Earthstars

Earthstars fall.

Remind me a little
of polystyrene or an egg box.

Disenchanted I Star Wars child
looking down on a space station,
a puff of magician’s smoke.

I am lost amongst the spores.

Neither mouse nor mycologist
I am back on the stage again.

I am back in my cage feeling
the muscles under my skin.

I am pulling splinters from my palm.

I am becoming a religious mystic,
reminded of the privilege of being here
in this damp woodland in spite of being
fallen, fallen, fallen, like these stars

from the Star of the King of Annwn.

*This poem is based on my first sighting of collared earthstars (Geastrum triplex) at Fishwick Bottoms Nature Reserve in Preston.

Jobs

I.
They’ve got jobs –
we finally see the key workers:

the paper-clad doctors and nurses
saving the sick and the dying (or trying to
on the linen streets of the front lines)

the stackers and cashiers within
the tin-packed walls of the supermarkets
who are saving us from starvation

and the students and unemployed bar staff
stepping up to pick and pack berries and lettuces
packed with vitamins to keep us healthy

whilst the grave diggers and funeral service
pack post-vegetable bodies back into the earth

and the binmen in their bleeping lorry continue
to turn up weekly to remove our waste.

II.
And no, I have never seen a binwoman, but
I was asked if I was one when I was litter picking.
Now even this small job has been taken away

I am flicking through job descriptions application forms
fingers hovering over wonky letters stuck on keys because
the originals were rubbed off over long years of writing
(which has never quite been a ‘proper job’) weighing

the balance between making myself enjobbed useful
and the risk to my seventy-odd year old parents.

III.
All the while the name of a job
that I have never seen advertised online
or even in a fluffy cloud in a Pagan magazine
is pressing its silver lining against the back of my brain:

low risk, innocuous, invisible: ‘MYSTIC.’

“By the Stars of Annwn are you having a laugh?”
I rage at my gods before joining them
laughing loud and hysterically.

On Vocation and the Mystical Collage

Vocation, from the Latin vocatio ‘a call or summons’ by God/a god, is rarely discussed in the Pagan communities, yet it is central to other religions. Why the silence? Is it because not all Pagans see Paganism as a religion? Because not all are called to revere and worship and serve the gods? If only a few of us receive such a calling and there is no framework of support within the major Pagan organisations, how do we navigate the highs and lows, the trials and pitfalls, of trying to live a vocation that has no precedent in the modern world and cannot be wholly reconstructed from the ancient?

These are questions I have been faced with, have wrestled with, have returned to time and time again during the last seven years over which I’ve finally responded to my calling by serving an apprenticeship to the Brythonic god Gwyn ap Nudd and making a lifelong dedication to him as his awenydd.

At the very beginning I knew of no-one else who had a received calling from a god. Having discovered the awen and the Brythonic myths through Druidry I met others within the Oak and Feather Grove and the Druid Network who offered support, but only a few who could relate to my experiences.

Only a few people experienced the awen as a burning all-consuming force demanding total dedication, that could only be quenched in the ice of a death-god, that would only be satisfied when its flames were seared as words onto a page, the cost of whose burning is burn-out and the ashes of depression.

Thus, for the most part, I stumbled through the mist and the darkness with the guidance of my god as my only certainty and, in my darkest moments, sometimes wondered if I could even trust him, he of many names and guises, whose realm is one of uncertainty and illusion, whose hounds are not always hounds. (So far his lack of pretences to truth and lack of false promises have always proved true).

Through speaking openly about my experiences and reaching out to others I slowly began to find other polytheists who had experienced a similar calling and shared all the same problems. The main one being that we have no support structure, no guidance, no place within secular society or the big religions. That we all know in our hearts what we are doing by building devotional relationships with the gods and spirits of the land and bringing inspiration to our communities has value, but this cannot be seen or understood by a society that values material wealth and economic growth above all else.

Because of this it is impossible to make a living from such a vocation. Yet some people manage to find careers through which it might be expressed such as teaching, counselling, conservation; some even get paid for their art. Others take any job that pays the bills and leaves the mind free for the true work.

I am currently making a small amount of income from book sales, writing for Gods & Radicals, and from my Patreon supporters, and have been able to live off this because my parents put me up. However, as this ultimately unsustainable, I am aware the time has arrived to return to part-time work.

Perhaps this has always been the case. Mysticism has never spoken to the masses, yet for those who follow such a path, the words of the mystics of the past are like bright shining jewels that glitter above the abyss, and can be life saving. Thus I write to add words born out of dedication to my gods to that glittering collage in the hope they will shine for others in the future.

flower-frost-stone-coral-eye-violet-614138-pxhere.com-creative-commons

The question I pose to others is how can we support each other when there is no institutional support? How can we make our collage outshine the allure of goods and wealth? How can we work together as co-creators of a world in which the gods are honoured and the land and its spirits are respected?

One of the reasons Greg Hill and myself set up the Awen ac Awenydd website and several awenyddion set up the Facebook group was to create an online space for such discussions. I’d be interested to hear the response of people from the wider Pagan and Polytheist communities.

Review: The Book of Onei by Christopher Scott Thompson

The Book of Onei by Christopher Scott Thompson is ‘an antinomian dream grimoire, providing deceptive yet true information about the art of Oneiromancy or dream magic in the form of poetry, fantasy, and intentionally ambiguous instructions.’

It is narrated in the voice of a ‘dark seer’, a ‘night wanderer’ drawn to seek the wisdom of the ‘beautiful chaos’ and ‘primal darkness’ and its ‘chthonic and horrifying entities’ rather than the light. Unlike similar narratives involving journeys to otherworlds he does not go with a benevolent aim such as bringing back a dead lover or relative. Following in the footsteps of his father, who stole The Book of Onei from the Great Library, this Promethean anti-hero goes instead to steal a secret – the knowledge of how to understand the book. “Prometheus didn’t give the fire back,” he tells his wife before setting out through the door in the basement.

The main thread of the narrative is this unnamed dark seer’s journey. The rest is composed of lore from The Book of Onei. This includes stories which take the form of powerful parables in a similar strain to Nietzsche’s Thus Spake Zarathrustra, riddling poems, and lists of the Powers of Onei and how they might be invoked or exorcised through prayers, offerings, charms, symbols, and rituals.

The visionary scope of this book is immense and could only have been channelled from the depths of dream. One of the most striking characters is the prophet Eyes For Flowers, one of the Sons of Crow, who has huge sunflowers spilling through the eye-holes of his crow-mask. This image and the depiction of demons transformed into angels who ‘rose up from the husks of their bodies as burning wheels, as gears and eyes and wings’ put me in mind of the raw genius of Blake and Ted Hughes.

There is also a lot of animistic wonder. I was mesmerised by the song of the spider who sung to the Fool who would become Three-Times Exiled in his cage and by the words of the swaying serpent who teaches that ‘the Chaos Ocean is not a place you can walk to’ but lies ‘in the crevices between moments.’

As you might have guessed this book is packed with paradoxes. The places and powers in the Book of Onei may not exist in Onei itself and it remains unclear whether there is ‘a secret to be uncovered, or only lies within lies.’ The only way to discover the truth is ‘to go there in person.’ Deep contrary wisdom is conveyed about travelling otherworlds, drawn from fairylore, grimoires, alchemy, demonology, and, forthmost from the author’s experiences as a dreamwalker and visionary.

As a kindred spirit drawn to the beauty of the darkness I fell in love with The Book of Onei when it first started out as a series of blog posts and was delighted to hear it has been published in book form. When I read it in full I was not disappointed. It is a valuable contribution to visionary literature and dark mysticism that deserves to be preserved for longevity. Although not explicitly political it is a work that provides gnosis and guidance for facing dark truths in troubled times.

I would recommend it to anyone who has heard the call of the Veiled One who stirs her ‘cauldron made of swirling stars and galaxies’ or been haunted by the ‘eerie, dreadful dead’ of the Host. I don’t want to give away how it ends, only that it begs a follow up – more!!!

The Book of Onei can be purchased HERE.

My Annuvian Path

I’m at liberty to share this because I don’t live in the age of Queen Victoria, King James, or King Arthur. I’m not Orddu, ‘the Very Black Witch’, in her cave waiting for the knife to cut her in twain. I’m not Elizabeth Southerns, Anne Whittle, Isobel Gowdie, or Isabella Rigby. Nobody blinks an eyelid when I say I worship a god of Annwn and speak with otherworldly spirits and in this I am blessed.

Still, my path is a lonely one not many choose to walk. Annwn means ‘the Deep’, ‘the Otherworld’. In this age the reign of superficiality and normalism is stronger than the influence of any monarch. There’s an inner policing – not a hanging or burning at the stake, just dismissal, lack of interest, in the mystical, the magical, the mythic, when they’re not reduced to cosplay or methods of self-development.

Paganism and Druidry have been demystified and the mystical systems that exist (in Druidry) still hinge around Taliesin and Arthur, ‘heroes’ who slaughtered and oppressed the gods and ‘monsters’ of Annwn. I keep returning to these traditions like a restless horse pacing its box, like I’m picking a scab, each time find myself more deeply disappointed; an outsider, a black sheep amongst the white-robed herds.

Perhaps our deepest myths died when Taliesin and Arthur stole the cauldron from the Head of Annwn. Something big must have perished to leave the void, filled for 1500 years by Christianity, now filled instead by the new religion of the self, the selfie, everyone wanting to be a celebrity bard in the virtual otherworlds, in the god-sized holes in their heads, which no longer have room for real gods. I have only a dim intuition what that was. If it is contained in our existing texts, it’s very well concealed. Seeking it out feels important and I can’t do so whilst wrestling with wider disillusionments.

I’ve finally reached the point my box-walking is at an end. A knowing I’ll never feel at home in mainstream Paganism or in Druidry. That my dream of being part of a physical community who get together for devotions, to work with myths, to discuss how such work can change the world, is unlikely to happen. I’ve complained of my disappointments and voiced my criticisms for the last time.

Now for some affirmations: I am an awenydd. I walk an Annuvian path. I will make the most of this opportunity my spiritual ancestors such as Orddu never had. I will reclaim our deepest myths. I will learn to live by them.

Annuvian Awen - Awen Ac Awenydd

Review: Your Face is a Forest by Rhyd Wildermuth

Your Face is a ForestRhyd Wildermuth is a writer and social worker based in Seattle. He writes for ‘The Wild Hunt,’ ‘Patheos Pagan’ and ‘Polytheist.com’ and blogs at ‘Paganarch.com.’ He describes himself as ‘a dream-drenched, tea-swilling leftist pagan punk bard.’ He is also a student of Druidry with OBOD. What drew me to his work was his boldness, passion, vision and the fact he proudly and outspokenly ‘worships gods.’

Your Face is a Forest is a collection of essays and prose. Rhyd describes his style as ‘weaving a forest from meaning’. This book’s a tapestry of poetic prose and prose poetry woven from themes that make sense as a whole only in the non-rational way trees make a forest. It’s rough, edgy and raw, and also a little rough around the edges, which adds to its anarchic charm.

Rhyd invites the reader to step into his life and accompany him through the places where he lives into forests behind to meet the faces of ‘the Other’ in ‘tasselled willows’, pines and alders, satyr dances and Dionysian revels. To find the tooth of an elk long dead and buried where cars now drive. A world full of life and another world behind it.

What I love about this book is that Rhyd speaks deeply and richly of both worlds. On pilgrimages to France and Germany he tells of the wonder of waking in a field of rabbits, playing flute with locals on unknown streets, sitting within the pink fur womb of a Berlin bar. He speaks of his despair at social inequality and the continuing repression of homosexuality in Christian colleges. He is a poet of the sacredness of this-worldly life on all levels.

He also shares some of his innermost visions of the gods and otherworlds. These have guided his life and thus form the reader’s guiding threads. Outstanding was a vision of Bran, which deserves quoting in full; ‘When I saw Bran, his great black cloak rippled in an unseen wind, his powerful form straddling a Breton valley between the River of Alder and the sea. But the cloak fled from his body, a myriad of ravens having stripped from his flesh sinew and skin, leaving only great white pillars of bone, the foundation of a temple and a tower. I do not yet know where his head lies.’ On his pilgrimages we find a mysterious tower on a mountain, a stone head in a fountain and a magical cloak. But Rhyd doesn’t give all his secrets away.

Other deities include Arianrhod, Ceridwen, Brighid, Dionysos and the unnamed gods and spirits of the city streets, buried forests and culverted rivers. What I liked most about these sections is that rather than kowtowing to being acceptable, Rhyd speaks his experiences directly and authentically. This was encouraging and inspiring for me and I think will be for other polytheists whose encounters with the gods go beyond known mythology and conventional Pagan text books. There are few modern authors who speak of the mystical aspects of deity and Rhyd does it exceptionally well.

I’d recommend Your Face is a Forest to all Pagans who are looking for real, undoctored insights into nature and the gods. Because it’s not only about Paganism and is written by somebody fully immersed in the beauty and pain of life and the search for love I’d recommend it to non-Pagans too, particularly those interested in spiritual journeys and visionary prose and poetry. Quoting Rhyd’s dedication, to ‘Everyone who’s ever looked into the Abyss / And brought back light for the rest of us.’

Your Face is a Forest is available through Lulu: http://www.lulu.com/shop/rhyd-wildermuth/your-face-is-a-forest/paperback/product-21887986.html