Archive for the ‘black stones’ Tag

A Black Tent Temple by Gerrie Ordaz   Leave a comment

Over the past couple of years, interest has been growing in the Black Tent Temple concept I put forth on the Hermitage blog back in 2012. I’ve received quite a few inquiries about it. I encouraged anyone who was interested to take the idea and run with it, and invited them to share their results with me in words, photos, video, or whatever medium best suited them. In August of 2015, Priestess Gerrie Ordaz put together the first Black Tent Temple space outside the one at my Hermitage.

Last month, Gerrie built a Black Tent Temple space for the second year in a row at the Oasis event by Earth Traditions, a Pagan church in Chicago. I’m delighted to share her new post about it, complete with photos and the lines from the opening rite she performed. These lines were influenced by the rites of the Order of the Black Madonna:

“To the Vastness of the Holy Dark we bow down.
To the Fierce and Compassionate Darkness we bow again.”

I am also intrigued that Gerrie writes “There was a small black cauldron in which was placed black stones for people to take back home with them the blessings of the Black Tent,” as this is exactly what I have done with my own Black Tent Temple space at the Hermitage, but it’s something Gerrie and I had not discussed in advance. And I noted with similar intrigue that the Healing Shrine of Asclepios at Many Gods West last month also had a bowl of small, magically charged stones for visitors to take with them.

Check out Gerrie’s wonderful work, and if it inspires you, why not get creative and build one yourself? A basement, backyard, or even a walk-in closet (like the one I’ve used at the Hermitage for the psychomanteum/darkroom meditation space) could be a great place to start!

I am gathering material for a future website featuring Black Tent Temple spaces, so if you decide to build one and would like to share the results with me, please do!

(Photos shared here with Gerrie’s permission.)


Tea Rituals with Móðguðr, or The Path of Endarkenment   2 comments

Witches' tea partySometimes I wonder if the plants and the rocks, the minerals themselves aren’t somehow pointing the way back to our pre-Judeo-Christian roots.”

~ Frank Hadley Murphy, Tea Fried Brain: Notes From St. Camellia’s Church of the First Infusion

It wasn’t until middle age, after grieving a devastating loss, that I finally claimed the title temple keeper as mine and embraced my spiritual path as one of monastic service along what I have come to call the Path of Endarkenment.

When I look back, though, I realise that I have been taking tentative steps toward this particular path for many years, even if I was unaware of this at the time. My spiritual life is often like that: I can’t see around the corner at all, and I feel as if I’m groping around in the dark for something I know – or at least strongly suspect – must be there, yet I can only grasp at it instinctively and hope I somehow manage to get it right in the midst of my fumbling attempts. Sometimes, in hindsight, it becomes clear why something happened the way it did, and on occasion I realise I had a far better handle on things than I had thought I did at the time. But most of the time I feel like I’m just winging it and making it up as I go along, and it’s only much later that the pieces of the puzzle start to come together in a way that gives me a glimpse of the bigger picture.

Nonetheless, more and more I have the sense that this Path of Endarkenment I now walk is being carved out behind the scenes by beings far, far greater and wiser than me – one of which is the Black Stone, after which the Hermitage is named. Inspired by guidance I receive through the Black Stone (and Others I serve), I find exactly the books and websites I need, overhear meaningful snippets of conversations, meet key people, get intuitive inner nudges, and so on…at precisely the right times. The more I learn about the esoteric meanings of black stones – and in particular, black obsidian, which has quickly become my favourite – the more I find myself astonished that all of this is happening to me. When the vision of the Black Stone Hermitage first appeared in my life, I thought: “Why Black Stone Monastery? Why Black Stone Arts? Where do those names come from and what do they mean?” At first I just thought these names sounded vaguely cool and gothy, so I went with it…but I still felt kind of silly and self-conscious about it all. Even after years of calling myself an animist, it still took quite some time before I was able to embrace the idea of a stone as one of my greatest teachers.

Since then, it’s become clear to me that the names are quite significant and profound, and carry a whole host of meanings – most of which I have barely even begun to understand. This temple keeper is still very much in training.

As I’ve written elsewhere, my roles along this Path of Endarkenment involve using my writing about dark ambient music, ritual dance project, tea alliance, decorating, grief work, and other kinds of work to promote respect for the sacredness and wisdom to be found in darkness, both literal and figurative. Our culture doesn’t really “get” darkness as something that can be empowering – we tend to associate it with evil in a knee-jerk way, so we often sweep it under the rug or look the other way, rather than listen mindfully and embrace what it has to teach us.

Móðguðr, in Her tower of black stone, is another of my wise teachers along this Path of Endarkenment, and She seems to work in tandem with the Black Stone. She visits me as She sees fit, most often in October. Along with the cooler autumn weather and the darkening of the days, “active season” at the Hermitage begins in earnest this month, and things don’t start winding down until spring. Today’s tea ritual, attended (or perhaps more accurately, “commandeered”) by Móðguðr, marks the official start of active season.

When I started making tea this evening as I usually do, my conscious intention was simply to brew a cup of bold, earthy pu-erh and enjoy a tea break. Then, as She has done before, Móðguðr stepped in, and made it known that this simple tea ritual would now become Hers. I found myself lighting a candle and some cedarwood incense, cloaking myself in black velvet, setting a place for Móðguðr at the table, and cueing up the devotional dark ambient playlist I compiled for Her.

I folded my hands and sat in contemplation, then sipped my tea and drank in Her guidance…and this short prayer took shape.

Dark Lady of the Black Stone tower,
may I be a worthy vessel for Your wisdom.
Guardian of Helheim’s gate,
Keeper of underworld secrets…
…in my monastic rites of cultivation and withdrawal,
dark earthy teas and chthonic ritual ambient music open portals for You.
May my work along the Path of Endarkenment serve You with highest honours.
Hail Móðguðr!

The Hermit and the Black Stone   1 comment

Below left: The Hermit card from the Bohemian Gothic Tarot – one of my favourite cards from my all-time favourite deck.

Below right: A beautiful and well-loved 50 mm Black Obsidian sphere that is used for scrying at the Hermitage.

The Hermit and The Black Stone

I am sometimes asked: “What does the name ‘Black Stone Hermitage’ mean, and why do you maintain a page for it if it’s still in development?”

I’ve written a few preliminary thoughts about the significance of the name on the FAQ, and will no doubt write more about it in the future, but the deeper truth is mystical – the full meaning is meant to be perceived through lived, embodied experience, rather than interpreted through the narrow lens of verbal or written explanation.  Toward that end, I am planning several projects for Black Stone Arts that are intended to help me explore this mystery, including choreographed ritual dance pieces and a photo shoot wherein I will be adorned in ritual garb in the role of The Hermit from the tarot.

One definition of evoke is “to produce or suggest through artistry and imagination a vivid impression of reality.”

The imagery and words I present on this blog and its associated Facebook page are meant as first steps in evoking and bringing to life a vision I hold of a subterranean structure or architectural space that ‘wants’ to be birthed into its proper place in the world.  My intention is to put together a composite vision of this chthonic temple space designed for dark Pagans with solitary and monastic inclinations, and to gather together the right people and resources to bring it into being.

The Hermitage is a kind of “community for solitaries,” if you will.  My main task, for now, is to share elements of this vision – e.g., gothic decor and aesthetic, themed playlists featuring dark ambient music, a Moss Rock Sanctuary, the Black Tent Temple (an incubation space), a peer grief counseling service, midnight tea rituals, shrines for the dark divine and the spirits of the Underworld, serpent wisdom, dark fusion ritual and temple dance, etc. – as I continue to work toward the day when the Hermitage will find a permanent place of its own.

I trust that the rest will come when the time is right.

Hail Móðguðr   1 comment

Well, hello there, Mordgud.  (Modgudr?  Modgud?  Móðguðr?  I’ve seen many ways to spell Your name.  Henceforth I will use the Old Norse Móðguðr.)

I first read about You several years ago in Raven Kaldera’s Jotunbok: Working With The Giants of the Northern Tradition, but at that time I only skimmed, as I was mostly seeking information about Skaði.  Yesterday I once again picked up this book to read about You…and this time I knew I needed to pay closer attention, because You have made Your presence known to me, and I have a hunch that I will be encountering You more often in the future.

As one of the Rökkr or Nightside deities, it seems fitting that You – guardian of Hel’s gate and the secrets of the Underworld – would appear to me at Samhain, and give me a glimpse into the future of my Work.

Ancestor Shrine at The Black Stone Hermitage

New ancestor shrine at the Hermitage. In the small frame on the left is a photo of my late German father. In the double frame are photos of my maternal Swedish great-grandparents.

Recently I relocated and redesigned my ancestor shrine, and I immediately got the sense that I finally got the arrangement right this time, since I found myself easily slipping into trance before the shrine was even completed.  I had the sense that You were pleased with my ritual and offerings.

There is a dark ambient track I adore, and often use for ritual dance, that is named after You: Allseits’ Modgudr.  The description calls it “A heavy journey to the nethermost regions of Norse mythography” and “one of the most chthonic pieces of dark drone.”  I completely agree.  I think You knew that music like this would be one of the best possible ways to reach me.

There is very little information about You out there, so aside from consulting with my Pagan peers, I’m largely left to my own devices in figuring out how to properly honour You.  I trust You will provide guidance.

In my re-reading of what is written about You in the Jotunbok and on Your online shrine, one phrase stood out.  It had escaped my attention on previous readings, but this time it jumped off the page as if it had been written especially for me.

Your tower, it is said, is built of “black shiny stone.”

It’s hardly a coincidence that I noticed this now, is it?  After all, I recently made a commitment to design and build The Black Stone Hermitage, and even more recently created a new Facebook page for it in the hopes of attracting the right people and forms of support.

Hail, Móðguðr, guardian of the way down.  I will set an extra place at the dinner table for You and the ancestors on this dark Samhain evening.

I am a Temple Keeper   Leave a comment

Finally I am back online after spending more than a week mostly bedridden with a nasty head cold, and then – just as I recovered from the illness – another week dealing with the worst computer issues I’ve ever faced.  The power supply for my old desktop PC died, and my motherboard went kaput right along with it.  It was my only computer; I had no backup.  I had to start over from scratch and get a whole new system, buy a new copy of the OS, download all new software and drivers, troubleshoot everything with the hardware and software, etc.  Even with a friend’s help, it was almost a week before I was set up as I had been before the crash happened.

Fortunately, my hard drive was unaffected – though even if it had been, I’m pretty good about regular backups, so I wouldn’t have lost much.  I lost no data at all, and I was able to transfer all of my files over to my new hard drive.  And now I have a spiffy system with a much faster processor and more memory, which is a delight.

It occurred to me that this is the first time I’ve ever actually bought a computer just for myself and my own needs, even though I’ve been using computers regularly since the early 1980s when I started using my dad’s Commodore 64. My ex was a software engineer, so for 14 years while we were together, every time he upgraded – which was frequently, since he was a really hardcore gamer and always bought a top-of-the-line machine – I inherited his old computer. The last computer I inherited from him is dead and gone, and now I’ve acquired a nice one on my own. This feels very significant to me, in a way that affirms and strengthens my sense of self.

In fact, there is much of significance going on for me lately, especially in terms of my creativity and my inner life.

One of my friends recently remarked that, at long last, I am finally coming into my own.  I held her observation in my awareness for quite awhile, and felt the truth in it.  Now, in my early forties, I feel more like my authentic self than I ever have before, if that makes sense.  I feel mostly at ease in my own skin.  For the most part, I like what I see when I look in the mirror, even the crows’ feet around my eyes.  (After what I’ve been through in the past few years, I’ve earned every wrinkle several times over.)  My spiritual life is robust, my relationships with my gods and spirits feel more authentic, my writing has a sense of fullness and ripeness that it once lacked, and I find endless sources of inspiration all around me – even in the darkest corners and through the most trying of times.  And I feel a stronger sense of confidence about how I make my way in the world.

Back in the mid-1990s, when I was a fledgling Pagan who wanted to dress like a “real” goth/rivethead but didn’t have much confidence, I remember looking at some of my friends and thinking things like, “Wow.  I love her look.  She looks so incredibly pulled together.  I don’t think I could ever be that cool.  I’d love to wear something like that, but I doubt I could actually pull it off.  I don’t even know where to start!”

Then, later on when I discovered tribal, dark fusion, and gothic bellydance, I spent many hours studying dark fusion dancers on YouTube and blissfully absorbing every nuance about their performances – costuming, colours, choreography, lighting, music.  I developed crushes on dancers whose performances enchanted me, and put them on a pedestal.  They were glorious and magical – and far, far out of my league.  Nerdy ol’ me could never, ever hope to be as cool as one of those bellydancers.

Yet when I look back, I also remember that the 11-year-old version of me was in the gifted and talented program at school, and was also voted most artistic by sixth-grade classmates who liked the drawings I had done of horses and the Looney Tunes Road Runner.

Graduate students often suffer from something called “imposter syndrome” – feeling like they just don’t measure up, and fearing that they will be found lacking.  I sometimes struggle with a variation on that theme in my spiritual and artistic life.  I’ll call it spiritual imposter syndrome, otherwise known as “What, me?  A Temple Keeper?”  Despite my newfound confidence and strengthened sense of self, I still feel like I just do NOT know what I am doing, and that I’m just making a lot of it up as I go along, even when I get confirmatory omens and various other clear-as-can-be affirmations.  But even so, the responses I am getting from people around me these days are very encouraging, so I’m going to keep it up.  I’m getting fan letters, new Facebook friend requests from fascinating people, even small monetary donations through my Rethinking the Job Culture blog.  People I admire and respect are telling me they appreciate my writing style and my dark bohemian decorating aesthetic.  Even complete strangers are offering unsolicited compliments on my look, especially when I go out dressed in black velvet hats and scarves and wear lots of black stone jewelry. It’s an entirely new thing for me, a bookish nerd, to be appreciated in this way for my style.  I could definitely get used to this.

So here I am, years later, still no stranger to doubt and fear, yet feeling like I have somehow managed to stumble into the boots I was meant to wear all along.  And they fit perfectly, because they were designed just for me!  I’m certainly no celebrity, and I’m nowhere near performance shape, but I’ve been bellydancing for almost six years now, and my Shrine of Skaði devotional dance project is proceeding apace (even if it’s a glacial pace at times).  When I put together a costume and choreograph a dance piece to industrial or dark ambient music, I feel like I am doing one of the things I was always meant to do.  When I do devotional dark fusion bellydance, I feel that I am giving physical form to an amorphous vision that came to me long before I had any idea where all my yearnings would eventually lead.  I feel exactly the same way when I write, when I serve tea to my guests with reverence, and when I decorate the Hermitage in my favourite dark Bohemian style, among other things.  I am doing What I’m Supposed To Do.  It doesn’t even matter if anyone (including me) thinks it’s cool or not, because it’s just Right.

I am a Temple Keeper.  The Black Stone Hermitage is my home and the temple for which I am caretaker, humble though it may be.  Black Stone Arts is the name I’ve been given by my Serpent Muse to encompass all the creative and service work I must undertake to sustain the Hermitage.  This seems to be the role in which I can best serve the divine, and the role in which I will find my fullest expression of self as well.  In the future, as I understand it, it will also provide a vehicle through which I will serve my community.

In recent months – and especially after the shift to the Chinese New Year (2012 is a very auspicious year, the Year of the Black Dragon) – I have noticed that the people, skills, and material things I will need to support Black Stone Arts and the Hermitage are appearing in my life at an increased rate.  This is encouraging.

For example, silver jewelry pieces with black stones and serpents on them seem to be coming to me – often as unsolicited, unexpected gifts from friends.  I wear this sort of jewelry with pride, especially when I dance, because it embodies my commitment to my Work and strengthens my link to my gods, my spirits, and my Serpent Muse.  I rarely leave the Hermitage anymore without wearing my favourite onyx ring; if I do, I feel a sharp sensation that something important is missing.

Black stone & serpent jewelry

Favourite pieces from my jewelry collection

This takes some getting used to for me, because I’ve never been a heavy jewelry wearer (which makes sense for a lifelong introvert who doesn’t enjoy drawing excessive attention to herself).  In the past, while certain understated pieces of jewelry I occasionally wore felt more meaningful than others, I often selected my adornments for more prosaic reasons – just wanting to enhance my look.  Now it’s reaching the point where I only want to wear jewelry that furthers or is connected to my Work, and I’m quickly losing interest in wearing jewelry that is “just” for display purposes.

The links among all my various endeavours seem to be strengthening, too.  They are all part of this fledgling entity called Black Stone Arts.

There is so much about what I do – and who I am – that goes against the grain of the culture in which I was raised, and will probably never meet with general acceptance.  It’s funny…for years, I greatly feared that if I were to actually put myself “out there” – if I were to write openly on this public blog about the deep interconnections among my passions for industrial and dark ambient music, my devotional dance project, my reverence for the Tea Spirit, my interest in serpent wisdom and devotion to the dark divine, my fascination with spiritual rock and moss gardening, my interest in gift economy and radical homemaking, my desire to live in a small hermit-friendly ecovillage, and my critique of wage labour and vision of alternatives to conventional employment – I would be mocked, dismissed, made to feel shameful, criticised for Doing It Wrong, or otherwise harassed.  This was a completely rational fear, I might add, since I had already experienced this sort of wholesale rejection and criticism from people I once called friends.  (They are no longer my friends, thank gods.)

Therefore, to reveal all of this felt like a giant emotional risk for which I was not prepared.  I will readily admit that “thickness of skin” has never been one of my strengths.  I needed years and years of retreat, creative incubation, and experimentation (in complete privacy, thank you very much!) in order to develop the courage necessary to put Black Stone Arts out there in the world, naysayers be damned, and to speak out publicly about the connections among my various projects and what they mean to me.  Furthermore, I needed time and space to grieve the loss of a 14-year marriage I cherished, and to heal from a profound betrayal of trust.  Without a great deal of support, silence, and solitude – not to mention big chunks of unstructured time and leisure for contemplation and extraordinarily painful, dark emotional work – I doubt I would have been able to accomplish this.  The Black Stone Hermitage might never have come into being.

But it did.  Here I am, at long last, accepting my role, putting myself out there, and giving up the notion of trying to be someone I’m not.  I still struggle with feelings of loneliness and isolation, but I know – deep in my bones and flesh – that I am on the right path for me.  It might be a twisting path, and it isn’t likely to be met with general approval, but nonetheless, it is mine, and I claim it.  I am a Temple Keeper.

Thank you to everyone who has offered me support, encouragement, friendship, appreciation, and camaraderie.  Especially for those of us on a dark and solitary path, it means a great deal.