Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Homecoming Long Overdue

This is the longest I’ve gone between entries and I’m sure I’ve lost some of you along the way. Sorry, a lot has happened. In the last entry, I was sitting in New Orleans (NOLA) awaiting the Day of the Dead celebration with Saumya and Drew.

I was moved sharing the experience of Vodou with my friend and fellow priest Drew at such a major holiday. The ceremony packed people within the peristyle (temple) and out into the adjoining alley. Once the initial celebration ended, we capped it off with our annual walk and offerings at the cemetery.

This trip to NOLA was directly preceding a major surgery we hoped to avoid. The surgery came two weeks later – and being a major one – we holed up and worked on her recovery. This was my first impediment to ignoring my blog. There were times, moments I could have written. Others where Zelda: Skyward Sword consumed Saum’s recovery while I supported her by remembering where things were in the game. I may have spent a few hours playing myself.

For several months leading up to this, we had planned on returning to India. In The Ascetic, the Therapist, the Priest and the Possessed, you’ll recall I said it had been 10 years of ongoing surgeries since they began. It had been 10 years since I had last been in India, where this whole period started. It has been roughly 9 years for Saum herself. Way too long for both of us to be away.

Right before the surgery, I started laying the foundation for our return trip to India.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Ascetic, the Therapist, the Priest and the Possessed

What these people have in common is they’re all healers in a way. I’ve promised to write about the energy work I do, and I’ve been hesitating on either writing about it, or in some cases doing it. Part of my dilemma is I want to take it slow, the other is I’m still trying to make sense out of it. How does one write about such an important and huge topic and still sound genuine, when one doesn’t fully comprehend it oneself?

I’ve been truly blessed in my recent years to make the acquaintance of people who practice the healing arts. Genuine people. They hesitate to call themselves healers directly and I’m beginning to understand why. I agree with their choices for doing so. Their choice in some ways is my own. Why? In some respect, the practices I’ve been doing aren’t solely my own. In other ways, it takes two: a cooperative experience. It’s not something I do to someone, but rather something I do with someone. It’s also highly individualistic, what I do for one person would not work for another, but rather there would be a process of discovery to determine what the correct course of action would be.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Uninvited Guest

There’s been a lapse in posts. Now has not been a good time at home. When this happens, we attempt to focus our energies where they are needed. Sometimes the writing has to wait.

The trouble began while traveling in India in 2001-02. There was something wrong with Saum, my wife. During the holidays she wasn’t well. We both assumed she was sick, there are a number of strange foreign illnesses you can easily pick up there.

It cleared up in time for our magical journey to Gwalior and Jhansi. The magic being, for the first time in India, Saum and I traveled solo. We lavished in Indian luxury; spent time alone, reconnecting as only time away from everything on a vacation can bring.

I left for home, she stayed. Before either of us could prepare the real trouble started.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

There Is No Hell

This is one of the many ideas that struck me during my couche (initiation). There is no Hell. I began rolling it around in my mind. It wouldn’t leave me. It seems to be the culmination of my philosophy that started back in college years ago.

Growing up Catholic, I was taught very early about sin and Hell: the place where I would go if I didn’t believe, if my sins were too bad, if they weren’t forgiven. It‘s a place of eternal torment: a place of fire, brimstone and suffering. It is a place that’s cold, a deep abyss. It has a ruler: the devil Lucifer, the bringer of light, the angel cast out of Heaven for challenging God. He goes by other names: Satan, the serpent. You may have heard of him.

There are the chosen people, the people of Israel. There are literal tribes of Judaism, and there are other religious people: the Christians, the people of Islam. They interpret themselves as chosen by God and with proper actions deemed worthy go to Heaven, others unworthy will go to Hell.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The End of the Chase

Right now I am entering couche. I am partaking in the end of one journey and the start of a new one. When I emerge on Sunday, I will be an Oungan Asogwe. The asson will come home.

There are many posts in this blog marking the points along the way. I hope some of you learned a little more about me . I started this blog with the intention of people getting to know who I am. I rechristened it when I started the process of becoming a Vodou priest, an Oungan. Along this path, I marked Sur Pwenn, the first stage of priesthood where I was on point, the beginning of that road. This one marks the entering of initiation to Asogwe.

When I emerge on Sunday, I will be a different man. I will also be the same man. Initiation changes you, but it doesn’t invalidate you. You are still you, just more.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Beginning of The End

This post comes with a soundtrack. (@Rogue_Priest I know you did this once, but I’ve been meaning to blog about this songs meaning since before I met you.)

Italicized lyrics below by: Greg Dulli

Have you ever come across a song that you can’t get out of your head, a song that you might hit the back button at the end, more than once? Or perhaps you hit that single song repeat? The Twilight Singers have been a band I’ve been in love with for years, ever since Twilight came out (not anything to do with the books or movie, long predating it.)

Saum and I were discussing the other night on how we relate to people by the music we listen to. I can’t figure out a person by their job or their politics even. I get a sense, but not a good one and sometime not even the right one. But music, that’s how people are revealed to me. Do they like happy upbeat, or something with a bit of an edge to it. Does it sound like a party or something sexy? It is smooth and even, or is it temperamental and hard to judge? I love music. It defines me.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Permaglow Spirituality

Generally I view myself as a happy grounded person. Fifteen years ago I began to meditate in the Himalayan tradition. I’ve taken spiritual pilgrimages. Each night I light my alter and say prayers. My life rife with spiritual experiences. My career enjoys accomplishments and success.

In my marriage and personal life, I have attended counseling and classes to make me a better person. There are scars that show you the trials and tribulations I have gone through, coming out the other side after spending time to understand and overcome my issues.

While I am not perfect and not proud of my failings, I take pride of what I’ve done since then to mitigate the circumstances that led me there. I challenge myself to grow as an individual. My life constantly changes, I learn new ideas, philosophies and tools to help me better myself. I value each and every one of my friendships, new and old.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

New Orleans Healing Center Grand Opening

Today is the grand opening of the New Orleans Healing Center on the corner of St. Claude and St. Roch in NOLA. While Hurricane Irene batters the east coast, the center is the culmination of the restoration of certain goods and services that were missing after another hurricane: Katrina.

For many it has been a labor of love getting it off the ground. There have been countless meetings, gatherings, planning and fundraising over the years to make it a reality. There has been outreach to communities surrounding the center to discover what services are needed in areas where much of the infrastructure was destroyed after Katrina. But it tries to do things a bit differently by aiming to achieve sustainability and healing to both immediate and long term needs.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Spirituality in the North Woods

I had the pleasure of going to a new friend’s cabin in the boundary waters canoe area, the north woods of Minnesota last weekend. This in and of itself is a grand adventure, a vacation complete with lake, canoe, sauna, fire and good friends. But the friends weren’t common, they were quite unique. This excursion was a meeting of the minds and the sharing of souls. Drew Jacob, a Celtic Polytheist priest, B. T. Newberg a Humanist Pagan (is priest or shaman a better description) and myself, Oungan of Vodou.

We not just spoke to one another around the campfire, we recorded it for all to hear. Come experience the north woods, the crackling of the fire, the canopy of stars and the three of us, talking religion and spirituality, man to man. All within the framework of what it is to experience, what our encounters of nature are.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

An Unexpected Connection

I will be getting back to my regular blogging soon, but something unexpected came up and it’s been occupying my thoughts.

When I was born, I was adopted. I came into the hospital with one set of parents and left with another. I was told at a very young age, as soon as I could understand. I’ve been pretty open about it with friends because it’s never been a negative in my life, a lesson I learned from my parents. My family is rooted as mine as much as anyone who is not adopted. I’ve always felt it reciprocated by my parents and siblings alike. I was a wanted child.

During the funeral of my grandmother in May, my mother quite unexpectedly started volunteering information about my birth parents. It was quite unprompted on my part; I believe the death of her mother was the catalyst. After a few weeks I decided to email her for the information so I would have a record. I sat on it and considered what to do. Is it right to contact someone who carried you and gave you up 42 years ago? What if reaching out is painful or opens old wounds? What if it’s better not knowing? What if they’re bad people? What if …. Many questions rolled around in my head as I considered what to do.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

An American Shakedown in London

Caution: There are some minor adult themes in this one.

I love Guy Ritchie films. My favorites are Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch. Both of these involve some kind of con, danger and lots of action. They’re fast paced. While I like these aspects in my movies, they strike a little closer to home because they remind me of some time I spent in London, a place where cons and fast money seem to run through the streets.

As the millennium was coming to a close in 1999, my friend Chad (aka The Chad) and I were going off to India to celebrate the change. (Please keep all technical references to the actual millennium date to yourself, nobody started counting our calendar at 0 or 1.) My wife Saum had already arrived there several months earlier with two other friends, they were leaving, we were coming. Our flight left Minneapolis around 4 am, which meant we stayed up and left for the airport around 2 after a long day of packing and preparing. The first flight went alright.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Woman That I Love

Saumya you turn 40 today. I celebrated your 30th birthday by writing something for you. I didn’t know you on your 20th or your 10th, but I plan to write you a piece, wholly dedicated to you for each passing decade. I write this for you.

A Krishna Kind of Love

I know a couple where it’s often said they have a Krishna and Radha relationship. They exemplify romantic love. It has the makings of a storybook fantasy. A young girl falls deeply in love with the man of her dreams; he falls in love with her. They get married – an arranged marriage actually – it’s a smart match.

Krishna was a rake.

The Brazen Cutter of the Multiverse

This is an old piece of writing I did 10 years ago for Saum’s 30th. I wrote it for her and am sharing it today for her birthday. It’s rough and has adult themes. It is all fiction set in a D&D Planescape universe (or multiverse if you’re so inclined).

In the Multiverse, not many people strike you as anything memorable. I have been around the Outlands, through the great barriers and traveled to places inhospitable to most beings. I’m not invincible by any means; I’ve just been around long enough to learn a few tricks of my own.

One doesn’t make it far without taking a few berks along the way. I’m a mage and a damn good one! I’ve liberated some poor sods that had too much to carry, by my own judgment. Fools easily part with their loot, and those that don’t won’t live long enough to tell their story. I’ve amassed various spells designed to keep a poor sod down. I fought in a Blood War or two. I have basically been around the planes; and I have had the pleasure to travel with good company.

Monday, July 4, 2011


This 4th of July, I’m feeling grateful for the freedom our country enjoys. We have seen some amazing changes with the “Arab Spring”, as the world watches more countries struggling with this very issue. I hope the people of those countries, as their revolutions evolve to the next step, can finish the path to freedom.

For me freedom allows me the practice of my religion, one not in the majority. It also grants freedom of speech and expression. Both of these freedoms I hold dear. A big thanks to all those alive and that came before to achieve and defend this freedom.

There are prosecutions going on in the Middle-East countries right now for people trying to achieve these goals for themselves and their fellow countrymen. People that can’t use their own face or name on Twitter, Facebook, blogs and other social networking sites. These people are true heroes, standing up for what they believe in, what they believe is right. Here in the USA, I enjoy the privilege of having my name on this blog, having my face on my Twitter account, using my real name on Facebook.

Monday, June 20, 2011

One Thousand Nights and One Night

ॐ । अहं षिवीय ।।
I am Shiva.
I am Ogou.

Years ago at our house, we tried to start an activity. Our activities take many forms. Sometimes it’s something we do in the living room, on the porch or in times past in front of the wood-burning fireplace. Other times, it’s sleep foreplay, a.k.a. the bedtime story. This particular activity was the classic Arabic tale of romance, One Thousand Nights and One Night. We have a fragile old four volume set that’s forbidden to leave the house. Saum started reading this to me as a bedtime story. For those of you familiar with the slim slivers taken by movies, these are beautifully complex stories. There are stories within stories within stories.

Witnessing his wife’s betrayal, King Shahryār goes beyond reason with rage killing the cheating pair in a crime of passion. He loses all faith in women and takes a new virtuous young woman each night as wife, killing her after slacking his passions. He does so for three years until he has killed all in his kingdom, all except his chief advisors young daughters.

Monday, May 16, 2011

I’ll have … a beer

My last grandparent died this past Saturday. It was my Grandma (Marie) McDermott, wife of Frances, the man who’s name I took when I initiated. They were dear to me.

I have many memories of her. They were the people that introduced me to coffee – anyone who knows me knows that it is a sacred drink to me. We used to ride the Forth Street Elevator in Dubuque at least once a week. It was a major thrill for me and only cost between a dime and a quarter when I was little. We had each Christmas Day at their house, in their basement – a beautiful cozy room with wood paneling, carpet and a huge dining table. Each Christmas filled with cousins, family and one of those silver tinsel Christmas trees with a rotating color wheel that would make it change colors from silver to red, blue, green – I hear that those vintage trees are worth a fortune these days.

Monday, May 2, 2011


I haven’t been blogging for some time, sorry readers. I’ve been too caught up with life. This blog has not been abandoned, but was simply put on hold. More to come. (I’ve also had some computer problems.)

My life lately has been addressing my gaps. I’ve had issues, most of them personal, that I’ve been dealing with my entire life. It’s one of gaps, and specifically it deals with my memory.

I have a frightening problem that occurs from time to time where I can’t remember something. This may be quite normal for most people, but at times it has caused great worry to myself. It may be a conversation, a person’s name, a memory. At times I have gaps.

There are many techniques I’ve used to combat my gaps. I’m a very good note taker, especially at work. I have electronica which servers as a digital assistant, reminding me of things that need taking care of so I don’t miss them. I make lists. I have memory aids to help me keep track of people’s names (I rhyme them or think of someone else I know with the same name, like you’re a Shaggy too?) Over the years, I have devised and refined my tools and techniques to help me work around this issue.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

New Orleans Healing Center

I’ve previously written about how in 2005, on our 10th wedding anniversary, Katrina went over us while we were vacationing in the Bahamas on the island of Eleuthera (Death Ahead, Detour Next Right, Oungan François and Let’s take the free ANW pillow and go). That experience set the stage for us to travel to New Orleans (NOLA) the next year and me attending a conference. The year after that in 2007 we started getting involved with New Orleans Healing Center, an idea to create a community center to promote healing and sustainability in an area that needs it. It’s not just a community center, but a collection of different business, ideas, a street university, food and other things promoting healing and needed services.

For years now, my wife has worked tirelessly, along with dedicated individuals in New Orleans as well as others to make a vision become a reality. We went to meetings, she worked daily. They started out as ideas, salon meetings, hard work and dedication. They worked to secure funding. They worked to make it sustainable. They worked hard.

Monday, February 28, 2011

What Kind Of Priest Am I Going To Be?

What do you want to be when you grow up? I remember what power that phrase used to hold, so much possibility. I grew up privileged, I had options. I could be a lawyer, a doctor, an anything. It seemed life had unlimited possibility. I did believe I could be an astronaut, a president, an all-star athlete.

Eventually life led me to a series of choices and decisions. I had likes and dislikes I discovered. I chose computers, then television, then journalism, advertising and PR. I did radio, TV, downhill skiing and guitar. I flew airplanes. I sang. I immersed myself in so many different directions, I took bits and pieces of possibility and put it on my plate, tried it out, discarded what I didn’t like. I weeded out that which I no longer had time or commanded my attention. I majored: computer science and communications. I did a double-emphasis in communications: print/journalism and advertising/PR. I weeded myself down with those choices and chose a profession, a career. I’ve been working in my field for 25 years (yikes!).

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Let’s take the free ANW pillow and go

I’ve been away for a while on a mission, a mission of taking care of the woman I love. Now I have a bunch of pent up things to say.

After all, we have a collection of those ANW pillows. I’m not even sure if they’re supposed to be free, but we have a collection of them. Maybe I should look into a recycling program.

I don’t mean to make light of the situation, after all this is serious business: surgery. I can’t imagine what it’s like. I had surgery, years ago: grade school, high school; broken bone stuff. The stuff that involves pins and wires. But I’ve never had surgery on my core, where all my muscles are, the stuff that supports my weight. I hope I never do.

Monday, January 17, 2011

I Have a Dream

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. day! I’d like to share some dreams of my own. I hope this isn’t pretentious, but rather in memory of the dreams of a great man. I share my dreams to honor his.

I have a dream.

I have a dream where I understand what White Privilege means, because being a middle class American white man I’m often blind to it. I have a dream where White Privilege isn’t something that we need to concern ourselves with.

I have a dream where politics in America is a dialogue, not a division; where people can take forward ideas without fear and anger from their neighbors or their government.