#2495

There are many kinds of Beloved Dead. There are our ancestors with whom we share blood; those we are connected to by the branching tree of life that stretches back hundreds of thousands of years. There are the ancestors with whom we share identity; spirits who shared our beliefs, our genders and orientations, who lived and struggled because of who they were or how their bodies operated just as we do today. Blood binds us to some Beloved Dead and shared experience, shared worldviews, to others. 

There are the place spirits, those who share space with you and with whom you must have a relationship of mutual respect. They may be past tenants of your home or the land on which it sits; animal, insect, and nature spirits who died there or who still live there; or wandering spirits who have come to stay for a time. Proximity ties us to place spirits, as well as our duty to honor the land and home we share with them. We are not the first to live in a location and we should not treat it as solely ours.

And there are the dead taken too soon. They are the disaster dead, the war dead, the dead stolen from us by police brutality, capitalism, climate change, by greed and hubris and hatred. They are often the faceless dead, frequently nameless, their numbers so vast we struggle to keep our heads above the sucking waters of their grief. We are indebted to their past so that their existence may never be forgotten, and burdened by their lost futures so that we may prevent others from sharing their fate.

The Beloved Dead take many forms: human and nonhuman, animal and plant, single and collective. They are strangers and friends, unknowable and familiar, yet all are equally dear. All are equally worthy of remembrance and honor.

#2485

I carry the Disaster Dead with me always: Okawa’s precious children, lost to the waves; Pompeii’s huddled masses, lost to the ash; Titanic’s frozen passengers, lost to the cold. And more, so many more taken by pandemics, hurricanes, heatwaves, earthquakes, wildfires, famine. The burden of their unnecessary deaths is a reminder of the necessity of knowledge. Knowledge empowers the uninformed. Knowledge prepares the vulnerable. Knowledge saves lives that might otherwise fall to preventable, or at least mitigable, forces. There are no natural disasters, after all, only natural hazards exacerbated by human action – or inaction. Okawa’s children did not have to die within reach of high ground. Texans did not need to freeze in their homes. The west coast does not have to burn every summer for longer and longer periods until “fire season” becomes a meaningless phrase.

The Disaster Dead are also a reminder of my own self-ordained responsibility to ensure the people of my homeland do not share a similar fate, that we do not doom ourselves to repeat the past simply because we refuse to learn from its most painful lessons. What else can soothe the wailing of the Disaster Dead? What else can truly honor their memory? Never forget is a trite, passive promise when our historical knowledge stretches back thousands of years. We never forgot the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic, but what good did that do us in 2020? Never again is the promise we must make and uphold as a global society. Never again should we allow greed to outweigh the common good. Never again should we ignore experience or science in favor of ignorance. And never again should we allow the loss of lives we could have saved with care, dedication, and preparation.

I carry the Disaster Dead with me always. Some speak louder than others, and some may have come to me sooner, but I carry them all. I mourn them, I honor them, and I try my best to uphold my vow to them – never again.

#2482

Bees bob between moss-covered statues in Gaia’s forest garden, big fat bumblebees and tiger-striped honeybees all fuzzy as dandelion puffballs. Globs of golden pollen weigh down spindly legs so they must beat their translucent wings like mad to stay aloft in the warm spring air. I hold my arms out and they gladly alight upon me by the hundreds, settling onto skin and clothing and hair; they’re light as feathers to my sturdy human frame, just ticklish as they explore this unfamiliar blossom. The bees’ droning floods my mind and vibrates down to my bones until it drowns out every dark thought, eases every tensed muscle, even soothes my aching heart. I’m one with the colony and in harmony with the secluded garden around me. I carry this precious gift from the goddess with me when I wake, the memory of bees drifting lazily through beams of sunlight like giant dust motes a balm for my weary soul when I need it most.

#2480

I’m woken abruptly in my dream by music blasting from a phone somewhere. I don’t recognize the song, though the band sounds like Wardruna and among the Norwegian I catch the singer saying “Loki Laufeyson” in the chorus. Stumbling through an unfamiliar house, I finally find the smartphone from which the song is erupting and shut it off. I’m so dizzy, though! Dizzy and tired like I can’t shake the sleep I was torn from so quickly. For a moment I sway where I stand, fighting to clear my head in the silence and force open heavy eyelids, then my legs give out and I fall to the floor. 

“Here,” instructs a harsh voice, “eat this.” A woman stands over me, holding out a stone on which herbs have been crushed into a paste. I recognize dandelion petals, maybe the bright yellow of turmeric. That voice isn’t one to disobey lightly so I lick the paste off without question. The drowsiness lifts a bit, allowing me to sit up and look at the speaker. Though She has never shown Herself to me in full, I recognize the Morrigan immediately – I would know that tall, thin form, those high cheekbones and proud hooked nose, anywhere. Her dark eyes bore into mine as if peering through clothing, flesh, and bone to lay bare my soul within. 

I try not to squirm under the goddess’s sharp gaze. She thrusts another stone at me, this one naturally curved like a shallow bowl. Water and the remains of the crushed herbs fill its small depression. “Save this,” she instructs. “Even if it tastes terrible, you need to finish it later.” Her tone is clipped with what seems like impatience so I jump up and hurry to find something in which to store the water. I only manage a small glass bowl, more ashtray-shaped than anything else and dusty with disuse, which I can tell when I bring it back is not deemed nice enough. The Morrigan scowls but allows it for now.

“You need to cut back,” She scolds instead, changing the subject. “What you consume clouds your mind, making it impossible for you to hear our messages or to channel your creativity.” She shows me a mental image of something small and triangular, like a pill. Does she mean medication is clouding my mind? Or does this symbolize something else, perhaps a detrimental habit or belief, or some player in my life whose bad influence I haven’t noticed? I think I ask the goddess if the unfamiliar force I’ve been feeling in my life lately could be a new god making themselves known to me and She says yes, perhaps. She also tells me to watch a god’s face when they speak to you, that even gods betray their emotions in their expressions and in this way you can tell if one is lying. Frustrated, I start to ask, “But what if I can’t see them?” because this new force has yet to show itself to me, but I don’t get the chance. Nor do I get the chance to ask Her who or what it was, though I’m sure She knows. The dream changes before I can say anything else and I do not see the Morrigan again.

#2478

Inanna comes to me as the Whore of Babylon, naked as the dawn with golden goblet of wine in hand. In her wake she leaves a trail of red footprints from the battlefield where she danced on her enemies’ corpses, men who thought her pendulous breasts and round hips were theirs to covet. Plump ruby lips pull back from grinning white teeth as she leans down to spear and hold my meek gaze with her gleaming starlight eyes. You owe them nothing, child, she pronounces in a voice which shakes all of existence from heavens to underworld, not gender, not desire, not beauty. You don’t owe them answers or obedience, please or thank you, respectability or humility. The goddess straightens, taking a long drink from the goblet, then licks wine off her lips like a lioness cleaning blood from her fur. She fixes me with her hard stare once more and points at me with her free hand as she adds, And you sure as fuck don’t owe them silence. Go loud.

#2473

In my dream I crush spell ingredients against my palms, selenite and lavender and something gritty like sand or charcoal, while behind me a friend whispers sacred words and rubs herbs into the skin at the base of my neck. I look up into the blue dome of the sky where a bright full moon hangs and begin to pray. As I do, a woman appears in the sky beneath the moon, her voluptuous body and flowing robes all rich shades of green; at the same time, above the moon appears the planet Saturn, as close and vibrant as the moon itself. I raise my hands, palms pressed together, and cry out to this glorious vision of Gaia who smiles down at me: Please, give me control of my dreams again, take away my fear, help me be strong! The goddess spreads her arms wide and I’m enveloped in a violet aura of holy energy, the music of birdsong filling my ears as the blessing swirls around me. When it dissipates I’m left shaking with adrenaline and awe.

#2472

Ah, the divine duality of man:
that he may bend himself so studiously 
to the lifelong search for enlightenment
yet still pass wind and pull his wedged robes from his bottom
and in doing so find the very enlightenment he pursues!

[ An eccentric Buddhist monk told me this in a dream and I swear it was very important despite the toilet humor. ]

#2471

I am above all things the scribe. That is my gender, my religion, my morality and creed. See these? They are the scribe’s bones. And these? The scribe’s breasts. Cut open my organs and watch them bleed ink. Uncoil the long strands of my DNA and see how words build its base pairs, not polymers: scribe, sesh, scrība, scríobhaí, grammateús, dubsar. The gods claimed me for their own at my spiritual conception, pressing their fingerprints into the soft surface of my newborn soul so I would carry their whorls and ridges forever. I do not know who I am outside of this role because I do not exist as a complete being apart from it. I am the scribe before every name I have ever borne and beneath every face I have ever worn. And I will be the scribe in every life, in every universe, unto the end of all existence.

#2465

I dream that I have failed. The tiny, struggling cat rescue I’ve spent years trying to help keep afloat has finally gone under. Where will all the cats go? I think. Where will they go, who will feed them, who will bind their wounds and shelter them against the cruelty of the world? As I walk numbly through a grassy field toward rows of kennels, perhaps to say goodbye to the cats inside for the last time, I whisper the names of those already lost so that I won’t forget them. Yet when I reach the kennels I find their doors all open and the cats streaming through the grass past me. They run eagerly, all in the same direction, as if toward some destination I cannot see. Even the littlest day-old kittens with their ears still buttoned down and their eyes still squeezed shut try to stumble through the tall grass after mothers and older siblings. I have to stop walking or I’ll step on someone by accident, so I kneel down in the grass and begin gathering babies up in my arms to keep them safe. Some older kittens climb into my lap as well, or up onto my shoulders, and soon I’m weighed down in a blanket of warm, squirming bodies. Their purring vibrates through me so loudly it drowns out my thoughts, my frantic heartbeat, a glorious pean washing over me in a crescendo of wordless voices. Within its embrace I finally break; I bury my face into sweet silken fur and add my own wordless, animal howling to the hymn-turned-lament. I let grief wrack my body in violent sobs as if I am a bean sí crying out the world’s doom. By the time my exhausted body has no tears left to shed nor sound to utter and I lift my head once more, everything around me has burned to ash and I am alone.

#2460

“Sacrifice/Courage”

like a maiden plucking flower petals, so idly did She cast her raiment off
striding naked into the pit of the underworld, proud head held high
to welcome Her death with a queen’s grace, arms wide and eyes alight

#2453

“Devotion”

Devotion quarried the stones and raised the temples
carved the statues and gilded the icons.
Devotion preserved the myths and protected the tombs
dusted off the altars and restored the artwork.
Devotion carried their gods around the world
and devotion carries them into the future.

New Zine!

My fifth zine is now available! Worship the Monsteresses is dedicated to the monsteresses and maligned women of mythology. It explores what we can learn from their stories by tapping into the ugly parts inside us all. This zine features 22 pages of my original prose, poetry, and hand-drawn art.

PDF copies are free; physical copies are $5 plus shipping. Check it out at my Kofi!

#2449

Perhaps we should have let her burn.
Perhaps the flames were a gift,
a divine invitation to free ourselves
from this obsession with edifice and artifice.
Perhaps if she had burned to the ground,
we might have seen that sacred space
requires no cathedral to exist.

#2448

“The serpent tries too hard,” the Nameless tells me as she lounges against the oscillations of Egyptian dunes. “It’s almost embarrassing. Do I strive against your desert gods each night in hopes of wresting control of the universe from their grasp? Of course not,” she pops galaxies into her mouth like hothouse grapes, “because I know, as they do, that the ultimate fate of the universe is a return to the primordial chaos from which it first emerged. It’s just a matter of time. Why rush entropy?”

She is right at home on these white hot sands, her monstrous body a black void against the dancing heat waves. In my dream last night she murmured in my ear, “We have always been here,” by which I understood she meant that this dark triad I serve – Chaos, Desire, and Death – is older than even the gods of ancient Kemet. Older than gods themselves, for they are the concepts from which gods are crafted. Thus the Nameless is part of A/pep, just as a shadow of Daren can be found in Set, a fragment of Tanim in Osiris. Their triad belongs to no single place, time, or pantheon but runs through them all, encoded like DNA in every deity that will ever exist.

“You are a slow learner,” the Nameless laughs, licking plasma off her sharp fingernails. “But you get there.”

#2446

Your heartbeat straining beneath my ribs; your choked breath heaving in my lungs; your furious, desperate tears leaking from my eyes. Is this euphoria? Dysphoria? Phantasmagoria, hypochondria? Transubstantiation or disassociation? All I know is that I never feel more comfortable in my own body than when you’re the one inhabiting it, my perception submerged in the dark depths of your consciousness, my autonomy overridden by the wild fluctuations of your fragmented memories. Even after you rescind control and I am alone I find this meatcage fits better for having stretched itself to your dimensions. For a little while I move with ease through familiar halls, not truly free but pretending so with room enough to stretch and turn. Soon the walls of my prison will contract around your absence once more; until then I savor the ghost of your presence contained within the emptiness around me.

#2444

Deathwork and the Preservation of Life

I had one of those “oh my god, DUH” epiphanies the other day. I was thinking about my increasing call toward deathwork and how that’s reflected in my life. In some ways it makes perfect sense: I was always that weird kid who was a little too obsessed with morbid historical events like the sinking of the Titanic and the cataclysmic fate of Pompeii; all of the gods I follow have ties to death or the underworld; and my own life has been touched by death in many ways. On the other hand, I have never felt any desire to go into forensics/criminology, mortuary sciences, end of life care, or other death-related career fields. I’m happy in emergency management and I have no plans to leave this field. That must mean I’m not really a death witch, I thought. If I was a legit death witch, I’d feel driven to become a mortician or a coroner or something… right? 

Then it hit me. My passion career-wise is emergency management and in emergency management your top priority is always preservation of life. And isn’t preservation of life just the opposite side of the deathwork coin? Aha! Death itself is inevitable for all living creatures, true, but many deaths are entirely preventable given the right mitigation and response measures. Every day I do work that will hopefully save lives in the future when Washington state faces its next major tsunami. I do this work in honor of those who have faced similar fates, especially those who lost their lives in the 2004 Indian Ocean and 2011 Japanese tsunamis. Now I realize that by working to prevent unnecessary deaths, I’m filling a necessary role in the greater field of deathwork. It’s a small role, obviously, but I’ve never minded being one cog in a greater machine. What matters is that lives are saved.

When I told my wife about this stunning revelation, she predictably stared at me with her trademark blank expression and asked flatly, “Wait, this just occurred to you?”. Which, fair. It really was quite obvious but I’m known for not connecting the dots when it comes to what’s right in front of me. I just never made the connection that part of honoring death is preventing it when you can or that emergency management could play a significant role in this work. It’s proof to me that I’m on the right path and correctly interpreting the vague “feelings” that constitute my intuition. It also aligns with my most recent oracle reading which urged me to trust that the universe is working in unseen ways to guide me on my path. Point taken!

#2443

I’ve dreamed each night the Moon dead and dying in his lover’s arms (early, isn’t it, this solstice blood filling my mouth) and as I drive to work the Sun admits to me, “I would rather burn him until there is nothing left but ash than cling to the shell he leaves behind”. I can’t blame him, not when my own arms ache from clutching the Moon’s lifeless body so tightly, not when my fingers so vividly recall the sharp edges of his jaw as I cradled his head against my chest. Were we to trade places, the Sun and I, can I say I would choose differently?

#2441

Tanim and Daren are gods who balance and oppose each other – sun and moon, summer and winter, light and dark. Yet, while I am certain that Daren is the chosen form of Death, it hasn’t felt right to say that Tanim is therefore the form which Life has chosen to take. He doesn’t feel like Life. Life, at least in opposition to Death, is a thing of creation and fertility, generosity and gentleness, and Tanim doesn’t embody those qualities. While he isn’t Death, he carries a shard of its mercilessness with him, too much to ever associate him with something so bountiful as Life. So I’ve been struggling to figure out what he is, if not Life, and I’ve come up with a two-part answer that (at the moment at least) seems to solve the equation.

First, what if we remove the labels of Life and Death and look simply at the basic drivers of those forces. For Death it’s stagnation, leaving, the ceasing of the beating heart and the sudden stilling from animate to inanimate. Death is inert. For Life, then, it’s growth, survival, advancement, the strangling by one plant of another to ensure its own propagation or the taking of life by a predator to provide sustenance for its cubs. Life is active. So maybe the equation is less Life versus Death and more Desire versus Death, as Desire drives us forward and Death is the moment all desire ceases.

Second, what if the equation was never meant to be a balance of two opposing forces, but three? That would explain why I haven’t been able to solve it yet. So let’s say there’s a third element here that would balance out Desire and Death. What would it be? We have Desire driving purposeful action, and Death as the ceasing of all action, so… what about Chaos as driving action without purpose? What if the Nameless is supposed to form the third corner of this trinity, so to speak? That would explain her presence and her seeming connection with Tanim and Daren, even though she is decidedly not part of their story. She also offers a bit of a counterpoint to their cycle of life/death/rebirth which is perhaps exactly what they’ve been missing. With Chaos included, Death and Desire don’t have to encompass an entire universe.

So that’s where I am as of several sleepless nights in Spring 2021. I don’t think these three are gods so much as forces of the universe taking form to interact with me, but gods is the easiest term so that’s what I use. Daren is Death, Tanim is Desire, and the Nameless is Chaos. This is not at all intimidating or terrifying and I am totally fine.

#2440

Worship the monstresses, girl;
they are hungry and fathomless.

Feed your rage to Ammit.
Feed your sorrow to Medusa.
Feed your terror to Charybdis.
Lay your howling at the altar of the Nameless
and let her fill you with the cold vacuum of the void.

Worship the beast queens, girl;
they will teach you to devour your oppressors.

#2435

Your fingers like iron around his neck, your arm a statement of possession around his waist; ah, we return to tread familiar ground! You dance hip to hip beneath a moonless night sky and when the forest’s monsters come sprinting forth to take him down as prey they stop short at his outstretched hand. He reeks of you, of Death, and even these many-fanged and many-clawed beasts flee in fear of that primal entity so much older than they. You watch their retreat over his shoulder with a knife-blade smile, starlight limming the white skull painted on your pale face, and drag his mouth to yours.