Archive for the ‘pagan shrines’ 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.)

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My Vision for the Future of the Hermitage   Leave a comment

Skadi print from Bifrost & Beyond

Skaði devotional art print by Chris of Bifrost & Beyond (UK)

Five years have now passed since I received the original vision of the Hermitage in 2011 and started this blog to chronicle the development of the vision.  Now, the time has come to take the leap of faith.   I’ve committed myself to a full-time path of creative self-employment, contemplative solitude, and service work as a polytheist anchoress – a.k.a. Pagan monastic – in service of Skaði.

Sources of support and affirmation that this is the right path for me seem to be arising just as they’re needed.  In recent weeks, the Hermitage received its first book donation to kick-start the in-house library project (thank you to Priestess Gerrie Ordaz!), and its first donation-supported shrine room art (see photo.)

The beautiful Skaði art is by Chris of Bifrost And Beyond.  The acquisition of this devotional art marks the start of a new stage in bringing the Hermitage vision to full fruition.  It’s now framed and integrated into Her ever-expanding shrine space.  Later this year, the Hermitage will be commissioning a custom devotional woodcarving of Skaði – through Chris’s Gungnir Godposts project – to grace Her shrine space.

In October I will be launching a Patreon campaign for the Hermitage.  Any support I receive beyond what’s needed to support the current space will go toward saving for a down payment on a home with a subterranean space, where I will be able to expand the services I offer.

This means that, as of October, I will have two Patreon campaigns.  On the blog for my other main project, Rethinking the Job Culture, I recently posted a personal essay, “Why I Love Patreon,” which was made possible by the support of my patrons for that project.  It’s received wonderful and encouraging feedback.  My in-person visitors have been expressing interest in supporting the development of the Hermitage in an ongoing way, and Patreon is the best platform for me to do that.  (Most of my readers follow either RJC or the Hermitage, but not both.  I write and publish under two different variations of my name, so most of my RJC readers only know me as D. JoAnne Swanson, while most who follow my dark ambient writings and the Hermitage only know me as Danica Swanson.)

As part of my preparation for the upcoming launch of my Patreon campaign for the Hermitage, I’ve put together a detailed list of all the elements of the Hermitage vision.  I’ve also done a recent interview – if you haven’t read that yet, and are interested in visiting the Hermitage sometime, please start there.  It’s the best introduction to my work that has been published thus far.

And for a visual glimpse into some of the elements of the Hermitage vision, my Pinterest boards are a good place to start.

Service Projects

1.  Non-Fiction Writing – books and essays

My primary form of sacred service is writing.  Words are magical; many doors have opened in my life solely due to my ability to arrange words in ways that move people.  As Alley Valkyrie has written:  “Words are magic.  They can hex, they can heal, they can change lives for the better and also destroy them.  They are never ‘just words.'”

Three non-fiction book manuscripts, plus many essays and blog posts on the themes of leisure and sacred endarkenment, have been assigned to me to write.

These books are Beings, and I have been told in no uncertain terms that whatever else may happen in my life, it is my responsibility to work with Those I serve to ensure that these books get written and published before my time on this Earth comes to an end.  They are:

* On The Leisure Track: Rethinking the Job Culture
* Endarkenment: The Esoteric in Dark Ambient Music and Culture
* Sacred Endarkenment

Because most of my free time since my divorce has been consumed with my business, job-hunting, and job-readiness prep work, I haven’t made anywhere near as much progress on these books as I’d like.  Now that I’ve given up job-hunting entirely, though, and am focusing all my energies on Black Stone Home Service, Rethinking the Job Culture, and the Black Stone Hermitage, I am happy that I will finally be able to make more steady progress on writing these books.

2.  Chthonic Cathedral Music Consultancy Project

Over the past few years, as word has gotten around about my passion for dark ambient music, I’ve become known as the “village dark ambient nerd.”  I provide custom themed dark ambient music playlists for events, classes, and rituals.  I can tailor these playlists around a theme, an emotional state, and/or as a devotional for a deity or spirit.  I can also suggest single tracks to help facilitate a mindset conducive to specific projects.  One attendee at a ritual for which I provided the musical playlist found out about this service I provide, and called me “Portland’s best kept secret.”

There are few things I love more than introducing people to great dark ambient music, and it seems to please Those I serve as well as my community, so this project will continue at the Hermitage indefinitely.

3.  Black Tent Temple Project

I design and create what I call endarkened meditative spaces at the Hermitage, and for others in the community by arrangement.  These spaces are designed to facilitate leisure, contemplation, and retreat…within the context of a dramatic, emotionally evocative gothic style.  The intent is to construct the space in aesthetically pleasing, inviting ways, in order to facilitate engaged religious experiences.

One element of this space at the Hermitage is the working altar upon which The Black Stone (a 50 mm black obsidian sphere) rests.  I use this altar daily for veiled meditations.  The Black Stone is the namesake of the Hermitage, and I often make offerings and prayers to it, or use it for scrying.

The first Black Tent Temple outside the Hermitage was created at a Pagan event in 2015.  In the autumn, I will be designing a custom endarkened space for a grief ritual.  This project, too, is one that I expect to continue at the Hermitage indefinitely.

4.  In-house Library

Over 900 well-loved books – many of which are long out of print and hard to find – live at the Hermitage, and thanks to the encouragement of my guests who have expressed enthusiastic interest in this service after perusing my bookshelves, I will be opening my library for community use.  Beginning in the darkening days of October, I’ll be hosting special open house reading-and-contemplation days by appointment, so that visitors can come and browse the library at leisure, relax with books and tea, and enjoy the dark ambient music, the Black Tent Temple space, and the contemplative atmosphere.  I also have a post in the works about the contemplative practice of lectio divina for polytheists, and I will be making more Sunday Shelfie and “book of the week” posts (with quoted excerpts!) to provide a glimpse of what’s available for those who can visit the Hermitage in person.

(Potential visitors should note that the space is small – it’s a 550-square-foot live/work studio.  Because of space arrangements, I will only be able to host a maximum of three people at a time; most often I have one or two.  I will not be offering lending at this time; in-house reading only.)

5. A shrine room for Skaði, and a monthly worship service

Over the 12 years I’ve worked in Skaði’s service, my shrine space for Her has grown to the point where it now occupies a large four-shelf bookcase, is spilling over, and would certainly grow to fill a full room if I had sufficient space.  I also have a box full of shrine supplies for Her that I am keeping in storage but cannot currently use due to lack of proper space.  (I did use them to build a shrine room for Her at Many Gods West in 2015, however, and plan to use them to build a shrine room for Her once again at MGW in 2017.)

I have vowed to Her that when a permanent home for the Hermitage is found – hopefully through some kind of community land trust – that allows me to build in a subterranean space, I will construct a shrine room for Her there.  The shrine space will be as magnificent and awe-inspiring as I can possibly make it.  (A friend once called me “Skaði’s PR department.”  Not far off the mark.)

As I envision it, this future shrine room will involve:

* A large statue of Her as the shrine’s centerpiece – I will be commissioning an artist for this.
* Several devotional playlists of dark ambient music (including a track called “The Hermit” by the brilliant German musician whose project is named after Her; this track was composed in 2012, exclusively for the Hermitage).
* A subterranean cave-like shrine space that can easily be kept cool, so the wintry feel can be enjoyed year-round.
* Little wall alcoves featuring miniatures arranged to depict Skaði’s myths and stories, complete with recessed LED lighting to create targeted pools of light over the scenes. (Christians do this sort of thing with nativity scenes; my idea is to do a Heathen version!  And yes, this includes the tale in which Loki makes Her laugh by tying His testicles to a goat.  Hey, it’s been illustrated before – why not?)
* Shrine supplies with themes sacred to Her – winter, snow, ice, mountains, bow-hunting, wolves, deer hide, snowshoes, etc.
* Silver thuribles (incense burners) in which conifer-based resins and incenses are burned – especially spruce resin, as spruce trees are sacred to Her.
* A mini-‘stage’ alongside or around the shrine – a slightly elevated section of flooring which can be used for devotional dance practice.
* Sheer black curtains, and  some kind of narrow hall or enclosed entryway – a transitional space through which visitors must pass before entering the shrine room.
* Comfortable spaces for washing hands, leaving coats and shoes at the door, and kneeling before the shrine.
* Regularly scheduled open house  times for visitors to make in-person offerings and prayers in Her shrine room.
* Regularly scheduled worship and offering services for Her.  For these services, which I will conduct privately (or with one or two in-person guests), I will accept petition requests from the community in advance.  I will perform candle blessings with specially anointed and dressed candles and/or make offerings to Skaði for each petitioner.

As I do in all of my work creating atmospheres of scared endarkenment, I combine visual, architectural, auditory, spatial, and olfactory elements – and sometimes kinesthetic ones, too, when devotional or ritual dance is involved – to construct inspiring and emotionally engaging religious spaces.  Skaði’s shrine room will involve all of these elements, and more.  (Maybe even tactile and gustatory elements, if it pleases Her!)

6.  Shrine spaces for Móðguðr and Santa Muerte

Though Skaði is the main deity in my devotional practice, I also have a relationship with Móðguðr, and a newer but very inspiring relationship with La Santisima, a.k.a. Santa Muerte.  Móðguðr’s shrine has been in place since 2011, and is lovingly tended year-round, though She only visits occasionally – October seems to be Her favorite month for visits.

I met Santa Muerte in early 2015, and like many devotees I was stunned by how quickly and effectively she responded to my petition.  Later that year I expanded her shrine space, and began asking her to help me attract the right sources of support for the work I do.  When the Hermitage finds its subterranean home, I have promised her that she will have a larger and even more beautiful space.

All guests at the Hermitage may make offerings to Skaði, Móðguðr, and Santa Muerte, and/or arrange for meditation time in front of Their shrines.

7. Geomancy – divination study and practice group

I’ve been studying and practicing geomancy since late 2014, and still consider myself a beginner.  If and when the time comes that I become ready to read for others, I will offer geomantic divination readings as a community service.  For now, I will be hosting a geomancy study and practice group, starting in the autumn along with my new Patreon launch.

For the future subterranean Hermitage space, I envision a cozy covered booth seating area with a table for this purpose – some kind of draped cozy alcove with padded booth seats, or perhaps a breakfast nook that will seat two or three people comfortably.  This divination space would be used not just for casting geomantic charts, of course, but also for things like contemplative practices with books, scrying, or tea meditations.

I also study and practice the other kind of geomancy – dowsing with rods and pendulums, and working to harmonize earth energies.  Inspired by the work of Alanna Moore and the book Earth Alchemy by Anne Parker and Dominique Susani, I intend to use the geomantic skills I am studying to select a geoprosperous location for the Hermitage, and for any stones that may be placed in and around it.

8. Conifer-based forest scented items – sacred smoke and aromatherapy

My long-standing adoration of conifers and their intoxicating scents is well known.  I already drink Douglas Fir and spruce tip tea, and make “deep forest aromatherapy” spritzers at the Hermitage for daily use in my home and my house cleaning business.  (My all-time favorite is a mix of cedarwood from Uncle Harry’s, and black pine from Liberty Naturals.)  I can’t stand synthetic perfumes, and in fact am allergic to many of the petrochemical ingredients.  But put me in range of a forest filled with cedar or spruce trees, and I perk up immediately.

I’d love to expand this conifer-based work.  In the right space, and with the approval of the spirits of these magnificent trees that inspire me, I envision making small batches of wildcrafted conifer goods for use at the Hermitage.  Cedar smudge sticks, spruce resin incense, pine tar salve, grand fir bath salts, sachets made with Western Redcedar shavings…I have lots and lots of ideas.  I would definitely like to make conifer-based incense myself to fill the thuribles I use for worship services, using wildcrafted and locally sourced ingredients.

I also envision the future home of the Hermitage having a conifer of some sort as Vårdträd – the  Swedish word for “guardian tree.”  I’ve been very inspired by the Swedish tradition in which a home’s sacred Vårdträd is honored, cared for, protected, and given offerings.

9. Tea meditations

The Hermitage is fortunate to have an official tea consultant who is not only knowledgeable, but is also one of the nicest, most kind-hearted people on Earth!  My dear friend David Galli, who is Head Cheerleader at the Portland Tea Enthusiasts’ Alliance and Director of Tea Education at The Jasmine Pearl, has been advising me about sourcing affordable pu-erh teas for future tea meditations at the Hermitage.  I am also discussing the possibility of digitally recording some guided meditations in David’s beautiful and mesmerizing voice, to accompany future tea sessions at the Hermitage.

This project is in the early planning stages – it’s a “stretch goal” of sorts.  Currently, I have equipment for tea service Western-style, but do not yet have proper equipment to serve tea gongfu style.  One day I hope to expand the tea offerings at the Hermitage.

10. Videos and photo shoots – shrines, tours of the Hermitage, ritual dance

Another future project that is part of the Hermitage vision involves making videos of the spaces I design.  I’ve been inspired by Silence Maestas’ Virtual Temple Project; he built a lovely shrine space for Loki, and recorded it on video for worshipers to enjoy.  If Skaði approves, I would like to make recordings of Her shrine space, complete with incense, candles, dark ambient music, and perhaps recited prayers or poetry for Her as well.

I’m also planning some devotional and themed photo shoots – a ritual for Skaði in a snowy forest, donning a cloak and lantern and embodying The Hermit from the tarot, or simply wearing modest Pagan monastic garb – robes, prayer beads, head coverings, and all.

For  quite some time I’ve been planning to make ritual dance videos for my Shrine of Skaði (devotional) and Drinking the Tears of the Earth (grief ritual) dance projects, but I haven’t been able to get far with this due to lack of time, assistance, and suitable equipment.  (I did manage to get a couple of practice videos made, but that was in 2012!)

Then, in March of this year, I was diagnosed with tarsal tunnel syndrome – a musculoskeletal injury that forced me to give up dancing for several months.  After some rehabilitative work I’m doing much better now, and have recently been given the go-ahead by my doctor to start dancing again, as long as I take it slow and ease my way back in.  My first task is to find some flexible black shoes appropriate for belly dance that will support insoles.  I’m looking at sturdy ballet flats or ghillies of the sort that are used in Irish dance.  Once I have those, I will get back on track to regular dancing.  However, it will probably be awhile before I’m able to make videos.  So I’m holding this out as another “stretch goal” project.

I am also retreating from offering any services directly related to grief work.  Recent experiences have taught me that I have a great deal of learning to do before I will be properly prepared to take on this type of work.  As always, I will take my cues from Those I serve and the feedback of my community, and it’s clear that this is not my specialty.  My specialty is in designing atmospheres and physical spaces – safe containers that can support and facilitate the grief work.  So that is where I will direct my focus.

11. Pilgrimage to Sweden – possible artist residency?

Though I was born and raised in the USA, my maternal ancestral line originally hails from rural Småland and Östergötland in Sweden.  I am planning a spiritual pilgrimage to Sweden to do genealogical research, explore the lands of my indigenous ancestors, and make offerings to the land spirits. I have musician friends to visit in Umeå and Linköping – one with whom I have a magical friendship.  I’d like to visit runestones, labyrinths, and sacred sites linked to Pagan gods, especially Skaði.  I’m looking into the possibility of doing some kind of artist residency in Sweden – perhaps linked to a Swedish Heathen group that has members interested in monastic life and contemplative practice.  And I have promised Skaði that I will model Her shrines at the Hermitage based on what I learn about Her sacred spaces in Sweden.

And that, dear ones, is my vision for the future of the Hermitage.

I also want to note that I hold this vision, and put it forth in words, with full awareness that it is the gods and the spirits of the home and the land Who direct the work I do at the Hermitage.  These visions I’ve been given are gifts – things that “want” to happen – and while I as Creative Endarkenment Overseer can help steer the process of helping them to manifest, I can’t ever be in complete control of this process, and that is as it should be.  So I approach all the work I do at the Hermitage with an attitude of trust and sacred service.  That means I accept that, while I’ve done the best I can to put the vision into words, the results may deviate from what I’ve described here.  It also means I trust that eventually the means for the Hermitage to come to full fruition will be found, even though I have been very poor ever since my divorce.

I am serving an “end” – laying the groundwork for the Hermitage to find its subterranean home for the long term – but I can’t know how that end will be attained.  It’s always possible that there will be an even better outcome than the one I’ve outlined here, and I remain open to that, even as I delve into the details of my vision.

Ultimately, the Hermitage should be a place of leisure, meditation, and sacred endarkenment – a place where visitors can truly relax, deepen their contemplative practice, and feel embraced by the divine.

Ritual for Skaði by Ingrid Kincaid   2 comments

Recently I attended a lovely and moving public ritual for Skaði by Ingrid Kincaid, The Rune Woman, held in Portland, OR. About twenty of us were there to pay Her tribute.  The beautiful altar featured two enormous raw femur bones, along with evergreen bows, firewood, a bow and arrows, fresh blood, vodka, and more. Attendees all wore head coverings in winter white, blood red, and evergreen colors.  I wore the white burnout velvet shawl I got in 2006 when I started my Shrine of Skaði ritual dance project.  It was the first piece of bellydance costume gear I ever owned, and to this day I use it only for devotional dances for Her.

I also brought along a wooden plaque for the altar made by Deb’s Den (shown in this photo of my previous shrine for Her), and a small bit of deer hide which had been donated by hunter and fellow devotee Nicholas Haney for Skaði’s shrine room at Many Gods West which I built last summer.

Through my Chthonic Cathedral project, I consulted with Ingrid to provide a dark ambient musical playlist for this ritual.  Her selections were some of my all-time favorites:

Wake Skadi by Hagalaz’ Runedance
Nordvinterögon by Ulf Söderberg
Morgonmåne by Ulf Söderberg
Vargskymning by Ulf Söderberg

Some bits that spoke deeply to me from the text of the ritual:

“In winter it is truly evident that life can only exist because of death.”

“Skaði, the taste and smell of blood are your sacraments, bright red against the white of snow. You truly understand what it means to take life in order to live.”

“I call upon you, Skaði, to remind me that I must find focus in order to take aim and hit the target.”

What a blessing it was to be able to attend my first public ritual for Her, and to have the unprecedented opportunity to consult with the organizer to provide the music for it.  What a powerful form of service it was for me, especially after ten years of serving Her through my home-based practice.  I am so grateful for this collaboration and for the magic we made.  Thank you to Ingrid, to my friends Ilana and Fjothr who attended at my invitation, and to all who honor Her as She so richly deserves.

Hail, beloved mighty Huntress of the North!

Contributions to Skaði’s Shrine Room Prayer Box at Many Gods West 2015   1 comment

MGW Skadi shrine 7RAs promised, here are the written prayers and petitions that were left in the prayer box (pictured) by visitors to Skaði’s Shrine Room at Many Gods West.

I copied these over as carefully as I could – I did my best to preserve the original titles, formatting, and spelling. There was one contribution with a signature in runic script that I was unable to reproduce as written, but the rest of the piece is included here.

Be sure not to miss “Snow in Summer” – a write-up by Fjothr Lokakvan, who was my roommate at MGW, about her personal experience meeting Skaði in the shrine room.

These are so beautiful. It’s such a blessing for me to receive and share these. Thank you kindly to everyone who contributed!

————————-

Dark cave

Torch light

Wind whistling

Narrow passage

Cold earth

Leading up

Into starlight

Upon snow

Hail Skadi

~ Rose Gwiniolen

————————-

Please, Holy Huntress,

help me learn how to hunt.

Help me learn how to survive and thrive well,

with good teachers.

Help me learn, that I may fulfill my

obligations to You.

Ves ðú hál!

S.

————————-

Hail Skadi!

Endless gratitude for loving my sister & guiding her path.

And for joining us last September.

Hail!

+ love

KellyO

————————-

Dear Skaði,

Thank you for what you’ve done.

Best,

Silence Maestas

————————-

Scathe!

Slash your way through

cold’s cares

Drive your prey

give it no rest

Unbending thews

let arrow fly

Strike unerring

heart pierced through breast

————————-

Autumn Haiku

(Contributed by Rose Gwiniolen)

People have gone

lanterns have died…

one leaf remains

~Issa

————————–

X I

it is a gift for me

this ice

this stasis

this stability

self-reliance

is the key.

Thank you Skaði!

————————-

I received one other wonderful contribution which was communicated to me verbally at the conference from someone who had lengthy meditation time in Her shrine room.  I took notes and reproduced it as best I can.  Here is a close approximation of it:

“I asked Her to warm me up, and then thought that She was the wrong One to ask.  But She corrected me, and said that just because She lives in the cold North doesn’t mean that She Herself is cold.  If you remain true to yourself regardless of external circumstances, then you remain flexible and whole, not brittle.”

“Then I asked Her about how to be a good warrior – how to stop fighting myself, and direct my aggression outward to my enemies instead.  She said:

There are no enemies.  I am a huntress, and the relationship I have with my prey is one of love.

A relationship of love between huntress and prey.  I sense in my bones the truth of this, but I don’t understand it.  I suspect I will be pondering it for many years.

Reflections on the Many Gods West conference   12 comments

MGW Skadi shrine 1RThe Many Gods West conference, and the shrine room I built in my hotel room there for Skaði, were both successful far beyond anything I had imagined. And I’m so grateful that I hardly even know where to begin.

Although I arrived home after the event exhausted from the summer heat and two nights of fitful sleep, as well as socially overloaded (this introvert isn’t used to cramming that much great conversation into three days!), it was a blissful kind of exhaustion filled with gratitude and appreciation. I started hatching plans for next year before I had even finished unpacking.

Never before have I been to an event where I, as a devotional Pagan polytheist and animist, felt so free to be who I actually am in a religious sense as well as a social, cultural, and political one. How refreshing to be in a such an accepting, respectful, affirming space with other polytheists of various gender identities, ages, class backgrounds, sex/relationship orientations, and abilities. It gave rise to an exuberance I’ve never experienced before in any kind of community space anywhere. Not in Heathen groups, magical orders, UU churches, goddess spirituality circles, deep ecology groups, or any other pagan or ‘alternative’ spirituality gatherings.

I once described myself to a friend as “basically, a radical left Pagan polytheist feminist mystic who feels trapped in a right-wing Christian corporate capitalist racist patriarchy.” To find that there is a place to gather where I don’t feel even the slightest smidgen of pressure to hide any of my religious beliefs and practice, my intersectional feminism, my opposition to coercive wage labour and support of unconditional basic income, or ANY of the work I do for that matter, is heady stuff indeed.

I once kept a fairly strict separation between my work with Rethinking the Job Culture and my Pagan polytheist/dance-related/artistic work. In retrospect I’m not entirely sure why. But for whatever reason, I went to a fair bit of trouble to maintain this separation – including using different variations on my name for each project (D. JoAnne Swanson for RJC, Danica Swanson for the dark Pagan polytheist and arts stuff.) A few years back, when I started my own business and became much less worried about what potential employers might learn about me, I finally decided I was done with all that, and began using the same author bio for each of my blogs, cross-linking all my online work, etc. Because all of these things ARE linked, for me.

So to learn that there are so many other gods-and-radicals folks out there is deeply affirming.

It was also a nice surprise to learn that there were several people I respect at the conference who had been following my blogs closely for quite awhile. I am not particularly well-known in the Pagan community and have no interest in becoming a Big Name Pagan – what introvert would want that?   But it’s great that as a blogger I can work completely in solitude, yet still easily reach folks who appreciate the work I have to offer.

And not a single person asked me what I do for a living! Not one. (This may have been because some folks already knew me as the founder of Rethinking the Job Culture and the no-longer-updated whywork.org site, but still.)

The location of the conference was convenient – just two hours from Portland by car or train. And as a non-driver who enjoys walking, I appreciated the walkability of the area around the Governor Hotel.

My only frustration was related to the summer heat, and the woefully insufficient air conditioning. The A/C in the rooms was underwhelming at best even though I kept it on its highest setting around the clock, and it was non-existent in the meeting rooms. I did request a room on the east side of the hotel in the hopes of avoiding the late afternoon sun in the west, but in the end I got assigned to a west-facing room. I am easily overwhelmed by heat, so I was uncomfortable for pretty much the whole weekend. On the second day of the shrine room I was too hot to even wear my draped layers of shrine keeper garb during the open hours – I opted for a t-shirt instead. (At least the t-shirt had Skaði’s name on it, though. And that t-shirt drew several compliments and started some great conversations, so it certainly counts for something.)

Skadi fish t-shirt

If the conference will be held at the same hotel next year (there WILL be a next year, right?), I’d love to see it scheduled at a cooler time of year, where the lack of sufficient A/C won’t be so problematic. October, maybe? Just an idea.

The other glitch I encountered was that the rooms weren’t ready at the promised time on Friday (1:00). I had arrived early in the hopes of having a leisurely lunch and getting assigned to a room well before the official opening of the conference at 1:30. My plan was to get everything unpacked and set up early for Skaði’s shrine room so that I might be free to attend either the opening ritual or Tony Rella’s 3:30 presentation on psychological support for polytheists (something I had very much wanted to attend.) As it turned out, I was unable to attend either one. I didn’t get the key to my room until 2:00, and it took me until 5:30 to get everything unpacked and set up properly for the shrine room which opened at 6:00. I barely even had enough time to eat dinner. Fortunately I had friends who were kind enough to bring me some food so I didn’t have to go out in my shrine keeper garb to get it.

And then on Sunday, I had to start packing up the shrine room right after breakfast in order to finish by the 11 AM check-out time, so I missed the morning presentation on the state of Heathenry, too.

Of course, the whole reason I was at MGW was to serve Skaði by building Her a shrine room. Everything else, I reminded myself, was icing on the cake. And there was, indeed, a lot of tasty icing on this cake: I got to see a talk on Heathen Cosmology by Heimlich A. Laguz, an ancestor workshop by Sarenth Odinsson, a talk on devotional polytheist practice by Silence Maestas, and part of Anomalous Thracian‘s talk on Religions of Relation.

So even though I missed several of the presentations I would have liked to attend (I’m especially sad that I missed John Beckett), I’m still very happy about the event in general, because I accomplished what I came there to do: host Skaði’s shrine room. And Morpheus Ravenna’s brilliant keynote address was made available in writing after the conference, which I very much appreciated since I missed out on that one too due to my shrine room service hours.

Somehow – and I’m not sure how – it managed to escape my attention that, even if I couldn’t make it to the opening ritual, I could have left an image of Skaði on the communal shrine at any point during the weekend. I regret that I was unaware of that.

I had planned to record a video tour of the shrine room, and I brought my video camera for that purpose. Unfortunately, just before I was about to pack up the shrine materials and prepare to check out of the hotel, I noticed that I had forgotten to charge the battery. And there was no time to wait for it to recharge. Wish I had thought of that earlier. Oh well. At least I managed to get some photos!  (My apologies for the poor quality of some of the photos; I chose the best one I managed to get for each angle, and some just didn’t turn out so well.  I felt it was worth including them anyway, since this was a temporary shrine and this is the only record that it even existed.)

MGW Skadi shrine 2R

MGW Skadi shrine 3R

MGW Skadi shrine 5R

MGW Skadi shrine 11R

MGW Skadi shrine 7R

MGW Skadi shrine 4R

MGW Skadi shrine 10R

A few comments about the shrine room from conference attendees:

“This is so, so beautiful…”

~ Niki Whiting

“The shrine was incredible…I was there for about 45 minutes, and really only left so I could make the keynote. It was simply a beautiful thing to have at this event.”

~ L. Phaedrus

“The shrine room was amazing to be in. It was beautiful, and I found it very restful…I think it would be fantastic if the next MGW has more such spaces! I would totally visit them. […] I did end up meeting Skadi…”

~ Fjothr Odinsdottir Lokakvan

“I was very impressed at how you managed to create the exact same atmosphere of The Black Stone Hermitage in this hotel room. I recognized the intense yet simultaneously peaceful feeling immediately. You are a powerful conductor! The shrine was beautiful, you did an amazing job.”

~ Valerie Herron

When I do the devotional work of putting together a shrine space, it’s all about atmosphere. My intent is to create an emotionally evocative atmosphere to honour the deity or spirit by combining visual and auditory elements, and sometimes olfactory elements, too, although that didn’t apply in this case. So all of the feedback is very much appreciated. (I’m open to suggestions for improvement, too!)

There were a number of plans I had for the shrine room that I was unable to implement due to the physical limitations of the hotel room space (e.g., I couldn’t move the beds to make more room in front of the shrines for people to meditate, nor could I hang curtains to hide the beds). Fortunately I managed to disguise a few of the generic-looking hotel room things where appropriate, and thus conscript them into shrine service. I draped a long blue bellydance veil and white hip scarf over the flat-screen TV, for example, which transformed it into a lovely backdrop for the main shrine.

I’m so pleased that I had the opportunity to do this shrine room. It was an honour and a privilege.  Building shrines is one of the most satisfying forms of service for me.

In addition to the organisers Niki, Rhyd, and PSVL, whose dedication and hard work made this conference possible, I would especially like to thank:

  • Arrowyn and Henry Lauer, two of my dearest friends, for hauling me and my two huge suitcases full of shrine supplies to and from the conference (and hoisting them into the car and up the stairs), for kindly bringing me dinner when it became apparent that I wouldn’t have enough time to go get it myself before the shrine room opened, and for all kinds of other logistical and emotional support throughout the conference. Not to mention consistently excellent company and conversation.  Arrowyn also told me she received some communications from Skaði during her meditation in the shrine room; with her permission, I’ll be sharing them in a separate post.
  • Heimlich A. Laguz, for a most brilliant, inspiring, and well-paced presentation of sketches toward a Heathen cosmology. The man is truly gifted. I can’t wait to read his upcoming book! In the meantime, you can read some of his Heathen mystic writings at the recently revived Elhaz Ablaze website.
  • Fjothr Odinsdottir Lokakvan, for being such a great roommate, for accommodating the shrine-space takeover of our shared hotel room so gracefully, for respectfully maintaining such a comfortable introvert-friendly silence in the mornings, for friendly and fascinating conversation throughout the rest of the conference, and for writing up such a wonderful blog post about her experience. She has many excellent writings on Gods & Radicals and her blog – be sure to check out her work, including “Snow in Summer,” her beautiful write-up about her experience of meeting Skadi through the shrine room!
  • Sarenth Odinsson (who happened to be the first person to enter Skaði’s shrine room after it opened), for bringing several thoughtful offerings for Skaði, including a small piece of deer hide sent by Nicholas Haney as an offering from the hunt. Though Nicholas had told me in advance that he’d be sending this, somehow I got distracted and forgot about it right up until the moment Sarenth showed up in the shrine room and gave it to me. When I realised what it was, I was so happy that I jumped up and gave Sarenth a big hug before I put it on Her shrine.  What a great way to start off the shrine room!
  • Nicholas Haney, not only for the aforementioned deer hide offering, but for the lovely devotional poem he wrote for Skaði, which was included in the binder of devotional art and writing placed in the alcove in Her shrine room.
  • Carl Bonebright, for another beautiful offering of devotional writing that was included in the binder for guests to read – an evocative short story called “Encounter in the Snow.”
  • Silence Maestas, for the lovely handmade necklace he gifted me (with black stones!) which now graces Her statue on my home shrine, for the excellent presentation he gave on devotional practice, and for lots of friendly conversation and camaraderie. His book Walking the Heartroad came into my life at just the right time.Skadi statue with necklace
  • Krei Obscura, for enthusiastically lending me her Skaði idol from Norway for display in Her shrine room. I loved it so much – it was just perfect!
  • Alley Valkyrie, for her many brilliant and inspiring writings (and for complimenting my Skadhi t-shirt). I’m glad we live in the same city, as I look forward to getting to know her.
  • L. Phaedrus, for joining Fjothr and I for breakfast both mornings for friendly and relaxed conversation.  I’m happy to hear that the class Phaedrus presented on working with Anonymous Beings will be turned into a blog post, as I had to miss it since it took place at the same time as Silence’s presentation on devotional practice.
  • Valerie Herron, for her encouraging words, all-around bad-ass-ness, and friendship, not to mention her helpful impromptu bindrune. The witchcraft worked!
  • Tempest and Anaar, who were so friendly and gracious when I approached them to introduce myself and thank them for their influential work in gothic bellydance, a.k.a. dark fusion dance.  I was so sad that I missed their sacred dance performance at Obsidian!  I think MGW needs a ritual dance workshop taught by these two talented dancers.  I’d be the first to sign up!
  • Alexander Leßwing, of the German dark ambient musical project named after Skadi, whose brilliant and evocative albums set the mood for the shrine room perfectly.
  • Abby Helasdottir of Gydja, whose generous donation of an exclusive track, “The Iron Pine Tree’s Daughter,” graced the shrine room so beautifully (and whom I interviewed for Heathen Harvest back in April.)
  • David Galli of the Portland Tea Enthusiasts’ Alliance, for the gift that made it possible for me to attend MGW, for bringing me a double-walled glass travel mug that was just what I needed to deliver my morning dose of lapsang souchong at the conference, and for our enduring friendship which is such a blessing and a mutual joy. David is one of my favourite people on the planet.
  • The wonderful person – I didn’t get her name, but in looking at the prayer box offerings I deduced that it may have been Rose – who spent more than an hour enjoying the shrine room, moving in that time through quiet sitting meditation to standing prayer, and then slowly morphing into beautiful improvisational dance. It was an honour to witness this process. It moved me so deeply that there were tears in my eyes, and even as I write this remembrance I am getting choked up.

And lastly, thank you to everyone who chatted with me about Skaði, visited the shrine room so respectfully, left offerings, sat in meditation and contemplation, and wrote prayers and petitions for Her. I was very moved by the whole experience, and I feel so fortunate to have been able to witness so many people paying their respects to the goddess Who stole my heart ten years ago and brought me into Heathenry.

The written offerings will be shared in a separate post.

This is long already, yet I wish I could write even more. In general I have so much writing I yearn to do, but so little time to do it, due to the many demands on my time. I’m happier when my schedule is less jam-packed, but for now it can’t be helped. At the moment I am in the midst of preparing for an upcoming tech hiring event that will mark a major career change for me, as I’ve recently finished my training coursework series in web development. Then in September I will have family visiting me at the Hermitage for the entire month. So this blog will probably be rather quiet until October.

And once I have a full-time day job – which I hope will be soon – it’s likely that progress on all of my creative projects, including the Endarkenment book manuscript, will slow down substantially. That’s fine for now, as it will permit me to focus on expanding my skills in web development, which I’m excited about…but I’m also hoping that one day, later on down the road, I will be able to do monastic community service work at the Hermitage full time, including writing, shrine keeping, geomantic divination, Earth grief work through ritual dance, psychomanteum sessions, tea meditations, and hosting spiritual incubation work via the Black Tent Temple project. I would like my religion and path of monastic service to be integrated into my daily life in a more fundamental and community-based way.

Right now the only legally recognised Pagan monastery I know about in the US is The Matreum of Cybele. There are many things about what they’ve done that inspire me. They are religious Pagans living in a convent, serving their community, and sharing the responsibilities of daily life and caring for one another in a way that (presumably) reduces the need for their members to have full-time jobs elsewhere to support the nunnery. While the plans I have for the future of the Hermitage are more focused on solitary and one-to-one service work, I do hope to integrate what I do into the community more deeply, and thereby come up with some kind of variation on the “traditional” models of monastic life that will provide a suitable shared context for the religious work I do over the long term. Community land trust? Some kind of permaculture co-op? This remains to be seen.

In any case, I may one day start a Patreon account to support this work. I love Patreon, both as a fan/supporter and as a creator. A number of my blog readers have already encouraged me to launch a Patreon account (thank you for the vote of confidence!), so it may be that by the time my life circumstances permit me to do so, the transition will proceed smoothly for the Hermitage. We will see.

One last thing I want to comment on before I close this. I met someone at the conference with whom I’d very much like to make contact again, as I really enjoyed our all-too-brief chat. She approached me outside room B in the Olympia Center after the talk by Heimlich A. Laguz on Sketches for a Heathen Cosmology, and asked if she could take a photo of the back of my t-shirt. I was wearing my Cyclic Law t-shirt – on the back it reads “obscure ambient & industrial soundscapes.” She identified herself as a goth/industrial music fan who likes to explore new music, and she wanted the URL of the Cyclic Law website handy so she could check it out later on.

Cyclic Law t-shirt

She appeared to be around my age, and she was dressed all in black with brightly dyed long-ish red hair. I complimented her on the unique serpent pendant she was wearing, and we briefly discussed dance, jewelry, the goth/industrial scene, and music.

A fellow polytheist, around my age, at a talk on Heathen philosophy, who has a history in the goth/industrial scene and likes to dance? Definitely sounds like someone I’d like to get to know.

Unfortunately I only got her first name, and none of her contact info. She may have mentioned where she was from, but my middle-aged memory is not what it used to be, so I don’t recall. And I’m not even sure about her name – I think it may have been Amanda? I did give her my card for the Black Stone Hermitage, so perhaps she will find me that way…but if you’re reading this and you happen to know who it is I’m talking about, would you point her to this post?

Thank you!  Oh, and if there is anyone else who had an experience with Skaði in the shrine room that they would like to share, I would be delighted to hear it – please comment here or e-mail me at shrine.of.skadi at gmail.

P.S. If I misspelled anyone’s name, applied any inappropriate pronouns, or botched the linking in any way, please correct me.  As I’ve mentioned, my memory is not as good as it once was.  Thanks!

P.P.S. I will be hosting a “MGW-outpost” meeting at the Hermitage in downtown Portland in the autumn, and possibly also a geomancy (divination) study group.  Feel free to contact me if interested!

Announcement: Skaði’s Shrine Room at Many Gods West   5 comments

Shrine for Skaði

A peek at my expanded shrine for Skaði

I am delighted to announce that my proposal was accepted and I will be a shrine room keeper at Many Gods West, a new polytheist gathering, in Olympia, WA this July.

I will be building and decorating a custom shrine room for Skaði in a hotel room at the conference, and I will serve as its keeper for the full weekend (pending confirmation of suitable travel arrangements).

Of course this shrine room will feature a carefully curated selection of dark ambient music, including many sublime tracks from the German project Skadi!  It will be a space for quiet meditation and prayer, set apart from the hustle-and-bustle of the conference.  My intention is for this to be a small, “homey” and intimate space completely focused on Her – as if it were a room set aside for Her in a private home, yet open to receiving visitors.  The only difference is that it will be temporary.

Aside from a few Heathen rituals in which I’ve participated, this will be the first time I’ve done the Pagan In Public thing.  I’m glad I have a few months to prepare.  I see it as part of my service role as a monastic-in-training.  This will be a high profile role for an introvert, so I expect it to be quite a challenge…but I’m excited and very happy!

Here’s the description of the shrine room I have planned:

Skaði’s Shrine Room will be a sacred meditation space designed to facilitate prayer and deeper contemplation of Her mysteries. It will be set up in a hotel room at the conference, and will be open for posted hours. It will feature shrines for Her, art displays, devotional writings, and decorations associated with Her myths – snow, hunting, mountains, wolves, etc. Devotional playlists of dark ambient music selected for Skaði will play in the background.

Shoes can be left at the entryway, and a bowl of water will be placed at the door for cleansing before entering the space. Curtains will be drawn shut; the space will have a “sacred enclosure” atmosphere.

No liturgy, ritual, or performance will take place, though offerings for Her will be welcomed. To preserve the contemplative atmosphere, distractions such as conversation and consumption of food or drink will be discouraged.

I am compiling a collection of art and short devotional writings to feature in Her shrine room, so feel free to contact me if you have something you would like me to consider for inclusion.  I am especially interested in statues and figurines.

I’m also interested in hearing about what other devotees of Skaði would appreciate in a shrine room like this, so feel free to comment or e-mail me if you have suggestions to make.

Hope to see many of you there!

Skaði’s Shrine Room: A Proposal   2 comments

Shrine for Skaði, 2011

As soon as I heard about Many Gods West, a new polytheist conference that will take place this coming summer in Olympia, WA, I knew I wanted to go. Immediately I started feeling nudges toward attending this gathering in service of Skaði, and building a shrine room there for Her. Since She has been the primary deity in my devotional practice for almost ten years now, and I have maintained a shrine “room” (well, really a section, but if I had sufficient space it would definitely be a full room) for Her that whole time, it would hardly be surprising that She might think it’s time for me to step things up a bit.

My vision of this shrine room is as a quiet sacred space carefully designed to facilitate meditation, prayer, and contemplation of Her mysteries. It features shrines for Her (of course), art displays, devotional writings, and decorations associated with Her myths – snow, hunting, mountains, wolves, etc. Devotional playlists of dark ambient music selected for Her play softly in the background.

So I asked Skaði: if She wanted me to do this, would She step in and facilitate my attendance somehow – help me write a proposal first, and if accepted, then find me a source of funding, a way to transport all the materials for putting together the shrine room, and a way to provide for my other needs as Her shrine room keeper?

I did think it possible that She might have some hesitations, especially given that the conference will take place at the height of summer. Summer is the slow season here at the Hermitage; She is usually less active in my life then, and as I’ve written elsewhere, I have often thought that one of the reasons I did not connect with Her when I was younger is that I grew up in Hawai’i. The year-round tropical weather and beaches are anathema for Skaði, Who prefers cold mountainous Northern lands. Hmmm, I thought…so maybe if I got a room with strong air conditioning for Her shrine room?  And used a lot of cool colours, like blue and white?  Might that pass muster with Her?

Apparently I needn’t have worried, though, because so far there’s been nothing but enthusiasm from Her about having an official shrine room. The ideas are coming fast and furious, and I’m already struggling to keep up: expanding my devotional dark ambient music playlists for Her, talking to artists about commissioning works related to Skaði for the event, frantically jotting down notes, and so on.

She has facilitated several new acquisitions for Her shrine at the Hermitage this winter, so I’m off to a good start in my preparations. She even inspired me to venture out to the day-after-Xmas sales to acquire specific winter-themed shrine items, something that is VERY difficult to do given my enormous hatred of shopping. (These acquisitions even included a nail polish for me to wear for the event; amusingly enough, it’s called “ice queen.” I couldn’t help but chuckle a little when I saw that. Perhaps I’m projecting a bit, but it seems to me that She has quite a sense of humour sometimes, even about the most trivial details.)

If this comes to pass, it will be a reach out into the big scary unknown for me. I am a hermit for good, sound, spiritually and artistically driven reasons. I hate to travel. (Seriously. I’m a homebody through and through.) I’m a monastic, not a priestess. I’m not a Big Name Pagan. I’ve never done Pagan In Public before. What introvert would want to take on something like that? And while we’re at it, aren’t I supposed to be concentrating on my book manuscript and ritual dance project?

Yet it’s clear that my role as a temple keeper is one of service, and despite my nervousness it makes perfect sense that She might want me to prove myself in this way before She allows me to take on the responsibility of a more permanent home for the Hermitage. So it’s not as if I can argue. Well, OK, I could argue, but I suspect that it would not be wise to do so.

So after a couple of months of intense activity, I’ve now put together a full proposal for Skaði’s Shrine Room, and I’ll be submitting it to the conference organisers soon. We will see how it goes.

Here’s a toast I wrote for Skaði. I delivered it during the Yule faining I attended in December – my first experience with small group ritual, aside from a short processional with fellow devotional polytheists a few years ago – and it was well received all around.

“Mighty huntress, snowshoe goddess, giver of cold counsel, dweller among the rocks and snowy mountains, we honour You at this darkest and holiest time of year. Guide us as we own our shadows and brave the depths of winter.”

Hail Skaði!