Archive for the ‘sacred space’ 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.)

My Polytheism: Contemplative Solitary Monastic Practice   2 comments

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My meditation and lectio divina corner at the Hermitage. Photo by Ilana Hamilton.

My new post on Medium is now published!  It started out as a list of my contemplative practices, but then it expanded into a contribution to the My Polytheism project, which was recently launched by Jolene Dawe to celebrate diversity in polytheism.  Yay!  If you haven’t seen the blog yet, I recommend you go check it out!  I love this whole project, but especially this:

Sacred Hospitality. This is the common ground our communities need to be built around. Not same-ness. Not dogma. Not gate-keeping. Hospitality. What good is the hospitality we extend to our Spirits, Gods, and assorted Powers, if we are utter shit to our fellow humans? We have to build up. We have to be approachable. At least, I want us to be approachable. And, if you’re here, I’m assuming you do, as well.”

YES YES YES.

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.

Interview with Danica Swanson, resident hermit and CEO (Creative Endarkenment Overseer)   4 comments

The Black Stone Hermitage - The Anchoress 2Recently I was interviewed by Sarah Sadie, a former Madison, WI Poet Laureate and a student of Cherry Hill Seminary, for a class on Pagan leadership.  With her permission, I am publishing the full-length interview here.  (The photos were taken by my partner.)

Q: Coming across your work and the ideas you present online has helped move me further down my own path in the past few months. There are many points of intersection between us: polytheism (northern flavored), feminism, endarkenment, dance and music, writing, and the push-pull of needing to find streams of income while resisting the predominant job culture we are immersed in.

As a fellow traveler, I’m curious what your life path has been that has brought you to this point? Who were the people who inspired you along the way and helped you find your path?

A: The turning point for my path into Northern-centered polytheism, in particular, came when I discovered Heathenry in 2004.  I had identified as a Pagan for about ten years at that point, and had been doing a lot of reading and learning about radical-left and anti-capitalist politics, queer feminism, deep ecology, permaculture, and indigenous peoples’ sovereignty and decolonizing movements.  As part of that autodidactic process of re-evaluation, I started asking questions about my own ancestral spiritual heritage.  My ancestry is half Swedish and half German.  I thought: “Although I was born and raised in the USA, my ancestors must have once been indigenous somewhere, and there must have been some kind of land-based spiritual practice that arose from those places…”

Through that process of inquiry, I began reading Norse mythology, started researching my ancestry, started learning about the runes, and found myself embracing a devotional relationship with Skaði, the Jötunn and huntress of the Northern lands, Whom I have served faithfully for over ten years now.

I am especially grateful to Andréa Nebel of Hagalaz’ Runedance (also known as Nebelhexë) for her album Volven.  The album – which is clearly a devotional work, and which I also found in 2004 – was the first I found that catalyzed a genuine connection to the Northern deities for me.  Her song “Wake Skadi,” in particular, inspired me to take up devotional dance from the first listen.  I had found a lot of what I’ll call a “macho Viking” vibe in Heathenry, and I found Andréa’s work to be quite a refreshing contrast.

The other two albums that helped shape my early forays into Heathenry were also from German musicians: Nordland by Apoptose (a.k.a. Rüdiger), and Eliwagar by Skadi (a.k.a. Alexander Leßwing).  The latter is my favorite dark ambient album of all time, and still sounds fresh to me ten years after its release.  (Ed. note: A redux version can now be heard in full on Bandcamp!)

I bought a copy of the original 2000 release of Nordland on CD, and found myself completely entranced by the sublime, mystical music and the album art featuring megaliths and a focus on the spiritual ways of the Northern lands.

To this day, both CDs are prominently displayed in my Hermitage, and richly appreciated.

I must also mention the industrial, gothic, and dark ambient music subcultures, in which I’ve been happily ensconced since the early 1990s.  Though the main draw for me was always the music, goth-industrial culture was where I found social acceptance as a reclusive, bookish, artistic, pensive, feminist, spiritually inclined nerd.  And when I found gothic bellydance (now called dark fusion dance) in 2006, I became completely obsessed!

Other major inspirations along my path have been:

* Abby Helasdottir’s Shadowlight website
* The Jötunbok: Working With the Giants of the Northern Tradition by Raven Kaldera
* Swedish musicians Ulf Söderberg and Pär Boström
* Dark fusion dancer Ma’isah of Elysium
* A Course in Demonic Creativity by Matt Cardin – a brilliant (and free!) e-book
* Charles Eisenstein’s writings, especially Sacred Economics
* Francis Weller’s wisdom on grief (see The Geography of Sorrow for one example)
* Un-Jobbing: The Adult Liberation Handbook by Michael Fogler
* The posts and comments on MetaFilter – a great online community that I’ve followed for more than ten years.  I’m especially grateful for the emotional labor thread of July 2015, which is my favorite thing ever on the Internet, no exaggeration – and I’ve been online since 1993. (Ed. note: There is also an annotated, and nicely organized, condensed version of the thread.)

I could go on and on with this list, but I’ll stop there in the interest of space.

Q: I’m interested (since this interview is for a class in leadership, after all) in your thoughts around community and leadership. Does the pagan community (as if that is a singular entity!) need leaders? What does leadership look like? Do you consider yourself a leader? How do you define community for yourself, how do you find it, and where do you find leaders?

A: To my mind, leadership in Paganism is most fundamentally about influence and reach, so leaders can be found in many unexpected places.  One certainly needn’t be a High Priestess, Archdruid, published author, workshop instructor, or elder to exercise influence.  Having a sizable blog audience or social media following is one form of leadership, for example, and this is true whether or not it involves any formal organizational responsibilities, and whether or not such influence is actively desired, sought out, and/or cultivated.

By this definition, I’d say I serve as a leader – “serve as” being the operative phrase there.  I describe myself as resident hermit and CEO – Creative Endarkenment Overseer – of The Black Stone Hermitage, which is a leadership and service role, though a rather unexpected, unsung, and tongue-in-cheek one.  Others have described me as a kind of Pagan anchoress.  It’s not a role that puts me in the spotlight, which suits me just fine, as I’m a cave-dweller at heart who savors the silence and the shadows. I’m deeply introverted, yet I feel a strong – even irresistible – call to a monastic path of service.  I host visitors regularly at my Hermitage, which is one way of honoring my calling to contemplative life and spiritual reclusion while serving the gods and my community.  I do venture out once in awhile to serve, though.  I built a shrine room for Skaði and held space for others to honor Her at the first Many Gods West conference in 2015.

It’s not through Paganism that I’m best known for my influence, however, but through the work I’ve done as founder of Creating Livable Alternatives to Wage Slavery (CLAWS) and original designer of the website at whywork.org.  I founded CLAWS in 1998, and over the years I’ve received many appreciative letters about that project and its successor, Rethinking the Job Culture, which I founded in 2010.

I appreciate, respect, and crave good leadership and explicit structure in Paganism – especially after having experienced the limitations of radically inclusive groups that operate by what feminist Jo Freeman rightly calls “the tyranny of structurelessness.”  Freeman argues convincingly that there is no such thing as a truly structureless group, and that even groups that disavow explicit structures nonetheless structure themselves, albeit informally and covertly.

I’d rather have structures clearly spelled out, for a whole host of reasons – one of which is to give recognition for excellence where it’s been earned, especially with respect to uncompensated emotional labor.  Good leaders aren’t flawless, of course, but they do vast amounts of work – usually unpaid – and catch most of the grief and criticism, too, sometimes just by happenstance of being the most visible or well-known voice of their traditions.  And most leaders take on countless behind-the-scenes tasks such as cleaning up after the big event is over, attending sensitively and diplomatically to the needs of people under stress, or keeping track of all the details necessary to organize meetups, to take just a few examples.  As a feminist, I would like to see those people – and those forms of emotional labor – honored and appreciated, appropriately and visibly!

I think Paganism – and our culture in general – stands to benefit from feminist efforts to raise awareness about the value of emotional labor.  One of the reasons I’ve appreciated the hermit life is that I’ve experienced it as a way of reducing the burden of uncompensated, unreciprocated emotional labor – disproportionately borne by women – in our culture.  The Black Stone Hermitage is a vessel I use to help me extend this benefit to others, by providing a space that is consciously designed to dial down this burden.

At the Hermitage, I’ve got built-in limits to growth, not only because of the size of the physical space I occupy or my desire for solitude, but also stemming from the nature of the work I do.  I almost always work with one person at a time, which permits me to keep my focus person-centered and contemplative.  Should the deities I serve make it known that it would best serve Them, it’s possible that the Hermitage will eventually be shaped into more of a collective effort, which might then call for greater structure and additional leadership roles.  But as far as I can tell, the responsibility for shaping the future of the Hermitage is, and will remain, mine and mine alone.

Nonetheless, the life I live would be untenable without extensive community support.  I find that the heart of community is in relationship – and it is relationship that sustains me, in all kinds of ways.  As I have often said, my haven of sacred solitude is made possible only by a web of thriving community relationships:  family, friends, readers, visitors, Patreon supporters, deities, spirits, farmers who feed me, and so on.

Q: Going on my gut, I was interested in endarkenment before I knew there was such a word. How did you discover this concept and what does it mean to you? I have seen some very unflattering definitions which equate endarkenment with religious fundamentalism—this seems fear-based and misguided to me. What is your take, and do you feel you have to win converts to the idea, or help steer the conversation?

A: Sacred endarkenment, to me, is a concept and a way of being that provides a necessary counterbalance to our culture’s over-emphasis on enlightenment, transcendence, “rising above,” and so on.  I’ve often been reminded daily in my practice that the gods and spirits dwell in the soil, mosses, and rot beneath our feet just as much as they dwell in the clouds and stars above us, and we forget this to our peril.  Despite popular belief, darkness doesn’t necessarily mean evil or negativity – in fact, dark places can be sources of great richness, alchemy, and incubation.  I now describe the Hermitage as “a contemplative polytheist sanctuary creating atmospheres of sacred endarkenment” in honor of this truth.

I first encountered the term endarkenment in an essay by Michael Ventura, and although he used it in an unflattering way, I latched on to the word itself – I loved it immediately, and felt a strong instinctive urge to claim it as a source of empowerment and wisdom.  I was raised in a New Age family, and had experienced first-hand the failures of empathy and errors in perception that could result from a heavy emphasis on “positive thinking” and other forms of saccharine sweetness in spiritual work.  In a way, you could say my New Age upbringing primed me for a darker, more chthonic path.  Dogma can be just as oppressive when it’s presented as “love and light” as it can be when it shows up in less culturally sanctioned ways.

As a culture, most of us have learned to hold ourselves at a certain distance from what we call the “negative” – pain, struggle, suffering, conflict, grief, mourning, despair, anger, and rage, for starters.   Yet there is bittersweet medicine to be found in the “negative” when it is courageously faced and honestly addressed, especially when witnessed by one’s community.  This is the medicine of sacred endarkenment, and the skills needed to find and integrate whatever must be faced, accepted, and released are a form of emotional labor.

Later on, I discovered several feminist writings on endarkenment by Gloria Orenstein (Reweaving the World), Molly Remer (Endarkenment), Camille Maurine (Meditation Secrets for Women), and Lauren Raine (Endarkenment: The Dark Goddess in Art and Myth), all of which helped me claim and affirm my own path.

Alchemically speaking, there’s no doubt in my mind that the gate that revealed the path of sacred endarkenment to me was opened through my experience with grief.  In 2007, my marriage ended in an excruciatingly painful way.  I lost not only a 14-year relationship I cherished and relied upon, but my home, my health insurance, my savings, and an entire circle of friends.  The grief process that followed this uprooting just wrecked me.  It was like nothing else I’d ever experienced, or even imagined I could feel, and the worst part was that, due to my circumstances at the time, I was forced to wade through it largely alone.  For the better part of a year, a “good” day was one in which I could get through an entire hour without thinking about suicide.  And for several years after that, I felt like a mere shadow of my real self, as I painstakingly rebuilt my life, bit by bit, from the ground up.  Catherine MacCoun, in her book On Becoming An Alchemist: A Guide For the Modern Magician, describes this as calcination (“the substance is burned until nothing remains but ashes”), and it happens at the initiative of the spirit.

Throughout that grief process, what I needed most deeply, but never found, was a safe place to take my grief – a place where it could be ritually received, accepted, and witnessed on its own terms.

We have so few places in our culture where it is acceptable to grieve this way.  This is especially true if we’re not grieving a death, but something like a divorce, or something more ongoing and intermittent such as Earth grief.  There is enormous need for grief ritual lurking under the surface of our daily lives, and sadly, this need usually goes unmet.  When people do not have space to grieve, it is not only they who suffer, but their communities.

One of the reasons I started the Black Stone Hermitage was to provide this kind of space for others who are grieving, in the hopes that they might somehow be spared the worst of what I went through.  I wanted to provide a place of respite – a leisurely place, where visitors aren’t expected to be “on,” paste on a happy face in the name of “staying positive,” or otherwise hold it together.

Paths of sacred endarkenment teach us that genuine positivity emerges as a felt bodily experience, and that the way for this experience opens through allowing grief and other “negative” emotions  the opportunity to move through the body unimpeded.  This movement can happen through yoga, dance, or shedding tears, among many other ways.  Our bodies register and remember pain and grief we’ve experienced, and if we give them the chance and trust our embodied wisdom, we can process and release this pain and grief, and thus move toward deeper integration of our losses.

I create atmospheres of sacred endarkenment and write about the concept not to win converts, but because it moves me, and because this is one of the most effective ways for me to be of service.  I’m confident that others who are drawn to darker paths will discern the truth and appropriateness of the concept for themselves.  Far from religious fundamentalism, my role is not to convince anyone, but to walk my creative path of service with discernment and integrity.  In order to do that – in order to fully embody the role of Creative Endarkenment Overseer, with which I have been entrusted – I am asked to relinquish control of the process, and trust the gods and spirits to guide me.  Camille Maurine and Lauren Roche have written that:

“Creating is not about control, but about sensing what wants to happen and participating with that movement…Your creativity is a flow that cannot be forced – but it can be tended.  When you are in the creative streaming of your own life, you sense that “yes, this feels right,” even or especially when it is challenging.”
(Meditation Secrets For Women, p. 254)

Tending to that creative flow is one of the best ways for me to connect with the divine and receive guidance along my path.

That said, I am happy whenever my work reaches people who find value in it, and I would certainly like to see more respect given to those on darker paths.  I hope that the work I do, however small-scale it may be, will make a contribution to that effort.

Q: If I understand rightly, you named your home the Hermitage, and within that space you have both a Temple and a Psychomanteum. The idea of making space, and making place, appeals to me. One form of leadership is holding space, after all. Is there a difference between those two ideas for you, space versus place? What do these different spaces or places that you have created mean to you, and what are your hopes for them for the larger community?

A: Yes, my 550-square-foot live/work studio serves double duty as both my personal living space and the space for the Black Stone Hermitage.  I mentioned above that I am sometimes called a Pagan anchoress, since the spiritual service work I do – creating atmospheres of sacred endarkenment – is so deeply driven by the space in which I conduct this work.  Places come to hold emotional and spiritual resonance through visual, auditory, spatial, architectural, and olfactory cues.  At the Hermitage, I combine these elements creatively to create atmospheres that alter awareness in ways that facilitate incubation, meditation, leisure, devotional dance, grief processes, inner silence, and other needs that too often go unfulfilled in a culture that is obsessed with productivity, control, and achievement.  Without regular opportunities to slow down and spend time in spaces of silence, reflection, and meditation, it’s hard to maintain a deep contemplative and devotional practice.

Inside the small place I call the Hermitage, I maintain an even smaller space that I’ve named the Black Tent Temple.  Of necessity this is a very tiny and confined space, but it serves its purposes quite well.  Contained within the boundaries of this space – which are marked with sheer black curtains that I draw shut whenever  the space is occupied – is a psychomanteum.  A psychomanteum is a darkened, enclosed chamber, with a chair and a mirror placed opposite the chair, that is designed to facilitate contact with spiritual forces.  It is inspired by the work of Raymond Moody, and it’s sometimes called a portal, lair, spirit room, spiritual incubation chamber, or oracle of the dead.

There has been quite a bit of interest from the larger community in the Black Tent Temple as a concept that can be adapted to work in many different places.  The first Black Tent Temple I know about, outside my Hermitage, was built with my awareness and blessing by Priestess Gerrie Ordaz at a Pagan event in August 2015.  I encouraged her to take the idea and run with it.  Several others have contacted me or commented on my blog posts to express their enthusiasm as well.  As I mentioned earlier, women have so few spaces in our culture to find sacred endarkenment and relief from the demand for unreciprocated, unpaid, unappreciated emotional labor, so I’m unsurprised that most of the interest I’ve seen so far has been from women.  I do take pains to make it clear, however, that the Black Tent Temple welcomes people of all gender identities, and from anywhere on the gender continuum.

I’d love to have a place for the Hermitage that provides a subterranean place to build the Black Tent Temple (as that was my original vision), and offers a way to maintain a clearer separation between my living areas and the spaces I make available for the use of visitors.  But for now, all of the spaces must coexist and overlap.  When I originally received this vision in 2011, and asked for guidance on how to implement it from Those I serve, the reply I received went something like this:

“Build it right here, and start right now.  To the best of your ability, embrace the limitations of this space, and design the Hermitage where you already live.  Document the process, too – write about it, and get those writings out there however you can.  Don’t wait for the ideal subterranean location; just do the work you’ve been assigned.  Trust that when the time is right, a more appropriate place will be found for you to do this work.”

So that’s exactly what I did.

Q: The arts are clearly very important to your life and to your work, particularly music and dance. Can you talk a little bit about what role(s) music and dance play for you both in your spiritual practice and more broadly?

A: I mentioned above the broad influence of gothic/industrial culture on my life.  Dark ambient music, in particular, is central to my life and work, as anyone who knows me will tell you.  I’ve been a die-hard fan of the genre (which is a subgenre of industrial) since the early 1990s.  I write about dark ambient regularly through recommendations I make on social media and my Bandcamp profile, on Pinterest, and through articles I’ve contributed for music zines.  I also have a book manuscript in the works, for which I am interviewing musicians, label owners, and longtime fans.  Dark ambient music – which has been called “music you can’t dance to,” which I find quite amusing – inspires my dance projects, facilitates my meditations, accompanies my rituals and offerings to the gods and spirits, and deepens my creative flow as a writer.  As you might imagine, my specialty is using dark ambient music to create spaces of sacred endarkenment.  In recent years I’ve developed a music consultancy project called Chthonic Cathedral, through which I offer my services to ritual planners, meditation groups, yoga teachers, and others to provide customized playlists of dark ambient music to suit their needs.  (Images I designed for this project, with mix titles, can be found on Pinterest.)

I also find inspiration in musician Pauline Oliveros’ concept of “deep listening.”  To me, deep listening means learning how to hear not just with the ears, but with the whole body, and in connection with the deities, spirits, and the ground of one’s being.  For me, dark ambient music both facilitates and richly rewards this deep listening.

I’ve been a dancer since my adolescent years.  Dance – and especially dark fusion dance, which Tina Frühauf has described as “decolonizing bellydance” – is a form of prayer and service for me, and an embodied way of knowing.  Currently I have two ongoing dance projects: Shrine of Skaði, which is focused on devotional and ritual dances inspired by the Jötunn who is closest to my heart, and Drinking the Tears of the Earth, which is focused on lamentation dances – performed to dark ambient music, of course – as embodied expressions of Earth grief.

Shrine of Skaði is only active in the darkening days of fall and winter, when the tides of energy lend themselves best to shadow work and themes of descent.  Drinking the Tears of the Earth is a year-round project.

Q: Reading your blog, and the comments of others who have interacted with you, I’m struck by the seamlessness of your life and spirituality. You really live your faith. It seems that you thoughtfully curate your own life in order to serve both the gods and the community of people around you. Can you talk a little bit about how you go about this, and what appeals to you about such a dedicated life? Who are your models?

A: Originally I had interpreted my vision of the Hermitage as a kind of nunnery, albeit one that didn’t resemble any monastic order I’d ever heard about.  I’ve learned a lot from Pagans and Heathens who write online about monastic life.  I knew I wanted to find a sustainable way to live that deeply integrated my daily activities (including dance and dark ambient music) and my contemplative polytheism, but the only examples of this sort of integration I had found were in monastic communities run by Christians and Buddhists.

Yet I also knew, right from the outset, that an approach to religion based in sacred endarkenment would be a fundamentally different kind of venture from any monastic path I had encountered.  I sometimes describe myself as “a contemplative polytheist anti-capitalist queer feminist witch on a path of monastic service.”  When people think of what kind of work a monk or nun might do at a monastery, though, they don’t typically imagine anti-capitalism, feminism, witchcraft, or anything associated with the dark.  Yet these are inseparable for me.  So where did that leave me and my callings, I wondered?

And although Paganism doesn’t have any kind of organized contemplative monastic tradition yet, it’s a fast-growing religious movement, and I believe that one day we will.  There are a handful of folks doing what they can to create the infrastructure to support such a tradition – in the US, the Maetreum of Cybele in New York and the First Kingdom Church of Asphodel in Massachusetts come to mind, and I recently met the founder of the Nigheanan Brighde, an order of Brighidine flametenders in Washington – but we still have a long way to go.

I started The Black Stone Hermitage after searching and failing to find anyone else who was doing anything similar.  At the moment there aren’t many polytheist contemplatives out there at all, let alone ones who center their practice on paths of sacred endarkenment or use dark ambient music as a facilitator.  Yet I was meditating, dancing, and doing yoga and ritual almost exclusively to dark ambient music, and consistently finding that this music served purposes far deeper than entertainment: it facilitated mind-altering inner journeys to realms I could not reach through any other method I’d tried, and helped me connect with deities and spirits more reliably than I’d previously thought possible.

I’m convinced that dark ambient music has a lot of untapped potential to serve spiritual purposes.  I’ve also seen quite a bit of evidence that it has a crossover appeal that I haven’t seen with industrial music in general.  I think this is particularly true for people who are into meditation, yoga, and various other contemplative pursuits, whether or not they describe themselves as Pagan.  But most of those folks don’t even know the dark ambient genre exists, so I hope the work I do at the Hermitage will help make them more aware of it.  Judging by the reactions I’ve seen in response to this music during rituals and yoga classes, I think it’s accurate to consider this a form of service to the gods and the human community alike!

Q: Maybe because of or emerging out of this seamless meeting of faith and life, you are well-known for encouraging resistance to and questioning of job culture and the idea of “earning a living.” Money is a topic that divides the pagan community.  Some people see money as the root of evil (almost literally in some cases) and others see money as another form of energy to be worked with. I’d like to hear more about where your ideas are at this point around this topic, and what your experience has been.

A:  For me, money is primarily a means to an end.  It is certainly capable of serving sacred purposes, but the usurious money system we have now, based in interest-bearing debt, makes that extremely difficult for most of us.  For the vast majority of people, the money system we have creates an experience of scarcity, and requires wage labor for subsistence.

As Charles Eisenstein writes:

“Why do we want to create more jobs?  It is so people have money to live.  For that purpose, they might as well dig holes in the ground and fill them up again, as Keynes famously quipped…Wouldn’t it be better to pay people to do nothing at all, and free up their creative energy to meet the urgent needs of the world?”
(Sacred Economics, pp. 273-274)

Indeed!  And as a quote of mine (prominently featured on my Patreon page) reads:

“I am a conscientious objector to enforced wage labor.  I firmly believe that requiring people to ‘earn a living’ through wage labor is a violation of the spirit and a form of structural violence, no matter how widely condoned and culturally sanctioned it may be.”

I am fortunate to have already acquired most of the skills and supplies I need to bring my full vision of the Hermitage to fruition.  What I don’t have, but need most, is extended time away from the need to do wage labor for subsistence.  In a culture that requires every able-bodied adult to “earn a living” (I always put that phrase in quotes to emphasize its absurdity), very few of us ever find enough freedom from wage labor to make a full-time monastic or artistic life possible.  Over the long term, I hope to decolonize my time and provide for my needs without wage labor as much as possible, and to help make this possible for others as well.  One question I use to guide this process is taken from the writings of Ethan Miller: How can we progressively create the conditions in which we no longer need jobs for subsistence?

Right now, as I write this, I earn my living as a house cleaner.  I’ve started a Patreon page to support my Rethinking the Job Culture project, and have been encouraged by visitors to start one for The Black Stone Hermitage also.  I am working on it!  It takes time to build a support base through Patreon, however, so for the time being, my creative and service work remains relegated to the margins of my life.

For now, I am in search of a day job that will permit me more free time and energy to write and carry out my service work.  It has always saddened me that the vast majority of artists, and others called to lives of community service, have few other options but to seek wage labor for subsistence.  I can’t help but think about all the art, music, dance, and spiritual service we are collectively missing out on. This is one of the reasons I’ve been a staunch supporter of a Universal Basic Income for 20 years.  It’s exciting to see UBI gaining ground these days – it can’t possibly come soon enough for me!

Q: Finally, what is next for you?

A: For starters, I have two book manuscripts in the works that I hope to finish writing within the next few years.  The first is called On The Leisure Track: Rethinking the Job Culture.  The first chapter can be read on my Rethinking the Job Culture blog, and I’m planning to submit the final manuscript to Gods & Radicals, as they have already expressed strong interest.  The second is Endarkenment: The Esoteric in Dark Ambient Music and Culture.  I work on the manuscripts whenever I can, but they’re proceeding at a glacial pace because of the aforementioned need to “earn a living,” which leaves me with precious little time and energy for writing.

I also have plans in the works to make a series of photos and videos featuring the work I do at the Hermitage, centered on the theme of sacred endarkenment, in order to reach folks who can’t visit in person.

For the longer term, I am seeking a more appropriate space for the Hermitage, so that I can expand my service offerings in ways that honor my deeper callings.  When I say “deeper callings,” I mean it literally, as well as figuratively!  Currently, since the Hermitage “lives” in a studio unit on the seventh floor of a building, I am unable to take advantage of the unique acoustic and geomantic properties of subterranean structures to facilitate my work.  The Hermitage has been arranged as evocatively as possible within the constraints of my situation, but if I am to embrace the deepest of these callings to service, I will need to find a subterranean space – probably a basement – for the Hermitage.

Other “stretch goals” for the future of the Hermitage include working with my official tea consultant David Galli, in consultation with a guided meditation specialist, to improve the tea meditation offerings…and if I am really fortunate, to one day build a full shrine room or sanctuary garden for Skaði, featuring a statue of Her.  (I’ve been so inspired by the statuary and cave shrines at The Grotto!)

And finally, thank you for the thought-provoking, inspiring questions!  Best wishes with your own work.

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!

Endarkenment Redecoration Project   4 comments

In the Winter Solstice spirit of embracing the darkness and the longest night of the year…

Inspired by dark ritual ambient music, dark fusion dance, and the deepening of autumn and the coming of winter, here are some photos from the Oct. 2013 Endarkenment Redecoration Project at the Hermitage in downtown Portland, OR, USA.  This is my newly redecorated studio and mini temple space, where I live, work, and serve as temple keeper.  The Black Tent Temple and Psychomanteum (mirror gazing room) is now completed, and over the next few weeks I will be booking the first exploratory psychomanteum sessions for friends of the Hermitage.

This is as close as I have ever come to my dream place to live and work, and all the more satisfying because I accomplished this almost entirely with thrift store finds on a shoestring budget.

I feel so blessed to be able to live here and do this work creating sacred space for dark temple arts in service of the divine.

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The Black Stone, namesake of the Hermitage

The Black Stone, namesake of the Hermitage: a 50mm black obsidian sphere, with two smaller black obsidian stones alongside it. The stone is my teacher; every day I bow into deeper service to it.

One side of the meditation and ritual dance space. In the background, behind the dark ambient shrine, is the kitchen.

One side of the meditation and ritual dance space. In the background, behind the dark ambient shrine, is the kitchen.

A framed mirror and Hermit-themed tarot art in the entryway to the Hermitage.

A framed mirror and Hermit-themed tarot art in the entryway to the Hermitage.

The sanctuary area behind the entryway, featuring shelves with shrines. Beside the shrines is the new psychomanteum (incubation space/mirror gazing room.)

The sanctuary area behind the entryway, featuring shelves with shrines. Beside the shrines is the new psychomanteum (incubation space/mirror gazing room.)

A close-up of the dark ambient music & dark art shrine, looking into the kitchen.

A close-up of the dark ambient music & dark art shrine, looking into the kitchen.

The meditation and ritual dance spot. On the right is a bookshelf with belly dance instructional DVDs and tea books; on top of the bookshelf is my ancestor shrine.

The meditation and ritual dance spot. On the right is a bookshelf with belly dance instructional DVDs and tea books; on top of the bookshelf is my ancestor shrine.

A gothic-style mirror draped with black fringe framing an end table.

A gothic-style mirror draped with black fringe framing an end table.

Looking into the entryway from the dance area. Great view of the Hermitage library. The black curtains can be drawn shut on all sides to provide a sense of enclosure in the sanctuary area where the shrines and the psychomanteum are located.

Looking into the entryway from the dance area. Great view of the Hermitage library. The black curtains can be drawn shut on all sides to provide a sense of enclosure in the sanctuary area where the shrines and the psychomanteum are located.

The door to the new psychomanteum – a portal or spiritual incubation space, a.k.a. mirror gazing room. I will be scheduling the first exploratory sessions very soon!

The door to the new psychomanteum – a portal or spiritual incubation space, a.k.a. mirror gazing room. I will be scheduling the first exploratory sessions very soon!

Framed art at the Hermitage – H.R. Giger #312, “Biomechanoid Landscape,” and Todd Lockwood, “Hell Friezes 1: Cerberus.”

Framed art at the Hermitage – H.R. Giger #312, “Biomechanoid Landscape,” and Todd Lockwood, “Hell Friezes 1: Cerberus.”

Framed art at the Hermitage – a beatific bellydancer (artist unknown), and a promotional poster from the very first Raqs Oubliettes event (2011) at the Lovecraft Bar.

Framed art at the Hermitage – a beatific bellydancer (artist unknown), and a promotional poster from the very first Raqs Oubliettes event (2011) at the Lovecraft Bar.

The Hermit shrine in the sanctuary area, directly in front of the psychomanteum.

The Hermit shrine in the sanctuary area, directly in front of the psychomanteum.

The futon loveseat at the Hermitage. It can be pulled out into a full-size bed.

The futon loveseat at the Hermitage. It can be pulled out into a full-size bed.

The tea ritual area at the Hermitage, featuring a new table with adjustable drop-leaf sides. Very nice when I want to free up more room for dance practice!

The tea ritual area at the Hermitage, featuring a new table with adjustable drop-leaf sides. Very nice when I want to free up more room for dance practice!

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Winter Solstice 2012 Collage Art: Envisioning the Hermitage   Leave a comment

This collage took shape during my Winter Solstice ritual yesterday.  I’m very pleased with it!  Rather than add a lot of commentary about the creative process and the meanings of the images, I will simply let it speak for itself:

Winter Solstice Art 2012