An Outer Temple; or, Amor Fati

My work with La Abuela has been strange and very quiet. I’m still trying to figure out how she communicates beyond moments of near-blinding, but still tiny, revelation. Basically I do research, read things, entertain thoughts, and wait for my breath to catch and a cold sweat to break out. I wait for my mind to stop the chatter and for there to be a single thought: This. This thing.

That’s what happened when I was browsing the Many Gods West program and came across Danica’s shrine to Skadi, and thus her monastic practice.

God, I’m still freezing cold just thinking about it.

My mind is a flood of images now. I’m understanding that La Abuela, whoever She is, or if She is a collective of divinities, whoever They are that make her up, wants me to be a temple for her. I am to embody my service to her in a very real way. I had a similar small revelation a few weeks ago when I discovered the phrase amor fati. It immediately entered into my head that those words would constitute my next tattoo, no matter how long I’d been planning and saving for others. Because, whether I liked it or not, “love thy fate” summarizes my entire spiritual practice.

Amor fati is a Latin phrase that may be loosely translated as “love of fate” or “love of one’s fate”. It is used to describe an attitude in which one sees everything that happens in one’s life, including suffering and loss, as good or, at the very least, necessary, in that they are among the facts of one’s life and existence, so they are always necessarily there whether one likes them or not. Moreover, amor fati is characterized by an acceptance of the events or situations that occur in one’s life. This acceptance does not necessarily preclude an attempt at change or improvement, but rather, it can be seen to be along the lines of what Nietzsche means by the concept of “eternal recurrence“: a sense of contentment with one’s life and an acceptance of it, such that one could live exactly the same life, in all its minute details, over and over for all eternity.

People are often confounded when I admit to them that I don’t have a single regret in my life. I regret nothing and resent little more; not my abusive childhood, not my many suicidal thoughts, not manipulative friends and partners, neither injustices or tragedies that have happened to me. I accept them as they are and wouldn’t have my life be any other way.

I’m imagining, too, the installations of a painter of mild renown, Hernan Bas, and how touched I was at getting to experience his spatial work. I walked through those rooms and wanted to be there forever. I was shaken to the core by them. I can say the same for a small handful of works I’ve ever seen.

I’m imagining the Rothko Chapel in Texas.

Rothko Chapel - Mark Rothko

Remembering the long-abandoned mine that I visited several times in the past few years.

I first learned of the practice of incubation in reading Apocalyptic Witchcraft, and it struck me as being something that I had a propensity for already. Several years of doing nightly yoga classes in low light, my habit of preferring quiet contemplation over most anything else, my intense affinity for closed, intimate spaces over sweeping views. A hike to a cave or pond is much more interesting to me than a hike to a vista.

It’s all coming back to me…

I was a goth once. No, really. Heavy black eyeliner, inverted cross necklaces, corsets, skulls. Then I became pagan and worshiped death gods. Then I stopped being pagan and still was obsessed with the dark. Then I went to college in New York City and got sick because there was no darkness there, no quiet, no place to incubate and listen to the soil. Then I turned my bedroom into an incubation chamber: heavy curtains, candles, a shoddy attempt at soundproofing my door. I spent time in dark, quiet, solitude on a nightly basis and began to get my sanity back. Then I moved in with a relative who had the TV on 24/7 and started to get sick again. Then I went to a few pagan solstice services and experienced my first “tent temple”, with god-impersonators, and realized that this shit is powerful.

Then I experienced a fallow period. I think I’m still there, actually; but part of what I’m doing now is working with that fallowness, working with that miasma. I was made aware of the existence of Tlazoteotl not long ago, basically a goddess of the divinity to be found within that uncleanliness. Whether She is La Abuela, or part of La Abuela, I still don’t know. I don’t know who La Abuela is, but all I know is that when I became polytheist again (or rather, rediscovered my polytheism), I gravitated toward gods of the sky, of knowledge and civilization. I reached out to a few of them, got a little guidance, and then I was left alone. It was confusing, disheartening. Then I met the Rain Lord– who, I might add, I was absolutely terrified of until I got to know Him. He bridges both earth and sky in a very fundamental way; a sort of psychopomp, I feel, though He has nothing to do with messages and travel. And through Him, I was reintroduced to the darkness. I reached out to a few goddesses, and got something back; it felt strange and indirect, unlike my experiences with the Rain Lord and the Twins. But it had a deep, chthonic vibe, so I worked with what I had.

I don’t think I was interacting with the Lady of the Underworld. In fact, I don’t think I was interacting with any Underworld goddess. The divinity who I was experiencing was very present; she smelled of blood and humus, yes, but also of smoke and iron and cracked wood. Enter She of the Extinction— someone old, intimate with death, but not death itself.

Amor fati…

“Serve me,” She said. I asked, “How?” But that was all the help I was going to get.

What if I decorated myself in Your symbols and images of Your children? Wore Your colors? Grief, as I’m coming to understand, is Your initiation rite. “If you have reached acceptance,” She said to me, “Then open the doors of the temple.”

Everyone is grieving. Help them.

I’ve thought about seeking basic training in counselling for Her; no one, as far as I can tell, specializes in grieving over our dying planet. What if I could do that for people as part of my service? I’ve never thought of myself as a counselor or a confidant; a mediator at best, but I’ve always seen myself as too harsh, too cold, to seriously help people in times of emotional vulnerability. Maybe that’s part of the work I need to do too. The capital-w Work.

I realize now that I’ve been urged along to become Her temple; a mobile space for prayer. A node, if you will.

But this Black Tent Temple I discovered today; that’s something else I now know that I have to do. A spiritually-charged space for incubation, reconciliation, and sacred isolation. It’s one thing to be a movable temple, a support column for those grappling with the weight of our collective betrayal, but having a dedicated, grounded, place of both worship and personal transformative work is just as important.

Just thoughts.

Amor fati.

 

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10 thoughts on “An Outer Temple; or, Amor Fati

  1. Hello! I am honoured and delighted to hear that you discovered my work through the Many Gods West program, and that my Black Tent Temple vision has had such a profound impact on you. This entry was a joy to read – you are a skilled writer! – and I receive it gratefully as an indication that the vision is reaching its intended audience, and is therefore ready to find a more dedicated place in the world beyond my humble hermitage.

    I love the evocative way you describe those moments of revelation and recognition when you are doing research, reading and thinking, and then your breath catches, you feel a cold sweat, and the mental chatter stops. The Powers I serve often communicate with me in similar ways. I am convinced that the original intention of the deities and spirits I serve was to use me and my writing as a way to reach The Right People To Do This Work, if you know what I mean. And I interpret your dramatic response to my Black Tent Temple post as an affirmation of that intention, and a confirmation that I did the right thing in writing it down when I did.

    I love the photos you included with this post – especially the abandoned mine. I aim for a certain very specific type of atmosphere whenever I create a Black Tent Temple space, and each of the photos you chose captures an aspect of what I try to do.

    A preference for quiet contemplation, a love of subterranean and enclosed dark places, yoga practice in darkened spaces, bedroom-as-incubation-chamber, feeling ill when the TV is blaring or I can’t get enough time and space for chthonic work and restorative solitude…all of these I can relate to very well. I’m interested to hear that Peter Grey wrote about spiritual incubation in Apocalyptic Witchcraft. While I like his perspective based on what I’ve read of his work online, I find his writing style not to my taste, so I haven’t read the book. However, if he has interesting things to say about spiritual incubation, I may need to take a closer look.

    “Rot work” is a great title for your blog, too. I recently started a shrine to Nidhogg, and have been finding that working with rot is a growing part of my own practice.

    It’s encouraging to hear that you are considering incorporating Earth grief work into your practice. Our culture needs this so, so desperately, and it is so rare to find a place where it can proceed unimpeded! I wouldn’t quite say that grieving over our dying planet is a specialty of mine, but it is certainly an important aspect of the work I do.

    Our paths have many similarities! I hope you will stay in touch with me and keep me informed about your Black Tent Temple space as it takes form. As far as I know there are only a few of us doing this right now, but judging by the level of enthusiasm I’m seeing in the correspondence I’ve received, I’m increasingly getting the sense that the seeds of an underground movement (both literal and figurative!) have somehow been sown. The few who’ve taken up this work so far have told me that they’ve found that it addresses a long-unmet need in a way that piques great interest whenever they share the vision with others. One day, if this continues to reach enough of the right people, I hope to collect enough material to put together a website featuring images and descriptions of Black Tent Temples all over the world where people can go for spiritual incubation, grief work in a Pagan context, solitary contemplation, dark ritual dance, and so on.

    I wish you the best of luck and the blessings of Those you serve with your own Black Tent Temple space. Thank you kindly for this beautiful, inspiring post!

    Sincerely,
    -Danica Swanson

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much for the long and thoughtful reply!

      It was so refreshing to read the perspective of a monastic; it fills a void that I guess I was perceiving in the polytheist discourse. Until I came across you and your blog, I’ve quite honestly spend a good amount of time being vaguely frustrated with the paths laid out by most: that is, either you’re a lay devotee or clergy/spirit worker. Neither of those kinds of relationships felt right to me.

      And wow, it’s also very refreshing to know that someone else communicates and receives inspiration from the gods the way I do! I blog a lot and I have a fair number of readers, but I’ve never really spoken to anyone about the particulars of my work and worship. Tbh, it feels awkward, but I do very much crave interaction with others on some level, even if just for the purposes of discernment.

      Grey’s book is… dramatic, I will say that. But it was a big inspiration to me and did help to plot my course, so to speak. Mostly he talks about John the Revelator, but I’ll have to go back since I absorbed a lot more of the general poetics than the particulars. (It’ll be good to revisit in a blog post I’m sure.)

      “Our paths have many similarities! I hope you will stay in touch with me and keep me informed about your Black Tent Temple space as it takes form.”

      I’d love to! You seem a kindred spirit in a number of ways, and I’d love to talk to you about Skadi/Sceadu sometime. (Your altars and work for her are beautiful and moving!) I made a piece of art for Her a few months ago out of the blue, and I’m not sure what to do with it. Something about Her tugs at me, and the way you write about Her seems to touch something in just a way that no other devotee I’ve encountered has done.

      The Black Tent Temple project you’re envisioning sounds amazing, and I’d love to be part of it in any way that I can. I’m married and cohabit in an apartment right now, so I’m not sure how much space I can dedicate to it here and now, but I envision it being a big part of my life in the future at the very least. How many others are interested in actualizing the idea and building a space, do you think?

      And would you mind if I emailed you sometime? There are particular things I’d like to hit you up about if you don’t mind; mundane things, mostly, especially re: comamunity and stuff. Or should I say, “community”.

      At any rate, thanks again for the comment. Cheers!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Hi again, and thanks for the great reply! My schedule is full enough these days that it sometimes takes me a week or more to answer comments and e-mails, so thanks for your patience. I’m also in the midst of preparing and packing my supplies for Skadi’s Shrine Room at Many Gods West, which is just five days away now.

    I’m glad to hear that you found my writings about monasticism to be so refreshing. At this time there seem to be so few Pagans/Heathens with monastic inclinations, especially ones who have a darker focus to their work. Paganism is a fast-growing religion, though, and I believe that one day we will have more organised monastic traditions.

    One of the things that helped me understand that this was the right path for me is that I always knew I had far more service learning and devotional Work assigned to me to do than a lay devotee would – I’m one of those “burning souls” who is intensely driven by a mystical vision and the need to bring it into form – but at the same time, I’ve been aware that the priestess path is not mine either. I’m far too introverted for that kind of work, and besides, most of my strengths are in other areas.

    I don’t speak often about the particulars of my spiritual work and worship either, but every once in awhile I come across something that makes me feel like I need to do just that. And this blog entry of yours certainly had that effect.

    Thank you kindly for the compliments about my shrines and other work for Skadi. I am honoured and humbled, and I’m especially happy to hear that my work spoke to you in a way you’ve never before encountered. I’d be delighted to talk with you about Skadi, and if you’d be comfortable sharing the artwork you did for Her with me, I’d love to see it. (If you’re not comfortable, though, I completely understand! It took me many months to muster up the courage to share a video of one of my ritual dance practice sessions for Her, and even more courage to post it publicly for the first time. Fortunately, it’s gotten a bit easier with time.)

    As for the Black Tent Temple project…I live in a tiny, single-room studio space, so I can’t devote a whole lot of space to it either. My solution, for the time being, has been to hang black curtains across the ceiling in such a way that I can create a suitable enclosed space for incubation work whenever they are drawn shut. And that works surprisingly well – partly because the layout of the studio allows me to have two of my shrines inside the curtained-off space. But assuming you have the right supplies, it’s portable! You could pull together a Black Tent Temple at a festival gathering, in a small back room at a conference, or in a friend’s basement. In a pinch, even a simple blanket fort in a corner could work, if you built it in the right kind of space!

    You asked how many others are interested in building a space. The first one who contacted me about it and asked for my permission to use the idea wrote this public blog post just a couple of months ago:

    https://priestessofthedarkmother.wordpress.com/2015/05/23/welcome-and-what-the-heck-is-a-black-tent-temple/

    After I enthusiastically told her to go ahead – that I didn’t claim ownership of the idea and was thrilled to learn that others are also interested – she told me she got approval from a Pagan festival organiser in her area to host a Black Tent Temple at an upcoming event, and that the organiser was REALLY excited about it and immediately started offering up black fabrics, overstuffed pillows, etc. She promised that she’d send me some photos!

    Since then I’ve heard from two others who told me they are inspired by the idea and are now planning Black Tent Temple spaces of their own. And then I heard from you, too. So that makes four so far, in the space of just a couple of months. The closely spaced timing of these contacts is part of what has made such a big impression on me, and convinced me that this has the hallmarks of a fledgling underground movement, however small it may be. These intuitions have been confirmed to my satisfaction through divinations.

    I’d be delighted to correspond with you via e-mail, about community (“coma-munity”?) or anything else that strikes your fancy, so please do contact me at shrine.of.skadi AT gmail dot com. I look forward to it!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Greetings! I am the Priestess of the Dark Mother Danica mentions in her last post. She shared the link to your blog with me – and I’m so glad. Sister! So many similarities. I was particularly moved by your naming Her as La Abuela, not really knowing who She is. I’ve been given the name Dark Mother and it is part of my work at this time to get to know Her. The best I can say right now is that She is the over-arching source from which the other Dark Goddesses come, but She is not just an archetype, a psychological construct. As I explore this, I realize this search itself is part of learning about Her – about leaning into Not Knowing.
    The Black Tent Temple at the Earth Traditions’ Oasis event (in northern Illinois) was well received. One attendee has asked to spread it further, and it sounds like I will be able to offer it again next year. I hope to have an accounting posted on my blog soon.
    Blessings to you, Sister of the Dark. Let’s stay in touch.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nice to meet you!

      And Dark Mother, huh? Interesting; before I started using La Abuela because of a strong connection I perceived between Her and Santa Muerte, I was calling her something similar going back a couple of years.I was thinking that She might be a hypostasis, but that just felt less and less likely the more I prayed and contemplated.

      And you might be right– I keep wanting to talk with others who have been touched by Her, to try and gather gnosis, maybe even discover a name, but my knee-jerk reaction is to be uncertain and not take my discoveries too seriously without some kind of Official Lore to back it all up. But maybe that resistance I was feeling wasn’t me, maybe the Not Knowing is a lesson She wants to impart. Just as people are starting to say that Odin is recruiting for Ragnarok, maybe She is reaching out to us in a way that is relevant now more than at any other time.

      So glad that your BTT went so well! We need more, more, more! And yes, let’s stay in touch.

      PS- I appreciate the camaraderie, but I am alas not a ‘sister’– ‘sibling’, ‘fellow’, or hell, even ‘comrade’, are all preferable to me. Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I am so very happy to see these connections happening among people who feel called to facilitate this Black Tent Temple work!

    I would be interested in hearing more about the connection with Santa Muerte if you’d like to write more about it, Lo, as I started working with Santa Muerte earlier this year. While I don’t have much experience to go on yet, so far I’ve been pretty amazed by how effective She is at Getting Things Done, you know?

    Also, a quick note on preferred terms: even as a cis female I’ve never liked the term ‘sister’ (nor ‘brother’, for that matter) in a spiritual/magical context. ‘Sibling’ is marginally better, and yet still isn’t my favourite term for expressing camaraderie. I mostly use ‘fellow,’ because I appreciate ‘fellowship,’ but I can’t help wishing I had a term I really loved for this purpose.

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  5. Hi again Lo! (Keen?) I have an interesting little tidbit I wanted to share with you.

    Remember what you wrote in this post about “nightly yoga classes in low light?” I’ve been doing the same thing on my own for years, with my own embellishments. Turn down the lights, turn up the dark ambient music, light some cedarwood incense, and immerse myself in the dark enclosed space. I haven’t been able to get into 95% of the yoga music I’ve heard in classes, so I often watch instructional yoga videos at home with the sound muted, and then I just follow the instructor’s movements while listening to dark ambient playlists I’ve put together on my own.

    Well, look what I just discovered recently: Black Yoga.

    http://www.black-yoga.com/

    When I saw this, I thought: Wow! Yoga to dark ambient music is actually starting to become A Thing, and not just what I’ve been doing casually in my home studio because I couldn’t find a yoga class with music I like…? Like, people are actually teaching this dark yoga concept, and they are finding enough interested students to fill classes? Yay! A few months ago I did a music consultation for a yoga teacher friend in the UK who requested a custom dark ambient playlist for her class, and she was delighted with the results, so I knew there was SOME interest at least. And I have an acquaintance who’s been teaching Metal Yoga (with occasional dark ambient tracks, I think) for several years. But it’s cool to see this idea spreading.

    I’m not really into the metal tracks on the Black Yoga playlists myself – I use dark ambient music exclusively – but many of my friends love them. And if you watch the promo video for their upcoming DVD release in October (linked via their News page), you can tell that these Black Yoga folks are clearly doing something that’s aligned with the Black Tent Temple concept in spirit. One of the interviewees describes the Black Yoga classes as “more introspection, less judgment”, and another talks about how well the dark music meshes with a contemplative practice, which is what exactly I’ve been saying about dark ambient music for years. That’s why I always use dark ambient music in my Black Tent Temple space, and it’s also one of the main reasons I’m writing a book about it called Endarkenment.

    I really think we’re on to something. Like this whole endarkenment thing is tapping into an undercurrent in the zeitgeist, and it will continue to spread, in various forms. What do you think?

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    1. I’m actually both! “Keen” just felt like more of a professional blog username of sorts :V

      WOW that sounds super interesting! I will definitely look at this a bit more in a bit (sorry I haven’t returned your email, I haven’t forgotten!) and it may just be the thing to really bring me back to a regular yoga practice after an evil step-parent got their certification and ruined it for me.

      This may also be just the thing my husband needs to really get into it too!

      Thanks for the tip and I gotta say, there definitely send to be something in the air about this. So exciting 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No worries about response times, now or in the future. I’m rather sluggish that way myself. And there’s no hurry. We will stay in touch one way or another – I feel quite sure about that!

        I’ll be interested to hear what you think after you’ve had a chance to give it a closer look. I started chatting a bit with one of the Black Yoga folks on Facebook a few days ago, and he’s now following my book page also. 🙂

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