In the past two years there have been two significant deaths in my family. Being the only Pagan in the family, much was revealed regarding the world view of Pagans to those of Christians. I will outline what I think those views are, but I would love to hear your thoughts on the topic and suggestions for bridging the gap. Keep in mind, everyone involved are passionate Christians with the exception of myself.

Scene One:
My stepmother is in her final moments. After a long exhale, a family members shouts, “Hurray, she’s in heaven with Papa!”. Then my stepmother takes another breath.

Scene Two:
My stepbrother is on life-support due to a terrible motorcycle crash (head on with a truck, no helmet, died at the scene and was revived). Everyone is praying for a miracle. I see his spirit floating about his body, only attached due to the body being kept alive. I see his body is broken beyond healing. The family takes comfort in knowing he was “saved” and would be going to heaven. I wondered about all the unresolved emotional conflicts and issues within his family. These will not simply disappear when he passes.

Scene Three:
My stepmother takes her final breath and everyone hugs and leaves the room after a few minutes. I sit by her body for another hour or more while she is dying.

Scene Four:
We disconnect my stepbrother from life-support. He is violently gasping for breath. Everyone is horrified. This goes on for twenty minutes. His wife comments, “This is horrible”. Everyone concurs. An injection is finally giving and he gasps less violently and stops breathing in another ten minutes. The family is traumatized from the harshness of the experience.

Each one of these scenes is an accurate retelling of what happened. And each of these scenes reveal diametrically opposed world views. Let’s look at each one.

Scene One:
In the view of the Christians in the room, as soon as the body stops breathing, the saved soul goes to Heaven. The human being is distinctly individual, autonomous. The body is just a vessel for the soul and of no value except as a container. Death is a single moment, a black and white distinction, on or off, like a light switch. She is here and then she is gone.

The Pagan view is totally other. The soul is entwined with all the souls it has touched. The body is spirit as well as flesh. There is no line drawn between the physical and the spiritual. The body is a living ecosystem of billions of microorganisms. It is built with living elements that are shared, not owned by us. What is us is indefinable outside of being part of the living Earth and the sum of our relationships. We are the creativity of our ancestors. Death is process, not an either/or dynamic. Death is a spectrum.

Scene Two:
The Christian point of view is the soul is distinctly embedded in the body. It is a ghostly version of the body and the personality of the person. It is not something one can engage with directly. As soon as the body stops breathing, the soul instantly leaves the Earth for judgment and just reward of heaven or hell.

The Pagan view is, the soul is expansive, more complex and not limited to being a shade of personality. Some of us are able to see the spirit essence of a person. We know the actuality of the universe isn’t limited by what we see as reality. It is much bigger than our limited view. Time has little, if any, meaning to the soul. When a Pagan relates soul to soul, much can be divined, such as, this person is ready to pass on and life-support is an unnatural interruption with a sacred process.

Scene Three:
The Christian view is the soul is gone. The body doesn’t matter anymore. It isn’t sacred.

The Pagan view is the soul has a process to go through when death comes. The bones of our loved ones and ancestors are sacred. They tell a story of which we are part of, the story of Life, evolution, humanity, and our engagement with the Earth. The bones continue to tell a story so remain part of life. We need to attend to the death process until it is complete – which has nothing to do with clocks and mechanization.

Scene Four:
The Christian view – Life is good. Death is bad. We must do all that we can to prolong and extend life. “The wages of sin is death”. Death is punishment. If you aren’t “saved” you will suffer eternal torture. And since we are going to be judged at the end of life, prolonging the inevitable is right thing to do. The prevalent culture is one of a cult of life. Interfering with the dying process is sin and goes against the will of God.

The Pagan view – Death is not the opposite of Life. The opposite of Death is Birth. Life has no opposite. Life is the creative impulse of the universe. It is built on destruction, disintegration and reintegration. “Death is the crucible of Life”  as Stephen Jenkinson put it. There is no judgment awaiting in Death. What matters is how we live. Are with living with honor? Are we crafting relationships filled with sanctity and empathy? Death is essential (in the true meaning of the word) for life to exist. It is understood that life is “unlikely” and is a precious gift that is only possible through death. Each day is a miracle and we should live each moment fully awake and with gratitude. We do not wait for “life after death” for our reward. Seeing the world as sacred and walking a path based on honor and gratitude is at the core of Paganism. The experience of Life itself is the reward.

Honoring the sanctity of community members (human and non-human) means treating the dying with compassion. The last moments of my stepbrother’s life were cruel and unnecessary. It traumatized him and our entire family. We treat our pets with more compassion and love than was given to my stepbrother. It was the Christian world view that stopped the hospital staff from euthanizing my brother. There was zero chance of recovery. It was his last dying moments. Having these be ones of violent gasping was inhumane and utterly cruel.

Finally, a word on “life-support”. My brother’s brain was torn apart by the accident. He was never going to recover. He was “brought back” at the scene of the accident. He was flown in a helicopter to the hospital and spent eight days on life-support (where was the Death-support!). Eight days of people praying for a miracle when the miracle was that we got to have him as a member of our loving family for 60 years.

The energy and resources put into extending his life for eight days, only to end with suffering and cruelty needs to be assessed. The cost was in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Not to reduce to this to money, but what if we had dedicated that time, money, passion, knowledge, and emotional energy to helping the suffering, the poor, the hurting, the children who need help but there aren’t resources to meet the need? This is a difficult topic, but one that needs to be explored. With the Anthropocene, climate change, geopolitical destabilization, opioid crisis, environmental devastation, etc., where do we focus our energies and resources to maximize peace, to minimize harm?

Please note, I am aware that many Christians embrace a differing philosophy and ethos than the one’s I mentioned above. It is just my experience the prevalent cultural ethics and ethos are as I have encountered. Christianity has become a cult of life where euthanasia is sin; abortion is sin; fertility clinics are a gift of God. Death is to be driven away at all cost.

So I share this not to be critical, but rather invite dialogue as to how to bridge the gap between differing world views. One where the world is enchanted and sacred, a living ecosystem that is a continuity of ever-shifting tides of living and dying. The other view is the world is debased, fallen, and all that matters is life after death and the heavenly reward. One places us squarely in sacred relationship to the world, one we have direct experience of spirit and are an integral part of the whole. The second places us in a dynamic where we are born into sin and death is our reward. Escaping eternal torture is only possible through a belief in Christ. And we won’t know our reward until we die. At the heart of it all, I think most people agree with the Pagan perspective. It is the fear of death that binds them to belief in heaven. Which I would say is fine, but it is this belief system that is allowing the utter destruction of our sacred mother, our beloved home we call Earth. How do we begin to shift this culture? How do we bridge this gap?

Blessings of peace,
Snowhawke /|\


As Donald Trump is being sworn in this morning, I am thinking about the annual Weaving ritual we hold here in Maine. This is a ritual of community vision. What came out of the rite this past October was the immense grief people are experiencing from seeing the destruction of the Earth and the mass extinction of her children in all their wondrous forms. I read a quote from Stephen Jenkinson that gives clarity to what I have been trying to express in my local Pagan community. Stephen’s quote was in response to a question about climate change. It applies to any situation though. Here it is:

“Grief requires of us that we know what time we’re in. And the great enemy of grief is hope. The basic proposition of hope is: you hope for something that ain’t. You don’t hope for something that is. It’s always future oriented, which means, hope is inherently intolerable of the present. The present is never good enough. Our time requires of us to be hope free. To burn through the false choice between hopeful and hopeless… it’s the same con job. We don’t require hope to proceed. We require grief to proceed.”

Our communities needs to become very adept at holding space for and processing the pain emanating from the death, destruction, and desecration of our home. The consequences of climate change and Geo-political destabilization is crashing down hard. The Earth is in crisis. While it is necessary to hold a vision, to begin to dream a better future, it is vital we learn to deal with the immediate. This situation is no different than dealing with the gods, for they are one in the same. We have to first honor the gods beneath our feet and all around us, honor the spirits of place, before we work with those from away or work with abstraction. We need to deal with immediate before we look to the future.

Indeed, we have to “know what time we’re in”. This is the gift of working with our ancestors. They ground us in time. And this is our time, our moment, our heritage writ large.

During the last half of the 20th Century, Paganism experienced a rebirth. There were daring and visionary people who realized the divine feminine had to be given voice, honored, and listened to, people who recognized Nature as sacred. Patriarchy was killing us and destroying the planet. A new paradigm needed to come forward. This rebirth was the beginning.

Now we begin to witness the backlash. With the election of an unstable misogynistic reality TV star as President, consequence will escalate. Destruction will escalate. Does anyone doubt this? Climate change deniers heading the EPA; people heading departments they vowed to destroy; a cabinet whose net worth is more than the budgets of many States (this is literally true). With Capitalism and exploitation as our modus operandi, this destruction was a matter of course. As with all structures, collapse is inevitable. The more complex and energetic that structure, the more catastrophic the collapse. So the question for me is, “how do we respond?”

What comes to me is, the need to express my own grief and hold space for those who need to grieve. Death is coming. And we have better honor the gods of death, become intimate with them. If we don’t have ourselves grounded in the Earth, if we don’t approach death with a wholeness of being, we will be overcome with the power of grief the collapse will bring. We need to stop looking towards the future and deal with the present.

To that end, I have made my preparations for my own death so it minimizes the stress when it comes. Outwardly, I am offering regular circles for moving grief, for making magic, for rituals honoring all those who die due to the harm brought on by our culture of desire and disconnection – the wild creatures going extinct, the coral reefs, the starving children, the women being subjected and discarded, the poor being exploited, those who die in war, those who die from drugs because the pain of reality is too much to handle, and on and on. I want to hold space for those who feel the pain of these deaths in their bones. These voices need to be heard. And I ask that others step up and do the same.

My teacher once said to me, “Peace is the lack of need”. We have to meet the needs of everyone in our ecosystem, all the spirits of place, or there will never be true peace. Holding space for grief, honoring the gods of Death, honoring the dead and the dying, these are places with great demand for those willing to be in service. We need people in our Pagan communities willing to be in service to gods of Death. This will plant the seeds for peace.

To be perfectly honest with you, I am filled with doubt. My instinct is to stop caring, to be in denial, to go shopping and to get drunk. Fight or Flight. I want to flee but I know there’s nowhere else to go. So that leaves fighting. To bring sanctity and honor to our participation in this bigger story, that is fighting the good fight. Giving the choice, I choose honor. I choose seeing the sacred in the whole of this catastrophe.

Some thoughts to share with you on this dark day.

Peace and more peace,
Snowhawke /|\

Ecstasy is essential to living a healthy life. Our bodies require experiencing ecstatic states of consciousness. From getting lost in music to dreaming without limits, from beautiful sexuality to having visionary experiences, we need moments of ecstasy to remain in balance. Ecstasy is part of what makes us human. Did you know the same chemicals that allow plants to communicate and create a thriving ecosystem, are the same chemicals our brains create when we are in the ecstatic states? These states are the vehicle for our reintegration back to Nature.

Currently we have a deficit of ecstasy in our culture. People find endless substitution for it such as, the use of drugs and alcohol, adrenaline filled videos, cell phone addiction, and in violence based on religion. What are we seeking in these behaviors is a state of feeling connection to something greater than ourselves. Our soul is longing to know it has a place in life. And in the case the suicide bomber, through death they seek to feel the presence of God. All of these things speak to profound feelings of isolation and our disconnection with Nature.

Our most useful tools for finding the ecstatic states are listening and trance. These can lead us back into connection with Nature, where we live in a magical animated world.

When we listen with our whole being, all our senses, we are trying to feel the nature of the other (for me this is the practice of meditation). Inherent in this practice is the softening of cohesion of the self. Trance is simply a deeper state of the same dynamic where the self and the other dissipates altogether, leaving only that which is. Trance can seem like an abstraction, or a practice for the fringe people, or something beyond the potential of the average person. This is nonsense. It is profoundly simple. Trance is simply soul deep intimacy. The feeling you get in your body when you hear your favorite song, that is trance. The wonder you feel when you hold a newborn, that is trance. The awe you feel when you look up in the night sky and see the same stars dancing that prompted your ancestors name them, that is trance.

Ecstasy is our birthright and the denial of it is killing us. We need to reclaim ecstatic practices and shared visionary experience. We need daily ecstatic practices as part of our spiritual pursuits. We can experience divinity when we get out of our personal story and become part of the bigger story of life on Earth. Let’s sing and dance and make love. Let’s find vision again. This is what we were made to do. Ecstasy and vision are what Nature created us for. This is our part to play in the scheme of life.

Blessing of connection,
Snowhawke /|\

Last night I went to the local prison where I volunteer to mentor a pagan group of men. During the past six months or so, I have been bringing a rattle to use during ritual and meditations. Working with the rattle has brought some uncanny synchronicity between what I experience in my journeys and what the men experience in theirs.

When I rattle, I hold sacred space and I listen with all my being to all the spirits of place, to the men, to the air, to the light, and to the entities that come join our circle. As an animist, I see my rattle as a living being, minded and filled with intention. I am in relationship to it. And together we are in relationship to the greater external reality. When I rattle, I set an intention to call out to all that is unseen and ask those willing to come engage with us, to do so in peace and in a manner we can understand. Poetically speaking, I am calling to the spirit world.

Here are a few examples of synchronicity that brings a sense of wonder. I am rattling. In my minds eye I see a Native American couple wrapped in blankets come stand behind an African American man who has joined us for the first time. I am seeing his ancestors. After the journey session he tells me he is 1/2 Penobscot Indian. Also during the journey I see a stag come in and stand beside a young man. An owl also comes and sits on a branch behind that same man. After the journey, unprompted he tells me in his journey he was in a pine forest and a stag came to stand beside him and an owl landing on a branch behind him. I had said nothing about what I had seen come into the room. So is this just coincidence? Last night the only spirit I saw was a black winged creature come down from above and fly past me. I could physically feel a breeze from its wings. We didn’t have time to talk about the journey at all. On my way out, a man asks me if he can tell me about his journey. He tells me he was in a high tower and a huge raven came flying down to give him a message. Are these “real” or is it just coincidence and imagination?

By the traditional definitions of “God”, I am an atheist. But I also live in an enchanted world filled with spirits I can craft relationship with. The spirit world for me is simply that which is unseen. I do not draw a line between imagination and “reality”. Intellectually I know air is gas molecules moving. I can feel them. I can see their effect as they move through the forest shaking branching and making the leaves dance. I make relationship to it, breathing it in and exhaling it out again but in a different mixture. I can feel the wind and it responds to my engagements (wrapping around my body, messing my hair, moving through my cardiovascular system). The wind is gas. It is also spirit.

So what are these spirits I encounter in my journeys? They are simply things of Nature that I cannot normally see. And that is explanation enough for me. I don’t see them with my eyes, yet I feel their presence. They in turn respond to my engagements. Are they real? I pose that question isn’t relevant. If we try to reduce everything we encounter to an explanation, we lessen the human experience. I am naturally a skeptic and fully support scientific research and the scientific method. Science is beautiful, powerful, accurate. It leads us deeper and deeper into wonder as we discover just how mysterious the universe is. It helps eliminate superstition and fear. But intellectual understanding is not the same thing as experience. I understand ice cream. The experience of eating it is what really matters to me. As science reveals more and more about the nature of Nature, it is important for us to remember, it is the living that matters, not the thinking about living.

There is so much more going on than what our limited senses tell us. It is human hubris to think the tiny spectrum we are able to perceive, constitutes a deep understanding of the actuality of Nature. The important thing is to stay engaged with the unseen, feel the wonder of it and realize we are utterly blessed to live in an extraordinary enchanted world filled with possibility for delicious relationships.

We seemed surprised when there is a response to such a call as my rattle makes. The dance between skepticism and surprise is delicious as well. Let’s keep dancing.

Peace and wonder,
Snowhawke /|\

One of our key roles as druid folk is to bring the Awen. We cannot do this and not be changed by it. We cannot “control” it. We don’t get to demand it on our own terms. To find it, we have to craft relationships so intimate awen flows. We have to surrender to the river of awen and ride the currents or it is shut off immediately. To have such an intimate relationship, we have to identify with the other. We have to shapeshift.

Another key role of the druid is to be the bard, to give voice to the that which needs to be heard. We don’t do this as a computer translating input. We instead swallow it whole and feel every nuance, every pain, every bit of chaos or pattern of sorrow that comes with “bringing the spiritual news” (reference to one of the questions asked in “The Colloquy of the Two Sages”). We interweave our soul with that which we give voice to, whether it a story, a song, or the raw rage and grief that screams out from the land where blood has been spilled or toxic chemicals dumped, transforming a living landscape into a wasteland of ugly and endless consequence. To give voice in a powerful inspired manner, we become one with the poisoned land, war torn village, dying species, the myth, or the song. Finding the story requires true intimacy. Through intimacy, it becomes “our” story.

How do we do this and get through the experience unscathed? We don’t. We don’t get out of life alive. And we don’t live life without acquiring scars. To do this work is to be changed, hurt, broken, and killed (as well as healed, inspired, and ecstatic). The self will not survive. And there is a 100% chance our physical bodies will not survive. It is really just a matter of how long we can dance with the currents of change and still hold our identity. When it comes to being in service, the question really is how far are we willing to go to bring the awen to our people and the land, forging a better world for our progeny? In other words, how much intimacy can we manage?

In our culture, I see tendencies (myself included) to try to have our cake and eat it to. So many spiritual pursuits are controlled through and through. We go to church. We meditate overlooking the beach. We gather in our pagan circles in beautiful forest far away from Fukushima, abattoirs, and the crime ridden inner cities where oppressed people are still reeling in generational trauma from slavery and colonization. We celebrate the beauty of Nature, but rarely touch the destructive aspect of her. We do everything but get dirty, broken, changed and scarred. We do everything but become that which we try to give voice to. Even though we have our spiritual practices, deep inside we feel stuck and separated. We long for freedom. Yet without soul deep intimacy, we will never find it.

The power we carry as priests is completely dependent on just how much of our self we are able to set aside and move into sacred relationship. It is the most simple thing in the world and yet one of the most challenging. Doing this work changes one. It will break you open and add wrinkles and scars over the years. It is the price one pays to bring the spiritual news.

What news do you bring?

Blessings of the harvest,
Snowhawke /|\

Hail the Trancestors

You cannot have solidarity with life, honor the flow of life, honor the sacredness of Nature, honor your ancestral line, honor the evolutionary process, and at the same time be transphobic and support anti-equality for transgender people.

We are descended from a continuity of life that has no binary sexuality. We are descended, from transsexual, asexual, bisexual beings, and on and on – fill in the prefix. By the very nature of our being here, we owe a debt of honor to the gender fluidity of Nature. Gender fluidity is at the root of life on Earth. As a pagan and animist, I honor the whole of it. The whole of Nature is the foundation of my religious practices. So as someone who sees Nature itself as the highest authority, I need to understand, acknowledge, respect, accept and engage with the entire ecosystem. This is at the core of what it is to be pagan.

The procreative energies of our shared ecosystem are not simple duality!

Yvonne Aburrow in her article We Are Rising stated, “Gender is not a binary, not even a spectrum, it is a vast glittering field of possibility, many gender, many hues, many different expressions of being and love.” Such a beautiful sentence (Thank you Jim Lindenschmidt at Gods & Radicals for the link). This is the actuality of Nature, the beauty, power and wonder of Life.

So I write this to say, we as a pagan people, need to stand in solidarity with our LGBT community. To compromise on this is to say, “I only respect part of Nature. I know better than the Earth.” And that is hubris to the extreme. To not honor and respect the diversity of gender and sexuality in our community of life, is to deny and reject our own personal heritage.

In ritual this weekend, at the height of sun energy, the peak of creative energy on the planet, we will call and honor our gender fluid ancestors – those who came before and gifted us with this precious thing we call life. Perhaps we can playfully and joyfully call them our “trancestors” – not to make light but to celebrate and find the joy in the whole “glittering field of possibility“.

“Hail to the trancestors. We honor you and thank you for this gift of life. Please come share your knowledge, your stories and songs. Share with us your wisdom. Be welcomed in this circle of equals. Come dance with your children. Hail the trancestors…”

In solidarity,
Snowhawke /|\

You do what you can

I haven’t written in some time. Tonight though, Awen flows.

I just returned from the prison where I volunteer with a pagan group. We celebrated Beltane together this evening, a group of young men, incarcerated, struggling, frustrated, and angry. Rooting into the Earth, feeling the support of our sacred Mother, finding that connection to the land and place, we shifted the energy from prison life to sanctified, the dingy concrete room filling with the presence of the divine. Simple rooting. Simple ritual process. Call to spirit in the four directions. Call to spirit in the heavens and the Earth. Call to the gods, the divine masculine, the divine feminine, and deity in all its endless forms and aspects. Cast a circle to hold our intentions and prayers, crafting a place of safety and sacredness amidst the chaos of prison. These things are simple, yet they make all the difference.

We called the directions holding unlit candles as we aren’t allowed fire per the prison rules. One man called to the spirits of the West. His words sincere. Lacking resources and freedom, he used what he had. Shaking a plastic water bottle half filled, he created a water rattle. It was poignant, powerful, and real.

Each person tonight wrote down on a piece of paper what they wished to sow at the end of this new season of growth.  I took these intentions home with me.

This was the last meeting for one man as he is being released in a few days. His time in prison clearing his mind and body from the slavery of addiction. He is ready to join in the outer world again. He stated what he really wished for was strong connection to his family, a good job that allowed him to simple be in a place and find a good life. This was beautiful to hear. His deepest desire was for strong mud roots and strong blood roots, finding the strength of his ancestors and connection to the land allowing him to live well and walk with honor. Again simple things. Powerful things.

There is power in big intense rites, pilgrimages to sacred places, vision quests, extended fasts, rituals in deep snows and bitter cold rivers. Sometimes these powerful rites change the course of our lives. Sometime though, they are just a bubble that burst, leaving us following our familiar patterns. As I grow older, I find it is the simple things that keep us on the good path – waking with gratitude for the day, honoring our food, lighting a candle daily for our ancestors, rooting into the Earth finding presence in our breath, calling to the spirits in all the directions asking to make good relationship. It is these small things that make the difference over time, guiding us to live immersed in the sacred, dwelling in a world that is enchanted and holy.

As I said, I took their intentions home with me tonight. I could have burned them on walk way, but I changed into my sneakers and took my little cauldron down by the river, stepping in the fresh snow that fell today. It was really just a small thing, a little more effort, a simple decision to go to the river. I put each piece of paper into the well used blackened cauldron and burned them, asking the fire to carry these prayers into the spirit world. Once burned, I offered the ashes to the river. Their red glow drifting in the breeze until they were taken by the dark water.

The river tonight was as beautiful a thing as I ever seen. The night sky reflected on its still surface, as mist moved over it dividing the river from the land, the three worlds sliding into one another, earth, sea, and sky. It was simplicity that brought me to this place, the little things guiding my steps. And that made all the difference in the world.

Blessings of Awen,
Snowhawke /|\