Thursday, May 25, 2017

Fertility Magic

Woman Bathing in Lakeby Regina Warriner
A friend asked for fertility magic for a couple having trouble conceiving. Here is some traditional(ish) Jewish fertility magic. It is designed to open her womb. If the husband is the infertile party, he will need different magic. This magic is pretty specifically designed for a married couple. I don't know if it will work if you're not married.

This magic involves a mikveh, which is a kind of magic bath ritual that must be done with "living" water. Ideally, she will need a natural body of water in which she can submerge, naked. It's ok to wear a bathing suit if needs be, but not one with knotted string. If nothing else will work, she can collect rainwater and put it in a bath, but a natural body of water in which she can submerge is much better. She will also need to be tracking her ovulation.

On the day she ovulates, she should begin by cleaning herself very well in the shower, being sure to clean EVERYWHERE. Complete the shower by pouring some salt water over her head. She should wear only white from the time she showers until she has completed mikveh.

Before entering the bath, she should imagine walking down seven white marble stairs, while praying (something like):

"I am NAME, daughter of MOTHERS NAME, daughter of GRANDMOTHER's NAME. Shaddai El Chai, god of Sarah, Rebekkah, Leah, and Rachael, bless me as you did my mothers. Open my womb, as you opened theirs, that I may bear children who will grow in health and strength and goodness. Bless me in body, mind, and spirit, as I enter into the Living Waters, the font of Holiness.

Ribono Shel Olam, Ruler of the Forever, you created the world from your womb of water. You have made me in your image, pure and holy, and my womb is also the womb of the world. As I stand here, naked, I feel my dependence on you; moment by moment you breath life into me. I beg you to breath life into my womb."

Immerse three times in the mikveh, being sure the hair is loose and free, and that all of it went under the water. Every single part of you must get wet. Immerse once, then arise, and cross your arms over your belly. Say aloud (something like) "Blessed are You, God, Ruler of the Forever, Who makes us holy by embracing us in living waters."

Immerse twice more. (this is really just to MAKE SURE that every part of you get wet.)

While underwater for the third time is a very powerful time for personal silent prayer.

After the final immersion, her husband should draw a large red spiral beginning at her vulva and ending at her belly button. The spiral should go from left to right at the top, and right to left at the bottom. There should be seven circles. Red ochre mixed into butter would be great, but you can also use a lipstick, or even a red magic marker. While doing this, he should pray "I am NAMe, son of FATHERS NAME, son of GRANDFATHERS NAME. El Shaddai, god of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, bless me, as you blessed my fathers. Give me the strength to engender a child, who will grow ever in health, and strength, and goodness. Bless in body, mind, and spirit, as I am about to enter into the Living Waters, the Font of Holiness."

Precede to baby-make however you see fit.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Blackthorn Dragon Home Protection

New from Mastros & Zealot, these small spell bottles pack a big punch! They are designed to be buried near the front entrance of your home, but can also be inside near the front door. These are most potent protective charms I make. While each is unique, they all contain:
  • a single blackthorn, collected in Glastonbury, England and soaked for 13 days in
  • dragonfire protection powder, which includes:
    • dragon's blood
    • cinnamon
    • black pepper
    • jalapeño pepper
    • ash from a lightning struck oak
    • iron filings
    • frankincense
    • ginger
    • sandalwood
    • and many other ingredients
  • golden rutilated quartz (to ensnare anything that's coming for you)
  • a rusty 4-sided nut (to invoke the powers of Gevorah)
  • a battery (to energize)
  • 2 plastic googly eyes (to keep watch, and avert the evil eye)
  • mirror shard (to reflect ill intention)
  • several elderberries (to exorcise evil)
  • a red silk cord with three knots in it, for strength, health, and safety
  • alchohol
  • red paint
  • your own urine 
    • obviously, you will have to supply this yourself. I've left space in the bottle for it)
  • and many other ingredients, some unique to each jar.
These jars were blessed under the auspices of the constellation Draco, the Great Dragon of the North.  Only ten were made; nine are available for sale.  They come with complete instructions, including a small ritual to bind it to you.  $100 each, available here.

We also offer the dragonfire protection powder for $27 or a dragonfire guided trance audio for $7.

Noontime, Twilight, Midnight, Norning: A Teaching of Three Weird Sisters

Prophetess's note:  This is super dense.  It was channeled during an accidental possession from the depths of the Well.  I will write commentary explaining it as best I am able.  Commentary is in blue.

Noontime, Twilight, Midnight, Norning: A Teaching of Three Weird Sisters

There are those who say my sisters and I, who are one, who are three, 
who are legion, 
who, finally, are 
and No One, 
and Nothing, 
came into your world from a land of ice, and that is true, but it is not all there is to tell. We were here before the ice came, and the ice before that, and the first fire from which ice is born. 
We are the mothers of your mother’s mother, and we are the mothers of the Old Folk of the Hills (Neanderthal, also Kindly Ones), now long gone. 
I was old before your gods had names, and she will be young when they are passed again into dust. 
But, once, I was she, she they, and they I; for then was then now, which then was before, and before will come round once again. 

I speak:
When you walked across the land, and into the North, we were already here. 
When you threaded the needle, and conquered the cold, I was there, and she saw, and they smiled. 
When you hit stone to stone, making blades, making sparks, I was there, and she saw, and they smiled. 
When you picked up your hands, turned your heads to the sky, tipped your cunt to the earth, I was there, and she saw, and they smiled. 
When you sprouted thumbs, when you grasped and you held, I was there, and she saw, and they smiled. 
When you gave birth to your young, I was there, and she saw, and they smiled. 
It was I who taught you to the suckle your young, and she who wove your first furs. 
I were there when you crawled from our womb, the great sea, and we were there when sex came to be. 
Before there was Life, 
I was, we are, you were. 
Before the Earth came to be, there we were. 
I was your first thought and they will your last dream, and she-he-it-they-we are all the things in between. 
I am the soundless breath, the open mouth, I am the aleph, אהיה (Ehyeh, it means "I AM" more or less), Urd-Erath. (Urd is one of the Norn. Many people think her name means "Fate". I have no idea what "Erath" is.  It is not a typo for Earth, because it definitely has 2 syllables)
You, who walk in the outer darkness, you who breathe in the sky, you who live in Heaven have forgotten that the crust of the Earth is the skin of the Earth, and you live not in Her nor of Her, but On Her and Off Her; you live by eating Her life.  
This, where you breathe, is Sky, and that, where you die, is the World. 
And there is a third world below Her; not within Her, but Before Her, Beneath Her, Between Her. 
You think that the underworld is within the Earth, that my well, Urd’s Well, Earth’s Well, the Hallowed Hollow, the Holy Hole, is the Whole who hauls his water from within the world, and it does, but you do not go deep enough. 
Within the World is not Under the World, Within the World is the Word of the World, not the World of the Word and the Worm. 
Down, not with the pull of the Earth, but the Down that is Down from Her Center. 
Intus Deus Altus Est. ("The God Within is the God Above".  It's a quote from St. Augustine)
I have no other words. My sister now will speak:

Now is a moment, the time between breaths, but the breaths of the Earth are quite long. 
You, Children of the Sun (homo sapiens), came into the world when I drew in a breath, and when you pass from the world, I will exhale. 
I am She-He-It-They-We, I Am that Which is Becoming, I am the water of Miriam’s Well (a Herbew legendary well.), I am אשרה (Ahsera, a tree goddess)‎‎ and I am שאר (Asher, the male form of Asherah, and also the middle word in Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh, "I AM that I AM"); I am the Root and the Head and the Tree; I am the the water of Mimir’s Well (a Norse legendary well), I am the Root and Head and the Tree. 
Pluck out your eye and feed it to me; hear it splash, smell it sink, feel it rot, taste the cold. 
Here, Underground, all are blind, and all can See. 
When the Children of Sun displaced the Old Folks of the Hills, they were there, and I saw, and she smiled a fang-filled grin. 
Vanir, Aesir, Xristos, Kroner....all this is but a blink of the eye.  (Xristos is the Greek spelling for Christ.  Kroner is the currency of Iceland)
We who are three are not three in a line; three points makes a plane, makes it plain? 
Front-Back, Left-Right, Up-Down, Past-Future, In-Out, Round-About. These are dimensions, and you must see all six. 
There are actually twelve, one's hidden! For we three are only the wives.  (Most current cosmological theory includes 11 spatial dimensions)
My husband, the Here, her husband, the There, their husband, the Elsewhere, so to speak. 
Six children have we, but they are yet in the womb, and the birthing will be the end of her mother. 
Time runs not like a river that spreads into a lake, but like a delta enriching the sea. 
Inanis Deus Altus Est.  (The inane god is the god above.)
I have no other words. My sister now will speak:

I hiss like a snake, and I roar like a bear; I make the spider-sound you cannot hear. 
Thus I awaken, like a tree, like a delta, like an acyclic planar graph, but that, you know is a LIE. ("acyclic planar graph" is a mathy way to say "like a tree,  like a delta)
 am anti-arborescent! ("anti-arborescent" means that the paths point back toward the root, not out toward the leaves
I am uncountable! (There are as many paths as there are points on a line) 
I am replete with cycle and I am perfect! (I curve back in on myself.)
My bipartate is perfect, and we are perfected together; Altogether Perfect!  (some technical math stuff)
You think I branch because you decide, but I am not bud nor blossom nor fruit nor flower. 
I am vriditas and I am blood red. I am dense as stew and I foam like bread. 
I am Chaos-Chasm: Void and Voice and Veil; I am here to tohu your bohu, and you will wahhh, wahhh wahhh all the way home! I am invisible and unadulterated. 
I am ἀόρατος καὶ ἀκατα-σκεύαστος (void and without form). My sisters were אהיה אשר (Ehyeh Asher) but I am not אֶהְיֶה (Ehyeh) but היה (Heyeh), I am not εγω ειμι (Ego eimi), δεν (neither am I) I AM, 
but the Being, I am no Noun, nor a Verb. 
I am not Ein Soph, nor Ayn. I am the Ayin inside of the אין (ayun, "It is not"); 
I am the the Eye that you threw down the Well. 
Inanis Deus Altermus Est. (the deep god is other)
I have no more words, and my fourth sister cannot yet speak.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

American Witchcraft: Great River

This post is part of an ongoing series on working with the spirits of the American Land.  Read more about the American Gods Project here.   Before going on, I shall summarize the teaching of several others:

A Teaching of Arch Bard Neil Gaiman: The new gods and the old gods are not actually enemies.  They're ALL American Gods.

A Teaching of Arch Bard Stan Lee, and Arch Bard Jack Kirby, Blessed be his Name:  Captain America and Thor are on the same team.

and finally, this post is my result from today's Magical Battle for America, and AMERICAN REFLECTIONS: a nostalgic journey in the American acoustic soundscape

A few days ago, I spoke to you the Word of the Ohio River, as best as I was able.  I want to talk, today, a little more about how to work with a river, magically.  What follows is a ritual, and also a formula; you should adapt it to your own Great River.  Rivers are one of my favorite kinds of spirits.  They are strong and powerful, often appearing as dragons.  But they are also among the easiest spirits to contact.  In truth, it's hard to be out of contact with you local river, even if you wanted to be.  You are 90% water, and a significant portion of that water came from you own local Great River.  (unless you live very close to the sea, or in the desert, or in the tundra.  But for most people in the United States, Great River is one of the Great Powers of your local spirit court.  And, of the Great Powers, they are one of the easiest to first identify and communicate with (aka "attain knowledge and conversation of").

Rivers are HUGE laylines running through the world; there's no mystery how the power of water moves through the land!   If you live in the United States, in less than a minute, you'll know the name of your own Great River.
 Map of American Watersheds.

If you want, go read the Wikipedia article about your river, so you know a little more about your river's history and geology, but you don't need it. It's a river. You know what rivers are, and for this ritual, you don't really need to know anything more than that.  Better than reading about it is to go sit by it for a spell.  But, for this, you don't really need to do that either.  It's a river.  You know what rivers are, and for this ritual, you don't really need to know anything more than that. 

Now, once you know who your Great River is, what do you do next? We're going to brew a potion, which you will pour it out to the river. As the potion crosses through the land getting to the river, and as it travels down the river, every piece of the watershed will be effected, and every watershed downstream. Such is the power of Grandfather(1) River.  Why?

Water is the universal solvent; both magically and mundanely, the river collects tiny bits of land as it moves; it is transformed by everything it touches. A river is the distilled essence of its entire  watershed.  To learn your watershed, ask yourself this deceptively simple question:  When a drop of rain hits the ground at your feet, where does it go? As you begin to answer that question, you'll come to understand how the spirits of water move and live and flow where you are, you'll learn to work with them. When you pour out offerings on the ground, it is this watershed that you are feeding. When you travel in water-form, it is along these paths that you can most easily swim. 

However, for this ritual, you don't need to understand your whole watershed, you only need to know the name of your Great River.  

Step Two: Brewing the Potion

Boil the following ingredients in a large pot.  Cast iron is best, but if you do not have a cast iron cauldron, that's ok, any pot will do.

1 gallon thunder-water  Here are five recipes for thunder-water.  You may choose any one of these, or combine them as you see fit, or make up your own.
  • water collected as rain during a thunder storm
  • water in which you have soaked 13 acorns
  • a strong decoction (tea) made of rain water or spring water and the leaves or roots of Tripterygium wilfordii aka 雷公藤 aka Thunder God Vine
  • any water in which you have dissolved 1 Tbsp of Mastros & Zealot's "Thunderwater Elixer" (coming soon!)
$17.76 composed as:
  • 1 Hamilton $10
  • 1 Lincoln $5
  • 1 Sacagawea $1 coin
  • 4  Washington quarters (choose from among the many kinds of quarters available)
  • 1 Kennedy half-dollar
  • 1 FDR dime
  • 1 Jefferson nickel 
  • 10 Lincoln pennies (because we can use all the Lincoln we can get)
  • 1 Wheat penny
Spit in the pot, while thinking about all the reasons you're angry at America.

Bring the water to a boil and then stir the pot with a hammer, 13 times clockwise, while loving America.

The water can be stored until you are ready to do the next part.

Step Three: Pouring Out the Potion

Go outside with a pitcher or pot of this water and a shot of whatever liquor (or other drink) you think your river will like.  Pour out a tiny splash of water onto the ground, and imagine the course it will travel to get to the river.  When you have felt how you are connected to the river, begin to speak out loud:

"Great Mother/Father River, I hallow your name, __________________.
I pour out this drink for you, that you might spread it across all the Land.
(splash a bit of potion onto the ground with each line
I pour out my love for America
I pour out my anger with America
I pour out the Amber Waves of Grain
and the power of Abraham Lincoln, Blessed be his Name.
I pour out Thomas Jefferson and Franklin Delano Rosevelt,
I pour out George Washington times four!
I pour out Kennedy and Sacagawea, and five hundred more Abraham Lincolns!
I pour out Alexander Hamilton,
and I pour out the power of Thunder and Water and River and Rain!

Thank you mighty, _______________, Great River.  Hallowed be your name."

and finally, Pour out the offering.

You may do as you choose with the $17.76, but I recommend donating it to the charity of your choice.

(1) Or Grandmother River.  Different Great Rivers have different genders.  Some have no gender.  As you come to know your river, you'll come to know better what names and titles to use.  If in doubt, keep it gender neutral with "Great River".

Friday, May 5, 2017

American Gods: The Ballad of Mike Fink, Pirate King of America

This post is part of an ongoing series.  Read more about the #AmericanGods project here. 

Well, my daddy was a bear in the Allegheny Mountains
And my mother was a 'gator in the Ohio.
I was born full-growed at the forks of the river
And I cut my teeth on a catfish bone.

Oh, my name is Mike Fink, I'm a keelboat poler,

I'm a Salt River roarer and I eat live coals .
I'm a half-alligator and I ride tornaders,
And I can out-feather, out-jump, out-hop, out-skip,
Throw down and lick any man on the river.

The Ballad of Mike Fink, by Bob Dyer,
preformed by Michael Cochran & Pete Szkolka

Last night, I told some tales of the Ohio River.  Today, I want to tell you of his king: Mike Fink, the Pirate King of America.

Born in 1776 at Fort Pitt, Mike Fink spent his teenage years following in his father's footsteps as a militiaman. He was known, even as a youngster, as the best sharpshooter on the western frontier, and earned for himself the name "Bangall".  But, following orders wasn't much to Mike's taste, and in his early 20s, he heard the call of freedom, and he became a river man.  Among the rivermen of the time boasting was a competitive sport; the song below is Disney's 1957 version of Epic Rap Battle of History: Mike Fink vs Davey Crocket aka Davey Crocket and the River Pirates.

Listen to the thunder! 
Hear the winds roar! 
Hurricane's a-coming; Board up the door
Load up the cannon! Call up the law!
Worstest calamity that folks never saw.
Girls run and hide! Brave men shiver!
I'm Mike Fink, King of the River!

Despite Disney's smear campaign, Mike Fink and Davey Crockett were, in traditional tellings, friends, or, perhaps frenemies.  In one famous myth, they compete to shoot the tails off pigs.  I was going to retell it for you, but I don't think I can beat this wonderful version by local storyteller Pennsylvania Jack.

Although Mike was a brawler and downright mean and ornery to folks he didn't know, he could be a good and true friend to those he did, and so he welcomed Davy. The two of them sat on the porch taking a few "phlegm cutters" from Mike's favorite jug, while they caught up on each other's goings-on and while Mrs. Fink rustled up some supper.

Davy was up early the next morning, preparing to head off again on his hunting trip. Mike was up a wee bit later, but he had had a bit more of the jug the night before than had Davy and it was still showing. In what was typical Mike Fink bragging, he greeted Davy with a declaration. "I've got the prettiest wife, the fastest horse, and the sharpest shootin' iron in all of Kentuck, and any man that says I don't I'll be in his hair quicker than hell can scorch a feather! So there!"

Now all that gave Davy Crockett reason to pause and consider. After a moment, he said to Mike, "Well, Mike, it seems Mrs. Crockett is in Tennessee, and I don't have my horse along on this trip. But as to your rifle - I don't like to call you a liar, but I'll be danged if you speak the truth!"  
Read the rest here.

Many of the tales of Mike Fink are, like the one above, tales of his sharpshooting, fighting, or other sporting prowess.  However, he is also a bit of a trickster.  Here is a tale highlighting that aspect of our hero.

One day, as he lazed his way down the Ohio, Mike saw, on the shore, a large flock of beautiful, white, fluffy sheep.  His mouth watered; he and his men hadn't had fresh mutton in many months.  So, he thought to himself, what if I pull a little trick?
Now in his hold, he had some fine scotch snuff, which he took ashore.  Under cover of night, he chose six of the finest sheep and rubbed their faces black..  Meanwhile, he sent one of his men to go get the sheep's owners, and tell him to hurry and see what was the matter with his sheep.

The farmer came, still in his nightdress, only to find his sheep dancing about, bleating and leaping, a regular sheepish bachanal.  The farmer was alarmed.  "What is wrong with my sheep?"

"You don't know?" said Mike, all astonishment.  "It's the black murrain!  All the sheep upriver have it, they're dying left and right.  Once one sheep gets it, soon enough the whole herd is a goner.  Best to shoot the sick ones now, to save the rest."

"But no man but Mike Fink could target a single sheep, dancing about like they are!"

"Well," said Mike, "It's your lucky day.  I'm Mike Fink."

The farmer begged Mike to shoot the infected sheep for him, and throw them into the river.

"Might be mistaken," said Bangall.  "Best go to ask your neighbor if it's the murrain.  Wouldn't want to shoot no poor innocent sheep if we was wrong."

The farmer begged and begged, and finally promised three full jugs of fine peach brandy if Mike would help him.

That night, Mike and his men laughed and sang, and washed down their lambchops with fine peach brandy.

Now, having heard that tale, you might be asking yourself "Is Mike why we call a cheater a fink?"  I asked myself that too.  As near as I can tell, no.  However, the word doesn't appear in English until 1902, and is of uncertain origin, perhaps a variation on "pink", related to the Pinkerton rent-a-cops who busted up the Homestead Massacre.  (which I'll tell you all about when I sing to you of another local hero, Emma Goldman)

If your savvy, you might, by now you might be thinking that you've heard this one before....

Mike Fink, Master Navigator, Athlete Hero's, Herd Snatcher...
Trickster, Liar, Thief...
Hail to you Quicksilver Lord, the Pirate King of America.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

American Gods: The Great River

The National Wildlife Refuge at Ohio River Islands, WV.  Photo courtesy of US Fish & Wildlife Service
Read more about my American Gods project here.

The Ohio, whose name means “Great River” in the Seneca (Iroquois) language, is an amazing river. Thomas Jefferson called it “... the most beautiful river on earth. Its current gentle, waters clear, and bosom smooth and unbroken..."  He is the 10th longest river in the United States, traveling almost 1000 miles from his headwaters here in Pittsburgh, past Wheeling WV, Cincinnati OH, and Louisville KY to Cairo, Illinois which figures prominently in Neil Gaiman’s American Gods book.  There, the Ohio spreads into a delta and spills into the mighty Mississippi.  Personally, I am most familiar with the upper Ohio, especially with it headwaters, which are about 10 miles due east of my home.

The Ohio's headwaters in Downtown Pittsburgh

In our limited human conception, we sometimes think rivers are eternal, but that is simply not true.  The Ohio is a very young river, only 100,000 years old.  Before the Illinois Ice Age, he simply did not exist in any way we would recognize as the same river.  The Ohio came into being when the ice pushed more northern rivers south.  Then, upper Ohio river actually flowed north, but he was still a small stream; a tributary of the then Mother River of our region, the Monongahela.  At that time, Mother Monongahela continued past Pittsburgh, along the course of the modern Ohio, toward the Ancestral Basin which would, in time, become Lake Erie.   The Ohio's headwaters, in these ancient days, were near Moundsville, WV (so called because it is the site of an ancient barrow) about 114 miles downstream from Pittsburgh.  From there, he flowed north to New Castle, and there joined the Monongahela.  Only after the world froze and melted again, in the Wisconsin Ice Age, did our Ohio take on his familiar form, running south from Pittsburgh inexorably to the Mississippi, taking the waters of the Mon and the Allegheny with him.

Current River Paths
Ice Age River Paths

The Ohio River and his Valley have an extraordinary rich 15,000 year history with humans. The area was likely settled by so-called "paleo-indians" first, and then by the archaic and woodland cultures.  Among the early inhabitants of the Ohio Valley were the culture we now call "Adena", who lived primarily in the western reaches of the Ohio Valley, around 1000-200 BCE. We don't know much about the Adena, but we do know that they built huge earthworks, including (probably) the Serpent Mound, whose word I spoke yesterday.

I know very little about the peoples who lived on the Ohio during the first part of the last millennium. In the mid 1600s, most Native peoples fled the area of the upper Ohio, trying to outrun European violence and disease. In the early 1700s, several tribes settled here, also fleeing European settlers. These include the Lenape or Delaware from the Philadelphia region, Wyandot or Huron from Ontario, Shawnee or Iroquois from the South, and Miami from Indiana.

On May 19, 1749, King George II granted the English-speaking Ohio Company a charter for much of what is now Ohio.  However, this land had already been settled by colonists from Pennsylvania and Virginia, many of whom were French-speaking.  This conflict led directly to the so-called "French and Indian War", which, in Europe, is called the "Seven Years War" but really could, reasonably, be called World War Zero; it was in many ways the first truly intercontinental war.

After much conflict, the Ohio became the southern border of what would later be called "the Northwest Territory". In several treaties, the river also served as a dividing line between British settlements in Kentucky and American Indian communities north of the river. By the early 1800s, these peoples' grandchildren were forcibly resettled on reservations in Kansas and Oklahoma, where many of their descendants still live.

In the early 1800s, the Ohio became a very important shipping lane for the Westward Expansion. Pirates roamed his waters, preying on both naive pioneers and industrial shippers alike. Tomorrow, I shall tell you of one such pirate, the legendary Mike Fink, a Pittsburgh-born "king of the river", of whom it was said that he could "drink a gallon of whisky and still shoot the tail off a pig at 90 paces".

Prior to the Civil War, the Ohio was the extension of the Mason Dixon line; the boundary between free Ohio and Indiana, and the slavers in Kentucky and West Virginia.  It was the only physical boundary (as opposed to the purely political Mason-Dixon line) separating free and slave states, and has taken on a simultaneously sinister and liberatory character in American myth that ties it closely to the Jordan.  

The Ohio is a slaver's river.  He was a major route for the transportation of captive slaves; "the river "in the phrase "sold down the river" is the Ohio.  It was a spoken by the enslaved people of Kentucky and West Virginia when they were shipped to cotton and sugar plantations in the New Orleans area, following the Louisiana purchase.    It was while traveling the Ohio that Abraham Lincoln first came into contact with an enslaved person, and it shook him greatly. Much later, in 1855, he wrote: "The sight was a continual torment for me; and I see something like it every time I touch the Ohio".

And yet, the Ohio is a river of freedom.  Both Uncle Tom's Cabin and Beloved feature dramatic scenes of mothers escaping across it with their children, and the river plays an important role in Huck Finn and Jim's escape.  More people escaped slavery across the Ohio than by any other route in America.  Perhaps no other river in the world has freed so many.  In 1830, Josiah Hanson, thought by many to be the inspiration for Uncle Tom, escaped across the river near Grandview Indiana, and continued north to Canada, where he founded a settlement school for other refugees from the South. In his autobiography he writes, of a woman's escape across the river:

"Thus when her form flits wildly by, 
With bloodless cheek and fearless eye, 
Resolved to free her child or die,
We still our very breath--
Till, safely on the farther shore
She stands, the desperate journey o'er
So fraught with life and death."

circa 1918

It is not only it's history as the entry to the Promised Land that connected the Ohio with the Jordan.  It is also a sign of an important American Christian myth. In his propaganda tract "Jesus Christ the Same, Yesterday, Today and Forever", William Branham (who founded the "Healing Revival" movement), tells the following tale, set in August of 1933: "One day at the foot of Spring Street, in Jeffersonville, Indiana, after a two week's revival, I was baptizing 130 people. It was a hot August day and there were about three thousand people present. I was about to baptize the 17th person when all of a sudden I heard that still, little voice again and it said, "Look up." The sky was like brass on that hot August day. We had not had any rain for about three weeks. I heard the voice again, and then again the third time it said, "Look up."  I looked up and there came from the sky a big bright star which I had seen many times before but that I had not told you about...After a few seconds had passed, I screamed and many people looked up and saw the star just over me. Some fainted while others shouted and others ran away. Then the star returned back into the sky, and the place where it had left was about fifteen feet square, and this place kept moving and churning about or as though waves were rolling. There had formed in this place a little white cloud and the star was received up in this little cloud..."

Praise to you, Ohio, American Jordan, river of Liberation.

The American Gods Project

Recently, at a trance possession workshop, someone said something about how the practice "has to be grounded in some kind of culture". They meant to say that the practice, which was originally Norse, could be used as a template for developing a different practice, within another pagan cosmology. But it got me to thinking. With perhaps some very technical exceptions, everything humans do is rooted in some kind of culture, because we humans are, ourselves, always deeply rooted in culture. So grounded in culture are we that we sometimes fail to even recognize our own culture as a culture, like a fish who doesn't know what water is.

That line of thought, along with the recent premier of the American Gods TV show(one of my all-time favorite books), have got me doing a lot of thinking about what the "native" paganism of my own culture looks like. The #AmericanGods project is part of that. In case you've missed it, I'm encouraging everyone, but especially those of us here in North America, to write a short (or long!) telling of their favorite local-to-them spirit or god. A spirit who emerged in and from their own land. (What exactly "your land" means is up to you, but at least one location you associate with them in your telling should be within a 4 hour drive of you) . Those can be pre-colonial spirits of your area, or more modern spirits, but not imported ones.  And, of course, like any authentic telling of myth, my telling is mine, arising out of this moment, and unlike anyone else's. If you publish your story online, tag it #AmericanGods, so it receives some trickle-down publicity, and gets wrapped up in the mass-media current.

A note on the "rules": One of the many powers of the True Bard, as you well know, is the power to not just get away with ignoring any rule you want, but to make the judges applaud when you do so. Is not our beloved god of stories and bards also the god of lies and cheats?

I'm keeping an updated list of all my American Gods stories here. I'd love to include yours as well, if you'd like me to.