Another review…

Versification is a new online journal devoted to reviews of speculative poetry. While the reviewer didn’t love everything like I do, the consideration of Dead, Mad, or a Poet as literature is well-taken.

Review by Erik Amundsen.

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A review! Already!

We got a shout-out in the Wild Hunt today, plus this review by Laura at The Juggler, who says, among other things, “The quality of the writing is very professional and I believe each contribution is very well done…This is a beautiful example of the culture created by Pagans for Pagans.”

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Issue One

Includes:

“Invitation” by Mark Saucier

“Weather Magic” by Elinor Prędota

“The Dreamstone” by Catherine M. Wilson

“Franz Marc” by Kerry Higgins Wendt

“Yeats, Primitivism, and the Magic of Art” by Kerry Higgins Wendt

“Temperance” by Ben Roberts

“Pomegranate” by Kathryn Hinds

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It’s heeeeere!

Issue One is live. You can have your very own electronic copy by pushing the shiny yellow button.





Print issues will be winging their way to you soon.

P.S. If you paid for an electronic copy, and don’t have one in your inbox, please e-mail us at deadmadpoet@gmail.com and we will fix that problem.

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The Call

Did you hear the whispers?
Leaves rustling in the wind
Mouth pressed to ear
“Get ready, lay plans, gather knowledge,
Change is in the air.”

Did you hear the talking?
Murmur of the river
Talking at the cooler
“Learn it, practice, money where your mouth is,
Change is coming soon.”

Do you hear the shouting?
Thunder in the heavens
Shaking by the shoulders
“Step up, stand up, move is not a metaphor,
Or the next Call that comes may break you.”

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Still making decisions…

If you submitted work to us and haven’t heard back, that means we are still thinking about it.  In the meantime, the first issue is shaping up to be marvelous.  There are some themes emerging that might turn into foci for future issues….such as bargains with Fate, or pomegratates.  Catherynne Valente has remarked that everyone seems to write a Persephone poem (guilty!) but the nature of this journal is that we can just roll with that.  We have one Persephone poem in the first issue, but could easily revisit the theme later on.

Issue Number One will definitely, decidedly, indubitably be ready for Lughnasad.  I know that is three months later than Beltane, but perhaps it just needed time to ripen.  We will have some special items coming along as time goes on as well.   In the meantime, feast your eyes on this cover:

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Updates

First, happy Beltane!

Work has eaten all my time.  So, while the content for the inaugural issue is complete (and amazing), the layout and production will have to wait until the semester ends…which is only two weeks from now.  Watch this space for table of contents announcements and more.

Meanwhile, here’s some literature in a good cause.  Currently taking submissions, will be up and available in e-format soon.

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She is in the Wildness

Inflatable Kayak and Cypress LakeThis was my day yesterday. It started with the kayak which, you will notice, is inflatable.  The day I discovered kayaks came with inflatability, and therefore need not be lifted on top of a car by my short self, it was a lot like the bit in The Wind in the Willows where Toad discovers motorcars and the need for speed.  Not that I am very speedy in it.  If a kayak can be said to amble, then I amble. It is sufficient.

George L. Smith State Park contains a 412-acre lake, a significant portion of which is cypress swamp.  There is something about cypress trees; perhaps it is the way they bridge earth, water, and sky in one reaching gesture, their power to transform open water into land through the slow gathering of silt.  They are serious, those trees, and ancient, and a little uncanny.  There is a Gothic cant to their broad roots, and the wind blowing through makes them shush and creak.  Their bark is the same silver-gray as the Spanish moss  hanging from their branches; the water stained by their presence is black. In this monochromatic scheme any color stands out:  the brown and green of a duck’s feathers as it flies across your path (no doubt on important nesting business), the flash of blue sky mottled with clouds through the branches, the red of a woodpecker’s jaunty peak.

I wound my way thus through watery church, and turned eventually towards more open water. A river cooter sunning on a half-submerged log decided I was far too large and strange to be passing so close, and plonked underwater. Wind whuffed through the cypress and rippled the surface of the lake. The sun emerged from behind a cloud, bathing it all in the joyful warmth and brightness of spring. A feeling of numinous delight for which there is no real name wrapped around me, a kind of ecstasy of presence as feather-light and encompassing as the breeze which set the water all to shimmering.  I breathed in this radiance in rhythm with my paddle-strokes, and sent a breath upward toward the shining blue. A heron flew over and out ahead of me. I followed.

We like to speak from time to time of the resemblance of Pagan practice to elements of Buddhism or other esoteric ideas, most especially the practice of mindfulness. But, one might well ask, mindfulness to what purpose? What does this have to do with magic?

Magic has practical goals as well as lofty ones; so does religion. Neither is necessarily more “important.”  To be fully present in your own life is a worthwhile and foundational objective, and could take a lifetime to master; yet it is a path leading to a doorway which opens as well onto something else.  That “something” is beyond the simply human although it includes us; it is the lived mystery of being.

When we practice presence in the ordinary routines of our lives, we make it possible to embrace fully those wild unlooked-for moments of ecstatic delight that come from outside ourselves like a kiss from our beloved.  That numinous power whom we seek is embodied in the world, as we are embodied in it, in cathedral trees and black water, in sun and wind and cloud, in long-legged bird and retreating turtle. She is in the wildness.

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A Discussion on the Mysteries

There arose a discussion amongst the Priesthood and the Wise on the affairs of humanity.

Priests: Look at the unenlightened masses, look at their pain and sorrow, think of what We might be able to do to help cure the human condition through our knowledge.

The Wise: A person grows in knowledge through their own unfolding, the pain and sorrow you speak of is sometimes necessary for their own growth. No amount of pulling on a sapling causes it to grow faster, in fact this often leaves a twisted, stunted growth.

Priests: But, We have gained in knowledge and wisdom through our study of the Mysteries, We have not been twisted or stunted, how else will a person come into possession of the Mysteries if We do not bring them the fires of heaven from our lips?

The Wise: The desire to teach such, while rooted in good intentions, may be wrought with error. Those who are ready will come unto the Mysteries through strange occurrences and through right action. The rose knows the proper time to bloom, and enriches the world thereby. By setting yourself as the authority in such matters, this lessens the ability of the person to become their own authority.

Priests: You would attempt to keep the Mysteries for yourself, while we write them down to preserve them for the continuation of mankind. We build temples and refine scripture, thereby giving solace to the masses, while you stand aloof. Ours is the new way forward, a beacon of light for humanity.

The Wise: The Mysteries will ever preserve themselves through the continuation of blood, for even if we all passed tomorrow, soon enough one of us would be born anew to remember them. Temples are built to impress and control the people, scripture is designed to teach dogma and not wisdom. Your way is not new, not some new Aeon or Age, merely the same way that has existed since time immemorial, since Zoroaster, since Buddha and the Christ, since Mohammed. Wisdom and illumination comes from within, not without.

For millennium, on the outskirts of the temples, outside the mosque or shrine, beyond the city state’s massive ziggurats, stood the Wise watching. In all times the Witch has been reviled by the masses, workers of magic, dedicated to their own understanding. The Priest has ever attempted to codify and control the tameless fires of the Mysteries, by setting themselves as the interpreter of the will of the Gods for the people, usually for a tidy tithe. Even the great pagan empires of Rome and Greece decried witchcraft, around 500 BC Heraclitus of Ephesus talks of “mageia” as among various amoral and despised acts, based on false views of the gods. The mageia, the “people of the night”. (1)

In tantric practices, we see a division between the “left-hand” and “right-hand” paths. The right-handed path attempts to make the Mysteries “easy to understand,” leads to Orthodoxy and Superstition, and places more reliance on the Priesthood and Prayer as the way to illumination. Contrast this with the left-hand path, which is “hard to grasp”, as an offhand catch often is, relies more on experiential understanding, and comes from the individual’s self meditations. The left-hand path utilizes inversion as a technique, inversion of societal norms, inversion of religious dogma, inversion of self to overcome limited understanding and codification. (2)

Paul Huson describes one of these traditional methods of inversion in our current age, namely the inversion of “The Lord’s Prayer” of Christianity. (3) Throwing off the shackles of religious dogma is a necessary step, indeed an activity to actively embrace throughout one’s lifetimes. Constantly the Priests, the Politicians, the Lawgivers are working to tie up the energy within you for their own ends. This is reflected in the Laws of the State against entheogens, against “unnatural” sexual behavior, against freedom of expression in the arts and the all too subtle and overt forces of racism. This binding of the energy lessens the Witch’s ability to run the current and to unfold. Many come into the “Craft” holding these bonds and then desire to turn the Craft into a priesthood or religion; unfortunately, this is all they have ever known. The sapling begins to become stunted.

Humans love to pass on their knowledge, to feel that they have something to contribute to the betterment of their kind. Students, often when first learning a technique, especially when not under the watchful eyes of a teacher, run to teach it to others. There are many Sufic tales that relate this phenomenon, for example:

Once a guru with many students sought the advice of a Sufic Master who lived on the other side of town. He mentioned to the Master that he desired to become more, to understand as well as the Master did the fires of heaven and God’s mind. The Master prescribed him a number of exercises. The guru immediately ran back and began teaching his students these exercises, indeed he began publishing these exercises within the city of Samarkand. Soon enough, the Master’s students fell ill and people who had read the book began to fall ill as well. The guru ran back to the Master and asked for additional exercises, since these were not working and of no use. The Master remarked, and what of your students? What of the people? The guru admitted that the people had become very ill, to which the Master replied, ah, that is because these exercises were designed for you alone, but I foresaw that you would teach them in such a manner. Now the people regard you as the charlatan you are, and you have learned a great lesson.

Witchcraft is about liberation, is an ecstatic embracing of the Mysteries, it is a lover’s relationship between the Witch and their Spirits. Lovers embrace trust, they embrace a lover’s silence about their intimacy. The Craft is intimate; the Craft cannot be had for a few pieces of silver, a .pdf download, a weekend workshop, or a church-esqe revival group. Teachers know and love their students intimately; those who show up through odd occurrences, those who walk under signs and omens…for indeed many of those who walk with us again are those who have walked with us before. Brothers and Sisters of the Dark Forests, of the Windswept Seas, of Thessalian Mountains, of Basque Redoubts, of the Desert Fires, and Frozen Pictland, rejoice! For we have seen the rise and fall of the temples, we have seen the crumbling of empires, and we will see once again the folly of the Priest.

Hele, conceal, and never reveal.

(1) Frisvold, Nicholaj de Mattos. Arts of the Night. Chadezoad Publications, 2009.
(2) AMOOKOS Training Manual. Mandrake Press, 1992.
(3) Huson, Paul. Mastering Witchcraft. G.P. Putnams, 1970.

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Insatiable

Once, we wandered. A tribe as small and as tight as any. We ate what we killed, flavored with what we gathered.

We were giants on the land, in those days.

Meat and milk and honey make warrior’s bodies.

We were going to outgrow our range all along. We met with other tribes, we grew naturally within ourselves. We had lots of relations, as was our wont. There was not enough meat and milk and honey to feed all of those who wanted it.

Hungry mouths, asking to be fed. Hungry mouths, demanding to grow up with warrior’s bodies. What could we do?

Some grew grain. Not as nutritious, not able to grow or support the warrior in the same way. But there were so many hungry mouths. Of course there were bad teeth in some of those mouths, but such was the price of feeding them all. So hungry. So demanding. Their cries could not be ignored.

The old range was no good for grain, only for cattle. It took careful husbandry to maintain the herds, so the few who kept to the old ways could all eat meat and milk and honey. And most of them had warrior’s bodies, like kings in the old stories. The mightiest could be mistaken for a mountain range, they say.

The grain-growers said it was old-fashioned to sacrifice lives and labor for food. They called it exploitation, called it elitism. They pointed to the small group of those who kept to the old ways and called them the most offensive names they could think of. They turned to the hungry mouths and told the mouths to laugh at the old fossils. They also hinted that those strong bodies might be prone to violence, pointing the finger away from the criminals in their own midst who took advantage of the anonymity of the crowd.

The wanderers shrugged their mighty shoulders and took care of their own. From time to time, someone who understood would come along, someone who had no taste in their mouth for grain no matter their hunger. Someone who knew that meat and milk and honey were worth the blood and sweat and stings.

And they were welcome.

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