A Bump in the Road

I seem to have hit a snag in working through ADF’s Dedicant Path. And since this week is supposed to be a High Holy Day in terms of the workbook, so I think I’m gonna hit pause and see if I can work through a few things, especially since I’ll be traveling the week of the Solstice this year. I’ve had holdups and reservations from day 1, forever unsure that this ritual structure truly works for me. Some elements, I’ve found I can pretty easily get past like the honoring of the Earth Mother, which feels far too Neo-Pagan for my liking. But as an animist, I can also make this more literal or metaphysical and less archetypal. However, the juxtaposition of her with the Sky Father is one I really can’t seem to get past and frankly I’m not sure I even want to. The Earth is, in effect, our mother, however I’ve always seen her as somewhat of a single parent, if that makes sense. This likely has to do with how I view the sun and its associations with Áine and Grianne. Clearly the sun is important, but I don’t view it as a deity in its own right. And as far as that goes, I don’t view the Earth as a Goddess™, but that language still seems fitting and she certainly deserves a place of honor as our home and the only planet we know of that can support life as we know it.

There’s also the issue of some of the ritual language. At times, ADF refers to “Land, Sky, and Sea,” which is very familiar and comfortable to me as a Gaelic Polytheist, but then other times it seems randomly interchanged with the Fire, Well, and Tree symbolism. And maybe I’m just not used to it, but I find it a little grating as of now. There’s a lot of other language that I’ll have to rework for my own personal rituals, though I did stumble across a Gaelic Polytheist ADF ritual that may be a better starting point. However, I’ve never been one to engage in language that goes against my own theology, so the idea of a group ritual being so far out of my own beliefs is somethin that gives me pause. As The ADF Dedicant Path Through the Wheel of the Year states,

“ADF celebratesThe eight Neo-Pagan High Holy Days. They are celebrated in ADF because we are a Neo-Pagan organization. Not every Indo-European culture celebrated these festivals at the times that ADF and the wider Neo-Pagan community celebrates them, but as we are modern Neo-Pagans (not ancient pagans or reconstructionists), part of our identity relies on the fact that we keep these days holy.”

Though I don’t really use the Recon label anymore, I do still operate in that sphere. I know it’s an argument of semantics, but I also very much do not identify as a “Neo-Pagan” and never have, largely cause I feel like it gives a very wrong impression of my practice. But I also worry how that might sound, especially to folks who don’t really know much about me.

At the same time, this whole thing still seems worthy of pursuit, at least to see it through the DP program. It has, however, made me very curious about OBOD and AODA. For now, I may try and apply the ADF structure to this year’s Queer Ancestors ritual and see how it goes. Since I think I’ll be doin that in 2 parts this year, I may try one part with ADF and one more like last year and see which resonates better.

And a last note: thanks for bearin with me this week. This is far from eloquent writing and is certainly a lot of stream of consciousness, so just know I appreciate y’all.

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Pulse: When Hearts Stop Beating

In a crowd of people golding candles, a masculine person's arm with a medium brown skin tone is painted in the colors of the rainbow and is outstretched holding a candle in a plastic cup. There are many more peopl ein the background holding candles and there palm trees and tall buildings with rainbow lights in the far background.

When I decided I wanted to write about death last year, I don’t think I foresaw just how many things relating to death that I’d be writing about, but here we are again. This is about my own experience with this tragedy, faced 650 miles away from the actual events, but one that hit home in a way I was completely unprepared for. This is a pretty long post, but it was incredibly cathartic and hopefully helpful for other folks.

Today marks the 1st anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub Massacre in Orlando, one of the deadliest mass shootings in US history. This time last year, I was takin my final classes of my undergraduate career, Spanish oddly enough, and tryin to survive on a little over $500/month when my rent alone cost that much; I still can’t figure out how I made it. What little I was making came mostly from an employer who is homophobic, transphobic, ableist, full-fledged misogynist, and casually racist. I was also fightin my university for not protecting Queer, POC, disabled, female, or any minority status students; fightin with the state legislature for literally makin it illegal to fund the Office for Diversity & Inclusion (the law has now expired, but no clue what’s actually happenin yet); and tryin to lead a group of student leaders (who had been stabbed in the back days earlier by a now ousted member) in these efforts through “respectable” means while participating in a more radical organization that was willin to do whatever it took. I was at wits end, just tryin to make it to August when I would officially graduate, move home, and pay off some debt. I just had absolutely nothin left to give. And then it happened.

The massacre happened on Saturday night and I was working 12 hour shifts on Sundays, so I’d gone to bed fairly early. Sundays tend to be a pretty busy day in a veterinary ER, but for whatever reason, we were fairly slow that morning. I don’t remember what was on TV, but I got a Facebook alert that a friend had “marked themselves safe,” a feature I’d only seen a time or two before after some major event. I didn’t have a clue what had happened since I’d gone to bed early, so I googled and felt like I’d been slammed in the gut. At that point, no one had any idea what happened and there were *only* 12 victims or so. But over the next couple hours, the count climbed higher and higher until it hit 49. We stayed pretty slow and I later realized my coworkers just let me sit in front of the TV all day. They check on me, sat with me when we didn’t have anything goin on, andnever asked to change the channel. I was just floored. I had to go to the bathroom to cry a couple times, but I absolutely lost it when I got into my car at the end of the day. I sat and collected myself before headin back to an empty house since my roommate was in Norway for an internship to finish up his degree.

When I got home, the first thing I did was pop open my laptop. We’d cut off our cable to save money, so I stayed glued to social media and then news clips I could see online and kept my phone in my hand to look at multiple sites at once. I cried all night long and at 4am, realizing what time it was, I knew there was no way I was gonna be able to function in class, so I emailed my professor. Thank the gods, he understood and didn’t count the absence against me. He even moved the quiz that was supposed to happen that day so that I wouldn’t miss it. Turns out he’d seen several of the interviews I’d done on local news and could probably fathom how hard I was takin all this.

The next little bit was a blur. The recently fired director of our defunded Pride Center organized a vigil with counsellors present for Tuesday and I went to that. Of course, university administrators – some of whom had flat out laughed at student safety concerns –  showed up and attempted to co-op the event in person and on social media as if they’d planned it, which only made it harder. We couldn’t even totally just grieve because we were all just so damn angry that they were there. At one point, through tears, I called out the university’s (now former) chancellor and told him that people like him were directly responsible for so much of the grief in the room; he rolled his eyes at me. Typical for him and the tone he set for pretty well the whole of admin.

All of this has led me to the decision I seem to have made without even realizing it. I think it’s important here to disclose, if you didn’t already know, that I’m a white cis gay man. As all the facts came out, it was obvious that the majority of the victims in this massacre were of Puerto Rican and/or Latinx descent and that the attack happened on Latin Night. Whether this crime was intended to specifically target Queer/LGBTQ+ Latinx PoC or not, they were the majority of the casualties and if this event impacted me so heavily, I can only imagine what people closer to the location or who shared more common identities with the victims felt. But because of the visceral reaction I had, one that I feel pangs of any time one of our siblings is lost, I’ve decided that I want to incorporate a special day of ancestral remembrance. Through honoring those that have preceded us all, many of whom have paid the ultimate price, I hope that we can truly unite the community more. June is already Pride Month (even though both my hometown and the city I’m movin to celebrate in October because of the heat, lol), plus the Pulse anniversary will fall in June every year, so it only makes sense to me. I’m also toying with the idea of a Queer ancestor elevation to help all those lost to violence or who never got to live as their authentic selves because of their Queer/LGBTQ+ identities, but because of everything happening in my own life this year, I’m gonna wait and plan to start that next year. Today, I’ll be honoring the victims of the Pulse Massacre by reading their names and prayin for them. I’ll be prayin that Brighid offers comfort to their families and/or to them as needed (especially the person whose father wouldn’t even claim their remains), that Airmid and Miach continue to heal those still with us, and that Manannán mac Lir casts his mist of protection around Queer/LGBTQ+ people the world over. It’s a small gesture that I hope grows with time, though not in terms of numbers or necessity. I want the ritual to have a feeling of breadth because, while spurred by the Pulse tragedy, they are far from our only siblings lost. Folks Leelah Alcorn, Islan Nettles, Matthew Shepard, and far too many others have been lost far too soon and we can’t forget them, nor the gains we’ve made as a community from the publicity of their deaths. We can’t change what’s happened, but we can honor them as we continue the fight to prevent it from happening again.

A single while taper candle is burning in the center of the fram, held by a hand that is at the bottom of the frame and the edge of the back of someone's head on the right of the frame. In the background, blown out lights in the colors of the rainbow fill most of the image.

But the sad fact is that this isn’t one community, even though I wish it were a more unified one. The reality is that Black SGL folks don’t face the same struggles that Latinx Queer people do, who don’t face the same struggles as White LGBTQ+ folks do, who don’t…you get my drift. We all share elements of common identity, but that hasn’t stopped anti-Black or -Brown sentiment from it’s prevalent place in many Queer circles. To truly move forward, we (White folks) have to do the hard work of fighting racism in our worlds, listening to out PoC siblings, and making those changes despite whatever discomforts we may find in those moments.

May na Dé protect us all and may we grow together, move forward, and forge a new world for those who will call us “ancestor.”