Portals Featured Sponsor: Ivo Dominguez

ivodweb_med_hrToday it is my great honor to introduce one of the shining lights of the Pagan community, Ivo Dominguez. And it happens to coincide with the our show at the New Alexandrian Library, spearheaded by Ivo himself! I love life’s little synchronicities!

I met Ivo through T. Thorn Coyle, and he has graciously hosted several house concerts for Winter and I when we are on tour on the East Coast. In the past we have played in a beautiful domed temple room with wonderful acoustics. Last night we played in the New Alexandrian Library and it was phenomenal. We didn’t even use our amps, the acoustics were flawless!

If you haven’t yet heard of the New Alexandrian Library, it is a project envisioned by Ivo and some of his coven mates, to recreate a large library for the magical arts, and they have done a spectacular job! Everything Ivo is involved with has a certain style and the library is no exception.

To say Ivo has done a lot for the Pagan and magical communities would be downplaying the matter indeed!

Therefore he was a natural to ask about participating in a Portals sponsorship, because I knew I would feel great about telling my folks about him!

When I asked which of his many projects he’d like featured he said he’d like to focus on his next book, and his writings in general. He has written four books to date, including “Spirit Speak” and “Casting Sacred Space”.

Ivo’s current book is called “Practical Astrology for Witches and Pagans: Using the Planets and the Stars for Effective Spellwork, Rituals, and Magickal Work”.

I attended one of Ivo’s astrology classes a few years back, and it was the best presentation on astrology I have ever experienced, live or in book form. Ivo knows his stuff, and has a natural affinity for explaining it. He describes the principles and patterns of astrology with metaphors that bring them vividly to life, and I found his class to be a richly visceral experience. Ivo’s understanding of magic is the real deal, and I am honored to feature him here.

Here is a blurb for Practical Astrology:

“More often than not, people think of astrology as a tool for divination or the exploration of one’s personality. Astrology is considerably more than that. It is a sacred science, a highly descriptive symbolic language, and it is also a technology that can be applied to ritual, herbalism, the use of crystals, and much more.

This is a practical handbook for any practitioner of magic to use in building individual rituals and creating the most effective magic. Concise, focused, and expertly presented, this book teaches the core concepts of astrology so that wiccans and pagans can truly apply it to their practices”.

Portals Ad Ivo

GET THE BOOK HERE!

BONUS: I hear rumors that you will be able to get astrological readings from Ivo in the near future!

Ivo has done wonderful work in the community with his meta coven, Assembly of the Sacred Wheel.  Numerous covens have grown out of the core training offered by the Assembly, and provide strong community support for the East Coast Pagan community. He is an absolute gem for our community!

You can learn more about Ivo, including his books, classes, and readings on his website:

www.ivodominguezjr.com


DISCOVER THE OTHER PORTALS FILM SPONSORS!

Each of these Portals sponsors has been hand selected by me as someone I would feel proud to showcase. They will each be getting a feature here over the next few months. Click the banners to visit their pages.


Song Magic

I recently returned from our annual gathering of the tribes and have spent the bulk of my day in a very inspired place.  There were two key events for me this year at Pantheacon: The first was encountering Patrick McCollum’s world peace violin and the subsequent talk we had about shaping the world by doing what others say is impossible, and imbuing our lives with meaning through symbolic action.

The other was lending vocal and drum support for the Morrigan devotional and then going right into my own performance with Pandemonaeon immediately afterward, still very much ignited by the fire of the ritual. This made for a potent experience, and got me thinking on song and magic. Both of these stories are worth telling, and I will tell each of them, but today I am going to focus on this latter.

The Morrigan devotional was beautiful and powerful. Kinship and sovereignty are both ideas that have been dear to my heart for many years. Also I have an affinity for the Morrigan. But more than that, this ritual really worked as a large clan ritual. Not all ritual themes are suited for large groups, but strengthening the bonds of kinship is among the best uses of large ritual, as far as I am concerned, and that was the key focus here. Also – magic happened, and these gates were still very much open in me when I took the stage.

Singing with the kiss of a God on one’s brow is powerful indeed, and has had me thinking all day today about song and magic, and how central to the practice of magic singing seems to have been to our forebears, based on what writings we have been able to find. It is said trained bards had the ability to raise boils on the face of an enemy, to raise one up to the ranks of the heroic with poetic praise, or to shatter a reputation with satire and scorn. There are tales of mythic creatures and witches alike who sing their hapless victims into an enchanted slumber, and tales of songs used to excite one to battle frenzy. Scandinavian and Germanic people have song magic in the form of galdr, wherein they sing the runes of their language as an invocation of magical will. Outside my own ancestral traditions,  history and lore are rife with tales of drumming for possessory trance, for healing, and for traveling between worlds.

Yet, for all the references to the magical power of singing, there is very little written on techniques for how to develop this. As with most of ancient Pagan tradition, we are left to rebuild with what few shards we can find. But after all, tapping the creative forces underlying the manifest world and wielding them to create something new is what we do as magic workers. We test and try, envision, experiment, and keep what works.

There is a Gaelic phrase, Oran Mor, which translates to “the Great Music”. This is the closest thing to a Celtic creation myth that I have come across, and tells of the mighty song of creation, singing the world into existence in perpetuity, always changing but never dying out. This idea is not unique to the Celts, of course – many cultures have similar stories. This concept gives us a place to start when contemplating how we can use song as a magical force. If we think of magic as the creative force underlying all life, emanating first as a primordial consciousness and then taking various forms and shapes as individual qualities coalesce, we can easily see that tapping this great primordial music and giving it shape via Will and skillful projection of voice would be a potent act. If we seek to wield magic of a specific quality, such as the essence of a tree, we can sit with that tree, open ourselves to it in meditation, and let its song pour through us. If we do this often enough we begin to take on a harmonic resonance with the tree  – or rune, or Deity – and we begin to master wielding that specific force.

We can gain skill via traditional magical practices such as meditation, visualization, and concentration. Meditation is key, in that we must learn to get our thinking minds out of the way in order to perceive the essence of something outside ourselves well enough to really know it.

In song magic, we’d need to add the practice of training the voice, so that we can shape our sounds to resonate with the character of the force we seek to wield. There is a concept called “synchronism” where 2 or more sound-making objects oscillating at similar or harmonic rates will synch up and begin oscillating in unison. Most of us have probably seen how ringing a bell can cause another bell in close proximity to begin chiming. Here is an example of how it works with metronomes –

We can apply this same principle to song magic, by listening for the “song” of a thing, and striving to bring ourselves into synchronization with it through creating a harmonic resonance with our voices.

This is what I experienced Saturday night at Pantheacon. After the Morrigan devotional, I was open and attuned to her, and the sound that came through me was…more than myself. I had access to immense energy. I was riding a current that I don’t usually tap when performing, and was likewise feeding it with sound. The tone had been set in the room already, so that pitching my voice in harmony with a current that I already feel an affinity for came quite naturally, and made for an experience that felt (at least to me) like touching the epic.

This isn’t a new experience, per say – I always go into performance having taken a moment to get centered and present, so that I can bring as much of myself as possible to an audience. And I always aspire to hold windows open to the Divine.  But it isn’t often that I go into performance from a place of possessory trance. It was very different and quite powerful. It has got me thinking that a more thorough and ritualistic invocation of intent before performances would be a good practice to adopt. This is not always possible of course, but acknowledging its value can help in planning for it. Bringing an awareness of the realms of the heroic into live performance, and wielding this with voice, can only enhance the experience for all involved.

It has got me thinking about song magic and what that means – not merely bringing our full presence to a situation but tapping into the vast reservoir of beings, presences, and spaces, and bringing this through with focused application of voice. And how this can be used to heal. Or to smite one’s enemies. Or to open gates to other worlds. Or to keen for someone who is grieving and finding the burden too terrible to bear.

This is using sound as more than personal transformation, as I teach in Sonic Alchemy, wherein we shift our stuck places and gain mastery of our own energies. This is true witchcraft, wherein we ride currents beyond our own immediate energetics, and the possibilities for wielding this power for the benefit of our communities has ensnared my imagination in a most intriguing way.

I am looking forward to exploring this more thoroughly in the coming weeks, and find myself awash with gratitude that I am part of such an amazing community of people, people who are willing to envision – and act on that vision –  to create a better world for all.

(I welcome sharing of this post – and all posts you find inspiring here).

Musings on Religion and Imagination

Recently I was part of a conversation on religious pluralism, albeit passively, as I was editing a podcast on the topic. (T.Thorn Coyle’s “Elemental Castings”, the “Hindu Pagan Dialog” panel from Pantheacon.)

As part of the dialog, the importance of supporting religious pluralism in our conversations with others came up, and some stories were shared on conversing with atheists. One Pagan woman said she tells them “I don’t believe in the same God you don’t believe in.”  It amused me, and it also got me thinking how I myself might find common ground with atheists.

I don’t consider myself an atheist. I also don’t consider religion “true” however, so I feel I can understand the atheist’s perspective, and in fact I do not find it in conflict with my own views. How is this possible? To use a metaphor from Robert Anton Wilson, I see religion as the map but not the territory.

Religion gives us a set of symbols that creates a “bridge”, so to speak, for grappling with ideas and energetic forces that would otherwise be unfathomable to us. Therefore all religions are both true and untrue at the same time.

My more religious friends may question my integrity, since I declare myself a Pagan, so surely I do believe in a religion. To them I say, “Yes, I use symbols that speak to me, i.e. Pagan ones, in order to experience that which does feel like the territory, which is a sense of expansive awareness I cannot explain, but which gives me something I value as essential to my being.”  Whether I call this “God” or not is irrelevant.

To my more atheistically-inclined friends, who may suggest it is less than truthful to claim I am not religious after what I just described above, I say “You don’t believe in God, but do you believe in imagination?”

Imagination has always been a key that unlocks doors in the minds of the religious and non-religious alike. We all love stories. We all love music that takes us somewhere, that opens a corner of the mind we did not realize was there a moment ago. We all have room in our being for more than what is going on in our immediate surroundings at any moment.

Religious symbolism uses the imagination to open doors in the mind, to expand awareness, and to glimpse the infinite. The arts also do this. Likewise does science, in it’s ability to reveal the vast workings of our world. For those who don’t practice a spiritual discipline, they may yet find a similar satisfaction in the way interior design sets the harmony of a room, in the way a piece of art opens something in the mind, or in the feeling of awes that overcomes s when we realize the size of the Universe.  These things do not need to be called “God” to create an experience of mystery or magic.

Perhaps the spiritually inclined can sometimes be condescending toward those who don’t find a need for religion, thinking that part of them is missing, asleep, or unfulfilled. Perhaps atheists can sometimes be condescending toward the spiritually inclined, thinking they need religion as a crutch, when it may well be that we all seek to tap the mysteries of life, albeit in different ways.

As someone who has found wonder in art, science, and religion alike, I propose that any of these can lead to an experience of fulfilled human life.

Perhaps, as we can learn to find common ground among those who hold different religious views than our own, we can also find common ground among those who don’t have any religious views at all. At least some of the time. Thus we can emphasize our similarities and not our differences.

StrowlerFest Review

I recently returned from StrowlerFest, as many of you know, and it was a peak experience for me in many ways. It felt like a homecoming, so I share some of my musings here.

StrowlerFest was similar to a few of our convention-style Clan gatherings out here in California – namely the Sci-Fi/fantasy themed BayCon and the Pagan themed PantheaCon, except that StrowlerFest featured music as the prominent element.  Care was taken to choose a good venue for experiencing a musical concert, and an excellent sound system and skilled technicians were in place to give participants the best experience of the featured music.  As a Pagan musician, this was a welcome turn of priorities for me. Whereas PantheaCon gives us the opportunity to come together and explore our spiritual identity, StrowlerCon gives us a way to build our culture. This has been something I have been ready for for some time.

StrowlerFest was attended by the usual suspects – dreadlocked Goths and faery winged gypsies, Renn faire refugees and Steampunk bellydancers. Pirates in eyeliner and flirty nymphs with animal tails. Makers. Crafters. Circus performers. Most were very creative, smart, tech savvy, and crafting a life on their own terms. Most were Pagan, too, although one of the things I liked best about StrowlerFest is that it was more “Pagan friendly” than strictly Pagan.  Although there is a strong Pagan undercurrent to StrowlerFest, the focus is not on spiritual identity  but rather the creative expression that comes from a richly imaginative worldview, which includes the Pagans but is not limited to them.

In keeping with this ideal were the musicians themselves. Most, if not all, were Pagan.  The sultry Wendy Rule opened Friday and Saturday nights with her musical circle casting and spellbinding vocals, performing as a trio with her guitarist sweetie Tim and tricky Pixie cellist Betsy Tinney. She was probably the most overtly witchy of the performers and is well loved internationally for her Gothy witch-songs that reflect her Scorpio nature.  A favorite performance for me was Heather Dale, a Celtic singer I first discovered via “The Secret Life of Celtic Rock” Cd, where her song Mordred’s Lullaby was featured. Her voice and her melodic sense are absolutely world class and brought tears to both Winter’s and my eyes. In fact, knowing she would be performing was a key reason Winter and I accepted this gig ourselves. Many of her songs are based in Aurthurian mythology, so for the lovers of myth among us, her show was a real treat.

Speaking of the myth-lovers, Tricky Pixie was another highlight of the weekend. Tricky Pixie is  made up of StrowlerFest co-founder SJ Tucker, who describes her music as MythPunk – an apt description as her tales are laced with mythical beasts, the land of Faerie, great horned gods and the like;  feisty fiddler Alexander James Adams (heir to the musical legacy of Heather Alexander, who some may remember from the Bay Area Celtic band Phoenyx);  and gorgeous Cellist Besty Tinney of Gaia Consort. They are all consummate performers with electric stage presence, impressive musical skill, and an admirable dose of comedic savvy.

Other performers included GB Mojo (fantastic!), Big Bad Gina, Dreamtrybe, and of course Winter and I. I’m hardly going to review my own show but suffice to say we were very well received indeed.

There were also workshops during the day at the hotel, much like Pantheacon, ranging from  circus arts to Bardic singing, runes and tarot and healing – a community of people coming together for a weekend and sharing those things most dear to their hearts.

So how do you know if you might be a Strowler?

Here’s a definition from Urban dictionary:

n. Vagabonds, Itinerants, Men of no settled Abode, of a precarious Life, Wanderers of Fortune, such as Gypsies, Beggars, Pedlars, Hawkers, Mountebanks, Fidlers, Country-Players, Rope-dancers, Jugglers, Tumblers, Shewers of Tricks, and Raree-show-men.
From A Dictionary of Thieving Slang, 1737

“Aligned with [steampunk] and other chronology-bending movements, strowlers focus on alternative forms of performance art, such as music, juggling, poi spinning, dancing, drumming, circus arts and ropework. Strowlers are also into craft, calling themselves “makers”. Strowlercon is an annual gathering of such folk.”   –  Urban Dictionary

I would add to this that we are the people who make our own way in life, for what is offered by mainstream society is not acceptable. So we live by our wits, our imagination, our creativity, and by the love and good will of one other,  for we each know the perils the other endures.

StrowlerFest was our Rock concert.

Think you might have missed something awesome?  You did, but take heart, there are two more Strowler-themed events scheduled for this year – StrowlerCon in Boston Oct. 8 – 10, a Con-style event with lots of workshops, concerts,  and wicked afterparties, as well as a VIP breakfast with the artists Sunday morning; and Strowler Nights in Seattle Oct. 29 – 31st, which sounds like it’s shaping up to be a full-on All Hallows Circus.

Winter and I will be performing at each, and I’ll be offering my Well of Song workshop.

Want to join us in Boston?  Visit http://www.strowlers.com/events/strowlercon for details and tickets.

Enter  “winterknight15” as the discount code to get 15% off your admission!

(Note: The VIP brunch with the artists Sunday morning is $40 and  the discount code applies for this as well. Also for the budget conscious they are helping folks find compatible roommates to share hotel rooms. It’s all at the link above.)

Seattle better for you?

Visit http://www.strowlers.com/events/strowler-nights for details and tickets.

Enter  “winterknight” as the discount code to get 10% off your admission!

(Note: yep only 10% discount for Seattle. It’s filling up fast so discounts likely won’t go less than 10%, and you ought to get your tix soon. Day passes available as well, it’s all on the site. :+) )