Wednesday, March 7, 2012

My Sisterhood: Evolution

Three years ago, I was wandering the halls of the Doubletree hotel in San Jose and trying to figure out what I would be attending for the evening session at Pantheacon.  I read one ritual description that mentioned it would be a skyclad rite for women.  It was being presented by a group called The Amazon Priestess Tribe. Skyclad? Amazon? I had to go.

Amazons and Naiads sing at the beginning of the Earth.

For a long period of my life, I felt like I was alone in being the kind of woman that I am.  It wasn't that I didn't know other women or that I wasn't friends with them.  It wasn't that I didn't know that women like the Amazons existed.  I just didn't know women like them, personally and I didn't know how to find them or even if I should.  Thankfully, The Goddess does know such things and she sent me to the right place at the right time.

"The Amazon Priestesses are a rowdy, intellectual, wily, beautiful, dangerous, sacred sisterhood of High Priestesses in the Amazon Tradition. We celebrate our wild natures as well as our poised propriety, we dance naked beneath the moon, sing in harmony and screech like banshees, and generally revel in the Blood and Womb Mysteries of the Goddess in each one of us...and in you." - The Amazon Priestess Tribe

Blood Sisters: Zafira (Bast) and I (Sekhmet). 
Kismet-Bast spreads mischief in between.
A year later, after attending rituals and events with this group of amazing women, I was on the path to joining this Sisterhood.  These were the fierce, strong, confident, funny, compassionate, beautiful, intelligent, loving, powerful and unique women that I'd been looking for.  The bonds that I have developed with these women are some of my most treasured possessions.  They have taught me many lessons of love, friendship, and sisterhood through good times and bad.  The past two years that I have spent with these women as an Amazon Priestess has helped to further define who I am.

Pantheacon 2011 was a lynchpin event for the Amazon Priestess Tribe. Individually and collectively, we were at the center of a controversy that we didn't even know we could start - how's that for a powerful bunch of women! The gender controversy that was sparked by our miscommunication in the program about the Rite of Lilith went up like a mushroom cloud over our Tribe.
Devi Zafira Stardust and Salamangkero Yansumi
await The Mother's Blessing.

Personally, as one of the Priestesses who brought Lilith into the ritual, I was surprised to return home and have one of my Sisters point out the controversy that was brewing online about us.  Here I'd spent three days at Pantheacon receiving hugs and tears of gratitude from a multitude of women who were deeply moved by the messages that Lilith brought to them through my Tribe's work and the voice I provided for Lilith to speak to them with.  I had no idea that people were so angry with us (or were about to be).  I was doing the work that my mamma Goddess asked for and wanted of me.  Honestly, the work in that ritual was one of my proudest accomplishments during my initiatory year.

Khotuns on the road!
It was an emotional punch in the gut to return home from PCon and hear the stories of how people were enraged over our ritual and the rumors that erupted about us.  When onslaught began our High Priestess and our Tribe took a beating.  This age of the internet has, in my opinion, led many people to be less considerate and compassionate.  I watched these flames explode online, watched people attack and condemn and all without ever once having come to the source.  I read after the fact about a group who seemingly made it their mission to condemn us at the end of PCon 2011 without even giving us the courtesy of appearing to defend ourselves.  Across the board, members of the Pagan community acted as though there were no living human beings on the other end of their scathing comments and blog entries and instead acted as though the only thing that mattered was their enacting revenge on a group they only knew through heresay, rumor, and outright vicious lies. Only through the tireless work of our High Priestess, leading us through the onslaught, was our voice able to cut through to those ears who had not forgotten how to actually listen without knee-jerk reacting first. Imagine the difference that makes!
Little Sisters of Manea enjoying the beach!
(R to L) Madame Hummingbird,
Maia Mermaid, and me.

The fallout from that ritual impacted me in many ways.  When I watched all this bad behavior going on, I had to fight the first inclination to simply join in on the bad behavior just like them.  I wanted to smash things and scream at people and bear my teeth at those who threatened us.  I wanted to turn right around, like a child on the playground, and scream right back, "You're a stupid poo-poo booger head!" just like I perceived our detractors were doing.  But wait a minute - that was just it.  I didn't want to be like those other people

It was through my priestess work with the Amazons and the women we reach that I saw what kind of woman I wanted to be.  When I needed help, I had but to turn to my sisters.  When I was sad, they cheered me up.  When I was happy, they shared in my joy.  When I was angry, they let me vent.  When I was out of line, they put me in check.  When I needed it most, they gave me laughter and love.  I wanted to be the kind of person who is able to give that back just because they can.

The Wisdom of Freyja: (R to L) Yeshe Rabbit,
Strega Manea, me, Mistress Ladybug.

I spent my ordination service year working on what and who I wanted to be in the world.  The archetype of the Amazon Warrior had called to my blood when I met these women.  The power of the Amazon got me through one of the toughest years of my personal life.  A failed relationship, a job of eight years disappearing, needing to find a new place to live - any one of these things can easily overwhelm a person but my work with the Amazon got me through all of these as they happened to me at the same time.  The Amazon taught me a lot about control - how to hold things together and power through.

When it was time to attend Pantheacon again, I was wary.  What would the Amazon Priestesses face?  Would we have people protesting our ritual?  Would we the recipients of nasty looks and vicious whispers?  Would we be attacked outright?  Would we be attacked after Pantheacon from under the cover of other people's computer screens?  So many questions and so much to prepare for.  What actually happened was different than what I expected and yet had a much greater impact.  The words and actions of others that we'd been affiliated with put us in the path of character assassinations once again.  This time, however, we were far more prepared to deal with the turmoil.

As a result of what came about at Pantheacon last year and this year, serious navel gazing has been going on in this Tribe.  The Tribe has recently met and around the table, it was agreed that the time had come for change.  This decision does not come lightly.  Surely we have all felt the benefit of working with the Amazon archetype over the last several years.  The energy of the Amazon has powered us forward, forging the initial way down the path that our Tribe walks together.  Based on recent events, we have felt that it is time for our Sisterhood to walk a new path. We have all decided that it is time for our Sisterhood to evolve.

Kismet-Bast (aka Duat Ka Neit Kismet) and I
at The Goddess Temple of Orange Count
You already know that in my eyes, being an Amazon High Priestess has been good to me.  You can imagine that I might have some feelings around the changes that are happening in our Sisterhood.  Personally, I am still working through my feelings on the change that necessitates that we move into working with the energy of a new archetype.  I still feel, in my heart, the call of the Amazon.  The Amazon calls to my blood.  The Amazon was at the heart of my song. 

I am warrior, I am Amazon
Diana before me, Aradia beside me
With my magic and my mystery
I transform my body and birth myself again

Some part of me is still reeling over the realization that it is time to change the way I work and resonate with this archetype.  What else do you feel over knowing that the hand pulling you out of the muck and grime is one you now have to let go of so you can forge your path forward?  There is anger, there is grief, there is sadness - all of these things factor into how I feel.  But nothing can overwhelm you if you don't let it.  I take comfort in knowing that I will always have that energy at my fingertips... no - within my very blood, ready to call up to service whenever it is needed.
My blood is sacred.  My blood is power.  My blood is life!

Kismet-Bast and Yeshe Rabbit
I feel good about the decisions that my Tribe is making as we step into our newest phase of growth.  I believe that we're heading in the direction we were meant to in breaking with the Z. Budapest branch of the Dianic path. I believe that we are coming rightly into our phase of working with the Sovereign Queen and attuning our energies towards creating a world that works for the highest good of all it's inhabitants, woman, man, child, and wild kindred.  I believe that we are strengthening ourselves by embracing the path of the Pan-Dianic tradition that, "respects the sovereignty and autonomy of each person or group who wishes to honor the Goddess in any ways that best suit unique needs, individual(s), or circumstances ... We honor everyone walking their own paths of knowing and serving the Goddess, including all beings of all genders."*
Celebrating Madame Hummingbird's
Birthday at Furthur's NYE Concert

To me, the last year has felt as though it were a Rite of Passage - one that would test whether we would be crushed under the pressure of being unyielding to change or if we would flourish by incorporating the energies of change into our Priestesshood.  This decision, to me, sends us on the path towards the latter - our Sisterhood continuing to live a healthy life by infusing itself with the energy of necessary change. I think it bodes well for this Sisterhood that if we can come to the consensus once that we need to change that when the need comes again we can do so as swiftly and easily as we have done now. (Though I'm sure that many of my Sisters would say there was nothing "easy" about making this change.)
Mother Help me / I'm gonna break
Mother Heal me / these chains that bind
Please release me / I'm gonna break
From all things worldly / these chains that bind
That do not serve me / I'm gonna break, break!
Mother Love me / these chains that bind
Yes I will break these chains that bind!
I'm actually excited about the potential that this change brings even as I process my own feelings of some sadness around this.  What excites me is that in working with The Living Temple of Diana (another Pan-Dianic Tradition based group) on the Rite of the Bear Mother at this year's Pantheacon, I've had my eyes opened.  Two groups, both holding the Goddess as whole and complete unto herself, who do things differently but have many similar goals, who recognize and respect the other's sovereignty, came together and created some amazingly powerful, transformative, and healing magics for those hundreds who came to seek it.  If we can do that, what else can we do?  I am excited that these changes will keep our Sisterhood and Mysteries intact while still allowing for us to work magic in new ways that are beneficial in new ways and places.  We take off the heavy mantle of battle armor to don the crown - perhaps no less heavy in the responsibility that it carries but something that tempers us, differently, in good ways.

- Q'desha Yansumi Diwata, High Priestess of Music in the Bloodroot Honey Priestess Tribe

*Noted from above: This is an excerpt from a statement that our Tribe, now known as the Bloodroot Honey Priestess Tribe, released this week detailing the direction we are headed in. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

She Thinks She's Amusing

 So... Last night, I'm sitting in my room and doing a bit of writing.  The TV is on in the background and I've been ignoring it in my focus on writing.  There's screaming on the TV.  I look up from my writing, distracted by the sound.  I'm watching drag queens being attacked by bad guys in what appears to be a mockingly weird version of a B grade horror flick. 

Ticked-off Trannies With Knives, is a film by Israel Luna. It's a very strange "tribute" to exploitation films, bad horror movies, and cheezy comedies.  It's loaded with "snappy drag queen dialog" and exaggerated stereotypes across the board.  Think of it as Pink Flamingos (Waters) meets Kill Bill (Tarantino) meets Corman-grade horror.  I'm not sure what I think of it - it's so well done in its intentional crappiness.  And yet it's so horrible for, among other things, its misguided listing of the details of several murders of transgendered people during its opening credits.  That's something that could be interpreted as either a big and graphic political statement on the high murder rate of transgendered people OR as a horrible use of the details of murders against *actual* transgendered people for the purpose of inflating the "horror" content of the film.  (I should note that Luna removed the references to the murders of Angie Zapata and Jorge Mercado after protests were made about the use of that information in this film.)

I can't take my eyes off the movie.  For better or worse, I watch the whole thing. I can't decide, still, if it's horrible in good or bad ways.  Is it bad for the stereotypes of the people that it portrays or is it good for how brilliantly it does illustrate stereotypes within the container of the "bad horror flick" movie genre?  Is it bad for showing violence against transwomen or is it good for bringing further into the light the kind of violence that trans folks regularly experience?  Is it bad for taking advantage of trans actors in need of work or is it good for employing trans actors who are very real? 

The opening scenes showing the backstage goings on at a drag queen "cabaret" show and the dialog in the bar scene after is exactly the kind of whip-snapping, catty as all hell, funny, sad, and strange conversations I'd experienced when I lived and partied in San Francisco's Castro district.  Then, a long-haired hillbilly leads two wife-beater wearing Latinos in his murderous quest to seek revenge on Bubble Cliquot for her crime of having a penis.  But that's after the long-haired guy had slipped a roofie into her drink and he'd taken her somewhere else to rape her (thus how he discovered her penis, he tells us). Never fear - Bubble's friends (Emma Grashun, Rachel Slurr, Tipper Sommore, and Pinky La' Trimm) come to the rescue.  However, in what is actually *very* hard to watch, the first horror scene has them all getting the living daylights beaten out of them with a baseball bat.  Those who survive, live to fight another day and these drag queens certainly aren't going down without a fight.  They go to train with a martial arts master who works in lines like, "Damn right, it's better than yours.  I'd teach you but I'd have to charge." (a tribute to Kelis' song, "Milkshake").  Then the ladies get their revenge on their attackers in ways that include shoving a loaded handgun into the ass of the long-haired guy (ala .  Who, by the way, busted into a twisted and black monologue about how Bubbles couldn't kill him because he knew that she was actually attracted to him because she believed that she wasn't good enough for anything but the worst example of a human being who would do nothing but abuse her and who, "... would have killed [her] a long time ago" if he were the one there with the gun (which he'd removed from his ass at this point in the film). 

So, now I decide to do a little research.  First, I look up Israel Luna.  No big surprise - there's some controversy about him and his film.  Some people give it rave reviews for what they think it appears to be.  Other people are slamming the film and screaming at Luna for what they see as a clear mistreatment and misrepresentation of trans people on film.  I make a mental note to research him a bit more later as I want to find a little more on what *he* actually says of his film and himself (rather than just reading what *others* are saying about him).  I'll get back to him later.

Then I look up the film title, on Google.  *MY* Google Search box took "Ticked-off Trannies With Knives" and corrected, "Trannies" for "Transvestites".  My understanding is that "tranny" is often considered an offensive term and "transvestites" is somewhat better (though often misused to describe transgendered people).  I just find it interesting the cases in which Google will get PC and how it enforces such things in its products. 

Not surprisingly, I see the film generated a bit of a controversy in the LGBT community.  It was screened at the Tribeca Film Festival despite protests from transgendered folks and their allies.  GLAAD endorsed it, without ever having seen it, then revoked their endorsement after they'd seen it (per the demands of the trans community).  Transgendered activist bloggers were condemning the film.  Some condemned the film and then noted their outrage at the lack of response by the wider LGBT community as was seen after the Isaiah Washington and TR Knight kerfluffle on Grey's Anatomy.  There are some great writings out there on why this film should never have been made due to it's highly offensive nature.  I have a lot to continue reading on.

I definitely have to come back to this and do more reading as I've yet to come to a full decision on what I think of all this.  Something that I've had drilled into my head over the last year is that doing my due diligence on getting information about a thing is important before making a judgement and taking action.

Oh! So what was I writing about when this randomly appeared on my television, you might ask? 


She thinks she's funny.  I think that I'm still undecided on that subject as well. (However, I do have to admit that She's got a helluva knack for bringing certain issues to my attention.)

Doing Things Backwards: Obligatory First Post

So often you read these blogs that folks start and they have the obligatory first post.  You know, the one where the person describes who they are, what reasons they have for starting their blog and where they say how they're going to keep up the journal.

Well, here's MY take on that obligatory first post... yes, yes, it's my second post and I'll write it how I want :)

Why The Blog?
I started this blog as a way to recount my experience detailed in the actual first post.  (You can find that link, I won't stop ya.)  Then I realized that the reason Lilith poked at me so much to write that first post was because I needed to keep witnessing such events and chronicle my experiences as a High Priestess of Lilith. 

The Singing Q'desha
When I started walking my path as an Amazon Priestess Initiate, I started giving thought to what I wanted my "ministry" to be.  What were my specialities and talents in the realm of the magical and spiritual?  What areas did I want to focus on as my forte in my work when I was finally ordained as an Amazon High Priestess?

I have been singing and banging on musical instruments for as long as I can remember.  When I was a toddler, the upright grand piano in my parents basement was the place I liked to play at being a Carnegie Hall Pianist. I started taking music lessons at a very young age.  Through the years I've played a variety of instruments, sung in a number of choirs, and have even spent a while as a Music Education major in college.  Music has always been a part of my very soul for as long as I can remember.  I love to sing and I love to drum.  Thankfully, I found a coven where both of these skills are regularly put to use.

I use my musical skills often in my work as a Priestess.  I believe that words, tones, and intentions combined into one focused working can be a very powerful thing.  A well crafted song or chant (spoken or intoned) can be used to pump up the magic in many things.  The pouring of emotion and intent into these pieces of music can imbue our workings with so much more strength.  The very act of listening to music can transform things in amazing ways. I use my skills to craft these musical pieces, whether written by me or another, through the use of my voice and/or drum. 

So now you know the musical part.

As for the Q'desha...

A few years after I moved to the SF Bay Area, my life went through a radical shift and I was finally living fully on my own.  I was just out of a bad marriage, I was supporting myself, and the internet was rapidly becoming an integral part of everyone's everyday lives.  Craigslist and their free personal ads section is an amazing playground for a reckless and brave woman trying to explore every crevice of her sexuality while living in a city with a Heavy Sex Culture badge sewn to its chest.  It's also a handy tool for having fun when traveling to other cities and countries! 

I kept a blog, online, where I shared many of my experiences in great detail.  Sex with men and women, sex with individuals and with groups, sex with people from a "fetishized subculture" and sex with more vanilla partners, sex in comfortable places and in dirty dungeons with men lined up for a thrust or two - there were so many things to see, do, and experience when it came to sex! Living my life so out in the open, I began to see how very differently others were now viewing me, a woman who was actively seeking out ways to satisfy her sexual curiosities and desires.  Most people didn't understand the notion that a woman could be so sexually curious and adventurous in as blatant a way as the stereotype of the man constantly trying to get laid.  I had more than my fair share of "friends" who spoke poorly of "me and my promiscuity".  Nearly everyone I knew was uncomfortable with my openness around the subject of sexual activity.  No one seemed to understand why I did what I did. 

During my initiatory year, I learned of ancient temple priestesses and priests who provided the masses with a gateway to the divine.  The word Q'desha has its roots in the Hebrew word for "sanctified, dedicated and holy."  In short, the Q'desha were the sacred prostitutes of a temple and allowed for the mortal body to connect with The Goddess thru sexual contact and worship.  However, these Q'desha were often slandered and disapproved of by "polite society".  Given my body of knowledge in the sexual arts, my possession of a fearless voice, and my experiences being so similar to what I was learning about the Q'desha, I began to see where the path of my Priestesshood would begin to take me. 

Before folks get to thinking that I'm running about fucking any and every person seeking connection to the divine, as fun as that sounds, my Priestess work does not involve the act of sex with others.  (Ironically enough, I have found myself completely in love and in a monogamous relationship with a phenomenally wonderful man who makes me tremendously happy.)  In the process of exploring many different sex-based interest communities and amassing a wealth of my own personal sexcapades, I also studied the way that sex, psychology, and magic wove themselves together.  There's a lot more to working with sexual energies and magic than the act of sex itself and this is something I hope to spend more time writing about in this blog.

So... there you have it and here ends the obligatory first post.