Author Archives: xochiquetzalduti

Appreciating Uncertainty

The call came in at 3 in the morning. I’d had a restless night (as I often do) and had only gone to bed about two hours and 20 minutes before the call.

In the time I was on the phone, my Beloved had purchased me a one-way ticket to SoCal. Familia finds the strangest ways to call a body back.

A fall. A head injury. Unconscious. That I’d be kept informed.

So, I flew. I flew into lands that raised me, released me, and re-embrace me easily. And in the rental, (pretty red car!) I flew. I crossed through the intricate veins of conveyance that keep the heartbeat of these counties down here going strong.

I flew. To family. To an unsure and uncharted future. Because, family encuentra la manera mas inexplicable para llamar al cuerpo que retorne.

I appreciate the uncertainty, even as I rail about it.

Shaman Sickness, Part I: Enter the Madness

xochiquetzalduti:

Such a good way to start thinking about this from a modern non-academic experience. Thank you, Khi, for sharing your wisdom!

Originally posted on Conjure in the City: Shamanism + Rootwork:

A Hamatsa shaman in trance.

A Hamatsa shaman in trance.

I opened my inbox a few weeks ago to find an invitation to a ritual from friends to celebrate the Apotheosis of Ariadne – the transformation of the mythical Greek princess into a deity, as per the stories told about her.

As I perused the invitation and the suggested guidelines for those who might wish to celebrate at home on their own time, my heart jumped into my throat upon reading the second of the three stages that mapped the goddess’s journey from the Mistress of the Labyrinth to her discovery and awakening by the god Dionysos.

Around midnight, in the darkest hour, “The theme is Ariadne abandoned on Naxos.

It was just over a year ago that a Skype session with a friend jumpstarted my shaman sickness with her in California and me in my hostel in Athens, Greece. “Have you been out to the islands yet?”…

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A Love That Motivates

We are all of us pushed in ways that make us grow; whether we know it or not even the things that we come to detest are motivating factors and actions in our daily experiences.

However, when the motivating factor is a nonracist world; the motivation has to come from a place both within and withOUT. The problem with that is when I tell people what my motivating factor is, I get ridiculed.

What motivates me to try and educate and teach and urge others? Love. Love is what keeps me going. Love is what pushes me to stand up and be a voice against all the other voices I hear because if I am a being inherently capable of love than that love has to expand and be expounded upon.

That love has to push me to see better in others. That love has to be something that others see in themselves.

I love the idea of people struggling and working through their privilege; it’s a beauty to see that struggle and realization on the faces of people who appreciate the work they are doing.

I cherish the opportunity to remind myself that racists and bigots are deserving of love. Because, they are.

We all are.

However, as much as that love can instill in me a sense of wonder and awe at a world that creates order from chaos (eventually), I also have to keep in mind that what I love about the person isn’t their belief system that says I am lesser than. What I love about them isn’t their mindset of bigotry and misogyny; it’s their flawed humanity that I love. Not the concept that creates that flaw.

It’s a difficult mindset to cultivate, and there are days when I wish I didn’t have to do that. There are days when the pain of staying that open to the world leaves me weak and unable to get out of bed even when I should be up and moving. Those days. The days of exhaustion and fear that the ridicule I perceive will lead to more actions by people who choose to be anonymous… Those days matter to me.

But not enough to keep from doing what I do.

Not enough to stop me.

The few months since I last wrote have seen great losses in the ability of people in this world to let each other’s humanity shine out. The more I struggle with it, the tighter the bonds of love that trap me. Until I finally surrender to them, to letting the love of humanity’s ‘humanness’ fall over me and remind me that flaws and all warts and all, love remains.

A very flawed, pathetic sort of love. Because sometimes it’s reciprocated. Sometimes.

We each of us struggle to find something to love in ourselves from time to time. We live in a world where only the perfect is loved; where the flawed are hidden and only by some strange hope get to reach out to the warmth of the sun that shines on all of us. But, even that has it’s problems. That ‘perfection’ we claim to seek has at its heart only fear. Fear of ruining the view of perfection it creates. Fear of being seen as ‘inadequate’ debilitates the opportunities that can be created and cultivated in letting that perfect persona crack and fall away.

But for the people whose shield and cloak is racism and its ilk, that fear motivates. That fear is what lands people in hospitals and morgues; and that fear has fed all kinds of laws and strictures on the social fabric in our lives. That fear of “Other” is so entrenched and seen as the way that self is defined that the love the individual is capable of, and the love that they themselves carry forward in the world is lost and left sorely lacking.

I try to remember that my motivation is to make their love shine forth.

It’s Been A Hot Minute…

I should start with everything that has gone down for me since we last saw each other, yes?

Dark Odyssey: Surrender was amazing and I am so thrilled to have been able to present with the talented and beautiful soul that is Yoseñio V. Lewis. We did a lot of good work at our workshops and I hope to go back to another Dark Odyssey event.

Had a successful and amazing time hosting the FIRST EVER PoC HOSPITALITY SUITE AT PANTHEACON. We’re working on being there next year, with more food (like we didn’t have enough?) and some room specific offerings. If you’re interested in donating to the cause, the link is here, please donate if you are so able and moved.

I am currently slated to present at CatalystCon in September. Yoseñio and I are once again co-presenting and the title is, “But Wait, There’s More! Exploring the Intersection of Race, Class, Ability and Sexuality and Desire“. Info is here.

This, this is good.

What is a “Godphone”?.

I can’t even begin to state how great it is to get a better idea of this term that I’ve been using since my baby-pagan days.

Big thanks to Del for laying down some of the history and providing your perspective!

Disillusionment

I have struggled for the better part of this week with these words.  I have sat with the pain and hurt and brutality of the things I have read and seen in print from people who should and COULD do MORE, and a small part of me, is NOT surprised.

Let me backtrack with a quick story from my childhood.  My mother used to tell me all the time that extending friendship and trusting people would only ever lead to hurt and pain.  She consoled me when people I thought were friends turned their backs on me, when I was betrayed, when as a kid, in my trust of so-called friends, I ended up getting beaten up.  

And yet, I trust.  I end up joining communities that make some lofty claims; that the people who engage in these communities live by trust, honor, and respect.  That they gather in perfect love and perfect trust.  That they will stand by you, that if you come to them with a painful situation, there will be people there.  

So, with that tiny bit of background, imagine my distinct lack of dismay upon hearing that the Eagle Bar (a quasi-connected chain of international bars that cater to the gay/queer Leather community) in Portland had decided to hire a white, gay-male comedian whose best ‘bit’ is donning blackface to portray a “middle-aged black woman on welfare with 19 kids”.  I sat, dumbfounded, as this act and the booking was defended by the proprietors and others in Portland and beyond.  I sat, feeling that same bitter disappointment in being betrayed by so-called friends and community members who started calling for neutrality, claiming that “art should NOT be censored” that those of us who were kicking up a fuss were too emotional and sensitive, that we (but really, people of color in the Leather community) did NOT deserve to feel our anger, our hurt, our OUTRAGE at being thrown under the bus for the sake of someone’s laughs.

The words my mother said came tumbling back down onto me.  And I had the usual response I’d had as a kid growing up, “Why?  Why did I trust them?  Why didn’t I listen to my mom?”  There were times in the past when that worked, when I’d pull so far into myself that I ended up appearing anti-social, withdrawing into books, into my studies, into my own self.  But, like many humans, I am a social creature.  I have a need to be in a group of people I choose to have around me, who see value in my contribution and with whom I can commune with.  CommUNITY.  

I am hoping that in 2013 I wouldn’t have to explain the history of blackface in the US; that we understand that white performers putting dark facepaint on and acting like caricatures that humiliate, demean, and denigrate black people (sometimes by making African-American performers put the paint on their own faces!) has no place in today’s society.  That the redemptive value of ‘art’ (which I loosely define as a body of work that draws the viewer into questioning some basic understanding of how their society functions, not just as a whole but as themselves in said society) is NOT found in this act.  I won’t even LINK to any of Knipp’s videos because I REFUSE to provide this person with more hits to his YouTube videos.  I am also hoping that we can understand that yes, blackface in the rest of the world is NOT based on the racist undertones that existed here in the US.  This is NOT about art, or blackface outside the US, or any other attempt at gaslighting the pain being experienced by real people who entrusted their fellow community members to stand up to racism.

This is about accepting and acknowledging and seeing the pain for what it is; a feeling of betrayal, as raw as any other betrayal; be it lover, friend, family, or any other relationship that calls on some of the very vulnerabilities that we willingly expose ourselves to when we decide to take a chance on a community.  To hear just a bit of how painful that sense of betrayal can be, here is Mollena William’s post, this is a video I am more than willing to share.

That hitch in her voice?  That rueful laughter?  That hurt in her eyes?  I know them all.  I feel them all, to varying degrees when I think that somewhere out there, at some play party I have yet to attend, or some leather weekend I bust my ass for, there is someone who says that Knipp’s act and the hurt it causes me and those I care for, is OKAY.  That I need to lighten up.  

Blackface is racist.  Full stop.  When a person of color states that a ‘comedic’ act is a horrible action that brings pain and hurt and disappointment and anger and a myriad of emotions too numerous and HARD, if you are ANY KIND OF AN ALLY, do NOT attempt to explain away our feelings, don’t take away that moment, and our being present to the pain and wanting to do something to stop a hurt so deep and heavy that humanity hasn’t even been able to find a balm for it; just acknowledge the pain.  Be the ally you claim to be and lend us your voices.  

My current standing in the leather community is on shaky ground; I believed that if I lived a life of integrity, if I followed the tenets of Trust, Honor, and Respect that I would find fulfillment in my authentic, kinky, liberated self.  In the leather community, I have found friends, partners, family.  Community.  But that foundation has been rocked to its core.  In writing these words, I can’t even begin to scratch the surface of the pain I am feeling.  

I had originally thought of doing a video post to get these words out.  But a post where I sob for 15 minutes (maybe more) wouldn’t do much.  I feel like I have barely even given voice to the knot in my throat.

Being of Service (TW)

Trigger warning:  If you are/have been affected by assault, violence against women, battery, blood, or any of the things connected with that, and CANNOT stomach reading about it, do NOT read any further.

~~~

It’s been suggested to me to start with how I’m feeling right now.  How I’m feeling is shell-shocked and definitely with some stress cracks and fractures on the surface that go deep, but I don’t know how far down.

My reality is that I am a Pagan nonentity, despite some small notoriety with friends and compatriots in certain areas; kink, paganism, interfaith stuff, etc.  I’m still what you’d call small potatoes.  That means that I am also a working Pagan.  I have a mundane job that kinda sorta pays my bills; but not enough.  I say this because it’s background for why I was where I was when I was.  If that makes sense.

I was at San Leandro BART station, waiting for a connecting bus to an office nearby for an employment exam.  In this economy, we’re all of us; pagan or not, struggling for work wherever we can get it.  I was there early enough that my bus was going to be a while.  As with most things where I’m in a (self-imposed or not) spotlight, I get nervous with waiting.  So I started walking around and working off some of the nerves.  Cracking my knuckles, popping my joints, talking myself down from that.  I walked towards the entryway to the platforms where Clipper cards are read and passes are inserted to get through.  From behind me came the shouts.  “Hey!  Stop!  Get away from her!”  I had already started turning and had a visual of the scene before me, a man had bum-rushed a female from behind (a dirty play in ANY book) and knocked her to the ground.  Her bags went flying, the crowd surged as he bounced off of her and started kicking and screaming obscenities at her.  The crowd separated them but he cut through them as she dazedly tried to stand up.  She got to some sort of a half crouch before he was on her again.  At this point, I’m now a part of the crowd actively trying to fight him off her.  He’s a dog with a bone and there’s no way he’s letting go ever, is what it feels like.  Like pushing against the current.  But this one was one filled with rage, hate, incoherent, but direct.  Anyone who stands in his way is a direct target.  I can still feel his hand around my forearm when I got between them as he tried to get to her through me and the crowd.  At that point, a larger gentleman (with from what I could deduce some mental incapacities) sacked him.  Low and to the midsection, if he’d been in college or professional ball it would’ve been hailed as quasi-perfection.  At this point, the woman has run off towards the same entryway I was at moments (was it really just MOMENTS ago?) ago, and the police have shown up and are trying to figure out the situation.  I join my voice with others trying to explain to the officer that the person they should be asking questions to is the man on the floor and not the ones huffing and puffing trying to get their breath back.  The woman comes stumbling back over, dazed, bleeding, and going into shock.  I walk over to her and the officer follows my lead and joins me in talking to her.  I can see the goose-egg on the side of her face, lacerations and bleeding on the top of her head and blood in her mouth.  She walks over to a column and calls for her belongings.  I start to administer first aid, asking her name, checking her eye responses; you know, the things you’re taught to do.  My voice is calm, detached.  Professional.  She steps away from the column and I’m lucky enough to get a hand on her as she starts to go down in a faint.  I drop my knee straight onto the concrete and guide her fall.  In my head, I thank whomever’s listening that she stays conscious and ask for first aid materials, anything really.  She’s in hysterics this entire time.  It’s only when I feel the ice in my veins and the breath in my lungs so cold that I nearly want to start coughing that I realize that my first job is to get her to calm down.  I make her look into my eyes (are they really mine right now? I wonder…) and breathe for me.  My hand (mine?) is placed right at her heart and her eyes widen and she takes those much needed breaths.  A few more women join me and offer words or ice packs as I call out for them.  I start to work on keeping her with me, to keep the panic from creeping into her voice again.

Then she starts apologizing.

With all the raging love pouring out of me at that moment.  I took her chin in my hand, looked her square in the eye and told her she had NOTHING to apologize for.  NOT ONE DAMNED THING.

At this point, I have to stop writing.  I feel physically drained from everything already written and I need to recharge.  I may continue this, I may not.  I’m unsure if I can or want to, to be honest, until I’ve processed and worked out some more of the things this loosened up inside me.

Things I Wish White Pagans Realized

I am currently putting time and energy into a hospitality suite for Pagans of Color at Pantheacon.  It’s a labor of love and difficulty because of the perceived notions about what that space means and how its effects will reverberate through the general pagan community.  Discussion on a post I put up on Facebook (that I have since removed) derailed, HARD.  There was an individual who was quite upset with the words white supremacist as a descriptor (and a valid one) for what I call ‘majority society'; white, affluent, male, gendernormative, heterocentric, and cissexist.   Pointing out to an individual that while he WASN’T racist, there were those who looked like him that were, was read as an attack that didn’t actually exist.  But the kneejerk reaction of needing to be labeled as NON-racist was so strong that I was surprised and a little unsure as to how to proceed.  I stopped engaging the person I’m speaking about because he tried to get me into an either/or argument and I refuse to talk in logical fallacies, he decided to take my silence to mean that I agreed with him in his logical fallacy, thereby putting words in my mouth.  That conversation was a while back but I find myself going back to it time and again, especially when this post started making the rounds.  Keri’s experiences are all her own, but far too often, the question of racism in paganism, along with all the other -isms that exist in society get brushed aside, silenced when mentioned, or are casually dismissed as being ‘not important to the circle and its workings’.  So, here’s my list of things I wish white Pagans realized when PoC (Pagans of Color) join the circle, (all of these are written in the first person singular, because these are things I WISH they realized, each PoC’s list will be different by a little or a lot, that is part of the joy of dealing with people NOT as a single voice for their ETHNICITY OR RACE, but as the INDIVIDUALS they ARE):

1.  When I talk about marginalization, I want you to imagine an onion, and all the layers an onion has, how thick or thin they are as they get down to the core, that’s what marginalization is like for me.  The more intersections I have, the more layers to my onion.  I am a genderqueer, queer, kinky, poly, pagan, female-presenting, AFAB, Mexican American, lower socioeconomic status upbringing, working class, person.  My onion is nice and thick.  When white pagans complain about how demeaned they feel by the majority society and their tendency towards being Abrahamic Christian and the assumption that they are to, that’s a layer on their onion.  But, they have the opportunity to be heard because their whiteness grants them that chance to state that they aren’t Abrahamic Christian.  If I stand up to say that, it is automatically assumed that I must be a Santera, or some other derivative of that and therefore still have reverence for Catholic saints, etc. because I’m “mexican so that’s what you do, right?”.  I have layers to my onion added, because of what people assume about me by seeing me on the street, in the circle, and at pagan gatherings, not REMOVED.

2.  When I say that I want a separate space for marginalized groups within paganism, I’m not just talking about PoC (Pagans of Color), I’m also talking about groups that don’t normally get lots of exposure or attention.  The second generation, the older women, the young women learning their sexuality, the men who want to explore in safe space the feminine within (dressing, acting, taking up roles traditionally considered female and not allowed or accessible in normative society), the Christo-pagans who have a need for sanctuary to practice their particular faith without getting the side-eye from ‘true Pagans’…  All those voices and experiences deserve a space they can carve out and call their own to feel safe, not just from the rest of a ‘con or gathering, but from themselves.  It’s not about self-segregating, it’s about self-care.  When I am asked if I would be okay with someone making a space in a pagan gathering that was ‘whites only’ and how that would affect me, I honestly didn’t have an answer because, the majority population at a pagan event tends towards white, so why do you need another room when there’s a whole conference/space/gathering area where you can see each other?

3. Using questions like how I feel about any and all forms of racism as a way to goad me into stating that some racism is worse than others is just plain tacky.  At worst, it shows that you’re grasping at straws for an argument, at best, it’s a blind statement to how you might think you’re being attacked when someone questions the privilege of your whiteness.

4.  Declaring that you are upset by people choosing to have a space that marginalizes you because you’re white, is hard (for me) to take seriously.  Do you actually HEAR yourself when you say these words?  Do you realize how hard it is to hear this because that’s what it’s like for me and other PoC and marginalized groups for a few moments in a hypothetical situation?  Our marginalization happens in our day to day.  We are marginalized, othered, and shamed for things we have NO control over, just going about our day.  I wish I could feel for you, I really do, and part of me does; but the part of me that does, is sardonic in its response because you have now been afforded a taste of what my life is like, CONSTANTLY.

5.  My silence does NOT mean my consent.  Silence means NO.  My silence and what it means, does NOT get to be defined by you.  By deciding for me, what my actions mean, marks me as the one needing to have my mind made up for me, and clearly, you as the white person, know my mind better than I do.  No, you do not, therefore you should NOT ever be allowed to do that.  It’s just another tactic that has been used in the past to drive home just how marginalized PoC are, and is plain bad manners.

6.  One of the things that makes this hard for me is this commonly used phrase in paganism, “in perfect love and perfect trust”.  A friend of mine and I were discussing it, I see it as part of the agreement I consent to by doing magic with a circle of people, not just with my deities.  And this is the one that suffers the most every time I have to defend the need for space; the more I hear claims that people who are pagan CAN’T be racist, the more I hear that this is self-segregating, separatist, etc. the less I feel I can trust being in sacred space with you.  This isn’t just about me saying that this space isn’t open to allies, which it is.  It’s more about why did I have so FEW allies at the first PoC Caucus at Pantheacon?  Why wasn’t my room overflowing with allies wanting to hear, listen, support, and learn ways to participate in the discussion around this social justice issue?

Paganism isn’t immune to these issues, if it were, there wouldn’t be the need to hear from one Heathen group after another distancing themselves from their more stringent contingents (the ones who claim that only Northern European descendants have the right to worship the Norse deities).  We deal in interesting areas of life; we worship g*ds that are from a time that’s not ours, a people we may have no actual genetic connection to, and have experiences that science can’t explain but that feed our souls.  Part of the experience within humanity is remembering that we all have walked a path long before we walked this Path together.  I read a lot of talk about how each person’s path is different and the destination looks similar even if it’s worlds apart, but part of that is the fact that for some of us, the path has been thornier than just people not understanding the CHOICE to be pagan.

The main thing I wish white Pagans realized:  I’m not any more different from you, just because I have a skin color that is darker than yours.  The g*ds called us both, even if the way we are called looks vastly different.  I ask to join this circle because I want to have that moment of perfect love and perfect trust with you, with the group, with my g*dden.  If you can’t have me there because you hold onto some antiquated notion of what being non-white means, then tell me, before I enter into the circle with you.  Don’t waste my time with your issues, I have enough of my own.

My Interview with Whole Sex Life is up!

At Open SF, I had an opportunity to chat with many different people, and one fascinating couple.  They were also presenters at Open SF and we found out that our work goes along parallel avenues.  I love that kind of synchronicity!

Evoë of Whole Sex Life, Harold (her partner), and I hit it off quite well.  They were there to present on Second Generation Poly with Nick and Maggie Mayhem of Meet the Mayhems.  They came to my presentation The Intimacy of Sacred Kink and at the Presenter’s After Party, all three of us sat down and processed and spoke from our hearts about things that my presentation had brought up, it was an amazing, surreal experience and it made my soul sing.

We have kept email contact and Evoë sent me a few interview questions, you can find them here.

Comments and questions there would be most appreciated!

Thank you KiSS!

I want to take a moment to thank the amazing group of people in Sacramento (and the three women of Fresno!) who showed up and attended my presentation/performance piece/experiential magical working…  I’m not even sure what to call it anymore!

I enjoyed traveling by rail and see it as an effective way to travel, the feel of the train moving with me and the calm rush of one vista after another was a soothing way to get where I needed to be.  I definitely want to do that again!

The space was amazing, the fire was perfect, and as the night progressed and the words tumbled from my mouth, I felt that moment where the audience and I are on the same trip, we reach the same milestones, the same moments, the same realization; that something has changed in the way we view those around us, and those outside of this moment, and maybe it only lasts a day or two, or maybe it lasts for the rest of our lives, but we had it.  We tasted it and found it to be pleasing.  That was what I’d hoped for, and getting that was worth all the travel and time.

Afterward, as we were sitting around and talking and just enjoying the company, I got a chance to interact and get to know in a closer level these people who’d let me traipse into their community and into their mindset and play around with whatever I might find there.  I found landmines, beartraps, pitfalls, stones in the path, and yet beauty in dancing around wondering if the next step would sheer a leg off or not.  And I did, I can’t say that I wasn’t affected by you all, because that would be lying.  What I can say, is that I enjoyed it, every moment of it, down to the winds that would rise up unexpectedly.  Because they fed those moments just as much as when the winds were silent and all we could hear was the crackle of the fire, and my words.

Thank you for sharing those moments with me, it was a pleasure to do so!

If you need to reach me, for a reading, to talk/process or if you have a question, please don’t hesitate: here.

Thank you, all of you, for sharing these moments with me.  You left more than just money on my nightstand, you fed my soul.

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