“My love is the blood and the bone
The voices that live in the stone
The long dwelling night
The absence of light
And the shadows watching all alone”
“Pressure, pushing down on me
Pressing down on you, no man ask for
Under pressure that burns a building down”
– Queen and David Bowie, 1981
Anyone who has ever worked for a Deity will have a story about how deities have a way of seeping into our lives and enacting changes. Many times these changes are mutual agreements and arrangements, contracts of conduct us devotes sign off on willingly. I am a firm believer that actual contact with any of the Divine currents has a lasting effect upon those humans touched, and that the truth of those contacts are seen in the transformations unleashed within the person by that Divine spark.
This idea of transformation as a mutual endeavor looks very pretty on paper…Too pretty, actually, when you get right down to it. And again, anyone who has dealt with a Deity will have other stories to tell as well. Stories about when a Deity decided to throw that person into a pressure cooker just to see what might develop.
Pressure cookers? Not really fun places to be. Crisis and uproar, physical pain, relationship breakdowns and breakups, near-death experiences, having to re-live a personal shame for the whole world to see… The list of outside pressures that Gods can use to enact change within us (or just test our resolve) is nearly limitless. If you choose to work with Deities of the Infernal variety, you had better be ready to have your world shattered every couple of years as they blow stuff up around you for reasons you will not fully understand at the time.
I could go into numerous personal anecdotes right now, but will refrain for the time being. What is more important than my personal “What” is the intriguing questions as to “Why?” Most often for myself, that question leads me into places that most sane people just steer clear of or ignore. Places within my inner landscape that hide a treasure trove of both personal horrors and well-hidden strength. Places I would have never discovered if I had not been poked by these outside events to do so. And, I’m fairly certain that that is the key.
I have told many people over the years that a frictionless environment is a recipe for mediocrity. Untested ideas, ideologies, people, and philosophies are all good starting points, but that is ALL they are. It is through testing, research, and real-life trials that these things are honed, refined, and turned into things of worth. Some of the things in this life that have broken me down to my lowest are also the exact things that have made me stronger than anyone (including myself) ever thought I could become.
The best example I have of this happened in the very early spring of 2012, when a specialist had to do an emergency surgery that became the equivalent of yanking half of my facial structure out. While the surgery saved my life, the next year became a testing ground not only for my own personal ideas of identity but for just how dedicated I would remain to my Gods while everything I was supposed to be was crashing and burning under the weight of a year of sickness.
And, while it’s nice to give face time to those transformations that are mutual and agreed upon, I have to say that those times when I was thrown into the pot with pain, misery, and a helping of onions taught me far more important lessons then I could have learned the easy way. Even recently, while having old shames made very public and many a band-aid ripped off old wounds, I saw that M’Lady Night had not only a hand in it, but that She had a reason or five to do so. Was it an uncomfortable experience? Most certainly. But it also served as a platform for growth… growth that I would have hidden from forever if I would have had my own way.
And if anyone takes ANYTHING away from what my experiences with the Gods have been, I would have it be this: Spiritual growth will NOT always be under controlled circumstances. The Gods have agendas for those of us with ears to listen to them, and sometimes, the only thing that will make our ears ready for that listening is The Pressure Cooker.
Have your onions ready.
“Darkness, Darkness, be my pillow, Take my head and let me sleep
In the coolness of your shadow, In the silence of your deep
Darkness, darkness, hide my yearning, For the things I cannot see
Keep my mind from constant turning, To the things I cannot be
Darkness, darkness, be my blanket, cover me with the endless night”
“Darkness Darkness”, The Youngbloods, 1969
One of the very first times I ever spoke up about my work with Deities of an Infernal nature, I was met with fairly heavy disdain and informed that working with “Those Kinds of Gods” was a dangerous enterprise. “Why?”, I was asked, would I ever open my life up to such currents of death and pain and madness? At the time of that first asking all those years ago, I didn’t have a very concrete answer. I only knew that I had always felt a deep pull towards the various Underworlds, so much so that I often found myself seeking entrance during my sleep into what I knew were forbidden places.
As the years wore on, I gained a deeper insight of what it was that was pulling me underneath the feet of the living, and into a world filled with What Is No Longer. I started cultivating profound relationships with both the Gods that called those realms home, and with the ghosts, imprints and non-human spirits that inhabited that plane as well. And as I walked within those shadows, I also began to cultivate an understanding of who I honestly was.
That sounds MUCH less painful than it actually was. For every secret I unlocked, I had to barter away a bit of my already tarnished innocence. For every forbidden place I snuck into, I knew that I was being watched for deeper transgressions by Deities who could, at the snap of a finger, destroy me utterly and completely.
And… you would not be out of line in asking yourself right now, “no really, why would you DO THAT?”
Unlike those first days, I now find that have a proper answer.
Beyond what this path of mine has done for (and to) me personally, over the last few years I have seen many people take up what I term “The Infernal Thread” of different paths. The many-chambered Underworld is being courted by many more people these days. People who feel the same tug to explore the Darkness are crafting practices that are renewing ties to not only our own Dead, but to the Deities who reside within those realms and reaches. We are renewing bonds that were cut away hundreds, and sometimes thousands of years ago. In some cases, we are establishing bonds that were never there before. For some, it is a balance to their Dayside practice, and for others (like myself) it is an act of reclaiming the Lands of Erebus from the monotheistic idea that the lower realms are worthy of nothing but scorn, and are by their nature places of evil.
That last idea is one that is strangely prevalent in Modern Neo-Paganism. That “The Darkness” should be avoided at all costs (both the metaphorical darkness and the literal), and those that reside within it shunned as evil-doers. Pagans of many stripes are still afraid of the Devil it seems, by one name or descriptive idea or another, and that fear is just extended to the entire Underworld once they make the move to Pagan Ideals. As a Polytheist, I find that kind of unthinking fear strangely unproductive. (Then again, I have never met an idea I would not poke with a stick.)
For the record, I am not implying that the various underworlds are safe places by any means. Nope. They hide dangers unlike any you will ever face anywhere else, but you can face them. The qualities one masters within the shadows have an immediate impact. The fears faced, the monsters mastered, and the false dualities imposed by society at large can melt away. Wholeness is found, power is discovered, and one can begin to see that the world has far more possibilities than what is illuminated by the Light alone.
And before this idea is simply dismissed, it should be pointed out that many times, a very large part of “The Heroes Journey” in many cultures was the act of descending into the Underworld, and coming back up changed. The word for it in the Hellenistic world, this trip into darkness, is Catabasis, a “descent or downward movement”. Often this descent was into the realm of the underworld, where only Heroes managed to go and come back from. This was more than a simple spiritual day-trip, it was a deep, life-altering transformation. And in those stories, standing at the Gates of Many Hells, was often a Seer or Oracle helpfully placed to help the Hero on his way. And these Mystics were not acting as gatekeepers, but as map-makers of the realms beyond our own.
In today’s world we have very few maps left to us, and in an unhelpful twist, the landscape has changed as well. And while being the Map-maker is not nearly as glamorous as being the Hero, it has a place of importance that has been quite overlooked.
I will wrap this up by being very honest about what I see my place as in The Big Scheme of Things. I do not see myself as an important leader, a humble guru of any kind, or the creator of The Next Big Thing. Im a mischievous explorer who by virtue of actions long passed has access to places I should not. That access (and my mischievous nature) has led to me being recruited as one of many New Map Makers that this new era in Paganism and Polytheism is giving birth to. My area of mapping just happens to be the Lands of Erebus.
…staring into shadows, looking where I know I shouldn’t and letting forbidden knowledge seep into my bones. It’s a quiet kind of spirituality, rooted in the Earth and bonded with Death. I make no claims to fancy titles and have no pretty sounding official name for what I do every day. It’s just My Way. And I realize that while I walk my magic alone, I manage to find and touch the ones that really need me. Do they know I need them too? What use is all the beauty found in the other world if you don’t have someone to share it with? If you want to know me, then you should know that this is how I live my life every day. I peer into the shadows, the darkness, and the places I should not, and then I share the beauty I find with you.
When I was four years old, I lost someone very close to me. Someone who, to this day, I still wish was here. My father’s brother, my Uncle K. He died saving my fathers life, in a rather tragic farming accident of all freaking things. We were very close him and I… I can still remember what the world looked like from his shoulders 🙂
His death was hard. But, his funeral… well, I was far too young to deal with what happened on the day of his funeral. I was a very sad little girl… but it was not just my own sadness I was feeling. Somewhere along that day (that very, VERY long day) I had started to soak up the sadness and panic of those around me, feeling things and knowing things that were far too much for someone at that age to feel. I know I will never forget the sheer, gripping fear grabbing at my throat as I started drowning in other peoples sorrow though.
Nor will I forget seeing the man who made the fear go away.
At the grave side service, when I was very certain I was going to die of panic, I saw a man standing alone among the head stones, not so very far away. He was tall, slightly pale, and had dark wavy hair that just reached his shoulders. His eyes were steel gray, and he wore a dark colored sweater that seemed to be far too soft to be real. His eyes caught mine in my panic, and a kind of calm set over me. I could hear him softly whispering above the cries and words of the congregation around me.
“Give it to him little one. He can still hear you.”
I can imagine my four-year-old brow knotting up when I whispered back “Give him what!?”
A smile that was cold and frightening and somehow comforting all at once.
“I’ll show you.”
And he did. I can only describe the feeling as being used as a funnel. An emotional funnel that had one end in this world, and the other in the afterlife. But I *felt* every single thing as it passed through me. Pain, fear, anguish, doubt, guilt, anger, heartbreak… It became mine for a moment before it went through.
And thus, I met Thanatos for the first time.
I was 15 the first time I looked my own Beloved Death full in the face. For two weeks I had a Doctors words ringing in my ears. “It might be cancer.” I had been in pain for weeks. Moving hurt.
I remember just not wanting to think about it, not have to deal with it, and not having to be afraid. But somewhere was also a voice, very tiny at the time, that was telling me to come to terms, to think about it, feel it and own up to my fear.
I walked up the side of the rocky, cacti strewn valley that was home until I reached the top, and then I sat.
I remember sitting for a very long time.
The fear and the horror of it all washed over me time and time again. I could die. At 15. Having never realized a single dream, having never tasted a single thing I yearned for.
And I remember a sudden breeze… it pulled my hair away from my face like a lover would… a touch that was more than just the wind.
And Thanatos loomed over me again at that moment… Not fearful, not frightening, but reality-shattering REAL. I could feel the afterlife and Him waiting for me, patient and loving darkness who would take me into his arms some day.
“Not yet.” He whispered and was gone as quickly as he came, leaving a sobbing, stained little girl in his wake.
That moment changed everything, colored everything that came after. At the very core of myself, I understood that me and Death would always dance this little dance of close calls and near death and quiet-scary moments far more often than would ever be comfortable.
Years later, after being a mother and lover and a woman who very much felt like a lost soul, I faced Thanatos full in the face yet again. This time, physical death was used as Initiation. This time, I was unsure if I would be allowed to come back.
“My death came in threes.”
First came the death of my ego. The loss of the face I knew… the loss of my beauty, and the start of my pain. Nine Days. Three times Three. The Irony was not lost to me.
Second came the death of my strength. For the first time ever I failed and faltered. For the first time ever, I lost the physical power that had always been mine. For the fist time ever, I turned to weakness and loathing. I allowed a monster to take root of me, a monster that only pretended to help the pain. To slay the monster I had to kill off my anger at my loss.
Thirdly came the moment when my body, ravaged by infection and medication and pain, just…. stopped. My heart, caught up in a seizure, allowed me to be present for my death.
I was pulled apart, three by three, watching her reconfigure me.
The fire in me now is of Her… I cannot ever be the same.
Reborn, so brought to Life. Not much left of the woman before… Do I mourn her beauty and light heart? A little perhaps.
Loss is always loss after all.
But I grow tired of that morning.
So now, I shall walk among the starlight as I am meant to be… And I will make no more apologies for not being *her* any longer. Mourn her if you feel you must, but know that the woman who stands before you now is far stronger, and far more willing to live than the other ever was. ”
People sometimes ask me if Im afraid of dying.
I always say no.
I know who is coming for me, whose arms I will find myself in. In a way, I yearn for that… but I also know I have other obligations (most notably, to his Beloved Mother Nox) that will keep me for as long as needed. And while I may be unafraid of Thanatos, I still have many a thing to live for. And that is a much sweeter thing to be alive for.
So let us get this out of the way once and for all.
Again, I have heard the quietly whispered question… “Are you… are you a *gasp* vampire? Or a Pagan?!?!?” because of who some of my “contacts” are…. I had literally no idea I was so fucking fascinating… And Im going to be honest I have an answer to that, but a whole bunch of people are going to be pissed off at it. (Then again, Im not known for giving a fuck about what other people think, so…)
… and I am very likely going to make myself slightly unpopular with this post, and that’s ok. This subject gives me the ranty feels for many, MANY reasons, but the main reason why it makes me want to rip hair out is that it is always presented from the same two sides, and neither side want’s to take a single second to stop and evaluate some very serious (speaking from a spiritual standpoint) shit.
Disclaimer: I have poked about on both sides of this fence. I have ties to people within the VC that I hold very dear for very personal reasons, and I also have close ties to some of the pagans who decry their illegitimacy the loudest. It puts me in a very awkward position, but also one of really great perspective.
Thing #1: I will be the very first to agree that a lot of people involved within the Vampire Community, and the Vampire Spiritual Movement are off their fucking rocker, and obsessed with fantasy. Everyone within that community knows this as well. Actually, I think they organized themselves to cater to particular flavors of this obsession, and that’s actually a GOOD thing, as it makes traversing that terrain sooo much easier. HOWEVER, there are ALSO some people involved who are actually amazeballs with certain practices, and certain techniques that simply do not exist outside of the vampire community. These concepts are of value to certain people who, like me, often times find modern pagan perspectives on things like magic and energy, and having a predatory nature basically fucking useless, and unaddressed in any way other than “NO! BAD! MUST NOT!” And make no mistake… I *do* have a very predatory nature in a number of areas. It is as deeply tucked into who I am as is my love for poetry, and my adoration of coffee. I actually got a good handle on my own nature by using techniques I picked up from the VC. Before I learned these things, I was not in a good place, or a good person to be around. Basically, there IS value there, although it is buried under a lot of crap. I can say it very likely saved me from going nutters at a time when going nutters was going to land my ass in jail. The pagan community as a whole has NOTHING to address the things I was going through with. No tools. No advice. No non-judgmental perspectives to gain anything from.
Thing#2: Much of the criticism from the Generic Pagan community comes from a place of “I DO NOT want to be associated with THOSE TYPES.”, while said decriers then light purple sparkly candles to Mother Morgan, and insist that the rule of three is real because Charmed said so. It breaks the Fourth Wall for them, and so they reject it loudly. That is not to say there are not extremely valid criticisms out there (Like some of the VCs ignoring and even harvesting abusive sexual relationships among adults and minors, the very real, very HIGH chance of running into a delusional nutter within it, and the fact that motherfucking bloodborne diseases are THING to be extremely mindful about.) Basically… a lot of these conversations are NOT being had in good faith on either side. The vampire community is a nice wiping post for the Generic Pagan Community, because “Hay! At least we aren’t those guys, right?” and the vampire community has loooots of people who LOVE to play the misunderstood misanthrope card, and will do so at every opportunity, loudly, and with little more thought than you or I would give to farting on a public bus.
Thing #3: As someone who has an admitted predatory nature, and someone who also understand and takes responsibility for this, it has to be said that many of the Modern Pagan Spiritual Constructs have… very, very little to offer me. (Unless I wanna be shamed, then SCORE BABY!) You will never, ever hear me say “Im a PsiVamp” or that “I have a Vampire Soul” or any of those labels that get thrown about, but that is because I have come to a much deeper understanding of who I am than most people ever get to have. I have a much deeper understanding of the processes that are triggering this seemingly crazy “Vampire stuff” and… well, it’s an easy word to pin a lot of this stuff on, even if it is not very exacting. I would say that a more accurate term would be that there is a shifting happening, where more people are being brought into contact with the more “Infernal” strains of spirits and gods, and having no real idea what the fuck is up, they locate the VC, and shit goes downhill from there because as I have said before, the VC is full of “Teh Stupid.”
But the “Things” these people are experiencing is not as cut and dry as either side is making it out to be. And that is… an extremely frustrating thing to be in the middle of while people argue over your head about things neither one of them have *actually* gone through.