Tag: atr

We Are Everywhere

We are everywhere. We are in your homes, your workplaces, your churches, covens, iles and yes, your munansos. We have been beaten, robbed, stabbed, and shot. We have been snuffed, silenced and mocked. Our blood is on the walls and floors of the only safe spaces we have. We risk everything–literally everything–just to love our partners and live our truths, and we continue to do so despite the awful violence being visited upon us. Ask yourselves: is this not what warriors do?

I am a transgender queer man who is in a relationship with another man. And, I am a Palero. I am unashamed of who I am and what I am. I am strong in myself and in my ancestors. I (along with so many others like me) have fought and endured a lot to live and love my truth. Contrary to popular images of hexing, blood and violence, my elders taught me that to be a Palero is to be a healer; to minister to the living and to the dead. Now more than ever we as spirit-workers need to step up to the plate, light our fires and raise our voices. We need to be as lions roaring in the night, broadcasting our truths, amplifying the voices of the living and the dead who have been silenced by violence and prejudice, in whichever hideous form it takes (racism, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, etc).

Part of what makes a warrior is one’s ability to step outside of one’s comfort zone. People all too often fear what they don’t understand, and Yoda was very correct that this line of thinking only leads to violence and suffering. So much suffering could be avoided if we spent more time trying to understand one another. The tragedy in Orlando should not be further dividing us along lines of religion or gender or skin color, it should unite us. It’s so much easier to harm than it is to heal. But this is the duty that has been left us. We cannot let fear, cowardice and the actions of the broken and corrupted control us.

So yes, light candles and say prayers, but go one step further.  Take to the streets, extend a hand, be there for someone.  To all of my queer sisters and brothers: You are not alone.  You matter.  Your life has meaning and value.  Stand strong in your ancestors and spirits, keep the faith, and reach out.  And know that you are not alone, because we are everywhere.

Resources:
*Pulse Nightclub Victim’s Fund
*Trans Lifeline
*Suicide Prevention Hotline
*Crisis Text Line

Originally posted on: http://ift.tt/1U4Qh4S

It’s Spirit, Not Meatpuppet Politics

I’m fortunate to know quite a few folk out there who have radio shows and so on.  Usually, due to my crazy work schedule and other rhythms of the day, I tend to miss these shows live.  I’m usually playing catch-up in the 1-2 hour daily commutes to and from work, in which I’m spending long periods of time behind the wheel.  One of the shows I frequently listen to is Candelo’s Corner.  Candelo has no problem bringing up controversial topics and cultivating much-needed discussion.  In his latest show, he invited the folks from Crescent City Conjure over to discuss a variety of important and interesting topics related to conjure and Palo.  One of these was homosexuality and the role of women in Palo.  This is a topic that’s been brought up more than once both on this blog as well as on Candelo’s show.  It’s an important topic.  Deeply important.  It needs to be talked about more.  It needs to be written about more.

As a transgender man I’ve faced the slings and barbs of both misogyny,
homophobia and transphobia.  As the rights of same-sex couples come more into the spotlight, us transgender folk still have a long haul when it comes to acceptance in various places, as the latest ‘bathroom bills’ in various states have come to show.  Some people out there may denounce me, may
call me invalid, or imply (or outwardly state) that I’m not a ‘real’ man and that nowhere else would I be taken seriously.  Their words mean nothing to me, and they won’t change who I am or how I view myself. I am strong in my
ancestors, many of which were men and women who went to battle together
for a common cause.  The true measure of a warrior is not what sits on
their chest or between their legs, or who they love, but in the strength they possess and
the skill with which they wield their weapon.  Ultimately, the ones that have the problem are the ones who point their fingers.  They have no effect on me, and it would be a waste of my time to address them.  I have places to go, and Work to do.

The endpoint, what it all boils down to, is Spirit.  As the speakers on the show pointed out–and something that my godmother and I have said time and again–is that while humans have their own agendas, Spirit speaks raw truth and comes out clear.  If Spirit calls you to a certain role or path, then that is that.  Gender politics have no place within the dictates of Spirit.  If Spirit says you are not destined for a particular path or role, then there has to be a reason behind it. As I’ve said before, biology is not destiny.  You are not defined by your genitalia or the structure of your body, but you are defined by Spirit by what’s inside, by who you are and what you’re capable of.  I often ponder about how much talent had been strangled, how many candles snuffed, all in the name of machismo and festering ego.  Look beyond the Meatpuppet Politics.  There you’ll find Spirit speaking, and there you will find the truth.  To do otherwise is to live in a darkness of one’s own making, and to impose that darkness on others is to feed the infection of ignorance and egotistical bullshit.  It stifles the flame, twists the soul, and any spiritual group with that degree of rot is bound to fail, one way or another.  Spirit alone is the final judge and arbiter.  When the Bakulu speak, it is our obligation and our duty to listen, especially if we dare call ourselves priests, teachers, workers.

Originally posted on: http://ift.tt/1T42uYW

Antique African Lion claws. Coming soon on Bones to Pick.

Antique African Lion claws. Coming soon on Bones to Pick.

Originally posted on: http://ift.tt/1LIPstj

Growing Pains

So I’ve recently celebrated my first year in Palo. It’s been a very interesting year, and also a very difficult one.  It’s to be expected.  Initiations are rebirths, they are beginnings.  Starting from the beginning isn’t always easy.  In early societies (and even some contemporary ones in other parts of the world), a child wasn’t even given a name and fully welcomed into the community until they had reached two or three years of age.  Childhood is difficult.  Childhood can also be deadly.  Initiations are like second childhoods.  It opens you up to different energies and currents, you enter into a strange new world where everything (or everyone) will test you to the limits of what (you feel) you can handle.  This year I learned many hard lessons, and experienced some painful losses.  All these climaxed into one singular event that changed something deep and fundamental within me.

I had just left the hospital with my brother, exhausted.  Being a spiritworker isn’t easy, and the job (and the obligation it comes with) is that much harder when the person you have to assist in passing over and elevating happens to be someone you have a deep emotional attachment to.  My grandmother was dying.  I should have seen it coming.  My paternal ancestors have been appearing in strikingly vivid dreams and visionary states.  What I was mistaking at first as a side-effect of initiation turned out to be them coming to call her back home.  She had recently celebrated her 93rd birthday.  It was her time.  But a mere four days before this, a good friend of mine died very suddenly.  I’d seen her alive maybe 48 hours before.  Four months before that, a cousin of mine whom I loved deeply was gunned down by a drug-dealer with two previous murders under his belt.  It was an awful year.  Leaving that hospital after witnessing my grandmother passing on was Strike Three.  I was weary down to the bone, from this and the other deaths that preceded it.  But the finale was yet to come.

About ten minutes down the road, we were approaching a crossroads, where we’d turn to reach our uncle’s house, to check up on our grandfather, who suffered from dementia and was unable to be at the hospital at the time.  I could faintly hear a series of popping noises coming from outside.  I had no time really to register what they were at first, when I saw an orange streak dart out from between two houses and into the road.  It was a big orange tomcat.  The cat ran into the opposite lane of traffic, where only a single black truck was headed down.  There was no one behind the truck, and enough of a gap between the two to where the truck could have easily stopped.  Instead, the individual driving the truck rammed the gas and sped up, running the cat down.  They did not once touch the brake.  The cat flipped like a ragdoll and thrashed, blood flying in the road.  I could hardly take that all in before a second figure darted into the street from the opposite direction–a boy ran into the road, quickly scooping the cat up in his arms.  I screwed my eyes shut, because at that point I couldn’t stomach seeing the kid hit,  it was all happening so fast.  Thankfully, he’d managed to get safely to the side of the road, with the cat bleeding and kicking feebly in his arms.  My brother, who the whole time had been screaming in white-knuckle terror at the scene as it unfolded (to be fair, we both were), swung the car around to the other side and parked at the curb.

I immediately took the cat from the boy’s arms and carried it over to the curb.  It was bad.  Very bad.  I’d seen animals die, many times, through various means.  This situation was bad because it was borne about from a deliberate act of sociopathic cruelty.  The person driving the truck had the option to stop, but chose not to.  It was clear this cat was probably someone’s pet.  He was very well groomed and heavy, and soft of body.  In no way like the feral cats I’d handled in the past.  Just a cat who’s owner made the poor decision to let him roam outdoors.  He was also dying.  The left side of his face was smashed in, and his eye was hanging loose.  It was a rare moment in my life that I was suddenly struck with pure revulsion and horror.  That this poor animal could be in such a horrible state of disrepair, and still live.  Blessedly, this didn’t last long.  I stroked his fur and soothed him as much as I could, whispered and told him what a good kitty he was.  Before his heart stopped, he’d tried to purr.  The sound of it broke my heart. 

So there I was, kneeling at a crossroads, the smell of blood thick in my nostrils, the sounds of firecrackers going off like gunfire, an animal bleeding and dying in my arms.  It was at that moment there that time for me stopped entirely.  I saw myself in my grandfather’s boots, a combat vet in the Phillipines.  I saw my deceased cousin in the shattered eye of the cat.  I felt his soul slip like warm velvet from my grasp.  Everything around me took on a surreal quality.  I prayed.  I prayed and I stroked the cat until the spasms died down and his breathing stopped.  The scars from my initiation burned.  My whole body burned.  I felt the cat’s blood seep into me, not just clotting on my skin, but seeping deep into my soul, changing something fundamental inside of me, yet again.  Again, I was going through an initiation, or perhaps this was only the next phase.  That next painful step, at the nexus point between life and death.

The boy explained that a bunch of neighborhood kids had been setting off firecrackers, and that he had been going to investigate when he saw the cat get run down in the road.  His house was close by, he was staying with his grandparents after school.  I told him to go home and tell them what had happened, and to thoroughly wash his hands and arms of blood.  I watched him until I was sure he’d reached home safely, and turned my attention back to the cat.  With whispered prayers, I laid the cat at the base of the tree by the crossroads.  I felt it the best I could do under the circumstances.  To sanctify his cruel death there.  I prayed for him, prayed that perhaps he should find my grandmother, seek out the ancestral procession leading her home.  That he should find and be at peace.

In the years I’ve actively worked as a theriomancer and psychopomp,
there is one singular fact that I know all too well: Cats, whether they
be of this world or not of this world, always seem to know
exactly where they are going and what they are about.  It’s a simple
fact, yet a fundamental one.  A cat is born with an instinct for the
necromantic as the falcon is born with an instinct for the shifting
winds.  Hours later my mother had come home from the hospital to get some rest, she related a most curious story.  In the hospital parking lot, she’d seen a cat.  A big orange cat, sitting in the parking lot, staring at her and my father as they were walking to the car.  Much later on that same evening, I’d overheard my brother saying that that cat was sitting in our grandmother’s lap in heaven.  Good kitty.  You were such a good kitty.  You had found your way.  

In the year since I’ve been initiated into Palo I’ve had experiences both amazing and horrifying by turns.  Even painful.  Some of these I will relate here, with certain deeply personal aspects omitted, as these things shouldn’t be up for grabs on social media, both as personal and as sacred as they are.  Death can be painful and messy.  So can rebirth.  Have I found my way?  In a word, yes.  But the way isn’t always easy, the going is tough.  That cat and I, we met and parted at the crossroads of life and death, but we each took away with the other an exchange of ndoki that will remain with us.  My scars will always remember; my mind will never forget.

Originally posted on: http://ift.tt/1UpmXvd

Growing Pains

So I’ve recently celebrated my first year in Palo. It’s been a very interesting year, and also a very difficult one.  It’s to be expected.  Initiations are rebirths, they are beginnings.  Starting from the beginning isn’t always easy.  In early societies (and even some contemporary ones in other parts of the world), a child wasn’t even given a name and fully welcomed into the community until they had reached two or three years of age.  Childhood is difficult.  Childhood can also be deadly.  Initiations are like second childhoods.  It opens you up to different energies and currents, you enter into a strange new world where everything (or everyone) will test you to the limits of what (you feel) you can handle.  This year I learned many hard lessons, and experienced some painful losses.  All these climaxed into one singular event that changed something deep and fundamental within me.

I had just left the hospital with my brother, exhausted.  Being a spiritworker isn’t easy, and the job (and the obligation it comes with) is that much harder when the person you have to assist in passing over and elevating happens to be someone you have a deep emotional attachment to.  My grandmother was dying.  I should have seen it coming.  My paternal ancestors have been appearing in strikingly vivid dreams and visionary states.  What I was mistaking at first as a side-effect of initiation turned out to be them coming to call her back home.  She had recently celebrated her 93rd birthday.  It was her time.  But a mere four days before this, a good friend of mine died very suddenly.  I’d seen her alive maybe 48 hours before.  Four months before that, a cousin of mine whom I loved deeply was gunned down by a drug-dealer with two previous murders under his belt.  It was an awful year.  Leaving that hospital after witnessing my grandmother passing on was Strike Three.  I was weary down to the bone, from this and the other deaths that preceded it.  But the finale was yet to come.

About ten minutes down the road, we were approaching a crossroads, where we’d turn to reach our uncle’s house, to check up on our grandfather, who suffered from dementia and was unable to be at the hospital at the time.  I could faintly hear a series of popping noises coming from outside.  I had no time really to register what they were at first, when I saw an orange streak dart out from between two houses and into the road.  It was a big orange tomcat.  The cat ran into the opposite lane of traffic, where only a single black truck was headed down.  There was no one behind the truck, and enough of a gap between the two to where the truck could have easily stopped.  Instead, the individual driving the truck rammed the gas and sped up, running the cat down.  They did not once touch the brake.  The cat flipped like a ragdoll and thrashed, blood flying in the road.  I could hardly take that all in before a second figure darted into the street from the opposite direction–a boy ran into the road, quickly scooping the cat up in his arms.  I screwed my eyes shut, because at that point I couldn’t stomach seeing the kid hit,  it was all happening so fast.  Thankfully, he’d managed to get safely to the side of the road, with the cat bleeding and kicking feebly in his arms.  My brother, who the whole time had been screaming in white-knuckle terror at the scene as it unfolded (to be fair, we both were), swung the car around to the other side and parked at the curb.

I immediately took the cat from the boy’s arms and carried it over to the curb.  It was bad.  Very bad.  I’d seen animals die, many times, through various means.  This situation was bad because it was borne about from a deliberate act of sociopathic cruelty.  The person driving the truck had the option to stop, but chose not to.  It was clear this cat was probably someone’s pet.  He was very well groomed and heavy, and soft of body.  In no way like the feral cats I’d handled in the past.  Just a cat who’s owner made the poor decision to let him roam outdoors.  He was also dying.  The left side of his face was smashed in, and his eye was hanging loose.  It was a rare moment in my life that I was suddenly struck with pure revulsion and horror.  That this poor animal could be in such a horrible state of disrepair, and still live.  Blessedly, this didn’t last long.  I stroked his fur and soothed him as much as I could, whispered and told him what a good kitty he was.  Before his heart stopped, he’d tried to purr.  The sound of it broke my heart. 

So there I was, kneeling at a crossroads, the smell of blood thick in my nostrils, the sounds of firecrackers going off like gunfire, an animal bleeding and dying in my arms.  It was at that moment there that time for me stopped entirely.  I saw myself in my grandfather’s boots, a combat vet in the Phillipines.  I saw my deceased cousin in the shattered eye of the cat.  I felt his soul slip like warm velvet from my grasp.  Everything around me took on a surreal quality.  I prayed.  I prayed and I stroked the cat until the spasms died down and his breathing stopped.  The scars from my initiation burned.  My whole body burned.  I felt the cat’s blood seep into me, not just clotting on my skin, but seeping deep into my soul, changing something fundamental inside of me, yet again.  Again, I was going through an initiation, or perhaps this was only the next phase.  That next painful step, at the nexus point between life and death.

The boy explained that a bunch of neighborhood kids had been setting off firecrackers, and that he had been going to investigate when he saw the cat get run down in the road.  His house was close by, he was staying with his grandparents after school.  I told him to go home and tell them what had happened, and to thoroughly wash his hands and arms of blood.  I watched him until I was sure he’d reached home safely, and turned my attention back to the cat.  With whispered prayers, I laid the cat at the base of the tree by the crossroads.  I felt it the best I could do under the circumstances.  To sanctify his cruel death there.  I prayed for him, prayed that perhaps he should find my grandmother, seek out the ancestral procession leading her home.  That he should find and be at peace.

In the years I’ve actively worked as a theriomancer and psychopomp,
there is one singular fact that I know all too well: Cats, whether they
be of this world or not of this world, always seem to know
exactly where they are going and what they are about.  It’s a simple
fact, yet a fundamental one.  A cat is born with an instinct for the
necromantic as the falcon is born with an instinct for the shifting
winds.  Hours later my mother had come home from the hospital to get some rest, she related a most curious story.  In the hospital parking lot, she’d seen a cat.  A big orange cat, sitting in the parking lot, staring at her and my father as they were walking to the car.  Much later on that same evening, I’d overheard my brother saying that that cat was sitting in our grandmother’s lap in heaven.  Good kitty.  You were such a good kitty.  You had found your way.  

In the year since I’ve been initiated into Palo I’ve had experiences both amazing and horrifying by turns.  Even painful.  Some of these I will relate here, with certain deeply personal aspects omitted, as these things shouldn’t be up for grabs on social media, both as personal and as sacred as they are.  Death can be painful and messy.  So can rebirth.  Have I found my way?  In a word, yes.  But the way isn’t always easy, the going is tough.  That cat and I, we met and parted at the crossroads of life and death, but we each took away with the other an exchange of ndoki that will remain with us.  My scars will always remember; my mind will never forget.

Originally posted on: http://ift.tt/1UpmXvd

Palo and Homosexuality

Recently I listened to an episode of Candelo’s Corner entitled ‘Palo and Homosexuality‘.  I’ve been listening to the show for roughly the past two years.  It had been recommended to me by my yayi who found it a good resource for learning outside of the munanso.  This summer it’ll be a year since I’ve been initiated ngueyo.  But here’s a fun fact: I’m also transgendered and queer.  So, when I found out Candelo finally decided to tackle this thorny subject, I decided to take a listen and see what he has to say about it.

What I found interesting right off the bat was that, although Tata Candelo mentioned that there were other prominent gay paleros, he did not mention who these gay paleros were.  I can understand from a safety or a privacy standpoint, or perhaps not wanting to ‘call anyone out’.  Which, to me, beggars the question of what kind of environment people are cultivating, that to be “out” as queer in Palo is a bad or dangerous thing?  What I also found interesting was that there was not one Palero within the GLBTQA that called in to speak out and share their story.  The entire show was other heteronormative people discussing homosexuality in Palo.  Most of these people aside from the tatas speaking on the show had very little or no experience with Palo, their experience falling within the circles of neopaganism and wicca.  Neopaganism, wicca and satanism has no bearing on Palo, and can’t even be compared.  Where are the queer Palo voices, and why are they not speaking?

Of course you understand these are rhetorical questions, presented to the reading audience.  The answers seem obvious.  In this case, silence speaks louder the answer to said questions.  But silence isn’t going to work.  Silence also perpetuates bullshit.  I think it’s high time we cut out the bullshit and start the discourse.  Ultimately, I don’t care what you do in your munanso.  Your munanso, your spirits, your business.  But who are we to judge who is and isn’t to be initiated based on sexual orientation?  In another broadcast, Tata Candelo discusses how sexuality has absolutely no bearing within the ATRs.  He is, of course, entirely correct.  So, the question I would like to ask is, if sexuality and sexual matters have no place within the ATRs, why is it such an issue what someone’s sexual orientation is?  In fact there are quite a few issues, which I’ll break down nicely.  These I pulled both from my observations of co-religionists, from the radio show, and from discussing matters within my own munanso.

The gays will fall in love with the ngangas!
I’m starting out with this one first, because it is, by far, the most ridiculous.  The idea behind this being that, since the ngangas throw off so strongly such masculine and macho energy, the homosexual will fall in love with the nganga.  This, to me, is a nonissue.  What about the feminine gendered ngangas?  They do exist, and they aren’t to be trifled with.  There isn’t an issue with tatas falling in love with female ngangas, is there? Also, why is this not an issue for women within the
religion falling in love with ngangas?  Is it because of an
assumption that women are seen as objects with no sexual assertiveness
of their own, or is it because men are more hypersexual and thusly
unable to control themselves?  Both assumptions are equally problematic.  But then again, to me the issue boils down to this: If you have someone (anyone, regardless of gender or sexual orientation) getting as randy as a damn horse over ngangas or other spirits and spirit-vessels (let alone the serious sexual misconduct that can occur between heterosexuals in munansos), then this is a serious issue with the person independent of any sort of orientation whatsoever.  This person should have been weeded out in the beginning, NOT for being a homosexual, but for having some sort of sexual and/or impulse control disorder, in which case said person should be seeking professional therapy instead of initiation! 

Why is sexuality being brought up AT ALL, if sex has no place within the ATRs?  But moving right along.

Gay people aren’t part of the balanced lifecycle/Homosexuality is unnatural/etc
This statement also makes absolutely no sense.  Same-sex interactions exist everywhere.  They are found in nature in numerous animal species.  To the people who subscribe to this sort of thing: do these people mean to say that Nsambi makes mistakes?  What made these people the final arbiters on what the natural lifecycle is or what it should be?  Much of this line of thinking falls into the whole reproduction argument, which I will be addressing in a later section.  But to pronounce that someone or something is “unnatural” just because it threatens your sense of manhood only betrays a severe ignorance and lack of comprehension on how the natural world actually works.

It’s Tradition!  It’s always been this way/The Ancestors were never gay, etc.
How do you know that there were never any queer ancestors?  To assume that there weren’t is the highest form of arrogance and presumptuousness.  Basic logic and facts point to yes–there were many queer dead, just as there are many queer people living now.  Abrahamic faiths, colonialism and slavery are really damn good at completely fucking up entire cultural dynamics and spiritual systems.  Do these people who perpetuate this line of thinking dare to be the final arbiter of ancestral will?  Or so they only pick and choose who they will speak for, because their supposed manhood would obviously be too threatened?  It all goes back to the whole idea of sorting the wheat from the chaff, of sorting what is in fact true messages from the Bakulu, and what is meatsuit nonsense–personal opinions and politics and insecurities.  There are some that may say that’s exactly what I’m doing, and so be it.  But their argument would be entirely irrelevent.  By completely ignoring or denying the existence of queer ancestors, what right would they have to judge me?  That those who are queer are so “unnatural” that they can’t leave ancestors?  An argument that stands on very shakey ground when you consider that even basic human familial ties transcend genetic relations and breeding.

This all then brings me to my final argument…

Fertility and Reproduction: Homosexuals cannot create life, birth, and etc
There is quite a big difference between “birthing” in a ritual sense and birthing in a literal one.  People in same-sex partnerships can and do have children, this has been happening throughout recorded history and beyond.  There is a very prominent double-standard at play that persons who are sterile due to medical reasons are still welcome to seek initiation into Palo.  In many munansos, a woman isn’t allowed to receive an nganga until she reaches menopause.  So clearly, medical ability to produce children has no bearing in initiation status.  It only seems to become an issue when LGBTQ persons are involved.  However, if sexuality has no place within the ATRs, then who someone is attracted to (or not attracted to), and what the structure of anatomy a person has, should have absolutely no bearing upon birthing in the context of ceremony.  Sexuality and attraction should have no bearing and no place in ceremony.  Full stop.

Let me make this clear: This isn’t about trying to soothe hurt feelings, or putting on kid gloves or powdering asses.  This isn’t about being ‘politically correct’.  I’m not here to strike down tradition or go against the grain.  But what is ‘tradition’ needs to evolve.  I don’t give a fuck what you do in your house.  What you do with your spirits and your people is your business, and I’m not about to jab my nose in your business.  So hey, don’t jab your nose in mine.  Gay and queer Paleros DO exist.  Whether or not you feel they are or aren’t legitimate is entirely irrelevant.  The final arbiters are the Nkisi, Spirits, and Bakulu.  They have final stay on who goes and who stays.  Regardless of your feelings, this isn’t going to go away.  Let actions and let the manifestations speak for themselves.  And I would like very much to thank Tata Candelo for having the coconuts to bring this topic up and get people talking about this.  Dialogue is important, and ultimately the only way for traditions and human bonds to strengthen is through the vehicle of dialogue, which hopefully will give way to understanding in time.  For those of you who read this far, thanks and Nsala Malecu.

Originally posted on: http://ift.tt/1cGORhK

On Being Feral

I’ve said and have been saying that my spirituality isn’t up for public consumption.  As much as I enjoy writing, I’m a highly inconsistent person.  I don’t blog regularly, and getting a simple essay written takes an inordinate amount of time for me.  Truth be told, I’m easily distracted.  But there is a reasoning behind all of that. My spirituality is very intimate and personal.  I’m a spiritworker, scavenger and bone hoarder. Dirt and blood and bone are the primary mediums with which I work.  I talk to dead people.  I dig in the dirt.  I create art from rotting corpses.  I shed blood.  It’s not pretty, or clean, or glamorous.  It’s not made for display, but it’s not supposed to be.  I am Feral.  What is Feral isn’t easily categorized, it can’t be boxed or caged or classified.  It goes counter to manicured domesticity, its very presence unnerves.  It is for this very reason that I find it so hard to write about aspects of my spirituality, even when I have the time and the desire to do so.  This concept doesn’t easily filter down into blog posts or books or essays.  Putting a thing to words is hard when that very thing defies words or labels.

Harpocrates has me by the balls.  Casting light on these things causes them to shimmer and fade, or retreat into the shadows, beyond where I’m able to follow or reach.  So I don’t.  I prefer to walk in the shadows with them.  My altars and shrines and sacred objects are just that.  They’re not for public edification, they’re not for display.  They aren’t tools to use as a prop for my ego, or a megaphone by which cries for attention may be broadcast.  I see and hear stories of people posting their “sacred” objects (I must use scare quotes, if they were that sacred, why display them like that?) on Twitter or FaceBook, or blogging posts.  I can’t grasp at why.  Luceros, prendas, altars and sacred spaces.  No detail left unwritten.  Look at me.  Look at what I have.  Look what I am.  Read my blog, read my books.  I ask, what time do you have for Spirit, when all you do is snap selfies, holler on social networking sites, write and write and write.  What happens off the computer?  Where’s your spirituality when no one’s looking?  Who are you without the audience?

I love writing, and I love reaching out to others of like-mind.  But I need to be free, unshackled by social networking and long hours spent writing.  I’m restless and my attention span doesn’t hold very long.  My sanity begins to pace like a caged leopard.  I need to be free.  I need to be Doing.  I will write about the hows and the whys, but only so far.  The finer, more intimate details are for me alone, and those whom I work with and for.  If you need me, you’ll figure out how to find me.  If you claim to run with me, then try to catch up.  I don’t linger.  My spirits won’t allow me to.  They keep my soul restless and moving.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Originally posted on: http://ift.tt/1Ay34st

On Working With the Relics of the Dead

Working with the parts and relics of the deceased in a spiritual fashion is a form of ecstatic union, connecting on a deeper level with the underlying spiritual current permeating what most conceive as “reality” (Kalunga is what would come to mind to the Palo practitioner).  At its most superficial I’d describe it as a form of psychometry, but what it really is is taking on the role of the psychopomp.  That itself takes on different manifestations, however.  A dog and a crow are both psychopomps, but both are shaped differently from one another and behave and function in their own unique fashions.  This also largely depends on who you are and what you are working with.  Not everyone is capable of being a psychopomp.  Taking on such a task without the mental or spiritual fortitude can manifest itself in mental imbalance, among other unpleasant things.  I’ve seen this numerous times over the course of years in my work with the dead, but I’m not here to tell stories of specifics, but to offer a general idea of what this kind of work entails, and the job I perform personally.

What do I mean when I say “relics of the dead”?  This could count as anything that is left behind at the moment of death, or relating in some way to the passing of an animal (be it human or nonhuman).  Similar to the Catholic understanding of relics, these take primary and secondary forms.  A primary relic would be the skin, hair, bone, nail or any other physical remnant of the direct body.  A secondary relic would be various items such as pieces of clothing, reliquaries, graveyard dirt and so on.  I’ve worked with relics of all kinds: animal bone, skin, blood, soft tissue, crematory ash, graveyard dirt, and numerous other items.  Each of these things have different attributes, spiritual imprinting, and function.  To keep things simple, I’ll start with the differences in spiritual function between animal bone and animal skin.

In my long experience, the deepest and longest-lasting spiritual connection one can find is within bone, particularly the skull.  While fur and leather and soft tissue decays and dissolves, bone will endure for much longer and serves as a lasting foundation and record of the animal (whether human or nonhuman) that once lived.  Numerous animistic cultures and spiritual traditions throughout the world make use of the skull as the primary focal point for spirit and for the personalities, thoughts and perceptions of the once-living animal.  It is the sum total of all wisdom, knowledge, experience and sensation, which is why skulls were so revered and held highest of all the remains of the dead in numerous animist cultures and societies. In Regla de Palo, skulls make up a very important part of various ritual workings and spiritual tech.  This has been the basic premise for a great many headhunter societies whose primary goal was to capture the head of the enemy and gain control over the fallen enemy’s soul.  The bones and particularly the skulls of the ancestors received similar preparation and treatment.  An example of this is the story of Odin and Mimir, when Odin preserves the head of the fallen sage through the use of various herbs and incantations, seating the soul within the decapitated head and accessing the wisdom and memory within.  The severed head proffers wisdom and knowledge to Odin.

Animal skins and hides also make up a significant part of animistic practice and tech that involves psychopomp work.  The skin is a very intimate part of the body, and is the external expression of ourselves, the organ by which we sense the world around us.  Skin-to-skin contact is a very powerful form of connection and energy transferral.  Much has been written about skinwalkers, berserkergangr (bear-shirt), and the shaman and his or her ritual cloak of shapeshifting.  The skin or hide of an animal, especially when ritually prepared, is a powerful tool by which the animist or spirit-technician can interface with the spirit and energies of that particular animal.  To give you an example of how powerful an animal skin can be, sometimes the simple act of draping one over a person can cause them to “go under” or become posessed by the animal’s spirit or energy.  Animal skins can also be used as containers or coverings for the storage and transport of ritual and holy objects or items, or mediums on which spells, sigils and so on can be written upon.  The spiritual charge within the skin or hide amplifies the work being done.

There are numerous examples of the above given, and I’ll write more on specifics later on.  Part of what I do is fulfill the role of ‘sacred scavenger’, which means finding and preparing nature’s relics and artifacts to be used in a spiritual or ritually meaningful way.  My methods range anywhere from scavenging roadkill to procuring tannery and furrier rejects to seeking out lost and overlooked treasures in antique stores, junk shops and estate sales, and the search itself is just as sacred.  Part of my search involves meditation, prayer and offerings to the animal I wish to work with (either personally or for a contact or client seeking my assistance), and usually it will present itself in some form.  An old skin in a junk shop, a skull at an estate sale, or a pile of bones in the forest.  Serendipity and ‘coincidence’ make up a large part of this–what many occult practitioners call synchronicity.

I’ll write more on this later, when my migraine isn’t kicking my ass.  Hopefully with pictures.  Folks do love pictures.  Keep up the great Work all!

Relics, Artifacts, Dead Things, and the ATRs

(Note: Part of this is a bit of personal history, so I can get across a general idea of the progression of events that led me to where I am now, and why.)

As soon as I was old enough to walk, my parents would take me to the museums in Washington, DC.  I was lucky that I had parents who valued knowledge above other things.  There were no visits to Chuck-E-Cheese, and amusement park trips were rare.  By the time I was in middle school I was reading and comprehending college level books, and taking out my own interlibrary loans.  But I had begun to comprehend something else, and at a much younger age.  It was within these museum halls that I first became aware of a seemingly subtle current that flowed around and through what most people perceived as “reality”.  Animals long dead came alive before my very eyes.  Spirits in old coffins and canopic jars rose to tell me stories of ancient times beyond the reaches of memory or comprehension.  These experiences firmly crossed the line between ecstasy and terror, and my young mind grappled desperately with the changing flows of reality all around me.  I remember when I would go into the Sant Ocean Hall in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.  All around me I would see the sea creatures come to life, telling me their stories through sound and movement, color and pulse and vibration.  I was immersed in their world, a kaleidoscope of wonder.

It was these experiences that would form the skeletal frame of what would become my spirituality.  I spent a very large part of my time as a child rambling in the woods, or lost in a book.  I had much preferred the company of animals and spirits to those of other children.  I knew, even if I did not fully comprehend at the time, what these spiritual entities were, but I didn’t discuss them with the adults around me.  I bore enough of a stigma from struggling with a severe learning disability and behavioral challenges.  I didn’t want to compound this with stories of spirits, “imaginary friends”, talking trees and so on and so forth.  Not that people never suspected anything.  A mummified turkey foot in the toy chest.  A weathered fox skull found on the railroad tracks and hidden under the bed, directly beneath my pillow, “So he can talk to me better in my sleep”.  By the mid-90s I started actively exploring the occult.  Like most people I cut my teeth on Wicca first, and ended up firmly rooted in Hermetics (alchemy) and closely bonding with the deities of the Greco-Egyptian pantheons (particularly Dionysos, Hermes and Wepwawet).  Fast forward to the present, I’m initiated into the ATRs.  I’m still very new, having only been initiated for a about nine months or so.  In truth I never expected this to be the end result.  How exactly I stumbled into the ATRs is an interesting adventure.

For years I’d maintained an online presence under the moniker “Shin Cynikos”, though most people simply called me “Solo”.  I was an active presence in various occult and metaphysical circles, as well as the “scavenging” and “vulture culture” communities (primarily on LiveJournal, a format I no longer use).  I also kept an active blog, Cynanthropy.net, which I may or may not go back to using.  Tumblr seems to allow for more on-the-go posting, since I rarely sit down long enough to write detailed posts like this one.  But I digress.  Gradually I began to withdraw my online presence, mainly because I seemed more preoccupied with actually living my spirituality instead of typing about it like so many others do (and there is much in that department I simply keep a secret–Harpocrates and yadda yadda), and I tend to care very little about attention-seeking and what others think about me and what I do.  I’d also by that point amassed quite an impressive collection, and had a penchant for finding the oddest things, which garnered me a reputation amongst the local and semi-local occultist friends and acquaintances who’d come around looking for stuff for their rituals and projects and so on.

Eventually I’d attracted the attention of a Palo house a few years back, though contacts with some mutual friends, and started working with them on finding various things, as well as talking shop about everything from spirit-work, necromancy and the ritual use of animal parts to animal husbandry.  It was funny at first, because–although I had an awareness and understanding of the ATR/DTRs, they never registered much on my radar at first, and I honestly could not understand why someone would want to, say, take a museum-grade, fully articulated wolf skull and stick it in a pot of dirt.  “A skull is not a root bulb!” I remember saying at one point.  But I ended up fostering some truly valuable friendships as a result, and ultimately ended up “going native” and getting initiated myself.  It’s been a crazy ride, but ultimately I’ve no regrets.

© 2020 Bones to Pick

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑