Religion

Doing My Job as a Priest

Image by Justin Ornellas

A friend of mine has been facing repeated heartbreak as he tries to get a fledgling relationship off the ground. We talked recently and he asked me, “Why do I have to keep paying in tears and pain for the sin of desiring romantic human companionship? Sometimes I feel cursed.”

This led to a conversation:

Me: Do you ever talk to your spirits?

Friend: Other than an aimless “why?” screamed towards the Heavens, no.

Me: Might not be a bad idea.

Friend: Why? You think I’m cursed?

Me: No, I don’t. If I’d felt that I would have done a ceremony for you already.

Friend: I don’t think I’m cursed either.
Just unhinged.

Me: The spirit world has a way of unblocking things that are blocked and pointing out things that aren’t easy to see. That’s the reason I suggest it. Gently, of course, with with total respect for your own freedom to do as you see fit spiritually :)

Friend: How should I begin? I need answers with this thing. I’m losing it.

Me: I would begin by just going to a quiet place and talking to them. Bring a gift, even if it’s just water or a few coins. Ask them for their guidance and listen with an open heart.

They may ask you to make changes or to do something. If you feel comfortable with what they say then do it. If you make the changes they tell you to make you will see the ripples of it across your life.

That is my experience.

Friend: Did you sense something? Hear something? Like how did you recognize the guidance?

Me: I think it’s different for every person. I wouldn’t expect a voice to whisper in your ear (might be a bad sign if it does). I feel it in my heart.

Friend: LOL
I’m going to the Beach this afternoon. What kind of offering do you think I should take? Pennies to throw into the water? I’m honestly clueless about these things.

Me: I think pennies are a great idea.

I may no longer run a temple, lead many public ceremonies, or even have a clear sense of whether the gods exist outside our heads… but I’d like to think I’m still doing my job as a priest for those who need it.

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Religion

It is not so easy to hear the gods

Photo by Felix E. Guerrero

Photo by Felix E. Guerrero

It’s hard to hear the gods.

It’s easy to hear the whispers of our own wants and fears. These are the first voices when we turn inward, and the second, and the third. We’ll gladly give them the masks of gods because we are in love with them. We love our wants because they tell us we’ll get everything we wish for with just a little time, just a little faith, maybe a dash of determination. Our fears tell us that nothing could be different than it is, that it would be too dangerous to change anything—and we love that too. So we live our lives passively, reassured, and if we remain unhappy we whisper, “everything has a purpose.”

What do the gods truly say? Often they are silent. They know that if they spoke we would not listen, and gods do not do pointless things.

They are silent, because they see that we prefer the company of wants and fears, wants and fears, and who goes to a house uninvited?

They are silent, simply because they have seen so much. They know that, irrespective of our individual pains, the world remains a glorious place.

When I was younger I went for esoteric practices. I sought visions and prophesies and messages from the gods. This is the most dangerous of all sciences because it is the most enchanting. To pursue myth means to open up to an endless field of imagination, where every tree talks and every rock has an ancient spirit—each of them ready to tell you the grand significance of your daydreams. The more extravagant a vision is, the more we like it. But extravagant visions are the ones that mean the least.

I learned to read cards, and spoke with startling clarity (because I spoke of wants and fears). I learned to sense spirits, and choose the right offering for each one, and hear them speak softly in my ear, always of wants and fears. I did the most demanding and far fetched meditations from the Himalayas and from the Middle Ages, and I got the vision I sought, a vision of my wants triumphing my fears.

Today I rarely practice the esoteric arts. When I do it’s more for the simple joy of it. It’s the way you read an old, favorite book: you aren’t surprised by the ending, but there’s a certain pleasure in hearing the words again.

Sometimes I seem very unreligious. What good is a priest who doesn’t hear voices? Why listen to someone who doesn’t read the stars, the cards, the numbers, the smoke, the crystals or even dreams?

Even here, on the journal of my spiritual search, I rarely write about religion. It gets showy all too easily. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a pastor breathing the Holy Spirit or a Sybil breathing Apollo’s breath. The gods don’t whisper of fears and wants, they only speak of truths; and most of us, when we seek religion, are there to get away from truths.

There are useful spiritual practices, and those are the ones aimed at the self. The self is the one tool the gods gave each and every one of us, the only tool that is with us all our days and must suffer whenever we suffer. So the self has a level of trustworthiness that visions, mentors, priests and even parents cannot match. It’s dangerous to get to know yourself because there is no room to secretly doubt the things you find, even when you dislike them. You can always find another guru or chase another vision, but you cannot beg another self.

To know yourself is only half of the practice. It may even be the least important part. But whatever little bits you find, you can shine them everyday. Everyday you can polish your true self until it gleams and serves as a light, a beacon past your wants and fears.

If the gods ever speak, that might be when you’ll hear them.

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Lúnasa Days is a tale of finding yourself. It has been called “like Paulo Coelho only darker.”

Available in paperback and on Kindle. Get your copy here.

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Religion

I Like Organized Religion

Photo by Eva Ekeblad.

“I don’t like organized religion.”

Really?

There are many ways to organize something. Good and bad ways.

The alternative is disorganized religion. I’ve seen it and it’s really worse.

When you have 10 or 20 people who all want the same thing, who want to do something meaningful, it’s a shame if they can’t organize. Not organized means: no one coordinates or plans, the ones best suited to leading are afraid to be leaders, the rest are anti-authoritarian and lash out at any suggestion no matter how good.

That’s not an improvement.

Organized is helpful. Goddamn Vodou is an organized religion, and it’s just about the most open-minded and friendly thing you will ever encounter.

I love organized religion.

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Atheism, Philosophy, Religion, Spotlight

Mystery of Certainty

Atheist Witch.

This is an excerpt from an essay from Atheist Witch blog.

Some deny the reality of any experience or belief that cannot explained (but not disproved) through existing scientific frameworks, and assume anyone claiming otherwise to be either delusional, ignorant or lying. They would justify this by claiming that many people have been proven to be just that while highlighting the dangers of sacrificing “rationality” for the emotional comfort of religion.

What is ironic about this stance is that it actually shows a lot of emotionality and subjectivity.  With… pending mysteries in areas which are so fundamental, it seems silly to not even be open to the possibility of even very fundamental ideas that we have about the universe being completely turned on their head in the future.  It is also seems risky to attempt to usurp “rationality” or “objectivity.”

I personally am in the science camp. I suspect everything in our universe not presently explained by science can, at least theoretically, be explained by science one day. That’s because anything that happens in our universe, however arcane it may seem, can be observed or has effects that can be observed. With time and study we can understand any phenomena.

I believe there is nothing supernatural, period; even the mysteries of consciousness, divinity, and magic have some natural underpinning. We can understand them.

But that is an unproven philosophic position on my part. It’s a popular position today, but not the only reasonable position you can hold.

I highlighted Atheist Witch’s essay because it nicely showcases the very rational basis for maintaining an openness to the supernatural, even from a scientific worldview. There is no scientific basis for believing in the supernatural, but there is a reasonable basis for it.

This is why I can sit side-by-side with strong supernatural believers in the Hounfo, in the Neimheadh, or in any spiritual setting; I see them as intellectual equals. I consider that their belief has merit.

The full essay is titled “Embracing Mystery to Have Certainty.” I hope you will read it on Atheist Witch’s blog and let him know what you think.

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Adventure, New Orleans, The Great Adventure, Vodou

You are at a river with Legba

O koto bouke, parenn se’m pote ouvre!

“You are at the edge of a river with Legba. The river is fast, it roars over rocks. You want to cross the river, but the current is too strong. You try to yell over the river, but the rapids are loud.”

“Legba hits you with his cane.”

“He hits you hard. Papa is not fucking around. He sends you reeling.”

“You fall in the water. The river washes over you, and you flail. The current is too strong! How can you swim in this madness?”

“You gulp water and air, a rock strikes you.”

“Sputter, scramble. Stand up.”

“The water is waist deep.”

Saut d’Eau waterfall in Haiti. Credit: YoVenice.com.

This is a dream a mambo had about me in December, as I crashed into bankruptcy.

In essence, the same story I told yesterday.

I stood up, Papa. I stood up and now I must go down the river.

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Philosophy, Religion, Spotlight

He did not fear death

Photo credit: Twitter

This is an excerpt from an article by the late Roger Ebert, on the topic of his own death.

I know it is coming, and I do not fear it, because I believe there is nothing on the other side of death to fear. I hope to be spared as much pain as possible on the approach path. I was perfectly content before I was born, and I think of death as the same state. I am grateful for the gifts of intelligence, love, wonder and laughter. You can’t say it wasn’t interesting. My lifetime’s memories are what I have brought home from the trip. I will require them for eternity no more than that little souvenir of the Eiffel Tower I brought home from Paris.

…Many readers have informed me that it is a tragic and dreary business to go into death without faith. I don’t feel that way. “Faith” is neutral. All depends on what is believed in. I have no desire to live forever. The concept frightens me. I am 69, have had cancer, will die sooner than most of those reading this. That is in the nature of things. In my plans for life after death, I say, again with Whitman:

I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,

If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.

And with Will, the brother in Saul Bellow’s “Herzog,” I say, “Look for me in the weather reports.”

Many people shared a touching cartoon of Ebert’s old friend Gene Siskel welcoming him to a movie theater in the afterlife. (I shared it too.) But, like me, Ebert didn’t believe in the soul or the afterlife. He neither expected, nor wanted, an eternity of movies and seeing old friends. 

Many people ask me how I can face death—or life—with no belief in a soul. “Easily,” is the answer, but it’s hard to say. These words, from a man who has now been annihilated, express it better than I ever have. 

I hope you will read the rest of the article here.

In the last year you have helped me launch an adventure, complete a novella (currently in editing) and fund a community atelier of magic. You are the best readers in the world. Thank you. 

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Spotlight, Vodou

Is the age of the shamans dead?

This is an excerpt from a piece from a Vodou priest at Knitta Please

Working overnights are gruesome. People are different when the sun goes down. Forget phases of the moon, planetary alignments and stellar influences, people do in the dark what they wouldn’t normally do in the light of day. Without the sun to witness, as if the moon cared less, I’ve seen man, woman and child in the grips of one nighttime habit or other.  Usually, I’m pretty OK with what goes on. Usually, their glazed eyes and slurred words become a river of unconscious thought. Their babblings become a prophetic tongue, the science of decoding the pickled Pythias. 

Photo used without permission from Knitta Please.

This is how my story starts. Two young chaps come in from a night of tippling, sit down at my counter and start yelling. Working in a diner, overnight, this is common, and eyes aren’t batted at it.  I give them waters, if that could help, and take their order. Conversation changes between the two of them frequently, greased by the liquid excess pumping through their veins.

Then, as it always does in the small community I live in, they see someone they’d gone to school with. It’s-been-forever’s and It’s-good-to-see-you’s were exchanged and conversation between the two chaps stuck to that. Like two old men recounting their spent youths, these gumshoe yuppies blurted out a Schindler’s List of people they’d known, saw, fucked, or hung out with during their formative years. Then, because I was close enough to spy into their conversation, one asks me, “So, are you in school?”

The question seemed far out of understanding for me. Could they not see my age? Could they not see the transparent mortarboard hanging over my head?

As I looked up from my task at hand, I answered them, “Nope, I’ve actually already graduated.”

Next, inevitably, “So, why are you working here?”

To read the rest of the story click here. Yes, there are shamans.

From now on I’m going to publish the things I enjoy reading, so you can enjoy them too. I don’t believe in a full “reblog” because I want you to actually go to their site and learn to love them. You will always have to click over to get to the good stuff.

I don’t get reimbursed or compensated for this. I just like sharing what I love. 

I will still be publishing my own original work every Wednesday and, sometimes, more often. Now go read Knitta Please.

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