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NY Regional Diviner’s Conference

EDIT: The conference will be held at the Quality Inn 849 New York 52Fishkill, NY 12524 on November 29, 2014. 

As a follow up to the Polytheist Leadership Conference, House Sankofa is planning to sponsor a one day (regional) diviner's conference in November. 

The conference will be held in Fishkill, NY and will consist of a day of panels, workshops, and practica by some of the community's best diviners. 

Polytheist religions were religions of diviners, seers, omen takers, and oracles. This family of sacred arts was fundamental toward keeping the community and the individual in right relationship with the ancestors, Gods, and spirits. As we work to restore our respective traditions, likewise we must return divinatory practices to their rightful place as necessary and sacred arts. 

At this conference, we will be discussing how to do that. We will also be looking at the difference between diviners and oracles, how to work cleanly as a diviner, ethics, best practices, trouble shooting, how to ensure accuracy, self care, and more. 

If you are interested in presenting at this conference please contact me as soon as possible at krasskova at with a brief description of what you would like to present. 

If you are interested in attending, please contact me as well. There will be a $15 charge for all attendees to offset the cost of renting the conference space. 

I will be firming up the actual date of the conference this week and will post that as soon as i have the info. 

Even though this is a regional NY thing, folks from all over are welcome. We are even looking to allow people to skype in if need be. 

Stay tuned, folks. 

Two Questions on Miasma

In response to my recent post on miasma, Emily K. asked the following: 

"Two questions! First one: as someone who tends to suffer from anxiety, how should I approach cleansing? I run a big risk of getting too anxious about miasma--a catch-22 because anxiety seems to accrue it, in my experience at least. So my cleansings will start to not work, or I'll get burnt out from overdoing them, and the miasma will be the same as it was before (if not worse).

I suspect the answer lies in holding to the same ritual, having faith that it will work. I worry about practitioners who have OCD, though.

Second question: can you talk a little more about how miasma is contagious?

Those are both really good questions. Firstly, there is no need to become overly obsessed with cleansing. If you have a structure in place that you perform regularly (before attending any shrines for instance) then you should be fine for most things (exceptions like oh say Oedipus, are outside my pay grade!). It's wise to be aware of miasma, but regular, consistent maintenance is usually all that's required. Miasma is a natural thing and I think that because of that, there are some very simple ways to tend to it. Effectively, it's going to happen. You will pick up miasma. It's unavoidable because it is a natural byproduct of certain places and things. I tell people don't stress, just be mindful. Really understanding that 90% of miasma is a perfectly natural by product of a thing, for me at least, helps immensely in keeping me from obsessing about it. 

I have found that anxiety does increase miasma…it opens you up and makes you vulnerable to a lot of negative energy (including that generated by yourself). This is one of the reasons that I recommend consistent (as in daily) grounding and centering. Usually 10 mins in the morning and ten in the evening will suffice. In theory, I try to keep my home clean and uncluttered but um…in theory. It's a work in progress. 

I recommend the following in general: have a cleansing regimen (and it doesn't have to be severe) that you perform before praying or attending any shrines. (If you are a diviner, have the same sort of thing before and after clients). This can be as simple as washing hands and aspersing head with khernips. Once a week I do a serious cleansing (usually meditation, cleansing bath, smoking with certain herbs, khernips, and other sorts of purification following up with divination), usually at week's end because let's face it, even aside from miasma, we pick up a lot of psychic shit just going about our day. I don't much worry about it beyond that. If you're doing the regular purifications before prayers, and you're praying regularly you should be fine for most things. 

I also recommend seeing a diviner at least twice a year (preferably every three mos) to make sure that everything is in order and balance spiritually. If there are any ongoing issues with miasma it will come up there. 

I also think that there's internal and external miasma. If you're doing the personal work necessary for cleanly engaged spirituality, then that goes a long way toward limiting internal miasma…which I find far worse than external because it can affect our emotions (or even arise from unaddressed issues, denial, resistance to evolving spiritually) and is incredibly tenacious and difficult to remove (because i think we unconsciously hold onto it). This is one of the reasons why all the challenging internal work is so important. 

I do believe that internal miasma can be contagious at times, but external miasma is particularly so. Think about it like regular, physical dirt: if you brush up against someone who is covered with dirt, you're likely to get dirty too. Or think of it as the spiritual equivalent of the common cold. I have seen people so riddled with miasma internal and external that there was just no way they weren't contaminating everything around them. I avoid these people. In fact, I tend to instinctually avoid anyone deeply miasmic, something that has caused problems with students in the past (since part of the learning process is dealing with buried issues, dreading that up, working it out there's usually a point where students become deeply miasmic). I also think that sometimes internal miasma happens because we've exposed ourselves to a person or a thing that has put us in a headspace where we are vulnerable to it. 

This is partly why I am so incredibly careful about with whom i share ritual space. Miasma spreads. If i walk through a field of Xanthium, i'm going to come out with burs stuck to my pants. If i enter a space with people who are miasmic, the cleaner I am going in, the less miasma I pick up but I'm still going to have to cleanse when I come out. 

I also think certain types of miasma can attract negativity: energy, bottom feeding spirits--but it has to be significant and untended for this to be the case. Mostly, it impairs and impedes one's relationship with the Gods, which is reason enough in my book to deal with it!

I hope i answered your questions. I know i'm rambling a bit here (probably more than a bit) but I've never tried to parse these concepts out verbally before!

Agon to Zeus : Submission #9

Hymn to Zeus
by Edward Butler

Hail Zeus,
born of all-mighty Rhea and all-thinking Kronos,
Crete sheltered you and fostered you,
her caves and goats and nymphs,
swords and shields clashing in mock combat,
dazzling, deranging.

Hail Zeus,
who took your sister as wife and queen,
Cow-eyed Hera, 
and set sovereignty on a sound seat,
for you took counsel from Nyx.

Hail Zeus,
who wields the lightning,
but reigns through persuasion,
who laid open the cosmos to the minds of the wise,
as Phanēs had revealed himself to you.

Hail Zeus,
father of Gods and heroes,
the blessed phallus of Ouranos consecrates your reign,
in the person of Aphrodite
and the wide ranging Sea.

Hail Zeus,
weird birthing one,
who brought forth wine from the flames,
o father of Dionysos,
and reason from the darkness of destiny,
o father of Athena.

Hail Zeus,
with your brothers joined in fellowship,
Kronian union and grace of Rhea
has dawned in your eternal Day,
and the shifting waters shine, and the gems glow in the unseen place.

Hail Zeus,
King of Olympos forever.

Weddings and the Dead

I’ve been thinking about weddings a lot recently. It’s not just that I’m planning my own wedding which is less than ten weeks away, I’m also in my little brother’s […]

Sannion’s Miasma Questions

* Does your tradition recognize pollution and how is it handled?

I actually haven't heard it much discussed in Heathenry, which is unfortunate. We have a concept of fire consecrating and purifying and of marking off sacred space but I haven't come across anything in the surviving sources specifically related to miasma. There are hints, particular in some of the Anglo Saxon herb charms and one can easily extrapolate that while it may not have been called "miasma", that there was the idea of spiritual contagion. Mugwort or even the nine herbs charm is noted as being used for clearing this type of thing. 

I hadn't given it much thought myself in practice until I helped prepare my father's body for cremation. It was a holy thing, the proper thing to do but midway through I became intensely aware of the miasma on me. From that day on, I started paying attention. (This also drove home the fact that miasma is NOT 'sin.' I think that's where a lot of folks get hung up. It's not sin and there's no moral judgement on most types of miasma. 

* Is pollution only relevant in certain circumstances (i.e. when entering sacred space and dealing with certain gods) or is it something that needs to be dealt with across the board, including in our regular, daily lives?

Personally, I really, really think it's something we should be mindful of in our regular, daily lives. Pollution is one of the things that can dramatically impact and block one's "signal clarity," and spiritual discernment. It blocks us off from clear communication with the Gods and can, I believe, leave us open to spiritual and psychic ills (think of what would happen physically if you didn't ever bathe for instance. It's the same sort of thing). 

In many respects, miasma is inevitable. This is why technology existed amongst our polytheistic ancestors for cleansing it away.  If the regular cleansings aren't enough, then there's divination to figure out what needs to be done, but I've found that regular attention to this goes a long way 

* What ritual technology does your tradition have for dealing with this and what do you think someone just starting out should do and know about this?

We have a number of herbal combinations and charms recounted in some of our lore for using smoke to cleanse. There's also purification by sacred fire (I've used this myself, adapting it to use modern hand lamps to run fire around myself safely). Living with a Dionysian as I do, i've learned a few other things too, like the application of khernips. I also think that while a lot of our sacred lore and practices may not have been recorded, we can find an awful lot of information in folk lore. I have a fair knowledge of conjure work, and some of the charms and practices seem to me to be specifically focused around keeping clean and ridding oneself of malign influences. This is something that can be adapted. 

For me, I do regular cleansings as part of my work and I keep a strong eye on myself so I am aware of when I fall into miasma -- and really, when we are crossing the boundary between the sacred and profane, this is inevitable. It's something to deal with as a matter of course, like washing your hands before dinner. I make liberal use of khernips before and after rituals and fire cleansings too. I think part of the practice of consecrating a space with fire blessing that is drawn from Anglo Saxon lore involves consciously ridding what will be ritual space from any miasma. 

* Is pollution physical or strictly spiritual? Is this even a useful dichotomy to entertain?

I think with the case of miasma, it can occur on either level or both. I don't maintain much dichotomy here -- i'd be curious as to how others might answer this question. I do the physical cleansings, with often include a spiritual component and have never parsed it out beyond that. I think that we are physical creatures so there's always a physical component, an interface to what we do. 

* What are some of the consequences of paying too little or too much attention to it?

I think it can open a person up to spiritual, psychic, and sometimes physical illness. It cuts us off from clean communication with the holy. it impacts signal clarity and discernment. it can damage our luck and worst of all we become a carrier for the contagion because that's something I haven't heard discussed too often: miasma is contagious. 

come be part of this discussion--i'd love to hear everyone's thoughts on this. 

Zeus Agon – Submission #8

Hymn of Zeus
by Melia Brokaw
I am the wind in your hair
I am the storm cloud
I am the rumbling thunder
I am the lightning lit sky
I am the eagle on the mountain
I am the bull with crescent horns
I am the light of day
I am the pure white lily
I am the ram in rut
I am the snake in the pantry
I am the defender of the hearth
I am the unknown visitor
I am the oak on the plain
I am the guide of guides
I am the keeper of the jars
I am the shield of all who ask
I am the god who speaks with wisdom
Who made the seasons cycle
Who knows of oaths, silent and spoken
Who sees the thread before it’s cut
Who aspired and defended
I am the spark, the matrix, the beginning
I am eternal


Lughnasa – Festival of the Harvest

    Lughnasa is also called Lughnasadh, Lunasa, Brón Trogain, Lunsadal, Laa Luanys, Calan Awst, and Gouel an Eost, and Alexei Kondratiev conjectures that the Celts of Gaul may have called this celebration Aedrinia (Kondratiev, 1998). The many names of the holiday show it's pan-Celtic character, and demonstrate that it could be found across the Celtic world. Several of the names for the holiday are references to the beginning of autumn or of the harvest.
    The most well known Irish name of the festival, Lughnasadh or Lughnasa, can be broken down into Lugh Nasadh and translated into either Middle or Old Irish as the assembly of Lugh or the funeral assembly of Lugh. The connection to a funeral assembly undoubtedly references the belief that the celebration was originally created by the god Lugh as a memorial for his foster mother, Tailtiu, after her death, and the assembly of Lugh is thought to refer to the many athletic games and competitions associated with the harvest fairs that occurred at this time.
    The other Irish name, Brón Trogain, is usually understood to mean "Earth's sorrow", with the implication of the weight of the harvest, and is seen as a metaphor for birth (MacNeill, 1962). Brón means sorrow, grief, burden, or lamentation. Trogain not only means earth and autumn but also female raven, so it could be translated as "Sorrow of the (female) raven". Additionally Trogan is associated with childbirth through this expression "used as an imprecation [curse] troigh mhna troghuin foruibh `pangs of a woman in childbirth" (eDIL, n.d.). This name for the holiday is mentioned in the Wooing of Emer: "55. To Brón Trogaill, i.e. Lammas-day, viz., the beginning of autumn; for it is then the earth is afflicted, viz., the earth under fruit. Trogam is a name for 'earth.'" (Wooing of Emer, n.d.). MacNeill suggests, based on passages from the Acallamh na Senórach, that Brón Trogain was the older name for the holiday which only later came to be known as Lughnasa.
    Of the four fire festivals of the pagan Irish Lughnasa has some of the least mythical associations. It appears only once in the Lebor Gabala Erenn, as the date that the Fir Bolg invaded Ireland (MacNeill, 1962). It's celebration is mentioned in at least two other places: the Wooing of Emer and the Birth of Aedh Slaine. The Wooing of Emer passage has already been quoted above and refers to the holiday as the beginning of autumn and a time of fruit. The second reference says: "For these were the two principal gatherings that they had: Tara's Feast at every samhain (that being the heathens' Easter); and at each lughnasa, or' Lammas-tide,' the Convention of Taillte." (Jones, n.d.). This places Lughnasa on a level of equal importance with Samhain and describes it as a time of community gathering.
    In modern practice Lughnasa is celebrated on August 1st, however there is evidence that the date of Lughnasa would actually have represented the starting date of a series of festivals and fairs, rather than a single one day celebration with harvest fairs associated with Lughnasadh, called Oenacha which themselves may last for several days, appearing as late as August 12th (MacNeill, 1962). In modern Irish the word Lunasa means both the first of August and is the name for the entire month of August. There are some hints that the dates may be hard to pin down because they were originally based on a lunar reckoning that is now lost (MacNeill, 1962). It is generally agreed though that no harvesting should be done before the correct date, represented by Lughnasa, and that to harvest before Lughnasa is both bad luck and the sign of a bad farmer or poor housewife (Danaher, 1972). This folk belief persisted even into the 20th century and indicates the strong connection between Lughnasa and the harvest.
    There are several themes surrounding this celebration that include the mundane, the spiritual, and the blending of both. Lughnasa celebrates, at its core, the beginning of the harvest and the new abundance of food being gathered; because of this it is strongly associated with the cooking of specific foods that represented the harvest, especially porridge and bread, often with fresh seasonal fruit being incorporated (Danaher, 1972). There is also mention of cows being milked in the morning and the milk used in the feast, as well as a special type of bread being made from harvested grain and cooked with rowan or another sacred wood before being handed out by the head of the household to the family who eats it and then walks sun-wise around the cooking fire, chanting a blessing prayer (McNeill, 1959). It was understood that the period just prior to the beginning of the harvest was the leanest of the year, making the celebration of fresh fruit, vegetables, and grains all the more special to the people (MacNeill, 1962). This may also be symbolically related to another legend of Lughnasa, the battle between the god Lugh and the mysterious mythic figure of Crom Dubh. Crom Dubh means the “black bent one” and he had a special day on the last Sunday of July called Domhnach Crom Dubh and a dangerous bull bent on destruction that had to be stopped to preserve the harvest (Kondratiev, 1998). Many of the myths relating to Lugh and Crom Dubh, who is sometimes called Crom Cruach, involve Lugh battling and outwitting Crom and thus insuring the safety and bounty of the harvest; in some cases this theme is given the additional layer of the defeat, sacrifice, consumption, and then resurrection of Crom’s bull which may argue for an older element of bull sacrifice on this day (MacNeill, 1962). The Carmina Gadelica records several specific actions and charms to be done during the first harvest which expand on the importance of this turning point of the year.
    Another common practice at Lughnasa was for people to gather together outdoors at a traditional place, often with the entire community getting together, and the site chosen would not only be someplace beautiful and wild but remote enough that travelling to it would represent something of a challenge (Danaher, 1972). Other practices of Lughnasa include decorating holy wells and pillar stones on this date, and also of travelling to hill or mountaintops; all of these varied by location and indicate that while the festival itself was widespread the nature of the celebration was dependent on the area and took on a unique local flavor (MacNeill, 1962). There are references to blessing cattle on the eve of Lughnasa and of making blessing charms for the cattle and milking equipment that the blessing would remain for the year to come (McNeill, 1959). Divination was practiced, with a particular focus on the weather during the harvest and this seems to have been based on observations of the weather so far during the year and on atmospheric conditions on Lughnasa, with color and appearance of certain landmarks indicating either fair or foul weather to come (Danaher, 1972). Lughnasa was also the time in Ireland, Scotland, and the Orkneys for handfastings and weddings, or the dissolution of unions formed in the previous year (McNeill, 1959). Trial marriages of this type were used to see if the new couple was compatible; should they choose to separate after a year there was no shame in it and any child that was produced from the union would be ranked with the father’s legal heirs (McNeill, 1959). Finally Lughnasa was also well known for harvest fairs and an assortment of athletic competitions and horse races; it is important to note that the ancient fairs, or oenacha, were not occasions of commerce but of social gathering and celebration (MacNeill, 1962). Many different types of games were held, as well as competitions of agility and strength, fire leaping, and swimming races of both men and horses (Danaher, 1972). A general party atmosphere prevailed with dancing and music, storytelling, feasting, and bonfires (Evert-Hopman, 2008) Overall it can be gathered from a wide understanding of the various Lughnasa customs that this celebration was one based on the gathering together of the community to celebrate the fresh abundance of a new harvest with joy and enjoyment. People gathered to reinforce and celebrate the bonds of community through marriages and social mixing, and to strengthen and honor the bonds between the people and the spirits of the land and the gods through decorating wells and standing stones, the re-telling or re-enactment of mythological tales, acts of blessing, and ritual.
    It is unknown now exactly what pagan religious ceremonies may have been held on Lughnasa but there are several deities that we do know are associated with this holy day. The most obvious deity associated with Lughnasa is of course Lugh, who battles with Crom Dubh and is also said to have instituted the games to commemorate his foster mother. Tailtiu herself could be another deity associated with Lughnasa, as could the goddess Aine who in some mythology is connected to both a three day period during Lughnasa and to the mythic figure of Crom Dubh as his consort during this time (MacNeill, 1962). Another goddess associated with Lughnasa is Macha, one of the Morrignae, who some believe raced the king’s horses on Lughnasa; whether or not this is so there is evidence of a long standing celebration of Lughnasa at Emain Macha and the surrounding areas in Ulster (MacNeill, 1962). The harvest itself may also be connected to the Cailleach, as it was a common custom to associate the last sheaf in the field with the Cailleach; however this may be more appropriate later in the harvest season at Samhain (Danaher, 1972).
  Lughnasa has a rich history. Although in modern paganism Lughnasa is often not given great significance in Irish paganism this holiday was very important indeed and was celebrated with weeks of fairs and festival games and with special foods. It was a time of community togetherness, marriages, and reciprocity with the Gods and spirits. Studying the folk practices can give us both a greater understanding of how this holiday has been celebrated throughout the years but also give us material to work with in reconstructing modern practices.

Danaher, K., (1972). The Year in Ireland; Irish calendar customs. Minneapolis: Mercier Press.
Evert-Hopman, E. (2008). a Druid's Herbal of Sacred Tree Medicine. Rochester: Destiny Books
Kondratiev, A. (1998). Apple Branch: a path to Celtic Ritual. New york: Citadel Press.
MacNeill, M. (1962). the Festival of Lughnasa. Dublin: Oxford University Press.
McNeill, F. M. (1959). the Silver Bough, volume 2: a calendar of Scottish national festivals, Candlemas to Harvest Home. Glasgow: Maclellan.
The Wooing of Emer (n.d)
Jones, M., (n.d.) The Birth of Aedh Slaine. Retrieved from

Zeus Agon – Submission #7

by Melia Brokaw

Lightning Lord
Oaken One
Horn Crowned
Dusty Traveler
Household Guardian
Pantry Protector
Gracious Father
I honor you.

Answering Mary Beth’s Ancestor/Lineage questions

A couple of weeks ago, Mary Beth asked some very insightful questions on my blog about ancestor work. I 've been holding onto them until the Polytheist Leadership Conference was finished and I wanted to take the time to answer them in depth. Today is the first chance I've had to do so. 

Mary Beth asks: "Knowing you all are extremely busy right about now, sometime in the future, would you be willing to blog about how you honor your ancestors of lineage(spiritual and artistic), and if it's not uncomfortable, share an idea or picture of what a shrine would be?

Also, as an artist, do you have a conscious, intentional relationship with your creative/artistic daemon, or do you feel that doing the work is enough? What might such a practice look like?"

Those are really good questions and I had to sit back when I first read them and think long and hard. I've never actually talked about this part of my practice in any depth with anyone and to be fair, it's something that I myself am still developing.  My ancestor practice is divided into three parts: blood and adoptive ancestors, spiritual lineage, artistic lineage. This latter group have become more and more important over the past couple of years as I've resolved much of the pain locked up in my retirement from ballet and as I've begun to paint and explore photography. I also had a series of powerful epiphanies last year where I realized how much i owed many of the dancers I include in my artistic lineage. It's really because of them that I not only survived, escaped a very stultifying home, but also that I gained the groundwork as a devotional polytheist. I learned the nuts and bolts of devotion and how to endure the ongoing process of transformation inherent in spiritual work. For me, that is not at all insignificant. So, how do I integrate all of this into my regular ancestor practice? 

Well, with both my spiritual and my artistic lineages, I began by giving them each special sections of my ancestor shrine (which takes up the better part of a room in my home). For my spiritual lineage, I put photos of my deceased elders, images representing those too far back in the line to have photographs, this representing priestcraft, divinatory arts, shamanism. I have, for one of the traditions into which i've been initiated, my lineage written out and this I recite with prayers daily. I also make regular offerings. 

For the artistic shrine, I honor two groups of people: ballet dancers who inspired me when I danced, and the operatic castrati. For the latter group, I have a period lithograph, and a couple of photocopied paintings of famous Castrati (no photos exist, it was too early. The first of my artistic lineage to be photographed in her prime was Fanny Cerrito, who was dancing at the height of her career when the daguerreotype was introduced). For my dancers it's a bit different. 

I began with Anna Pavlova. She was the reason I began to dance, and a bio of her life was probably the most influential book on me ever. It kindled my passion for ballet. I tracked down original post cards from Imperial Russia with images of her dancing. These run between $20 and $150 (though a signed one can be in the thousands. Mine are not signed) on today's market. They were put out as publicity images by the Maryinsky theatre. I have ballet ephemera (old programs, a card someone wrote to her niece talking about seeing Pavlova dance, etc) and i had these all nicely framed and hung by that part of my shrine. Then I turned to the second dancer who dramatically inspired me: Olga Spessivtseva (sometimes simplified to Spessiva). I did the same in terms of finding original images but here I coiled do one better. She is buried about 45 minutes away from where I live so I and a friend made a pilgrimage there two years ago (I need to go back). It took us awhile to find the Russian Orthodox cemetery and longer to locate her grave, but we did and left offerings and later installed a memorial to her on my shrine. Ballet is a lineage art, the tradition, choreographies, customs, and protocols are all passed down dancer to dancer, teacher to student. To honor them, as well as to respect my own small place in that lineage meant that I ought to be honoring their predecessors. 

I began seeking out images for the dancers that inspired Pavlova and Spessivtseva, most notably Marie Taglioni (I have a newspaper clipping advertising her performances from early 1800s). I added images for Pierina Legnani, who revolutionized ballet technique, Mathilda Kchessinskaya, Olga Preobrajenska, several lithographs of Fanny Essler, Carlotta Grisi, Fanny Cerrito. I know my way around this lineage. When i watch a ballet being performed, I'm not just paying attention to the ballerina dancing a particular role *now*, i'm mentally placing her in a line of all the dancers to have performed that role back to the time the ballet was choreographed. When I recently saw "Sleeping Beauty" danced by the NYCB, I enjoyed the bluebird variation and connected that in my mind to Enrico Cecchetti, the first to perform it when the ballet was created, and that tied me to Pavlova and Spessivtseva and indeed a whole generation of Imperial dancers, because he became a noted ballet master, and that tied me to the ballet russe for the same reason, which led to Balanchine who came from the Imperial school through the ballet russe and to my teacher and first director who trained as Balanchine's school….to me. That framework and understanding is first and foremost the basis for my interaction. Knowing my ballet history too allows me to pinpoint with absolute specificity how each of these women changed the face of their art. I honor male dancers more obliquely only because while working in the field, it was specifically female dancers - being one myself-- from whom i drew the most inspiration and into whose roles I hoped to step. 

For some of of the 18th and early 19th dancers, like La Camargo (who shorted her skirts to show the ankles and took the high heels off her shoes so she could showcase her jumps and intricate footwork; in the late 1800s Virginia Zucchi would repeat this with the Russian ballet, giving us the short ballet skirt that is now de rigieur) there weren't even really lithographs available. I had to look long and hard for an authentic image, rather than a photocopy of Camargo. (photocopies are ok, but I really wanted something more authentic). I finally hit gold when I discovered tobacco cards. Up through the 1930s, many tobacco companies included novelty cards in their tobacco packs. A German company named Garbaty came out with a line of "Famous Dancers," which included Marie Camargo and other very, very early ballet stars.  They seem to only showcase female dancers, but they have a broad array, including a drawing of an Etruscan dancer, a Greek dancer, an ancient Egyptian dancer which allows me to include representations for the ancient side of the linage on my shrine too. I did have to stop and think where to put some of these images because so much dance goes back to religious expression and ritual that I wondered if they could rightly be included in my spiritual lineage shrine, but then I figured that the modern dancers, while many like Preobrajenska, Pavlova, Spessivtseva to name a few, thought of their work as a spiritual vocation, just as many likely did not and best to give them their own space. 

Here's one of my recent acquisitions, a photo card taken prior to 1910 (it had to be taken before Pavlova left the Maryinsky), showing her in "Swan Lake". I haven't looked up yet who is partnering her. The card, much to my chagrin, only reads 'anna pavlova with her partner"! 

Here below are a few of the Garbaty tobacco cards. Pictured here are top row left to right: Carlotta Grisi in "La Peri,", Marie Taglioni in "La Sylphide" (Taglioni's style came to define an entire genre of romantic ballet), bottom left to right: La Camargo, Olga Spessivtseva (possibly in "la Nuit,"). 

(I like the images, but they aren't necessary for this work. I just really like them and they help me connect better just like having a bit of oh i don't know, rabbit fur might help one connect to the spirit of rabbit more effectively. This is a personal thing. If i were more aural, I might play ballet music for them (I do this for the castrati i honor). I tend toward the kinetic and visual though so for me, having authentic images, connects me to that time and place and that point in ballet lineage, and the women themselves.)

I have rekindled, as an offshoot of my devotional practices, an interest in reading about ballet history and some of these famous dancers. I go to ballet more frequently now, even slowly do some of the basic exercises that once formed so much the warp and weft of my existence. I talk about them when people ask, and I venerate them, making offerings and prayers just as I would with my spiritual or blood/adopted ancestors. I find they are very present when I paint so when I engage in creative activities, I often do so as a way of honoring them. My practice here is still growing and I think it was one of the things that led me to take up painting and photography, given that I can no longer dance (this was also a blessing from Oshun but I think there's a connection there). 

I'm in the process of redoing my shrine (I have a few recent images that I need to get framed, and I'm going to have all the little cards framed) so once that is done, I'll happily share an image of my shrine. It'll be a couple of weeks though. I just sent the first batch of images off to my framer. 

I haven't yet figured out how to honor the daemon of art…i know that I have to, even if simply in veneration and thanks for having fostered me, but that piece hasn't been given to me yet. I'm not worried. It will come and I think that developing a venerative practice for my artistic lineage is, perhaps a good start to that.  

Let’s Get the Ball Rolling

Over at House of Vines, Sannion has started a fascinating discussion about miasma and impurity. He asks a number of good and necessary questions and I'm going to work on answering a few of them here over the next week. 

I don't think we talk about how to handle miasma, what it is, why it's important to be mindful about it enough and this is something crucial to clean spiritual practice. I'm really looking forward to seeing this discussion unfold. I've written about it before, and I talk about it in my comment on his post above, which I'll copy here too: 

In response to his post, I wrote: "OMg, i’m so glad you are writing about this. I don’t think the concept of miasma is covered at all in western mystery traditions/esotericism, nor have I seen it much openly discussed in polytheist circles. I think lots of us know how to handle it personally, but I really think it’s important to discuss this across communities. There’s a Lukumi saying that when an elder dies and entire world dies with him (or her) and that is so true. We need to pass this info on, spread it about, get it out there so that our communities themselves become living libraries. For those coming into the traditions this would be a godsend, and for us a boon (*gets off soapbox* ).

I’ve written in the past briefly on miasma here. I’ve also written about the concept of ‘nefas’ here, something I think is connected to the idea of impurity.

I think the biggest stumbling block that I see some folks having around this whole idea is language. I tend to use “miasma” as a catch all for any type of spiritual contamination. I avoid the word ‘impurity’ like the plague unless i’m dealing with folks with whom I’ve worked for years, or whom i’ve trained. The reason for this is that such a word can be very triggering. I’ve seen people really hit a wall with this. It becomes difficult to really grasp at a gut and bone level that with miasma, with this type of impurity, there’s no moral judgment in most cases. It’s a natural consequence. For instance, I attend a wedding, I have gone into a state of miasma. I help prepare a relative’s body for cremation (which I did with my dad), and I am in miasma. it doesn’t matter that I’ve done something proper, the “contagion” or “contamination” is a natural side effect. It’s not a matter of repression or moral judgement. So I try hard to use neutral language. Of course one can fall into impurity or miasma by neglecting the internal work so necessary to spiritual practice, or by blaspheming, or doing something morally wrong, but even there while the action that causes the miasma in these cases may be wrong or at least ill thought out, the miasma itself is a neutral thing.

I try to get my students incorporating regular cleansings into their spiritual practices as a matter of course. I do this as a diviner. it’s automatic and that helps take care of a lot, but I also monitor myself and check myself regularly. Sometimes we can fall into miasma unknowingly. and i’m probably rambling, but for now, this is my contribution." 

So check out his questions. I'd love to hear what everyone has to say on it. 

Also, check out wild hunt today. The Polytheist Leadership Conference,, and "Walking the Worlds" journal all got a mention. :)

70,000 year-old African settlement unearthed

Excavations at Affad 23. Image: M. OsypińskaDuring ongoing excavations in northern Sudan, Polish archaeologists have discovered the remains of a settlement estimated to 70,000 years old

The Zeus Agon is running till July 31

Hey folks, 
Just a quick reminder that the Zeus Agon is still going on. Anyone interested in submitting something has until July 31. I"ve already had half a dozen or so wonderful submissions and i'm happy to offer this to Him. 

(image by G. Palmer - this will be one of two Zeus cards that will be printed up after the Agon)

My New Mani Devotional is nearly done

I am so excited. My small Mani devotional 'Dancing in the House of the Moon" is almost ready to send to editing and formatting. I have six prayer-poems and a forward outstanding, most of which I intend to write today. 

I've wanted to do a specifically Mani themed devotional for years (as opposed to "Day Star and Whirling Wheel" which was for HIs entire family). 

This devotional will be small and if i have my way, pocket size. I've always wanted to do a pocket sized book. I do incorporate a handful f prayers and one ritual from "Day Star...." but most of the material is new, drawn from stuff I"ve written for or about Him over the last two years. 

The devotional is nebulous, really word-pictures designed to summon a sense of Him and His presence, to incite a desire to seek Him out, to prompt one's own practice.  I worried about that, that it might be too insubstantial to print, but my editor pointed out that He is insubstantial and quixotic and that every single piece I'd read to him thus far reflected Mani beautifully and that is what a devotional should do. So, if all goes as planned, and I get off my butt and finish up, this devotional should be available in two weeks or so. woo. I do love Mani so. (the image here, btw, is by Lynn Perkins. She made it as a prayer card but graciously allowed me to use it as the cover image for "Dancing in the House of the Moon" too. Thank you, Lynn). 

I'm very proud of the books that Sanngetall press has published so far.  I have an amazing editorial team and an amazing graphics designer and it's all really taken the pain out of publishing. I've been very, very happy with my other publishers and have no issue whatsoever with contributing to them again, but there's a special satisfaction in having my own imprint. 

So far, I have put out three books through them: "He is Frenzy," "Transgressing Faith," (this was actually my MA thesis) and "Consuming Flame." This small offering to Mani will be the fourth.

My next two projects after this include a devotional to Charon for Bibliotheca Alexandrina (please, folks, if you have essays and articles, don't be shy about submitting for this one. I'm still seeking material) and a book on getting started with Ancestor Veneration. This latter has been long in coming so stay tuned. 

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Walking the Worlds Journal Update

For those of you interested in possibly submitting to our new journal "Walking the Worlds", we have just posted submission guidelines and a list of upcoming themes for the first four issues. 

Unfortunately we have decided not to accept fiction or poetry at this time, but only essays and articles. 

Subscription and Advertising rates will be available shortly. 

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