[This issue we sit down for an exhaustive interview with Amanda Sioux Blake. Author of Ink In My Veins, Blake recently released a new collection of Pagan-oriented poetry, Songs of Praise: Hymns to the Gods of Greece. She is also the founder and templekeeper of the Temple of Athena the Savior in Indiana. In this interview, Blake discusses the increasing prominence of Pagans in mainstream culture; the ins and outs of building a temple; and how her devotion to Athena and her diagnosis of bipolar disorder have driven her to social justice causes.]
Eternal Haunted Summer: If you could correct one common misconception about Paganism, what would it me?
Amanda Sioux Blake: Good question. The first thing that springs to mind is the confusion of Paganism and Satanism, but I really haven’t run into too much of that anymore, at least amongst most reasonable, educated folk. You are always going to have a few fanatics. But you can’t do anything to convince the extremely hardline, foaming-at-the-mouth types, so it’s best to ignore them if possible. If it’s not possible, than you have to get out of the situation. I’ve quit jobs before because of that, and even though it may have made my financial situation temporarily difficult, it did wonders for my mental health.
But the response I usually get when I say I’m Pagan is, “Oh, you mean Wiccan?”, from both non-Pagans and Neo-Pagans. I would like for the broader Pagan community and the world at large to understand that we aren’t a one-size-fits-all monocult. The spectrum of Pagan religions spans not just from Wicca to the different culture-specific Reconstructionist religions, but also includes the Church of All Worlds, with is based on Robert A. Heilein’s famous sci-fi novel Stranger in a Strange Land. I’d like for the other, non-Wiccan, non-Native American(ish) types of Paganisms to get more press. It does seem that the Recon paths are growing, or at least becoming more vocal, which is fantastic. We’re really coming out and building communities, publishing books, holding public rituals and festivals for the Gods, establishing Temples and other real-life groups, and generally having a blast. I feel like we are starting to become more visible in the broader Pagan community. H. Jeremiah Lewis(Sannion), and Jeremy J. Baer have both written articles for Pentacle magazine. An old issue of PanGaia (which has since merged with NewWitch and became Witches & Pagans) actually briefly mentioned Neos Alexandria and named Sannion as one of the shining stars of the Reconstructionist community. That was very exciting!
We have two openly Pagan public officials is this country (that I’m currently aware of), and they’re both Recon! We have Dan Halloran, a New York City councilman of the Heathen faith, and Jessica Orsini, a transgender Hellenic Pagan Alderwoman of Centralia, Missouri. How exciting is that? On Cara Schultz’s Pagan+Politics blog there is an interview with Halloran, and one with Orsini coming up, for those who’d like more information on these Pagan politicians.
I think the Recon community emphasizes public service and becoming involved with local politics more than the more New Age-ish sections of Paganism, as they are so rooted in tradition, rather than rebellion. And the fact that Halloran is a Republican and Orsini is a Democrat shows that Paganism is more than just a subculture. We have a vast diversity of political view points – we have Pagan Tea Partiers! I’ll admit that one surprised me at first. The Tea Party is portrayed as this ultra-Christian revivalist movement at times, by both the liberal and conservative media, which it’s not. I may disagree – I’m proud to call myself a moderate socialist – but I think it’s wonderful that we have so many diverse viewpoints in the community; it shows that we have really matured as a religion and are no longer just a counterculture movement. But despite all our differences, we are still a community.
EHS: What bought you to Paganism? How do you define your spiritual path?
ASB: Like most Pagans, I don’t feel I ever converted, but the Gods simply brought me home. When I was a young child, I thought God was a woman. I couldn’t explain it, I just knew that the Presence I sometimes felt was undeniably female. My mother, who was very Christian, did not like the way I spoke of my experiences. She tried to convince me that my female force was a guardian angel. But that didn’t feel like the right description at all. I simply knew that it felt much more powerful then that, but, being five, I lacked the vocabulary necessary to explain it. My Being was unmistakably female, but with a hard edge to Her, strong, tough, and much bigger than an angel. I knew She loved me and protected me, but after my mother’s lectures, I tried to ignore Her Presence.
A few years later, at age seven or eight, my father began reading me the Greek myths. He thought only of their educational value, but for my young mind it was an Epiphany with a capital E. That cosmic ‘click’ I had been searching for resounded in my head, and I unconsciously identified my female force: Athena. I fell in love with Her as soon as I heard Her name. I started worshiping Her in my heart right then. I didn’t believe in the Gods intellectually, but I loved Them with a love that was pure instinct, pure emotion. Even the watered-down, kid-friendly versions of the myths had so much power. I would read and reread them, studying the genealogical charts in my bedroom, reading late into the night with a flashlight hidden under my mattress. It was as if the Gods of Greece reached up through the pages and seized upon my heart and soul, never to let go.
When I was twelve or thirteen, my parents divorced, and my father got custody. My father is a gift from the Gods – I don’t know where I’d be without him. He had been a Buddhist before marrying my mother – she had forced him to renounce his beliefs and be baptized in her church. After the divorce, he was just as lost as my brother and I, trying to find himself after being completely submerged in my mother’s identity for over a decade. And so my father, my brother and I began to awkwardly attempt to build new lives for ourselves.
I’m so thankful for my father. He thought that we should understand and learn about other religions and ways of life. He taught us to appreciate the beauty and wisdom of all of them. When we were younger, my father had given my brother and I almost daily Latin lessons. I’m far from fluent, but that early basis in language has really helped me in my life and my studies. It opened up another world to me.
I’ll never forget how I felt when I first stumbled upon Paganism, in the form of Wicca. I was wandering around Barnes and Noble looking for fantasy novels a la Lord of the Rings and Forgotten Realms. I stumbled onto the Occult section and curiously pulled out a large tome with a little crescent on the spine. Some Recons might turn their nose up at Silver Ravenwolf, but she has a special place in my heart as the person who introduced me to Paganism. Knowing that I wasn’t crazy and there were other people out there who worshiped the Old Gods in their hearts as well was the single greatest, most amazing epiphany I’d ever had. I declared myself Wiccan before I finished my first book and dove headfirst into Paganism.
I drifted from Wicca only a few years later, following my Goddess Athena to the land of Her birth, on the shores of the Mediterranean. I set to work in my studies, dug into ancient Athens, and built relationships with other Greek Gods such as Artemis, Dionysos, Apollo, Persephone, and Hestia. I taught a class on Greek Mythology at Spiritual Frontiers Fellowship (at age 16) and went to work on writing. For six or seven years I was content. I never intended to leave the Greek pantheon.
Then, somewhere around my twenty-second year, a Divine monkey wrench was thrown into into my plans, and Her name was Isis. She kept popping up, in dreams, on magazine covers, on tv programs. A stranger once stopped me on the street to comment on the weather, and her Isis pendant jumped out at me. But I ignored Her, explaining these strange events away.
I had absorbed the propaganda of some Reconstructionists, the belief that worshiping the Deities of more than one pantheon or culture would automatically make me a fluffy bunny, a person with spiritual ADD, jumping from one shiny thing to the next with no real spiritual depth. What would my fellow Hellenists think? Surely I would be mocked and labeled a ramshackle eclectic. I stuck close to my religious home of Athens, to the Gods Who had first stirred my soul as a child.
To make a long story short, She refused to go away. After about six months of this, I broke down. In order to get to know Isis, I was forced to confront many of my issues, particularly those involving motherhood. In the Summer of 2009, Isis seemed to step aside to make room for Her foster-son. Anubis came on much stronger than She had. I had haunting dreams about Him, and when I walked to my car after finishing second shift at my job, I could’ve sworn there was a wild dog following me in the shadows. Anubis’s Presence is much more visceral than any of the Gods I have previously experienced, expect perhaps Dionysos. It’s something felt in blood and bone, scent and hormone, claw and skin. He’s all but taken over my spirit-work, and sometimes the connection is almost erotic. If you had told me five years ago that I would become so deeply involved with an Egyptian God, I would’ve laughed. But I guess They had Their own plans for me. Isis has stepped back the intensity, and so did Anubis for a while, but He has been re-asserting Himself lately. Maybe She only came into my life to introduce me to Anubis; who knows?
So I’d have to say I’m a Greco-Egyptian Pagan now. I still tend to approach things more from the Greek side, but Alexandria has become my new spiritual home.
EHS: You recently founded the Temple of Athena the Savior in Indiana. Why a Temple for Athena? And why the epithet “Savior”?
ASB: Well, there was never any doubt that if I founded a Temple, it would be for Athena. She’s been the only constant in my life, my North Star, my compass. I’ve had this calling for a long time. I’ve known I would eventually found a Temple since I first began actively worshiping Her.
As for the epithet “Savior”, that’s what Athena is to me. Not a Savior in the Christian sense of washing away sins, but more in the sense of the ancient Isiac cults, a savior from the cold machinations of blind Fate. The Greek title, Soteria, was most likely applied to Athena as a savior in battle, the Goddess Who brings the troops home alive. I’ve not been in the military, but I have had my own battles. I’ve struggled most of my life with depression and anxiety, and was eventually diagnosed with bipolar disorder, an illness that runs in my family, and which I’m not ashamed to talk about anymore.
High school was particularly difficult for me. I was bullied mercilessly, partly for my interest in Pagan religions, but mostly because I was this strange new kid from Mormonland who was very socially awkward. But the kids latched onto the Pagan thing, and I even received death threats (not that school officials took them seriously), had things thrown at me from cars as I walked home, and a few people followed me to my job to try to ‘save my soul’. Things were different back then; bullying was not taken seriously. In fact, most of the school staff thought I was the suspicious one, and got in on the ostracizing. The Assistant Principal told my father I was a potential “Columbine kid.” None of this helped my depression or anxiety attacks. Add the fact that I didn’t know I was struggling with a mental illness at the same time, and it adds up to a miserable adolescence. I don’t think I would have survived without Athena. I clung to Her for dear life. All the teen suicides in the news lately remind me of how very, very close I was to ending my own life. Without Athena’s strength when mine failed, I’m sure I would not be here today.
Athena is in every way my Savior, and She is also the impetus for all my social activism work. My father raised me with a very strong sense of civic duty, and Athena has re-enforced this tenancy in me. I think that one of the most important things about being a devotee of Athena is standing up to the bully, standing up for the underdog. All my volunteer work in the community is in Her name. Sometimes, like when I volunteered at the local woman’s clinic, it is also an offering to another Deity, in that case Aphrodite. But Athena is always my guide. I believe that to be devoted to Athena is to be devoted to an Ideal, to actively work for Justice. I discuss this idea of Athena as the patroness of social justice in my forthcoming work, Journey to Olympos: A Modern Spiritual Odyssey. This work is quite a ways from publication, but the chapter on Athena will be available shortly on my website, as soon as it’s up. It’s currently heavily under construction.
EHS: Are there other Deities honored at the Temple, too, or just Athena?
ASB: Athena is the patroness of this Temple, but all the Gods are welcome here. The full title is “Temple of Athena the Savior, Alexandrian Tradition”. I wanted to make sure that the Temple was grounded in a Greco-Egyptian tradition. All the Gods of Greece and Egypt are welcome here. Second tier Deities are Apollo, Artemis, Dionysos, Anubis and Isis. But we celebrate many festivals. Last month I led rituals for the Reconciliation of Hephaistos and Hera, and Isis Rejoices at Finding Osiris. And those were the official Temple festivals – I celebrated three smaller festivals either by myself or with one close friend.
EHS: How did you go about founding the Temple? Do you have any advice for other people who are considering doing the same?
ASB: My advice? Just do it. It doesn’t have to start out all big and grand. You know how most of the big Christian churches in this country got started? Out of someone’s living room, or maybe a one-room schoolhouse.
The Temple is pretty humble at this point, but it’s already growing. It’s founded out of my living room right now, but one day I’ll have my own land. And when I say it’s out of my living room, I don’t mean a study group meeting in a normal living room. I moved the TV out of there (which I never watched anyway), and the media cabinet is now a multilayered shrine. Even the artwork hanging on the walls is of a religious nature, if not of the Gods Themselves. It’s amazing what a difference having that as a focal point makes. As soon as you come into the room, the Gods are right there. It’s the first thing you notice. I have all the candles burning whenever I teach classes, not just during ritual. Even with all the light bulbs in room on, it makes a difference. It’s brings the Gods down for the classes too, so we’re aware that we are learning in a sacred place.
And the living room is a Temple. There are still couches around the room, to sit on while we do the class, but one of the end tables is now a smaller shrine, and the coffee table in the middle of the room is always set up as an altar. The coffee table gets switched around and redecorated for each festival, even the ones I’m not doing a ritual for. Just setting it up, carefully picking each statue, altar cloth, etc. is an act of devotion, and then you have Them in your thoughts all day.
I don’t have statues of every single God in the pantheon. That would be a lot of money. I draw and paint my own pictures. I cut a beautiful, full color picture of Osiris out of an old issue ofPentacle magazine, and put it in a nice, dark wooden frame. Every single, tiny detail of the Temple shrine was carefully picked,every piece has symbolism, right down to the incense and oils I use. When I explained all the symbolism of it to a friend, it took over thirty minutes. So that’s another thing about making a Temple, I think. Be very conscious of what you are putting in it. It’s worth it. Every single visitor so far has commented on it’s amazing energy.
After you have it all set up, advertise! Print flyers, and leave them at any New Age/Pagan stores in the area, at conventions, et cetera. Have business cards made, with the name of the Temple first and your name underneath. (I’m not comfortable calling myself a Priestess yet, I don’t think I’ve earned the title yet. So I call myself the Keeper of the Temple or just the Templekeeper.) Go to some celebrations you wouldn’t normally go to, like Wiccan Sabbats, if you’re a Recon. Connect to others in the Pagan community, of any flavor of Pagan. Try the local Unitarian church! I’ve conducted several rituals at the Unitarian church here, they are usually very Pagan-friendly. Ask any magically-inclined friends you have to hand those flyers out to people they know. Build a website. Get the local priestess or somebody respected in the Pagan community to be a guest-speaker. It associates you with them and gets the word out there. Hold regular public rituals and events, and actually tell people about them. You can’t run a Temple, or a public one anyway, and play your Pagan cards close to the vest at the same time. If you’re in the broom closet, it’s time to come out.
A humble beginning, I know, but Delphi started out as a big rock in a field! I’ve had this calling for a while, but I kept saying I don’t have enough money, the right house/land, the right education, et cetera et cetera. My problem was I was looking at the ultimate goal and not seeing all the little baby steps it takes to get there. What I want, which I will one day have, is a two-story house. On the first level, there would be classrooms, a small store, and at least one Temple room that would be kept only for ritual, with a full-size statue of Athena. There’d be a communal kitchen so anyone can come over and prepare food for festivals, and keep their own snacks and pop in the refrigerator for classes or whatever. There’d be an apartment for me to live in on the top level. This apartment would have its own kitchenette and bathroom and everything, so that it would be completely self-sustained. I don’t want the downstairs to be my living-area. Also, this way I could give keys to the downstairs to anyone, if there is someone who wants to become an official part of the Temple staff and help care for it. Outside, there would be a big backyard so we could have bonfires. It would have to be far enough from downtown that we could have drumming circles around the fire late at night, but hopefully not too far out in the boonies. There’d be altars to the Nymphs, of course, somewhere out there, a garden for food and my great-grandfather’s grapes. Maybe even a creek if I’m lucky. And a food bank. It’s very important to me that the Temple be actively involved with charity and social justice work.
That’s my dream, the ultimate goal. Am I anywhere near that goal at the moment? Hardly. But, I’ve started. I need to nurture that dream carefully at point, but it will grow. Is the Temple any less legitimate because it’s out of one room in my house? I don’t think so, and neither do the Gods. Or my students. If you feel that way, well, that’s your problem.
My dad has always told me that if you wait for everything to be perfect before you do something, you’ll never do anything. You just have to jump in and do what you do, and let the money, jobs, education, et cetera fall in around you. I might be biased, but I think he couldn’t be more right. After all, how is anyone supposed to know what you do if you aren’t actually doing it? No one is gonna come along and start the Temple for you. Maybe you’ll be lucky and get someone rich to back you financially – but they probably aren’t going to invest in you unless if they see you doing something worth investing in. If they see how many people are coming to take the classes you teach out of your living room, well, that’s a different story. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Neither was the Vatican. Neither will our holy spaces be. Just start. Do something. No matter how small, it is a step. It’s amazing how the world opens up when you stop fighting the Gods.
Most importantly, don’t get discouraged. Even with the Gods on your side, it takes awhile for what you planted to sprout and grow strong. Be optimistic, but realistic. I’m not going to get that perfect Temple I want tomorrow. But neither should you put it so far away. Don’t add a time limit at all, one way or another. I’m not going to say that I won’t get that Temple until ten years from now, but I’m not gonna expect it to be here by the New Year’s either. Whatever happens, happens.
EHS: Is the Temple open to the public?
ASB: Absolutely! There is a regular ritual twice monthly, usually on the second and fourth Friday of the month. There is a potluck at 7 pm, followed at 8 by a ritual, usually with a guided meditation. Sometimes there is drumming as well. Special events such as workshops may take place on either Saturday or Sunday. A Warrior Woman workshop is being planned, and a children’s mythology day (which may have to wait til summer – I don’t think the Temple is large enough for lots of active kids), but no dates are currently set.
Classes are currently taught on Sunday from 4 pm to 7 pm. We are currently studying ancient Alexandria in the “Olympos in Egypt” class.
The next class (no dates yet) will be on the Divine Feminine across time and cultures, and will feature a guest speaker, Shaga, or Dean Gemmell, who is one-half of the team that wroteMagdalene’s Well, and the forthcoming Yeshua’s Song.
Anyone is welcome. Since the Temple is within my home, they will need to contact me, either by phone (224 – 323 – 1149) or email for directions. Open Hours (subject to change) are Tuesdays 11:00 am – 4:30 pm and Thursdays 3:00 pm – 7:00 pm. Oracle Readings or visits for other reasons are welcome, and can be arranged by appointment, at other times.
ALL CLASSES, RITUALS, AND EVENTS ARE DONATION-ONLY. I cannot stress that enough. I do not want anyone to be barred from the Gods or from knowledge because of financial need. But running a Temple requires a lot of expenses. Candles, incense, oils, food for festivals and for offerings, and ritual supplies all add up, not to mention statues and images of the Gods. But there are also ink cartridges, paper, computer repair and upkeep, especially for classes, not to mention vast amounts of time for research and writing. So if it is at all possible, donate what you can, and please don’t feel that any donation is too small. Every penny helps. Donations don’t have to be monetary either – donations of books, binders, ritual supplies, writing supplies and other goods for the Temple and classes are accepted as well. We burn through candles like nobody’s business, especially tea lights!! Printer paper and spiral notebooks are other supplies I constantly use up, so I’ll take anything I can get!
There is a minimum donation required for Oracle readings, due to the time involved in one-on-one consultations. I wish I could offer these for free as well, but I have bad habit of wanting to eat! ::laughs::
EHS: You are also the author of Ink In My Veins: A Collection of Pagan Poetry. How did you come by that title, and how did you decide which poems to include (or not)?
ASB: Ink In My Veins is actually the title of the first poem of the book, and one of my favorites, despite its shortness, because it really describes how I feel that writing is in my blood:
These words are not words
This ink is not ink
My life is a poem
That’s never complete
This ink is my blood
These words are my soul
I spill my blood across the page
This ink that runs in my veins.
I went back and forth on which poems to include, or even to include the word “Pagan” in the subtitle. There are religious poems in here, but not many. There’s hymns to Aphrodite and Hekate (“Ashes for Hekate” has a story behind it; it was written after a fire that destroyed most of my home). I don’t think there is even one for my patron Athena. Most of these poems were written in my teenage years, and so many are very dark or sad. This collection chronicles my struggle with clinical depression, although I didn’t know at the time just how serious my melancholy was. You can tell which ones were written while I was still Wiccan in my early teen years, and which are from more Hellenic roots. But, I decided that even some of the poems that are not explicitly about the Gods still have a Pagan spirit, particularly the ones about sexuality. I’m Pagan, plain and simple. Paganism is not the only thing that defines me, but it is certainly one of the biggest blocks of my identity.
One poem that I particularly agonized over was “She Remembers”, which deals with my attempted rape. I was very lucky, in that I was strong enough to fight my attacker off for a crucial moment, and that I was so near a place with lots of people and light, so he didn’t follow me. Like most victims of sexual assault, I didn’t tell a soul for many years. I didn’t allow myself to grieve for a long time. I felt that I didn’t have the right, since I wasn’t actually raped – I felt that since so many aren’t lucky enough to get away, I had no right to complain. That since someone else’s experiences were worse, that it somehow canceled out mine. I know, it doesn’t make since, but that’s what I felt at the time. But the shock and violence of that episode was very traumatic, and it took me a long time to trust men.
I also had to deal with the guilt. Since I never told anyone, if he hurts anyone else, then that is, at least partially, on me. Sure, the cops may not have gotten him, I don’t think I could have given a very accurate description. I’ve blocked most of it out. I can only remember one detail of what he looked like – he had a big, bushy, orange beard. But I never tried, and I will have to own up to that before the Gods. That’s one area where I failed in my commitment to Justice, but I was very young. I wasn’t ready to be an activist then. I am now. That’s why I included this poem in Ink. Somebody has to stand up and speak the truth.
It’s worth it if it comforts just one person, helps just one girl, makes one boy feel not so alone. And I said boy on purpose – our language regarding sexual assault is extremely sexist, and male victims have very, very few places to turn. There are almost no resources if you’re a man who has been raped or is in a domestic abuse situation. This is a tragic lack that needs to be remedied.
But the book is not all so serious. There are many poems chronicling my first crushes, my first kiss, first real loves and sexual experiences. There’s more than one poem comparing the experience of sex with religious ecstasy. There are a few humorous poems, such as an ode to coffee. There are even poems inspired by Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, geek that I am! (although I’ll bet you $100 you can’t figure out which one was inspired by Harry Potter; it’s pretty subtle).
At the time I published this I had many more recent poems, but I decided to stick with the ones more or less written at (or about) age 14 – 19. I felt it was important to gather it all together, and by chronicling my difficult childhood (“Mother Dearest” should make my feelings clear on that matter), my rough adolescence, and my faltering but cautiously hopeful steps towards womanhood. You would think that publishing a collection like this would bring up all sorts of bad memories, and it did. But it was strangely cathartic. By putting it out there, I’ve told the truth of my life, even when it was difficult. I’ve shared in hopes of healing others, and been healed in the process. It’s like by putting it all together, I’ve closed the door on that chapter of my life.
At some point, I would like to re-release it. I want to make a few stylistic changes (uninteresting stuff like grammar and saying ‘and’ instead of using ampersands), but mostly I’d like to add a new introduction. At the time of the publication, I had not yet been diagnosed as having bipolar disorder, and now that I am aware of my illness, it puts the book in a whole new light. As I said before, I’m not ashamed of it anymore. It’s a genetic illness, not a personal failing. I am adamant that talking about having mental illness is no different than talking about having cancer. (I also try not to say that I’m bipolar. I have bipolar disorder, but its not the only thing that defines me. How many times have you heard someone say “I am cancer”, not “I have cancer.” See the difference?)
I recently released another collection of poetry, Songs of Praise: Hymns to the Gods of Greece which is availablehere. This one strikes a much more joyous note, as well as being focused on the Gods and my spiritual journey, rather than random life stuff like Ink. It’s a much longer collection too, which shows you where most of my energy goes! My Gods are the most important thing in the world to me. I wouldn’t have survived my life so far without Them, and I am incredibly humbled by Their presence in my life. Many of these hymns and chants have been used in rituals of my own. It includes prayers not only for traditional Greek Gods and festivals, but also hymns to the American Goddess, Lady Liberty, Whose statue which stands in our harbor is based on the Roman Goddess of freedom, Libertas. I have also developed a litany of prayers for secular American holidays, such as Earth Day, Mother’s and Father’s Day, Memorial Day, et cetera. Loyalty to one’s country and people was, after all, a vital part of ancient religion. Religo Americana, much like Religo Romana or the state cults of Athens, elevates our nation’s holidays to a sacred level.
[Due to a slight misprint causing the table of contents to be a few pages off, Songs of Praise will be discounted from $18.99 to $15.99. In 3-6 weeks the book will be re-released with the corrections at the full price of $18.99. So get it now, as by January this deal will be gone! Maybe one day the misprinted editions will be more valuable, who knows?]
EHS: Why CreateSpace, and would you recommend it to others?
ASB: With such a niche market, self-publishing seemed the best way to go. There simply aren’t many publishing houses that would go for this type of work. Artists of all kinds are using Print-on-Demand more and more. You can stay in complete control of your work, and sleep secure in the knowledge that there is no danger of some editor who has no idea what the book is about carving up your baby. And it’s better for the earth, since there aren’t warehouses of unsold books hanging around, which is very important to me. Gaia is the mother of us all, including the Gods, after all. The one drawback is that you have to learn to do your own formatting, cover design, and marketing, so you really have to work at it. Ultimately you just gotta weigh the pros and cons, and it came out mostly pros for me.
EHS: Where can curious readers find Ink In My Veins?
EHS: You do tarot readings in which you combine the Anubis Oracle and the Mythic Tarot, resulting in a Greco-Egyptian deck. How did you come to combine the decks, and how do the two decks work together? Can you give us an example of a spread?
ASB: I really wanted a divination method by which I could connect with both sides of my spirituality, especially as Anubis has become my guide in this area. The Anubis Oracle is an incredibly beautiful and powerful deck, but lacked my connection to Athena. The Mythic Tarot is not only Greek, but was my first tarot deck, almost ten years ago, so I am well acquainted with it. I first tried mixing them together, but not only did they not shuffle very well, the energy just didn’t seem to mesh. I almost gave up, but I was determined to make it work.
Instead, now I shuffle both decks separately. I use the Celtic Cross spread, with has ten positions. Each position on the spread uses a card from a specific deck. The first card is from the Mythic Tarot, and the crossing card is from the Anubis Oracle. The next four cards, which surround the first two, are Greek. The arm of four cards to the right is from the Anubis Oracle. Meaning, five Greek cards and five Egyptian cards.
I can use other spreads, as long as it’s an even number of cards, so as to balance the Greek and Egyptian energies. Still, I prefer the Celtic Cross spread, which seems to work the best. The balance really is the key; as I said before, mixing the decks made the energy fall flat. But when measured out in this manner, they work together beautifully! Although it worked fantastically in my private matters, I was a little uncertain about how it would translate well into readings for others. But so far I’ve gotten nothing but rave reviews.
EHS: What other projects are you working on?
ASB: Oh man, you really do not want to get me started on that! Right now I guess my main focus is the class I am teaching from the Temple, “Olympos in Egypt,” which is about the history and religious landscape of Hellenistic Alexandria.
I am also working on my art business, Otherworld Creations. I sell paintings and limited edition prints. Some of my best artwork is silk screened onto T-shirts at my Cafepress store. Most of these T-shirts are of Greek and Egyptian Gods. I’ve got four different Athena shirts (of course). Other patterns include Anubis, three Hera designs, King Tut, Hermes, Dionysos, Lilith, and more. There are also fantasy themed shirts such as elves and faeries, and a pets and animals section. So there’s really a little bit for everyone.
I also create custom clothes and purses, many of them handmade. I create them by cutting up old clothes and sewing them back together in new and interesting ways, something I refer to as recycled clothing. These pieces are one of a kind, and there will never be another completely like it. I also make hand-sewn purses, and in edition I do intricate embroidery patterns. I can take commissions to an individual’s specifications. Tell me an idea and I’ll do my best to make it come true!
My next book, Journey to Olympos: A Modern Spiritual Odyssey, is kinda my masterpiece work, over 400 pages so far. I’ve been working on it off and on since I was sixteen. Actually, it used to be called Journey to the Gods, but it got far too long and I still had many chapters to write. So, I was forced to split it into two books: Journey to Olympos and, hopefully, Journey to the Underworld, as well. Each will include rituals both for groups and solitaries. Journey to Olympos also has a large appendix of the different incenses, animals, et cetera sacred to each God. It’s meant to be an introduction to Hellenismos and the Greek Gods. I began this book when I was purely Hellenic; it’s nearly finished, so I’m planning on finishing it before I write more deeply on Greco-Egyptian Paganism. I would not be surprised if the class I am teaching, “Olympos in Egypt,” eventually became a book. When I was sixteen I taught a class on Greek Mythology, and the research and writing for that became the start ofJourney to Olympos, although the book is much more focused on personal experience and practice than the class was.
Soon I’ll also have small booklet available, Doing Ma’at : A Short Primer on Greco-Egyptian Ethics, which was written mostly to supplement the curriculum of classes taught at the Temple.
EHS: Which book fairs, conventions, festivals, etc. will you be attending in the foreseeable future?
ASB: Well right now I’m kinda flying by the seat of my pants, so it’s hard to say for sure. I’ve been involved with the local SPIRAL group in South Bend, Indiana which meets at the Unitarian church in the winter, and often has rituals outside in the summer. It’s a safe bet to say I’ll be attending many of those, and possibly leading one of the summer rituals myself, if I can.
Mother’s Day weekend in Buchanan, Michigan there is the annual Ma Gaia festival. It’s sponsored by Shawna Dockery and Cindy Hawk, the owner of MoonBeads and Inner Journeys Healing Arts Center. It’s out in the country on Shawna’s farm, so lots of people bring tents and camp for the weekend. It’s really an incredible retreat. On Friday and Saturday night of the weekend they set up the Luminary Labyrinth, a huge, to-scale Labyrinth made of candles. Walking the Labyrinth, in pitch-black except for the candles, with the full moon overhead, is an incredibly powerful and transformative experience. There is a price, but it’s quite cheap. I can’t remember the exact price, but two years ago it was somewhere along the lines of $25 for one night, and $45 for the whole weekend. Trust me, it’s worth every penny. They don’t have a website, but get in contact with me and I’ll find out what I can. (But it’s never planned this early; wait till about March. I’ll definitely be attending; whether I’ll be one of the vendors or readers, it’s far too early to tell. These are cats — I mean Pagans — we’re talking about here.)
Both Cindy’s Healing Arts Center, and another local metaphysical store, Mystic Beads and Earth Wear, have Psychic Faires in the summer. These are really fun. Mystic Beads usually has live music, a lady from India does real henna tattoos, and lots of different venders and artists, and readers of everything from tarot and astrology to numerology and spirit drawings. I’m frequently at Mystic Beads’ Psychic Faires, either as a reader or, much more often these days, vending my art and handmade clothes.
Sadly, not one of the places I just mentioned has a website! You’ll just have to get in contact with me, when we get closer to the dates in question.