4: You find yourself changing in your tent with the flap open.  It's too hot anyway.

Day 5: You're changing outside of the tent. Who cares? Easier than inside anyway.

Day 6: You're removing layers at the drum circle, mostly everyone seems to be missing a fair bit of attire anyway.  Safety and all that, you know.

Day 7: You don't even see any difference between naked and attired folks. No big deal. And now you're thinking about next year how much less stuff you would have to pack if you didn't wear clothes every day.

Yes, it's a fun (and um, somewhat true) story, but consider the gradual change in mind and relative personal comfort about nudity as a metaphor for any really any new idea taking root.  It may not happen in a week, but as people get exposed to more correct, current, and balanced ways of perceiving gender, sexuality, race, spirituality, ability, and more - they slowly and steadily begin to get used to those ideas, and learn to respect and/or embrace them. First people are made aware of the idea, then they see more of it, and begin to understand it - and it all happens at the pace of their own personal comfort and inner workings.  Some people work fast and move gracefully as they absorb, some people work slow and stagger clumsily and awkwardly into it.  But most people DO embrace change in the end.  Some people have a lot of fears and misconceptions they need to let go of first. Others may be watch quietly, and slowly absorb the changes into their psyche. There's no telling how it's going to go down.  Patience: it is definitely a thing.

So my advice to you, if you find yourself swept up into the next big "best/worst ever," take a moment to step back and position yourself on the crossroads. Take a good long look in all directions, and breathe in deep. Remember that Change is enduring, often adorned with Coyote's eyes and Fox's tail...but we're all just naked at the end.

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Voice of the Witch

"Baba Yaga" - Painting by Tempest
The way of the Witch is not an easy one - nor despite the cyclical brushes of culture limelight, a truly popular one.

To be a Witch is to be of the marginal, and for the marginal of society.  This path is often iconoclastic, drawing a route against the grain of the majority.  This truth is nothing new, it's been this way for centuries, and I would hazard to suspect longer than that, given the patterns of human nature.

The Witch exists in a space simultaneously of the community and not of the community.  Partly because the Witch deals in matters of the Other - the gods, the spirits, the dead, the mysteries, and partly because the Witch is a keeper of knowledge, an independent thinker, and essentially a loner. When you see the world differently, it changes how you interact with it.

The Witch has long been the one who knows, the one you go to when no one else will help, in the dark depths of night, in the hidden part of the woods. The Witch is the gateway to the unknown, the dangerous and the wild.

So when we speak, it should not surprise us that our words are not always welcome. When we speak up for what we believe is the right way, when we stand to fight for the marginalized and against injustice, and when we seek to talk of balance, growth, and education - it will cause discontent. The same people may call you beautiful and gifted in one breath, may condemn and strike against you in the next breath when your words make them uncomfortable. But their response can't change your path or the validity of your words and actions.

This all is nothing new. It has been our history and is very likely our future. We have been hunted, tortured, maimed, condemned, jailed, burned, and killed for our ways. But we go continue on, because we must.  You must remember that their actions and responses reflect more upon them than it does you.  It can't steal the power of your words or your path - unless you let them.

It is easy to get caught up in the glamour, the trappings, the talk of elusive mysteries and power and forget that we walk and talk a dangerous path.  Be true to what you believe, speak it, and do it.  It takes a brave soul to shine light upon the fears and expose the shadows. And in time, they will learn, if you keep going.

Travel well.