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Well, I was reading John Coughlin's Dark Paganism over lunch today, and I would like to say I am thoroughly impressed. I'm not, though.

Don't get me wrong - I thought his remarks on the validity of a dark path were spot on, and very well-expressed (although with a tendency, perhaps, to Christian-bash). It was his discussion of "Dark Deities" that got me irritated.

It felt like he'd gotten so far along, then wimped out entirely. Instead of discussing the dark aspects of Deity, warts and all, he plumped for the usual "oh but they're only nasty as a result of Christian rewrites, really they're welcoming and empowering". Bleah.

Here's an example ... all about the Crone Goddess :

"Many 'fluffy' Pagans see her as a hag or being too spooky to approach, but on the contrary, those who take the time to know her find that she is often smiling back at us from behind that veil of darkness and mystery. She is like a grandmother than can comfort a child."

- as though the Death Goddess were some kind of kindly Nanna who offers you cookies and cuddles you to her cardigan-draped bosom!

Yes, okay, She is the Layer-Out, the one who prepares you for transition, just like in the Good Ole Days o' Yore - but get real! There are still countries today where that task falls to the old women of a community - and they are anything but fluffy! Sure, they might be good cooks, knit or sew, and have a garden in which they potter - but when they come to lay out the dead, they take on an air of mystery and - let's face it - they're bloody scary.

Imagine those hands ... you saw them only this morning, perhaps kneading bread or reddened from scrubbing dishes. They're twisted with age and arthritis, spotted and clawlike, and they touch the dead person. And not just touch - those hands engage in all sorts of intimate tasks. Undressing, washing away the last of life, re-dressing, combing hair, putting on jewellery - these women are fully aware of the magnitude and importance of their task, and when you look into their eyes, you can see the Washer at the Ford looking back at you.

And when the task is done, she ties on her kitchen apron again, washes those hands, and returns to her everyday routine. She might smile, maybe even offer you cookies, but you know she is so much, much more than some kind of greeting-card grandma - and you damn well better respect that, because when your time comes, she'll know every secret you've tried to hide under your clothes and behind your face.


And his section on "Trickster/Malicious" deities is even worse. For a start, there's no mention of Satan. Yes, some pagans do invoke Him, under any number of names traditionally associated with the Devil. Then there's the comment that even dark pagans don't tend to work with the "real" deities, but rather a fluffier version of them. I'm not even going to dignify that one with a rant.

His list of such deities is narrow : he names only Loki, Eris, Lilith (who, for some reason, is not listed under "Sexuality"), Ares and Seth. Now, I'm fairly sure he's not claiming to provide a comprehensive list, but for gods' sake! Ares? What's malicious about Him? He's basically a thug with poor impulse control - probably less malicious than Athena, when you're talking about motivation!

He's concatenated Trickster deities and so-called Malicious deities - and frankly, not only is that misleading in the extreme, but seems entirely arbitrary. Seth is malicious, but Pan is not. Lilith is malicious, but Kali is not. This sets up exactly the kind of distinction he was saying dark pagans don't make.

No mention of Persephone as a deity of Death, or any Goddesses of sexuality whatsoever! Nope, that's confined to Cernunnos, Pan, Dionysos (which he spells "Dionysius", thus unwittingly drawing a hilarious connection with the Christian saint) and Min. Dionysos isn't about sexuality, He's about licence - about stepping over the line and breaking your own rules.

He ignores entirely the idea that the "fluffy" deities have their own dark aspects, and you better-by-gods not forget it. Go on, just try treating Aphrodite like a sex kitten. Or Demeter like a Mum. See how far it gets you.

And don't get me started on his portrayal of Hekate.

All in all, I'm pretty bloody annoyed (as you can probably guess) ... the book started with incredible promise, then just fizzled into nothing but another book on paganism, albeit with an interesting angle.


Thunderstorms can happen at the most inconvenient times.

Last night, being so hot I could barely stand to lie against the sheet, I was sleeping fitfully, and realised there was a walker in my dream again. Although I had taken precautions to shield myself and my home, I do not generally try to keep out anything which means me well, or which has a message for me. In this particular case, it was the latter. The same figure, closer than ever before - it seemed as though its face filled my whole field of vision. It was speaking to me, telling me something, something important - and then a huge clap of thunder broke right overhead and I was jolted awake.

Between the adrenalin surge, disorientation of sudden waking and the immediate need to settle the child who'd woken, everything disappeared into my subconscious. Dammit. My dream recall techniques are usually very good, but at this point in time, nowhere near perfect. I'm going to try stimulating the memory using some pretty reliable cues - mostly music - and see if I can retrieve the message.


initiation journeys 1

Taken from darkwyccan's journal, some interesting ideas that set me thinking ... it's from an introduction to his Book of Yog-Sothoth, but I think it's quite applicable elsewhere.


"...the forces of [initiation] are not to be idly toyed with and show neither mercy nor prejudice. The weak-minded could truly risk their sanity as they snap under the pressure of the challenges in their lives that may follow such a working, although more likely the result of "failure" would be disappointment and a deflated ego. But even this is not truly failure unless one chooses to wallow in one’s self pity. Initiation comes not without its share of bumps and bruises. As the saying goes, that which does not kill you makes you stronger. So the warnings of this text, while perhaps worded to reflect the dark spirit of the Cthulhu mythos, is still not to be taken lightly."


I think there is a third "failure" option - where people simply push away the changes that are beginning as a result of true initiation, or where true initiation is glimpsed, touched, but then the hand is snatched away out of fear (and later the person regrets it deeply).

This inspired me to examine the magickal initations in my own life - this, and what is currently happening to me.

1st initiation

I have never taken initiation lightly, though when I first started walking a pagan path, my self-initiation was purely ceremonial - that is, I felt accepted, but no more. It was not until the next full Moon that I started feeling changes in my self (not coincidentally, just before I became pregnant).

Those changes culminated in an ordeal lasting seven weeks, in which I lost everyone important to me, my health and very nearly my sanity. I was totally alone, broke, living in a house with no electricity and no heating, so ill from the flu that I was delirious for days, though unable to stay home from work. I stole from the local grocer to feed the babies and got myself to work every day to make enough money to keep from being evicted.

This came to a head when the father of the children appeared on my doorstep just as I hit the 13th week of my pregnancy. Refusing to enter, he said we needed to talk and literally commanded that I accompany him to the local reserve. As weak and disoriented as I was, I knew I had to have it out with him once and for all. I followed him down to the park - though he didn't realise it, he led me into the very grove where I had initiated myself, and done my first powerful healing ritual. When I entered my head cleared for the first time in weeks and I felt myself come into my power.

In a way, I pity him, because his careful plan to bully me into either having an abortion or signing away my right to go after him for child support was completely disrupted. I felt myself become overshadowed, taller, as though the energies of grieving Demeter and wrathful Medea were pouring into me. I sent him on his way and - though I did not realise it until I looked back on that night - set a mark on him that followed him for 3 years, so that he never had a home or friends who would be there for him until he acknowledged his arrogance and his wrongdoing. To this day, I believe I was only a conduit for the mark to be set by Deity, the Goddess protecting Her witch.