Monday, June 30, 2008

Juno, Goddess of Intentional Relationships

On this, the final day of Juno's sacred month, let's talk a bit about what life is like now for this particular Queen of Heaven (many of the Mysterious Ones like using that honorific, and who can blame them?).

As this month comes to a close, she finishes up one of her busiest times of the year — the month of marriage. She holds the magick of hearth, home and committed, intentional relationships as incredibly powerful and culture-changing, and when invoked during the marriage rite, couples are entering a long heritage of culture workers who changed the world through deep love and co-creation (for what is family, but a co-created grouping of people living in love, honesty, desire and deep joy). She churns these sacred spells every day all across the Earth.

Taking a page from Donald Engstrom-Reese's bios of the Mysterious Ones, I'll organize this one in a similar fashion.

Juno holds a special place in her heart for:
Italian-cut, dark, skirt and tailored jacket suits
High heels (black)
Beaded sandals
Shimmering gowns
Earrings reminiscent of celestial bodies
Bracelets, in particular golden arm cuffs
Glitter (although hers is made of comet- and stardust)
Warm summer nights
Lying in a heap of naked people, everyone petting one another
Fine pastries
Deep, dark chocolate
Latin and island men
Marble floors
A well-swept hearth
Homemade soups
Toasts made at dinner time
Champagne (preferably not rosé)
Flowing dresses (especially at weddings)
Well-tended flower gardens
All children regardless of shape, size, color, body, etc.
Families of choice
Flowing waters, especially rivers with their homes in the mountains
The ocean's waves
All islands, especially the home of dear heart-sister Pele
Beach cook outs
Home baked bread
Well fed families
Loving gazes shared between a man and a woman
The freedom, delight and abandoned lust shared between queer lovers
The magick of pregnancy and childbirth
Sturdy beds
Embroidered bedspreads
The palette of blue and silver

Juno is a friend of the following clans (among many others):
The Lily Clan
The Dog Clan
The Wolf Clan
All Bird Clans
The Bear Clan
The Peacock Clan
The Cabbage Clan
The Cocoa Clan
The Coffee Clan
The Orange Clan
The Lavender Clan
The Rosemary Clan
The Pine Tree Clan
The Snake Clan
The Rose Clan
The Cat Clan
The Horse Clan
The Firefly Clan
The Honeysuckle Clan
The Clan of the Wild Fae

For a bio of Juno, please see the next post.

(Photos come from a variety of spots. Both the beach and pregnancy shots were from; I couldn't find individual credits. The hearth image is from The Stargazer Lily was taken by Derek Ramsey, 2007.)

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Hail to Juno!

For the remainder of June, I'm planning on blogging about one of my matrons who is near and dear to me - the lovely Juno. I chose this Erte painting called "Starstruck" because it's the one on my Juno altarat home. While walking through a Whole Foods one day, I saw a greeting card with this painting on it, and Juno told me that was the perfect image for my home. She's nothing if not glamorous.

This first post is a personal history of her as she showed it to me during a trance journey. Early next week, I'll blog more about what's going on with this particular Queen of Heaven nowadays. Blessings of Juno upon all your relationships, your hearths and your families.

Long, long ago, the great gidden Juno was born from the love of the moon and the earth. The moon goddess’ rays pierced the cunt of Gaia and from this lesbian love and lust, the lovely Juno came forth in a cave far in the mountains of what are now the Italian Alps.

With long blond hair and a body that shimmered with a lunar glow, she played amongst the snow-capped mountains. She learned to catch the lightning that struck the stony outcrops and hurl it to other peaks. She even discovered that she actually could call the bolts to her hand using only her voice, and she took great delight in her electric play.

During one particular full moon, she descended from her craggy home to get closer to a group of humans who were dancing in a sacred grove of trees. She stepped into the clearing and all activity stopped as they gazed on this luminous being before them.

A shamanic woman of the tribe stepped forward, and, gazing into Juno’s radiant blue eyes, she calmly thrust a knife into the goddess’ hand to see if she was indeed immortal. Juno was surprised, but not angry at this action, because of her own fascination with these humans and their passionate hearts.

Thus began Juno’s relationship with the human folks and the world below the mountains.

She met a Mysterious One of the forest, a being who was part man, part animal, and part Green Blood, akin to the Green Man lore of later times. He was darkly handsome, and they both fell in love. He was gentle with her and wonderfully sweet. Their passionate love making became the stuff of local legend, and they created many children together. It was during this time of love and her initial connections to a human tribe that she began to develop her own personal commitments to the magick of relationships, family, love and the hearth.

Years went by, and one day, her lover warned her that he would die soon, and sure enough, during sex one day he crossed over. His loss wounded Juno deeply, and in her grief, she left the lands now known as Tuscany and headed south to a small village that would become the blessing and scourge of the ancient world - Rome. The town was squalid and the women were lost in this patriarchal place. Juno felt deep compassion for these women and the tenuous relationships they formed with men who were often only concerned with themselves.

Part of the reasoning for this unequal balance of gender power was the Mysterious One who was himself committed to these people - Jupiter. He was ruggedly beautiful and certainly charming, but not exactly committed to anything close to co-creation.

Juno wandered through the village, often disguised as an old woman, teaching the women and men the ways of love, committed relationships, family, hearth and how intentional relationships could transform their lives and the world around them.

Although Juno and Jupiter met early upon her arrival, it wasn’t until later that he finally had his way with her. Their first sexual connection wasn’t rape, but it wasn’t exactly about equals, either. From what I’ve heard from Juno, he was a lover who could fuck your brains out in a wild way that was incredible at times. They formed a formal relationship together, and under their union, Rome flourished. The city grew and then the empire was born.

Her relationship with Jupiter was a tempestuous one. Early on, she taught him how to wield the thunderbolt, but he had to wear special gloves to hold it, for otherwise his hands would burn. She never foresaw that he would use this power for war and destruction. He also fucked around on her, which in and of itself didn’t bother her. What broke her heart and angered her deeply was his disregard for family, hearth and marriage magick. This caused the rift between them, and she began to degrade herself and the magick she specialized in as she continued to let the betrayal in her own relationship grow. She robed herself in the trappings of power with her great temple on the Capitoline Hill of Rome, but she knew it was all empty.

Away from her husband, she felt more like herself, so she often indulged in rejuvenating adventures. Juno traveled to Africa and learned a great deal about mothering from Mother Africa. To ease her heart and body, Juno made love on the full moons to forest spirits, giving birth to many Mysterious Ones of the wilderness.

As Rome grew, so, of course, did Jupiter’s fatuousness and arrogance. One day, a woman came to Juno’s Capitoline temple to pray about her troubled marriage. Jupiter arrived in the holy place, trying seduce and then rape the human. Juno heard the woman’s cries and arrived full of rage. As Jupiter and Juno began screaming at one another, the woman ran in terror (Juno would bless her marriage and her life in later years), and in his blustering anger, Jupiter raised his hand to Juno, Queen of Heaven.

Without hesitation, she called the thunderbolts down out of the sky. As they descended into the temple, Jupiter grabbed them with his naked hands, but when they seared his flesh deeply, he dropped them, howling in pain (he still bears the scars to this day). She picked them up and held their flashing tips to his throat; terrified of this raging goddess, he fled.

With their relationship finally in tatters, Rome itself really began to crumble. The Goths swept through the lands, Christianity took hold, and the empire was full of bloat and corruption. Juno taught her hearth ways to the invaders, and as she saw Christianity growing in strength, she visited the Virgin Mother, asking that this ancestral heroine remember her and her ways during Christianity’s (and the Holy Mother’s) ascent to power. Mary agreed and kept her promise to the Italian gidden.

After the empire had been truly destroyed and dark times descended on the land, Juno, deeply weary, retreated to her birthplace; casting protective spells around the cave’s entrance, she laid her sacred garments and jewelry around her and fell into a deep sleep.

In the mid-1800s, she was awakened by the sounds of war. She saw the destruction being wrought all over the globe and decided it was time to re-emerge. She revealed herself to queer people and women. She inspired artists and poets with her name. She attended large meetings of Mysterious Ones and formed a bond with her great heart-sister Pele.

She re-established her work with marriage, the home, and the family. All these elements of life are her cauldron where the real magick and transformation of thriving cultures is built from the smallest unit to the mightiest.

(Many of the images above, I couldn't find attribution for. The one of the Italian Alps, in particular a region called the Dolomites, had a credit to J. Allan Cash-Rapho. The head is most likely, technically of Hera, but Juno, her younger sister, said the likeness was close to her own empire days. The final image is of a coin from Vatican City, and Juno felt it was a perfect example of how her image and worked survived through the hands and power of the Virgin Mother.)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Gender Bending Magick

The power of drag, third-gendered magick and Fifi, Great Drag Queen of Heaven, has been on my mind a lot lately.

My dear beloved Donald Engstrom-Reese is chronicling the biographies of Mysterious Ones, and he wrote this about Fifi. I absolutely loved it.

While he and I were talking one day, he said that Fifi and Kali were up to something, but he wasn't sure what. I decided to ask the lovely Kali on my way to work one day and she and Fifi (who showed up in a classic white pant suit, large -brimmed matching hat and indigo scarf) let me in on their gender bending plans.

As I was walking, I saw all the people before me transform into liberated folks who were wearing a mixture of male and female clothing. Hair was dyed, braided and punked out. Makeup was worn with abandon. Men wore heels, women wore studded jackets. Everyone was liberated from constricting roles that they didn't want anyway, and they were allowed to manfiest outwardly as their authentic selves.

Kali said this was directly related to people letting go of the egos they've built up and that no longer serve their (or the world's) best ends.

There was also something about this new way of being that allowed everyone to engage in sexual relationships that were based on true freedom and liberation.

Now, during this walk, I was wearing a typical outfit for me - powder blue pants, slightly ruffled pink shirt, women's sandal heels and big sunglasses (in fact, the same ones in the picture above). So, it was kind of gender-play business casual.

As Fifi and Kali were telling me about how dressing in this manner will change our sexual interactions, a black man probably in his late 40s or early 50s was walking toward me. He was in his bluecollar wear - genes, polo shirt, some sneakers. He nodded to me and said, "Hello," and I responded in kind.

As he passed me, he said, "Can I call you sometime?"

Politely, of course, I said, "I'm afraid not."

"You got a boyfriend?"

"Actually, I've got a husband."

"Oh, alright. Well, you look real good."

"Thank you!"

I floated all the way to work. Not only was it a lovely interaction, it fit in so perfectly with what Fifi and Kali were telling me.

I'm willing to say that we are at our most beautiful when we allow ourselves to manifest as we truly wish to be. Clothing, makeup, hair, accessories not worn in a commodified way, but as a true expression of who we are and our core values is an incredible spell-working that can shift those around us and (in the way of web magick) the world at large.

I asked the MOs if this was what the whole metrosexual movement was pointing toward, but they vehemently said no. That is the corporate capitalism version of it, meaning, as I took it, that there's no liberation or authenticity involved with that. (Big surprise, right?)

I think it would be great if we could all, at various times, start playing with notions of gender in our manner of dress or accessorizing. Maybe, you can't throw on a pair of clip-on pearl earrings at your job, gentlemen, but you might be able to bring a man-purse to work. Or, ladies, perhaps combat boots aren't an option, but a big, James Dean jacket is. The possibilities are endless, and, I would wager, completely transformative.

(The picture above is of me, left, and D.C.'s very own drag diva Barbara Bushwhacker. He was the hostess and I was a judge of the International Gay and Lesbian Aquatic Championship's drag synchronized swimming event. They asked me to do it, so I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to trot out a little Audrey Hepburn-esque number. Photo by Henry Linser.)

Friday, June 20, 2008

Happy Anniversary

Philip and I celebrated our second wedding anniversary on Wednesday night, the full moon of June, which was the date of our marriage.

He had rehearsal that night, so I baked a strawberry-chocolate tart and brought it to the theater. With wine and other libations, the entire company (of which I was an integral part for so long, and of which Philip is now a Helen Hayes Award-winning member) toasted us and heard our recommitment to one another. We do this in front of at least one living witness every year, and this year's was especially sweet for both of us.

All hail to Juno, Queen of Heaven, patronness of relationships and the magick of ongoing, loving commitments!

(Above is a photo taken by Darren Santos, a photographer who was taking photos at Chef's Best, an annual event held by Food & Friends, a local non-profit that makes meals for people with HIV/AIDS and other terminal illnesses. They hold a yearly event where 60 of the top chefs in Washingon provide tastings of their food. It's an orgy of food and Philip and I had a wonderful time at it during our weekly date night.)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Mushroom Musings

While out walking the other morning with the Fae, I stumbled across tiny, beautiful mushrooms in the grass by the road. The Fae told me that mushrooms can be an incredible tool of communication.

Go into a slightly altered state of consciousness (or dropped-and-open as us Reclaiming folks might say) and then connect with the mushrooms before you - speak your desire to them, and they'll take the information and spread it along the mushroom information highway.

This makes sense to me as many mushrooms are the visible fruiting bodies of an entire subterranean network of life.

One of my dear friends and I have often talked about how the Fae really push mushrooms as healing magick for the world and, particular, the ecological state of the world.

Here is a poem by the incredible, Pultizer Prize-winning (and lesbian) Mary Oliver about the mushroom folks.

Rain, and then
the cool pursed
lips of the wind
draw them
out of the ground -
red and yellow skulls
pummeling upward
through leaves,
through grasses,
through sand; astonishing
in their suddenness,
their quietude,
their wetness, they appear
on fall mornings, some
balancing in the earth
on one hoof
packed with poison,
others billowing chunkily, and delicious -
those who know
walk out to gather, choosing
the benign from flocks
of glitterers, sorcerers,
panther caps,
shark-white death angels
in their torn veils
looking innocent as sugar
but full of paralysis:
to eat
is to stagger down
fast as mushrooms themselves
when they are done being perfect
and overnight
slide back under the shining
fields of rain.

I love this piece because of its birth-growth-fecundity-death-decay cycle, and there's something shamanistic about it - as there is about mushrooms themselves.

In some ways, I think the bit about the promised innocence of mushrooms and their possibly deadly side-effects can be applied to the Fae themselves. All too often, people get swept up in the supposed freedoms brought by the Fae and the power of ecstasy or "getting lost in Faeryland."

However, those freedoms are ones that are best experienced when tempered with wisdom and responsibility. Faery Freedom can perhaps be best described with a tree metaphor - each of us is like the tiniest branch of a large tree; we sail off into the air on our own, but we're supported by an entire network and community. If we decide to ignore that community, our connections to other people and obligations in our lives, we grow out of balance, becoming too heavy for those other tree limbs - perhaps even snapping off the main tree and carrying a whole bunch of other branches down with us.

That is not freedom. Yet all to often, I hear negative things about faeries from people who decide to forgo all sense in favor of experiencing what they think will be unadulterated bliss. Although I haven't worked with these particular faeries in this way, it's my understanding that there's a whole troop of fae who are more than willing to take people down the road to crazy if that's what individuals really want. Sometimes people come back having had a "learning experience" and sometimes people don't really come back at all.

I know of many who "warn" others about working with faeries, placing the blame on the fae themselves. There are unethical beings in all realms/species, but I think we need to look to ourselves before working with any being. A first question to ask yourself is "Why am I called to work with [fill in the blank - Juno, the Queer Gods, the Fae, etc.]?"

Answering this with brutal honesty will not only help to figure out what your real motives are, but will also more likely endear you to the Fae who know more about honesty than people give them credit for. I believe the Fae know us very well, and they know that, very often, it is only by indulging in our illusions that we can truly overcome them. While I certainly don't advocate this road, I know that for myself I've only been able to move beyond certain bugaboos by finding out just how shitty those paths can be.

I think there are times when the Fae put on their big compassion outfits, holding space for people to do work that breaks down their own illusions about themselves. It's not an easy space to hold, but it's one that can be done with some of the deepest love I've ever known. The Fae will hold that space if we ask them (again, only asking ones that we trust - don't ask strangers for candy, that's obvious). Undertaking this as a conscious choice is an act that is different than just calling a bunch of British-based royalist faeries we've never met before and then getting freaked out when they deliver on their brand of magick.

For those visiting here who don't know me, I don't personally work with the hierarchical, royalist Fae, because I don't believe in their entire set-up. The faeries I work with come from a different tribe, one that values freedom and wildness above all things. They've taught me many, many things in my life and more to come, I'm sure, but this image of true freedom as being like the branches of a tree is one that I love dearly and makes a lot of sense to me.

Well, that was a bit of a ramble from the mushroom post, but to tie it all back together - you wouldn't just pick up any mushroom from the forest floor and pop it into your mouth. And if you do, then do you blame the mushroom for being what it is? I should hope not.

(The photos were ones I took earlier this spring. I had been doing some drumming magick outside and saw a circle of these lovelies. I have no idea what they are, but oh, are they gorgeous! The other is of a tree in my area that is really striking - plus, it loves drumming sounds!)

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Dancing with the Red Dragon

All hail the Red Dragon!
All hail our red living blood!

Last Saturday, I rose with the sun (as is my circadian rhythm custom) and went to a little clearing near our apartment to drum.

I was practicing the tarantella rhythm known as the San Rocco rhythm, which was used during the Middle Ages to ward off the plague, and the Red Dragon came to me in the meadow.

S/he showed me a particular dance for communities to do to this rhythm, a dance that is meant to heal the relationships between peoples affected by blood-borne diseases. S/he also said that the healing of these relationships is essential to healing the disease itself.

When I think of how HIV/AIDS has affected my relationships with people and how I've seen it affect the relationships of various people in my life, I begin to have an inkling of understanding about how healing the relationships between people is integral to healing the illness itself.

I came into adolescence when AIDS was certainly already a strong presence in the world, and in particular, when it was hitting some of its most wide-sweeping initial numbers in America.

For me, sex held a component of danger to it through the scare-tactic educational programs that helped to keep me terrified of the connections between sex and AIDS. I clearly remember thinking that there was some chemical reaction that happened when sperm cells touched blood cells - voila! You have AIDS! (I had no idea that one partner had to actualy carry the disease.) I was especially terrified of this because while jerking off consistently I had gotten a rash around my cock. The skin was broken, and I thought I now had AIDS because of the sperm + blood = AIDS equation. I prayed to Jesus to keep me free from the disease. I think in his infinite kindness he pulled through by getting me some more clear education on how AIDS is really transmitted. Thanks, J.C.!

While I am grateful that the information was made available to me at that time of my life, I wonder if there was another way to approach it - one that would have educated me without linking sex and death so strongly in my adolescent brain.

With all that in my history, I wonder now how it would be if people who have HIV, diabetes, cancer, etc., and those who have loved, lost and tended people with blood-borne disease got together and did this dance shown to me.

In the center of the dance ground was a tall pole and on top was a model Red Dragon. It reminded me at once of the pole erected in the center of the plains Indians' Sun Dance. I think we can decorate the pole with painted, carved and written spells furthering the intention of the work.

The dance is done both in a circle and pairs, and involves spinning, weaving and playing with levels. It's not particularly difficult, I don't think, but even while doing it to solidify it in my mind that morning, I felt its power.

Hopefully, a community of us can get together soon and make it happen.

Also, I think it would be a grand idea to remember the Red Dragon and his/her powers while eating any red foods. (Again, see Donald Engstrom-Reese's site about a full-dinner option for this.)

That morning that I got this information, I thought I was bitten by mosquitos while drumming, but it turns out I ran into some poison ivy. The last couple of days have been pretty brutal, with my leg oozing an amber liquid non-stop (no, really...non-fucking-stop). It's really made me think about disease and what it must be like to have a chronic condition, especially one that's visible to the public. I've been pretty embarrassed about going out and seeing people look at my leg, or I've felt hard-pressed to maintain a compassionate heart when distracted by radiating shivers, pain, and, in some locations, maddening itching.

More grist for the mill!

All hail the Red Dragon!
All hail our red living blood!

(The first image, of red blood cells, I found uncredited at the blog My Father Has Lung Cancer, where a son wrote about his experiences with his father's cancer. The second image is the Welsh flag.)

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Strawberry Fields Forever

Oh, the joys of summer produce! Since reading Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, I've really tried to make the majority of my produce local (and therefore, seasonal). I feel this is an ethical choice as an earth-worshipping witch and view it as a commitment to the Green Bloods.

With the growing season going at full tilt now, I'm in absolute paradise.

Last Friday, I went up to Butler's Orchards (about 10 minutes away from me) and went strawberry picking. I sang to the berry faeries, the plants, earth, and sun, enjoying myself immensely.

It wasn't until I finished going over four 40-foot long rows that I realized I might be a little overloaded. After waddling down to the checkout stand, bags in tow, I found that I had picked 25 pounds of the Early Glow variety gems!

Giggling on the drive home (and not giggling lugging the bags up the four flights of steps to my apartment), I was excited about all the treats I could make with my treasures.

The next day I got to making jam - and lots of it.

I hulled.

I stirred.

Finally, I canned.

Half of the strawberries were done in a plain jam, and the other half, I scraped vanilla beans into the bubbling fruit, making it a delightful strawberry-vanilla treat. I remember my mother, stepfather, and I eating stawberries dipped in vanilla sugar on the porch during early summer, so I figured this would be a good bet.

While in the process, I sang to the fruit, danced hip-spells of plenty and sensuality, and kissed the beautiful berries, sending reminders of beauty, love, sensual pleasures, and the joys of summer into the jam.

Upcoming pick-your-own harvests are blueberries and blackberries (I make a killer Blackberry Bay Leaf jam - thanks, Martha! Some may mock me for my adoration of you, but I don't care!)