Cloverleaf and Roundabout

Like last year, this year I got to Paganicon via a road-trip, and while I didn’t happen to see The Rider on my journey, I did unravel a piece of the web that I’ve been staring at for what feels like ages but has probably been around six months.

But I should probably back up a bit, and explain a couple of things before diving down the hole in front of me and urging you to follow, shouldn’t I?

2015 was a horrible year for many people, and for me it was filled with family tensions, work tensions, and religious community tensions that eventually drove me to leave the place I considered my religious home for six years.  And, after all that, came the time of No Computers, and I was driven to seeking out those I wanted to stay close to via Google Hangouts from my work laptop in between doing the things that comprise my day job, which is heavy on pointless meetings with people I don’t want to hear, much less see.

(Okay – done with the self-pity now.  I swear.)

At the time of the upheaval (last October, or therabouts), I was staring at a problem I’d been tasked to address – the untangling of a particular set of threads in the Web in front of me.  Staring wasn’t getting me anywhere, and I couldn’t figure out where I need to start, and then things blew up and I put the task aside where it sat.

And sat.

And sat, until I was smacked in the head by a not-so-velvet paw and reminded that the tangle was still there.  And, that I hadn’t said “No” when I was asked to deal with it.  And that it was going to stay right there until I figured it out.

I like to put my gods in the category of “tough but fair”, but they don’t always like to stay in that category.  This time, though, everyone took on that label, and everyone reminded me that there was a THING that needed DOING, over and over again until I finally decided to get off my ass and look at it again.  Which, I did.  I looked at it.  I walked around it, and looked at it from a number of angles, and tugged on a few things, and pushed a few more, and then sat down and stared at it again.

And then, I took a 21 hour (round trip) road-trip with my sister, and we talked the whole way.  Sometimes it was serious, and sometimes it was silly, and sometimes it would have made no sense at all to anyone listening in, but it was in the talking on the way there, and in Paganicon itself, and in the further talking on the way home that I figured it out and the threads unwound themselves as prettily as anyone could hope to see…and now they’re connecting just as they should.

It took two things, really: the realization that I am very very good at asking questions, and that the sigil I created in Thorn’s workshop is meant to remind me to Speak Up.  And once I connected those two things everything else fell neatly into place.  I am not meant to be a Hammer – I am meant to be a Lever.  I am meant to move things from passive to active.  What once I called a cul-de-sac, a parking lot, where we stop and wait and try to figure out which way to go is now a cloverleaf, or a roundabout, with exits that are there.   We’re just waking up and wondering where we are, how we got here, and why we’re in a hand-basket.

This, then, is the Introduction.

Days Upon the Year – Hymn to Set

As your Wind blows, grains of sand scour my skin clean.
I have no need for natron; I am pure, I am pure, I am pure.
As the Lands turn Red with the setting sun,
I am afire with your purpose.

Neb.y, Who Is in the Heart of the Great Houses:
I am Larger than I used to be.
I would Support the Sky for all the Gods,
I would stand at the Tip of the Barque, and
My hair is Red.

I hold my head High.
Son of Nut, Son of Geb, on This day and
On all days, you are the Beautiful Child.
And I am Hem(t)adpmt.

I am most fortunate.


The vessel where I store myself is permeable;
I want to be able to get out, should the need arise.  Mostly, though,
I am content within earthenware walls,
With lid closed tightly above me, so I don’t leak out onto the floor.

I’ll percolate in here, or maybe ripen.
The air is moist; I breathe, and my skin is still and cool.
But under there all manner of things writhe and twist, weave and twine,
And ply their limbs along my bones.

This is not a process fit for public consumption.

When all mystics speak mystic (and they do),
It doesn’t matter if they hear you scream.  They’ve been down
This road before.  Even so, shifting on an elemental level
Is not the prettiest thing they’ve seen.

And for those who have not, or can not, or will not (it doesn’t matter which),
Logic overtakes the lack of reason needed
To fold oneself in tiny squares, to remove the parts that need
Analysis, and study them.

It is an exceedingly tight fit in this jar.

Lack of reason it is, but just the same there are reasons for this;
To become, I must inhabit the parts I most dislike.
I must know them inside-out, and so I turn myself that way.
I curl into a ball and wall myself up to be cut loose.

Within the mystibabble is something worth remembering:
That this is chosen, that we break ourselves to fix ourselves,
That our heads split open to be put back, over and over again,
That transformation is a violent, gory process.

And in the end, we’re something more.

My Doorways, My Self

I didn’t expect to be addressed by the Lord of Obstacles, and yet I can’t say I was wholly surprised by it, either.

Here’s how it went: my son became interested in Ganesha when we went to an exhibit of sacred art at the Smithsonian, and so we purchased a figurine for him, along with a book containing some of his myths.  When his interest waned, he gave both the figurine and the book to me, and I made a place for Ganesha to reside near representations of my other gods…and aside from an occasional offering or prayer, that was it.

And then, I had the dream, and I changed.  And, Ganesha was in my life in a more active way.  And, while it made sense, I was still surprised because I am Kemetic, and I’d expected that Wepwawet would help me through any doorways I encountered, or past any liminal obstacles I faced.  Silly human.

The gods move as they will, after all.

One of the things I’ve come to realize about the doorways I encounter is that I’ve built most of them myself.  I’m not sure if I put them up to wall myself away from things I’d rather not know, or to stop myself from getting stuck, or why exactly they are there in the first place, but I know I placed them in my way and somehow made them incredibly difficult to open.  I know that when Ganesha opens a door so I can pass through, he’s really helping me unlock a piece of myself, and then I start to wonder about the connections between liminal work, and doorways, and monster work.

There are all these pieces of myself in various places, and I’m continually having to get to them, collect them, categorize them, and then deal with them, just as I do with my monsters.  Hell, some of my doorways have monsters behind them!  And yet, I don’t invoke Ganesha to help me deal with my monsters – his job is to help me through the doorway, or past the obstacle, and then whatever I find is mine to handle.  Judging from what I’ve read/heard, this isn’t uncommon, but I’d really love to hear from others about similar or dissimilar experiences.

My doorways, like my monsters, are yet another part of the puzzle that makes up my self.  I guess it’s too bad that this realization doesn’t really make things easier, isn’t it?


my body’s bending in the latest fashion
to this task i cannot name.
when done, i will no longer be myself,
or at least not one i recognize.
time gets funny in a cell, and with the Shift
i’m breaking out.

among the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune;
he may have said it best, but least is motion yielding.
sometimes nonsense is the better kind of sense,
especially when traveling the spaces in-between.
i am surprised at what i’ve done, and when i Wend
new doorways open.

don’t blink or you’ll have missed me;
amid the strands i’m flying low and far, tools in mind.
the sense is capturing the rhythm without undoing, but
knowing’s a forever changing thing.
when breaking builds unending walls, to turn to Blur
takes mortar from the stones.

Inknowing in these spaces is the key,
And wilding deep-set changes set you free.


I don’t often write about my coexistence with mental illness on this blog, unless it is in reference to Monster Work. I like to keep Depression fed in a different space because while I believe that all Monsters need to be fed or be fucked (and sometimes both), I don’t think I necessarily have to do that feeding and fucking in the midst of the rest of my life.

(Or, maybe that’s the way to truly recognize them as parts of me and to integrate them. Hmmm. Must think about that some more.)

Anyway, I have Depression, with a capital D, and was officially diagnosed in the first year after my son was born. Since then, I’ve been on and off medications and in and out of therapy (seventeen, count them, seventeen therapists) until I finally hit the formula that worked for me in November of 2009 – a therapist I could trust and connect with, and a medication regimen that works.

Being on medication again, and in therapy, meant that spaces in my life opened up that were formerly consumed with Depression telling me what I should be doing and how I should be doing it. I had space to breathe, and spoons, and was able to focus on things I wanted to do for the first time in year.

Things like building a religious practice.

With treatment for my mental illness and its’ attendant issues, I delved into Kemeticism (something Sekhmet nagged me about for years before I found it) and FlameKeeping, and Monster Work, and Words Mean Things. I learned how to apply the concept of ma’at to everyday life. I went to Paganicon, and did a talk on Baby Steps. I listened, and I learned, and my brain and heart became full. At this point in my life, I feel like I inhabit myself…and I wouldn’t be there now if it weren’t for the fact that I got the help I needed.

Why am I saying all of this? Well, as of yesterday, September 11, 2014, I had my last therapy session with the amazing Dr. Barb. We almost hit the five-year mark – just a little over a month short, actually. And this post, for the Pagan Blog Project, is in recognition of the fact that without her I wouldn’t be where I am.

As I push the reset button on one part of my life, I can honestly say I am looking forward in hope instead of fear. I know I can handle whatever comes; I’ve already passed through the fire and come out singed but not roasted. I am transformed.

So, here’s to the supporters out there – the quality therapists who are open-minded and don’t judge; the psychiatrists who listen and want to help us make our own decisions about medication; the counselors who fit us in when we need them. Here’s to the psychologist who takes over the client load of another and promises to help with a forward journey rather than looking back.

And here’s to Dr. Barb. Without her, I wouldn’t know what it’s like to truly live.


Catch the view with a side-light;
A ghost of a thought in a never-ending story
Can make me think that I’m not here, though
My feet are on the ground.

Hear a voice from behind me;
Turn to comment but it’s gone, gone, down in the gloaming.
I set my wandering mind to a
Riddle without answer.

I think that I can be;
I know that I can be;
I know that I will be
More than the sum of my parts.

Can I taste in the mirror
All of the possibilities of my dreaming self?
Bury my toes in the loam, and feel
My essence flow down, deep.

Can I know what my job is?
What kind of tool I am meant to be for your pleasure?
Don’t lose myself in the tiresome
Tribulation. I know.

I think that I can be;
I know that I can be;
I know that I will be
More than the sum of my parts.

When the dewdrops catch
On your glistening strands,
I lock my trust in a box and hand it over.

Careless toss of a whisper,
In a phrase that’s not meant for complex understanding;
Carry myself to each endless hole,
To somehow mend the tears.

From a glimpse, I see shadow,
And I hear as you caution me in your silent way.
But there’s pride in the endless gazing;
I cannot run and hide.

I think that I can be;
I know that I can be;
I know that I will be
More than the sum of my parts.

Kicking Myself

This morning I was catching up on posts on the forums I frequent and stopped to respond to one called For the Godbothered: Unexpected Directions. I wrote about some of the things my gods have put me through, and noted that I believe that the ends have justified the means…and then I stopped to think about someone else’s response in the same thread:

“I’ve heard a lot of stories of people who were snatched up by the gods – usually but not limited to godspouses – who then ended up either being told to leave or finding their long term relationships falling apart because it highlighted the problems in the relationship. I think it’s actually the one I’ve heard the most? Though ‘lost my job’ and ‘major illness’ are close behind if they’re not equal. I find it fascinating and sort of terrifying.

There was a discussion in the ceremonial magic blogging community a year or so ago about the dangers of summoning your HGA that suggested similar side effects, too.”

(Bolding mine.)

As my regular readers know, I lost my job in November 2013 and only just found a new job at the beginning of May. It was a grueling six months of scrimping and working odd jobs in my parents’ business to pay the bills, and being unable to financially support our son at college, and worry and anxiety. Even now, when I’ve been working for almost a month, we’re still not out of the woods – my first pay check was late, and live (not direct deposit), and we’re waiting for it to clear so we can start paying off the bills that piled up during this period. The anxiety, while lessened, hasn’t gone away completely and I don’t know when it will.

Funnily enough, if I look at the period immediately preceding my job loss I notice that I spent quite a bit of time inviting my gods to be heavier hands in my life.


I thought I’d learned to be very specific after the open-head incident. On the other hand, I’m not a fan of escape clauses…although I’m not really sure if asking a god not to turn my life upside-down constitutes an escape clause, or if it is even a realistic thing to ask. How does one even do that? “X, please transform my life but not by doing A, or B, or C,”? Seems awfully limiting to me.

So, I’m thinking and stewing a bit in my own bitter job-loss juices even though I’m not really sure what happened. I’m kicking myself for asking for intervention without first thinking it through. Based on my previous experiences, you’d think I know better.

Apparently I don’t and it’s not like I can go back and change anything anyway. Might as well make the best of it and keep moving forward.


Half shroud hangs in place.

Fair by face but not by nature;

Slow steps quickening in pace

To test the snares of jubilation.

What pitfalls lie beneath the seams

Of arid land and steaming marsh,

And will I see them through the dreams

Of teeth and breath and need, all twisting?

When flirting with the small ones Green,

I do not trust the things I’ve seen.


When aching draws me closer still

To strands that weave across the Void,

Decisions made outside free will,

All fall away – Forgotten. Lost.

I will remember declarations

Made with an unfaltering voice.

I will plunge in without regret

To depths made open through my choice.

The Sow stands proud, face to the Sun,

And eats Her Children, One by One.


I never expected to beg a plant to spare the life of someone I loved.  I also never expected that it would answer me.

In 2012, someone I care about very deeply (I’ll call them “Z”) found themselves in a pit of despair, likely related to both clinical depression and an incredible mountain of past and current family problems.  Z couldn’t find a way out and, at the time, had no “official” support network – no medications, no psychotherapy, and almost no one to speak to aside from me and one other friend.  They were desperately looking for some way to jump-start getting better that could be done on their own terms…and they found it in an infamous plant from Gabon.   I’m talking, of course, about Tabernanthe iboga.

Tabernanthe iboga is native to western Central Africa and has known psychedelic properties.  Chewing the bark of the root can cause hallucinations and visions, and it is used in religious ceremonies by practitioners of Bwiti in Gabon, Cameroon, and the Republic of the Congo (sometimes called Congo-Brazzaville).  Initiates to Bwiti take large doses of T. iboga, but it is more often taken in smaller doses for rituals and dances that take place at night.  It is also used in very small doses to promote alertness in hunting and to decrease fatigue, hunger, and thirst.

An alkaloid of T. iboga called ibogaine is used to treat opioid addiction, and there’s some data to show that it also works for alcohol and nicotine addiction.  The process goes something like this: a person enters a clinic where they are dosed with ibogaine (once or multiple times) while being monitored by medical professionals.  During treatment, they may experience nausea, vomiting, delusions, hallucinations, and other reactions, but at the end of treatment, the physical addiction the person came in with is gone.

In addition, psychiatrists and psychopharmacologists are looking into use of ibogaine in combination with intense psychotherapy to assist with Depression.  There is anecdotal evidence from a number of addiction trials with ibogaine that trial patients self-reported a decrease in depressive symptoms.  However, despite the reported benefits, ibogaine remains classified as a Schedule I substance in the United States and so treatment with it outside of a clinical trial is against the law.

There are a number of documentaries available about T. iboga and ibogaine and some address it from the perspective of its use as an entheogen while others tout its medical benefits.  Z saw one of these documentaries and was so moved by the experiences of the patients profiled in it that they started looking for more information about how it worked and trying to determine whether it would be a reasonable way to try their own depression.

Z spent nearly four months going through medical literature, and anecdotes, and websites, and documentaries before deciding that using it was a good idea, and then they brought up ordering it from Gabon.  Although I knew there was research going on, I didn’t realize how serious they were until after watching a documentary with them.  At that point, Z told me they wanted to order it and asked for my help in monitoring their progress.

When Z asked for my help, I knew almost nothing about ibogaine or how it worked, and I rushed frantically to gain some knowledge before they planned to take it.  The articles I found to read were not reassuring at all and, although I couldn’t deny that there were potential benefits, the risks seemed way too high.  I couldn’t imagine wanting to put myself through such an experience if it weren’t to either treat a serious addiction (which Z did not have) or to have a profound religious experience under the guidance of an elder in my own faith (which was also not what Z was looking for).  In addition, having used entheogens myself in the past (primarily absinthe), I felt pretty confident that there was potential for amazing spiritual backlash even though Z wasn’t looking for that type of thing.

In a word, I was terrified.

The night before Z started their process, I began to pray to Iboga.

At that point in my life, I knew how to connect with something I was deliberately growing.  Basil, and Shepherd’s Purse and Yarrow all responded well to me, but I’d never even seen Iboga let alone touched it or spoken to it.  It was Alien, and Other, and I had no idea if it would even respond to me…but I felt like I had to try.

And so, I began:
Iboga, You Who Guide and Fortify; I beseech You.  Iboga, You Who Transform; I beseech You.  Iboga, You Who Choose the Path that Must Be Walked; I beseech You.  Spare the one I love.  Spare Z, who must walk your Path for a time.  Allow Z to return to me.

I repeated it over and over the night before, in my head, while trying to connect with Iboga.  I felt nothing, but kept praying over and over:

Iboga, You Who Guide and Fortify; I beseech You.  Iboga, You Who Transform; I beseech You.  Iboga, You Who Choose the Path that Must Be Walked; I beseech You.  Spare the one I love.  Spare Z, who must walk your Path for a time.  Allow Z to return to me.

The next morning, when Z took the dose, I still had heard nothing.  Near panic at this point, I began to pray aloud while reaching for a connection with all of my self:

Iboga, You Who Guide and Fortify; I beseech You.  Iboga, You Who Transform; I beseech You.  Iboga, You Who Choose the Path that Must Be Walked; I beseech You.  Spare the one I love.  Spare Z, who must walk your Path for a time.  Allow Z to return to me.  I would beg a boon from You.  Hear me, Iboga!  Hear me, Iboga!  Hear me!

By the third repetition I was swaying, kneeling on the floor, and sweating.  And then, I felt it.  It started as a tingle at the back of my skull, and then a chill through my body, and I broke out in goose bumps.  Then nausea and I doubled over and closed my eyes.  Crouched on the floor, clutching my stomach, I saw stars behind my eyes and felt Iboga’s presence.

It is difficult to put into words how it felt to be connected to Iboga.  Time has not dimmed the experience, and I still cannot quite find descriptors that do it justice.  Where usually I stand side-by-side with plants I grow, this time I was enveloped.  Where usually I control the interaction, this time I was out of control.

Perhaps it is the way I approached the interaction; I came as supplicant rather than partner but, then again, how could I hope to be considered a partner when I had no understanding of what Iboga was?  I, who approach my gods with head held high and convinced of my own worth, humbled myself before Iboga and I am convinced that is why my request was granted.

I felt bemusement that I would want to connect with it at all, and curiosity about the fact that I was determined to try…and yet hadn’t dosed myself.  I was queried about this in different ways and it felt like an eternity was passing, though of course it hadn’t.

When Iboga was satisfied (or, perhaps, bored?) with my responses, it agreed that it would not keep Z unless Z wished to stay, and the connection broke.

Once I recovered, I spent the rest of the day intermittently checking on Z, who made it through and came back to me, although not necessarily unscathed.  I found out a few days later that Iboga had suggested Z take additional doses while mid-experience, and I am incredibly relieved that they didn’t have more to take.  It was harrowing for both of us, and while I believe Z (of course) had a much more transformative experience I cannot help but think that I learned several useful things that ended up changing me as well.  Unfortunately, those things are impossible to put into comprehensible words.

When I recently brought up the experience with them so I could write this post, they said, “…the experience at the time seems “serious” but when you’re done you realize it is all altered perception and all the answers, if there are any, come from within…”  They also noted that they wanted to write about it at one point but now don’t think they’d be able to do it justice.

I know the feeling.

*NOTE: I’ve made two edits to this entry based on speaking with Z after I originally posted.  The changes are as follows:

1. I have clarified that I knew about the research Z was doing although I didn’t realize how serious they were until the conversation about ordering it.

2. I have noted that I did watch a documentary with Z about ibogaine therapy.