POEM: The Blessing of the Tetrad++

This is a variation on my own Lorica of the Tetrad++. I offer this blessing for all people of color, all African-Americans, all Native Americans, all women, all sexual minorities, gay and lesbian and bisexual, queer and genderqueer, transgender and intersex, all people anywhere who are oppressed. You are Antinous’s people. You are the Tetrad’s people. You are my people.

May Panpsyche guard you with the eagle’s wings
and by ASKION bless your soul with freedom.
May Panprosdexia guard you with the raven’s cunning
and by KATASKION guide you through the dark places.
May Panhyle guard you with the bull’s determination
and by LIX bless your body with health and strength.
May Pancrates guard you with the lion’s roar
and by TETRAX burn away your fears.
May Paneros guard you with the serpent’s wisdom
and by DAMNAMENEUS heal your heart’s wounds.
May Paneris guard you with the fox’s swiftness
and by AISIA defend you in conflict and strife.
May Panpsyche and Panhyle protect your souls and bodies.
May Paneros and Paneris protect your hearts and minds
both in love and in strife.
May Pancrates all-powerfully protect you, and
may Panprosdexia bring you home to the light.



Riane Eisler was right

So the last time I checked, the myth of matriarchal prehistory was a myth, right? There wasn’t a time when people lived in harmony, when sex was revered and mothers respected, when we didn’t divide the world into Us and Them and try to kill or rape or rob or enslave Them because they’re obviously inferior to Us. Nope. Homo sapiens has been a killer and a rapist since we figured out how to walk with our hands free, free to make tools and then weapons and bash skulls, flense bones, break limbs.

If that’s the case, none of us should be surprised by the events of the past week, by multiple terrorist attacks in Paris, by suicide bombings in Baghdad and Beirut. No one should be surprised that Boko Haram kidnaps girls like herds of cattle, that there are bombings in Kenya no one in the U.K. or the U.S. ever hears about on the news, that Daesh proudly proclaims its responsibility for rape and murder and the destruction of ancient beauties. Why should we care? That’s just the way human beings are, right?

Yet we do care. We are surprised, shocked, appalled. We grieve for dead bodies in foreign countries, dress our social media with symbols of support, and send money to relief efforts. Not only that, but we look at the people around us as people, not just as Us and Them. Yes, there are probably thousands of Americans who would vote for Donald the Dump and believe sincerely that if he just threw out all the Mexicans who are taking both our welfare and our jobs, this country would be great (i.e., white) again. But there are also lots of people who are no longer letting their family or friends, their spiritual teachers, their Facebook friends, that celebrity on Twitter, get away with saying racist, or sexist, or homophobic, or transphobic things. There are lots of people who are challenging that reactionary uncle, that pagan elder who’s just spat out a sentiment worthy of Trump, that clueless celebrity who’s forgotten how far their lives are from ordinary people’s.

That’s a good thing.

I was once in an elevator with my husband and two black men. We were in the central library, before I worked there, and the two men were probably among the many homeless people for whom our venerable building is a reliable shelter during the day. If memory serves, they smelled of alcohol. They were complaining freely to one another, in crude language, about how all the homosexuals were taking over.
Without planning to, I turned on them and snapped, “I wish the homosexuals *were* taking over! The world would be a better place for it!”

I got some rude language in return, but we all got off the elevator and that was that. “I can’t believe I did that,” I said, shaken.

“I can’t believe you did that, either,” said my then husband.

That might have been the first time I talked back to an -ism. It was me against two victims of another -ism, and possibly victims of addiction or PTSD or I know not what. It is harder to talk back to the -isms when they come out of the mouth of someone you love, or respect, or fear, but people are doing it, in so many ways, from posting on Facebook and dealing with the comments to marching in the streets and facing down armed police. And that tells me people believe we can do better.

We can do better than destroy works of art, things of beauty. We can do better than fear and hate people based on what is or isn’t in their pants. We can do better than treat girls and women like cattle to be bred and trans women like monsters ready to invade a cloister. We can do better than divide the world into Us and Them based on genitalia, or skin color, or choice of religion.

We can do better. We are doing better. Because we create beauty. We make art, and we make love, as well as making war. We follow our pleasure, our bliss, our joy, at least some of the time. Why don’t we do it all the time? Why do we distrust pleasure but affirm pain? Why is optimism considered unrealistic, while pessimism is realistic (and here, here’s a pill to help you deal with the depression of being relentlessly realistic all the time)?

There is a knot at the center of our culture, like a knot of pain in the gut, a knot of muscles in the back, restricting movement, a hopeless tangle of the threads that precludes weaving the tapestry anew. Racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, they are all threads trailing out of the knot; pull one, and it will show itself to be connected to the others. Racism identifies black people with the emotional, instinctual, physical side of human nature, with animals, with the earth, with dirt. Sexism identifies women with animals to be bred, with emotion and instinct, with jars and cars and ships and boxes, with the land, the earth. Gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgenders, and other queers are feared and hated because they refuse to observe the distinctions between black and white, male and female, pleasure and necessity. Gay men have sex for pleasure, no possibility of reproduction. Lesbians deny the use of their bodies to men. Trans people violate the absolute rule that a thing, a person, a body, must be one thing or the other, not both: One drop of “black blood” and you’re black; a man should act like a man, not a woman; biology is destiny.

I pull on the threads and try to disentangle them, and I can’t; I see the knot, black and bloody and terrible like a clot expelled from the womb, and it is the fear and rejection of women by the cisgender, heterosexual men who are born from them, nursed by them, desire them, and are so utterly terrified of the person who gave them life and nurture and pleasure that anything that remotely resembles her has to be cut off, shunned, destroyed, at the very least controlled, completely. Here are these dark-skinned people whose cultures celebrate women, sex, pleasure–enslave them, take away their mother tongues, destroy their arts and their cities and say they had no civilization. Here are men who sometimes act like women, and women who sometimes act like men, and they have sex not to bear children to inherit the father’s accumulated wealth, but just for fun. Just for fun. Obviously that is a sin!

And don’t let yourself experience pleasure, real pleasure. Don’t enjoy your food and eat just a little too much occasionally. Don’t drink wine and laugh loudly. Don’t read a novel, see a movie with too many women in it, or listen to music until you feel something. Don’t feel your emotions, except for anger, that’s okay, and maybe lust. In place of real pleasure, sense pleasure, there’s making money, or dominating people, controlling other minds and other bodies as you control your own. Make money, keep the wrong sort of people out of your church, and vote for Trump, he’s honest and realistic.

We can do better. We have done better. We are doing better. If the neopagan movement has any lasting good to offer, in my opinion it is the affirmation of the body, of pleasure, of sex, of women, of life in this world, of those things as spiritual values, however much individual pagans fail of the ideal.

I think Riane Eisler was right. In the best-selling The Chalice and the Blade and subsequent books, she argued that human beings were capable of living as partners in cultures based on pleasure, not just in hierarchies and kyriarchies based on fear of pain. Her archaeology and history may be disputed or disproven now, but I don’t think her thesis has been; human beings continue to imagine a world different from and better than the conditions we have. I don’t think we’re capable of living entirely without strife, without conflict–I don’t think we ought to be–but I have hope that we can untie the knot behind our destructive ideologies and learn to trust our bodies, our pleasure, our desires, and our mothers, sisters, daughters, lovers, and selves, as women.

May it be so.

I am sorely tempted to give up this meme

After what happened in Charleston, South Carolina, after a young white man sat for an hour with a dozen black people at prayer before shooting at them and killing nine of the twelve, I hardly see the point to telling you about my spiritual practices and nascent theological ideas. Yet my writing is my offering to my gods and to my community, to the common good; it is that which I have to give. So after this I will write my essay for the meme and post it.

I pray that the light of Christ will shine in mercy forever on his faithful disciples who were killed last night. And I pray that the gods of justice will see their killer tried, convicted, and imprisoned in this life, and that they will harry him without mercy in the next.

I want to be absolutely clear on this

I oppose racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia. I oppose any institutionalized prejudice against people for their race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion, or any kind of disability. #BlackLivesMatter. Our police forces need to be trained to see black citizens *as* citizens, and as human beings, and to be held accountable with unpaid leave, indictment, and trial when they shoot first and look around afterward. I do believe in the ideals of America, freedom, equality, and justice for all, and I am sad and angry that we are failing those ideals monumentally in citizen deaths, in torture of foreign nationals, in pretty much every way possible.

I am only one person, and not a Big Name Pagan, but I’ve seen so much FAIL lately from people and organizations I used to respect that I feel I have to say this as explicitly as possible.

PSVL has spoken for the Ekklesia Antinoou, of which I am a citizen, and Mystik Nomad has made an eloquent statement as an individual, which inspired this post.

A war on the imagination

I’m forty-eight, and my joints frequently hurt. I hate crowds, and I am pretty much useless if I get fewer than eight hours of sleep. And I feel vaguely guilty, in a useless sort of way, that for those and other reasons I will not be on the streets by night, protesting the police brutality, the routine and indeed almost systematic destruction of black lives by white cops.

It disturbs me that no one around me is talking about Ferguson. My co-workers, whether black or white, are not talking about it. Baltimore’s population is a little over sixty percent black, thirty percent white, with ten percent Asian and others. I’ve never not lived, worked, gone to school, taken the bus with black people. And Baltimore’s cops, forty-percent of them black, are as trigger-happy as any police force nowadays, even though you don’t have the Ferguson situation of a mostly white, highly militarized police department vs. a mostly black populace.

My co-workers aren’t talking about it. I sensed that my family wasn’t talking about it, on Thanksgiving Day, mostly because it’s unpleasant, and we were all very pleasant and having a good time. People on Facebook aren’t talking about it, except for my pagan and polytheist friends. My folks on Tumblr *are* talking about it, linking to Twitter and news articles and blog essays in between posts on magic and the occult, or Chris Evans and Benedict Cumberbatch, or birds, butterflies, mushrooms.

A lot of pagans aren’t talking about it. There may be a perfunctory mention, like the old public service announcements on broadcast tv (I hope at least some of my readers remember those), and then it’s back to our regularly scheduled self-promotion. A lot of pagan blogging right now seems to me like just advertising a blogger’s product, no more no less. It’s reminiscent of the really early days of live television where one program had a single sponsor and every commercial break, performed live, featured General Electric or Proctor and Gamble.

I am a writer, and my words are my product. My words are what I have to offer. Specifically, I am a poet and a storyteller; I have always seen my writing as a form of service to the Divine, whatever my current understanding of divinity, and my job as imagining how things could be different. I write poetry, blog essays, and erotica with a science fiction or fantasy bent, sometimes fanfic, sometimes original (insofar as any fiction is “original”). I look at people like Ursula K. LeGuin, who recently won the National Book Award, to remind myself why the kind of writing I do is important. I look at Cecilia Tan, who also writes and publishes erotic speculative fiction, as an example of the writing I want to do; I look at Star Trek, Star Wars, Babylon 5, the rebooted Battlestar Galactica, as examples of the influence that science fiction stories can have. Every time I write a story in which two men, perhaps characters who are presumed to be heterosexual, have loving and emotionally meaningful sex, I am striking a blow against sexism, against homophobia, against narratives that privilege violence. Every time I write a story that helps someone feel sexual pleasure, I am striking a blow against capitalism, the Protestant work ethic, the condemnation of the body and its pleasures.

I don’t know much of the work of poet Diane Di Prima, but I do know this poem, which I first came across many years ago:











There is no way out of a spiritual battle

There is no way you can avoid taking sides

There is no way you can not have a poetics

no matter what you do: plumber, baker, teacher


you do it in the consciousness of making

or not making yr world

you have a poetics: you step into the world

like a suit of readymade clothes


or you etch in light

your firmament spills into the shape of your room

the shape of the poem, of yr body, of yr loves

In the war against the imagination, I am on the side of life, peace, equality, eros, friendship, creativity. I am on the side of the protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, and their fellow protesters in other cities. I am on the side of socialists and anarchists like Rhyd Wildermuth, people who smash gender binaries like P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, people who embrace all of life’s buried chaos like Sannion. And before I give you my hand, much less buy what you’re trying to sell me, I want to know which side of the war you’re on.