“A Glimpse Beyond the Veil.”

Let me tell you guys a story, a happier one than I so often end up telling. Something that happened to me on Christmas day last year (so thus almost a year ago now), something I want to record in as many places as I can find it, because I feel it was an important event, a gift from the gods, a kick in the ass down that right path we all sometimes need.

Or perhaps it would be more helpful to begin a little further back, to an earlier event that pointed me in the direction of that right path, without which the later, more important event would likely not have happened. A rather simple thing, the room mate and I had some excess money, there were parts of the state we had not yet seen (namely all of it), and so we took a vacation to the coast.

I have noticed by now, as I go through my old writings looking for answers and trying to make sense, that I bring up the less than stellar parts of my existence way, way too fucking often; you could make a fun drinking game out of all the different ways, say, my abusive childhood comes up in posts, and play it with someone you don’t wish to survive the night. Having noticed that, finally, I don’t want to keep doing it (acknowledgement yes, but we have gone well beyond that, obsession where it is the framework that defines, and thus owns, your whole life), and yet I feel it’s important to step back into it just a little, in order to properly set the stage. I’ve previously called the city a psychic drain, and so it was – not the actual location, though my lungs never quite adjusted to it it was a gorgeous place, it was the people and the local culture they’d built that killed it for me. I’d been living there a number of years, by that point I was mostly in a constant deep depressive state, with occasional short lived outbursts of frustration that could be likened to throwing myself against the prison bars some part of me knew were there, trying to escape. Not all of it can be put on the city (depression has always been a frequent visitor, and I have always, even under the best of circumstances, struggled with leaving the house, being willing to speak to people), but it was its own problem that was making matters worse than it may otherwise have been, and I don’t think I fully understood that, until the vacation where I had something to contrast it with.

Being there, even for a short time, was like being able to breathe again. All of the issues that had been crippling me for years (the numb depression, the hermiting away) were not in play, or not to the severe level I’d grown used to. It was everything great about living in that state and nothing that I’d come to hate (as far as people and local culture went, might as well have been a different country). I absolutely loved it there, and I’m very glad we had the money to visit two more times before departing forever. If anything could lure me back in that direction, it would be the coastal towns; I was quite tempted to try settling in there, but it was very rural and rural is not always easy to do when you do not drive.

(As it is, I’ve been able to move somewhere where I have even easier access to the coast, leading to more frequent visits as I can go just for the day, and I’m in a major city that is very friendly to my car free lifestyle. I’d say it worked out well)

Midway through that vacation, I remember sitting on a swing set on the beach and watching the waves, suddenly turning to my room mate and saying, “I don’t want to live here anymore.” It was a weighted moment; it shouldn’t have been but it was. It was no secret I was unhappy, no secret I’d grown to hate it there, I was pretty vocal about it when talking to family; maybe I’d just gotten so hopeless over time, it never occurred to me I could leave, that it could help.

I’d still be there about another year and a half, but that remaining time was different, everything was different after that. Because now there was a plan, I was going to leave, I didn’t know when but it was going to happen, there was a goal to work toward. Not just the leaving, but starting to pull my life back together, so that when I finally did get to go I would be ready for it, prepared to make the very best of the new opportunity, to leave as much of the baggage behind as I could. Much of that involved fixing my health, losing all the weight I’d never noticed I was putting on, adjusting diet and habits so it would not happen again (and yes, motions were made toward the gods as well, after a long time of silence, I was immediately handed a bizarre, unexpected puzzle I’m getting closer to solving – time wasn’t wasted though, I did much of the introspection about old paths, old friends and old ideas in this time, and I really needed to come to that understanding before anything new could be done). I didn’t have those outbursts anymore, the deep depression became more occasional than constant; no one would say I was happy, but I found a way to be content.

And I found a way to leave the house, at least a little more than I had been before, kind of had to for the losing weight thing. Going out at night wasn’t so strenuous, when there was no one around, and through that we found paths that were less populated even during the day. I still tried to avoid downtown where there always seemed to be far too many people in far too small a space – unless I had some reason to think it would be mostly empty, like say because it was a holiday and most such people would be home with their families. Which brings us to Christmas.

So there we were, almost a year ago now, the phone calls home my only real obligation of the day done long ago and leaving us without much to do. It was getting pretty late by the time we decided to take my daily walk outside rather than on the treadmill, and to do something different, walking through downtown to the river and back rather than the winding route into the hills I’d been doing more often. We made it to our destination without anything of note, just enjoying a peaceful winter night, pausing by the water for a bit, before heading back home.

It was on the way back that it happened, a voice calling out to us from the square as we passed by.

“I offer a glimpse from beyond the veil.”

No, really, that’s what he said. It was a man offering tarot readings, for whatever you think they’re worth. It registered as we went past, set in our path and barely pausing to hear the words. The significance of it sunk in quick enough, and when we were two blocks away I’d stopped, I knew we had to go back, that this was something I needed to do, something I needed to hear.

I know he told me his name, but I have since forgotten it. A recently paroled ex-con in a top hat, wool coat and red scarf, he was reading for a couple homeless kids by the time we arrived, and space was made for me to sit up front and watch everything while I waited my turn. He seemed both knowledgeable and charismatic, able to explain the symbolism in detail even to someone who has never seen it before (as the kids ahead of me had not) and make it entertaining. I was impressed.

It may be one of my favorite memories, all the years I spent in that city I don’t think I ever felt more at home there than I did in that single moment, with those particular people. A liminal space set apart from everything around it, while the city bustled on in the background, distant and unimportant; I used to find such times and places a lot, worked on making my whole life one such, and I had missed it.

All the times I’d ever had any oracular work done it was always by someone who knew me, at least in passing; this was the first time I had my cards read by a complete stranger. He did a very good job, so I thought then and even more now, a year later. I remember what the cards were and how they were interpreted, as I’d written it all down as soon as I came home; I won’t go over every card, every word, a general idea will do. He told me I knew exactly what I want, I have everything I need to get it (and they were lofty ambitions he saw, that’s how he put it – not by mainstream society’s standards, that’s for sure, but in the single sphere I care about and have interest in, I suppose it could be seen that way), and it’s only a monumentally messed up mental process that gets in my way. I’d begun understanding that then but he put it in very simple terms – fix that shit, stop listening to it, and you can accomplish whatever you want. And this upcoming year would be about new beginnings, on more than one front, the right time, the right energy, it was all lining up; if I wanted to start something, or start over, now is the time and it will go well (provided I heed those aforementioned warnings).

It was good to hear at the time, I had been starting to feel disheartened. We’d tried a year to get a solid answer from her office about the possibility of a transfer, and they kept putting it off in a way that, while not offering anything definite, did keep hope alive. Conversation and plans started turning to going anyway, and how much extra would have to be saved in order to live while looking for a new job. Even though we were both still determined to go, the amount of time we’d have to wait and plan and save money started to stretch out before us until no end appeared in sight.

Not to say I connected any of that to the reading, to the promising year of new beginnings that had been laid out for me. It was about two weeks later, not long after the new year, when she was laid off.

That changed everything. I don’t even remember feeling panicked about it, I knew what it was, the door opening. The divination I did the same day, just to confirm, well, it was more or less the tarot equivalent of Hermes screaming in my ear, just go already! We knew where we wanted to live and we had enough money to leave; everything fell into place, an apartment was secured fairly quickly, and on the last week in February, we were gone.

And now here I am, at the end of a very productive year.

If I was still living there, or anywhere near by, I think I’d be wandering around downtown about now, hoping to run into him again. This last year was such a whirlwind, in the best way possible, I’d be curious to know what’s coming around the corner next, and how I can best take advantage of it. Unfortunately, even if I were still there, I doubt I’d find him again, however hard I looked, and I doubt I’ll find anything similar here, now. I think that was a special once in a lifetime sort of thing.

Just thought I’d share that with all of you, so I don’t forget it, what can happen when the gods want to get their point across.

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Spiritual Writing

One thing Hermes has always been good at is making sure I get the information I need when I need it (whether or not I actually recognize it as being vital information at the time I get it is a whole other matter). Just as I’m sitting around figuring out how to begin working to regain the ground I lost over this last year, I see this post from Naiadis on her excellent blog (seriously check it out).

What in particular about that post jumped out at me like a divine slap to the back of the head, was where she talked about how writing played a part in her relationship with Poseidon, in meditation and awareness and in her interactions with him.

I am grateful that these things occur to someone, because it certainly never occurred to me.

Receptivity is not something that comes easily to me; despite what you may have heard around Pagan circles about women being receptive in nature and men being projective (and let’s not get me started on that), I am predominately projective maybe somewhere around seventy percent. What receptivity I do have is further complicated by the lingering effects of the survival methods I had to use to get through an abusive childhood, severing and walling off most of the connections I had to anything outside of myself. Naturally Hermes can punch through those walls when he wants to, or else I would not be here now. And I can achieve a state of openness and awareness when I concentrate on it, turning my usual focused attention outside of myself. And this was fine in the beginning, but I know he expects more of me now, something a little more consistent, in order to progress our relationship and the Work. And that means I have to work through these blocks and move past this hurdle.

Browsing around Pagan sites and forums you will find a lot of suggestions on meditation, on opening up and achieving awareness. A lot of them though do not seem to work for me, go against the way my brain processes things. As an example, many of these more popular techniques are geared toward more visual thinkers, and I am more verbally oriented I think in words (I have found a way to make visual techniques work for me, but it involves using a running dialog in my head to paint the picture I’m supposed to see, it all starts with language). While I might be able to move up to the more common techniques in time, first I need to learn something that works with my brain’s natural inclinations.

Oddly, I have never thought of writing as a means to open awareness to things outside of yourself. And the more I contemplate that, the less I understand why it never occurred to me before. Lost in trying to follow other people’s lead, I seemed to have missed the obvious for such a long time.

Writing has always been something that was important to me. Since I was three or four I was constantly making up elaborate stories, and from the time I learned how to write I was committing those rambling tales to paper. When I was a teenager that intensified as my writing was my only escape from what was going on around me. It was always so easy for me to get lost in my work, the hours go by unnoticed, the rest of the world slips away, just me alone with my thoughts that increasingly stop feeling like my own and start feeling like something outside of myself that’s flowing through me, using me as a conduit. It’s amazing what comes out of my head during these sessions, very rarely looking anything like what I originally intended and which sometimes contains layers of meaning it might take me months to see.

And isn’t that exactly what I’m looking for? Isn’t that what the meditation and visualizations are ultimately supposed to achieve, something very close to what I can easily fall into just from having a writing project to be involved in?

Writing has also played an important part in my religious life and my interaction with Hermes, although it was very early on and I think I may not attribute the proper amount of credit to that experience any longer. Who knows why, since every time someone calls me by name I’m reminded of it.

No, Gavin is not the name that I was born with, but one given to me by Hermes and that I took when I made my vows to him. It is my Pagan name, or at least one of them, one I can use in all aspects of my life. Its not an alias I use on the internet, everyone I know now calls me Gavin and most everyone I have met since those vows were made have no idea my name was ever anything different. I have plans at some point in the future to have it legally changed, since the name I was born with (which only my immediate family still uses) feels even less like my own than it did before.

The name itself came from an epic rambling story I was working on for about five years, during the period of my life that I didn’t leave the house and was trying to figure out how to function again. I began working on it maybe a year or so before Hermes officially made his presence known to me, and it pretty much consumed my life at the time; I would get up and do nothing but work on it, eventually coming out of my fog long enough to remember that I have to eat and then right back to it again. Eventually Hermes helped me to see what I was really doing there, aside from fine tuning my ability to write sadistic violence (what? you didn’t expect rainbows and kittens, did you? ;-)), was writing about myself.

After learning that I put the project down, having no more need to work on it. I had gained a lot of insight into myself during that time, into what exactly had happened to me during my childhood and the impact that it had, how it altered the way I thought and behaved. And having a better understanding of what makes me tick, I was able to begin accepting things and learned how to function within my means rather than using the more common model of behavior. Without the knowledge I gained from that experience, I’m not sure I would have been able to move forward with my life.

I did not immediately connect Hermes to the project, since I had started it before I ever met him and this was before I fully realized just how interested in me he really was. Not until he moved in and ordered a complete remodeling of my life; in addition to requesting my vows and telling me I had to move out of my mother’s house, he gave me a new name, the one I used for that character I unknowingly saddled with all my problems and giving him a way out. Out of curiosity, I had grabbed up one of my sister’s baby names books and looked up the meaning of the name that had been given to me, which I thought I had invented years earlier.

That one name referenced an animal sacred to Hermes was a bit of a surprise, but by itself could still seem like a coincidence. The my new last name was, in essence, an epithet of his seemed like less of a coincidence – and as the years went by, as things changed (or were revealed to me more like it), that fact has gained multiple layers of meaning I never could have seen coming then.

This was my inital introduction to the world of Hermetic Meaningful Coincidence, and it certainly wouldn’t be the last time he brought about a change like that, quietly pulling my strings and moving things into position until I become accustomed to things enough that we can bring it up directly, plus the months or years of set up help to erase any doubt that the message is a genuine one.

I haven’t done much writing in the last several years, I fell out of the habit when my depression got too bad to continue it, which of course only made the depression worse. For the last little while I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about that, about how even when life was at its absolute worst writing was a small bit of happiness that I was able to hold on to, that made things at least somewhat bearable. And while my life is certainly good now, there still seems to be something missing, a hole (or a severed connection?) that my writing once filled which simply can’t be filled with anything else. Writing, it seems, is one of the things I need to be doing in order to be happy and fulfilled and functioning correctly.

My parents, who simply didn’t understand my hobby, used to hang over my shoulder and wonder aloud whether or not I planned to ever do anything with my writing, because if I can’t ever publish and profit off my work then what was the point of it? Unfortunately I think some of that thinking might have rubbed off on me and may have contributed to my putting down the pen for such a long time. Normally I don’t buy into that unfortunately popular notion that it you can’t make money off it it’s not worth doing, and yet I allowed that to get in the way here. I think it was largely do to with lack of encouragement from family, and the people who spent so much effort directly attacking my habit because they didn’t like what I wrote (that it wasn’t all rainbows and kittens), it left me deeply insecure about my talent. In other areas I’m able to ignore or at least work through the negative feedback loop that runs through my head, but this is also the one area where I actually do care what other people think and so it’s a lot harder to overcome years of constant criticism and apathy even if I knew people had alternate motives for saying the things they did. I wouldn’t have the confidence to send anything off to a publisher, so why do it at all then, right?

Now I realize that doesn’t matter. I won’t lie, it would make me exceedingly happy and fulfill my only real childhood dream to get my work published, but making money off something is not the end all to be all, whatever our current culture might think. Writing made me happy, and it connected me to something outside of myself, and that is important, far more important than making money (having grown up around people trapped in careers that made them miserable, I learned first hand money isn’t everything). Even if I end up keeping my work entirely to myself, it will still have been worth my effort in creating it, it will still have served a purpose.

Writers write, that’s what they do and there is no use trying to deny it. I’m tired of feeling like there is something missing in my life, and I’m tired of struggling to open up using methods that don’t work with my brain wiring. With this now in my head, I think I may be able to kill two birds with one stone.

I’ve wanted to begin writing again for a while now, but struggled over where exactly I was supposed to start. I think I’ll take Naiadis’s suggestion and use it as a spiritual tool, a meditative practice and a means to connect again with Hermes. Do again what makes me happy, get my relationships back in order.

And so thank you, both to Naiadis who shared this and to Hermes who probably made certain that I saw it. Who knows how much longer I might have sat with this solution right in front of my face before I saw it on my own.

Issues of Ownership

I sometimes describe my religion as being “Hermes Owned and Operated.” In lieu of simple labels, it seems accurate enough and most people do understand what I mean. Of course, it is also supposed to be somewhat tongue in cheek.

The first time I ever referred to myself as owned was in a Livejournal entry as an offhand joke while I mused on my first year of being formally dedicated to Hermes. It might have been forgotten entirely, but that someone I then had barely even heard of decided to be personally offended by what I had said, launched a tirade against me elsewhere, presenting the situation in an overblown and highly distorted form making it seem that I said a whole ton of shit I never once implied. The ensuing drama assured that the phrase stuck in my head.

I have not continued using the phrase entirely out of spite. Having had time to think it over carefully, there is a degree to which it is very applicable.

I find myself generally dissatisfied with the term “patron god,” though it is one that I have been using for years now because it is a term that people in the Pagan world know and recognize. It is a problematic word however because its definition is a bit too flexible and not universally agreed upon. People use patron to describe the god they are fully devoted to and serve in a formal and often public fashion, to a deity they have a moderately close relationship with though without the mundane life interference or call to serve, to whichever deity they happen to worship more than the others for whatever the reason (their job, mutual interests, just think they’re cool). Some people hold to a more conservative definition (as I do) others far more liberal. It can, and has, made for a confusing situation.

I do believe that a different term is needed to describe those with close relationships with their deities but who are ultimately still another faithful worshiper like any other, and one for those whose deities strongly interfere in their every day lives and who do feel called to serve those gods (whether that is through a community or in a more direct and private way). It has nothing to do with issues of specialness, wanting to paint myself like I’m better than anyone else. Its because the relationship dynamics are different, the expectations are different. Thus I believe descriptive terms should reflect that difference without my having to give an extra explanation.

I am of the opinion the word patron works better for the more intense, service oriented relationships, and that a different word should be used for the god you happen to feel closest to (before accepting Hermes as my patron, I referred to him as my primary deity, that worked for me and people generally understood what I was talking about). I also know that this is not going to happen. Definition wars rarely work in favor of the aggressor, when large groups of people have been using a word a certain way for a great length of time they are not going to appreciate someone barreling over with their chest puffed out insisting that you can’t use that word anymore because I’ve decided to define it according to how I think things should be. I’ve been on the other end of that before, I didn’t take kindly to it and the hell that I’m going to turn around and do the same thing. However right you may think you are, sometimes the only thing that can be done is to find a word of your own to use. One of these days perhaps, I or one of my clever friends will dream up a perfect general term to describe this relationship dynamic. Until that happens, these problems remain.

As well as being tongue in cheek, by calling myself owned I wished to convey the intensity of our relationship and the place he holds in my life (if I can be both funny and serious at the same time than, as one of Hermes’ people, that’s exactly what I should do). For the most part, people understand this and I’ve not had problems with reasonable people understanding my meaning.

I was accused of being a slave in the attack against me, that by calling myself owned I was implying a master/slave dynamic in which I have no autonomy whatsoever. I do not honestly believe that this was an genuine misunderstanding so much as it was it was a deliberate distortion, especially as it has never happened since except with one individual who lets his biases be known loud and clear.

That does not concern me. However, there are in fact those who identify themselves as godslaves, who refer to their deities as “owners” and they do mean it in the master/slave dynamic and they often do mean that they have little or no personal autonomy. And this movement is beginning to gain some publicity. And its more for this reason that I want to clarify what I mean, so as not to confuse those familiar with a different dynamic.

When I finally began noticing the flood of omens that Hermes was sending my way, when I acknowledged that his interest in me was far from casual and that he was my patron and pushing me toward something else, I made a pledge to take vows to him in service after a year’s time; a year because there is no reason to rush such things, I wanted to take the time to be certain that I was doing the right thing, that this was really what I wanted and that it was really what he wanted.

By the time I was ready to make my vows, everything in my life had changed.

My childhood was an abusive one, physically and emotionally; the severity varied by degrees at different points in time, but it was overall a negative experienced marked by encounters with people that beat me, neglected me, ridiculed and degraded me, or betrayed the trust I foolishly placed in them. The recovery process from this took time, and by necessity was something I had to do on my own. It was during this recovery time that Hermes first made himself known to me, and it was largely because of him that I was able to recover at all (by rights I should not be any where near as functional as I am). But I would not be much use to him living in isolation as I was, and continuing to live with a family I simply don’t get along with in close quarters was taking a severe toll on me. So these were some of the things that he fixed.

Within that year Hermes brought me out of a transitional period, and gave me a whole new life. He arranged for me to move to a new city, to have a steady income, a romantic relationship, hell he even gave me a pet as a birthday present. I have a small real life community of friends and acquaintances, and a far larger internet community of the same. My physical health and mental well being have improved a thousand times over.

I’m not going to pretend it was all easy and wonderful, nothing ever is and Hermes is not exactly a god of the easy path. Though the apartment I’m living in now is beautiful and peaceful and I’m alone with my girlfriend, the first two homes were far less than ideal (in unsafe locations, with unpleasant people), and there was a brief stint working at a job that … well, to call that place a massive and constant dramafest would be a severe understatement. But even these were far better than the conditions I was living under before and, right now, things are about as close to perfect as they have ever been, and far more than I thought I ever deserved.

Hermes had a hand in all of this, his involvement was considerably less than subtle as far as I am concerned, though of course you are invited to believe me on these points or not. It was only about a week after Hermes and I had a long talk about why I needed to leave my mother’s house, a week after he got me to agree to look into relocating within a year, that one of the few online friends I had at the time told me one of her room mates bounced his rent check and then disappeared never to be heard from again, she needed a new room mate and she needed one in about a month (“But I thought we agreed on a year?’ I said. No, we said within a year, he replied, a month is within a year). That coincidence is too much for me to explain away, my healthy skepticism can’t dismiss it; and having some very solid real world evidence of the gods’ influence in your life can be a wonderful thing.

Everything in my life now has his fingerprints on it, and I went through with my lifetime vows. Because of these things, I consider there to be some truth in saying that I am owned when most every aspect of my life, both by his design and my vows, do belong to him.

But my turning so much over to him has nothing to do with obligation, with feeling as though I have to because he’s a god and he’s bigger than me. It has to do with trust, Hermes has earned my trust over the years, has proven over and over again that he has my best interests at heart. Should that ever change that trust could be lost, I don’t think it will ever come to that but walking away is a possibility.

***Warning, the following contains graphic depictions of UPG which may or may not be relevant to your practice, viewer discretion is advised***

It is not my opinion that Hermes is looking for slaves, but for very independent people. Hermes is a god of freedom, as many are though what sort of freedom they each offer can be very different. I believe that Hermes, in part, offers freedom from ties of obligation. His is the freedom of the wanderer, always on the road always moving, very little that can really hold on to him or keep him down. Which doesn’t mean going through life with no ties (unless that is what you need), but that ties are not something foisted upon you, that you just owe them some loyalty and you have no choice. You need to choose your own ties, and choose them very carefully; who do you want to be a part of your life, who do you want to extend your loyalty to, that you want to be obligated to?

I choose to bind myself to Hermes, I choose to belong to him. I choose that every day. And if one day I should find that it is no longer my choice, for whatever the reason, I do think he would rather I stop making that choice and walk away rather than remain unhappy at his side because I feel that I have to. I don’t see that day coming, but I know I have that option.

If I were ever to take that option, I know I wouldn’t walk away for free and a lot of the benefits I experience in my life may well vanish. However uncomfortable some people are with that, it is to be expected; reciprocity lies at the heart of every relationship especially divine ones, its a give and take. With extra privilages comes extra work, extra responsibility, and if I were to stop giving, no longer living up to my end of the bargain, he would be well within his rights to pull out as well. It would be no different than a human marriage coming to an end, you can’t go file for divorce from your spouse and still expect everything in your life to remain exactly the same; you might end up losing your house, your children at least some of the time, a large chunk of your possessions, your income, insurance benefits, the list goes on. Ending a divine relationship can be looked at much the same way, especially one that was close, intense and long term.

I have met those who consider this another form of slavery, them holding this over your head in order to keep you in line. Even beyond the very me centric notion that the gods should be expected to give you everything without you having to do much if anything in return (like I said, extra benefits extra work), I find this insulting on a more personal level.

I am not in this for what I can get out of him, I would not deserve this relationship if I was. Even were all these benefits to disappear tomorrow (and I’m sure some will sooner or later, life can not be wonderful all the time and no deity can make it so however much they may like you or not) I would still be here. I’m here because of a deep affection I have for him that has built in the years I’ve known him, that makes me want to serve him in whatever way he needs me to. Its that affection that keeps me at his side, and will keep me here so long as it remains.