Interview by Willi Paul
“I’m a very hands-on witch. The spells I work better when I have something to touch, something to hold, something to smell, something to taste, something to delight my eyes. The spell is a wholly immersive experience for me. My Craft goes beyond just infusing the right base with the right herbs; presentation can often matter just as much. How often have you seen a master chef carelessly toss his creation in a heap on a paper plate, after all?
I made numerous potion bottles for housing various brews and infusions I have cooked up (potion-making has been a favorite art of mine as of late.) Here are a few that I made to hold, display, and add to the overall impact and effect of the potions I brew. In these went eye-opener, moonjuice, liquid fire, essence of Venus, and spirit-sense – some of my latest potion creations.”
— Naya Aerodiode
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What is the relationship between permaculture and the Craft?
As one works the Craft, one starts to see interconnectedness in all things. Humans often say, “environment,” as if we were somehow distinct and separate from it, yet every time the environment changes, people fly into a panic to deal with it. Once the crisis has been managed, then they go back into doing things the same way that they always have. It reminds me of that quote, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
People seem to have a very reactive stance to environmental issues, and as such are controlled by them. In order to feel safe amidst the forces of nature, we attempt to bring power over nature, through the many technologies that we have built. Yet, all too often, these technologies are developed with no regard to the greater picture: the fact that all of them must understand that Nature is far older and far more powerful than even you, O great and might human, and if you work with Her rather than against Her, you’re going to have a lot greater effect.
I remember a few years ago, I was excitedly sharing some plans that I found for Earthship house designs, and other highly-sustainable building designs with my consort, Onix, and my father. One in particular was very appealing to me, and a project that my consort and I will be working on in our future endeavors. It was a home that was built partway into the earth, the north side partly underground, with walls built up with used tires. The south side of the house were large windows. According to the plans I read, this kind of passive solar heating can keep a home at a consistently comfortable temperature for most of the year, with little to no need for additional heating or cooling systems. My father, who grew up on a small farm in rural Yugoslavia, told me that his grandfather built their family home almost the exact same way. His grandfather even dug a well in the center of the house, which was capped in the winter and open in the summer to allow cool air from the earth to lower the home’s temperature.
That discussion was a real moment of awareness. People spend so much money to heat their homes in the winter, which is very little in cost compared to the blowing of tops off mountains to get at the filthy coal underneath to destroying entire fish populations with dams in the rivers. Yet the homes we build and live in are so inefficient, so wasteful, that we could spend a fraction of the cost and do a fraction of the damage by working with the Earth and Her ways.
One of the most important lessons from the Craft is that we are to be active, not reactive. The people living in a home such as the one I described will not be so troubled when a brutal snowstorm blankets the land in ice; they’re using far less firewood than their neighbors. Earthquakes and tornadoes, likewise, pose few worries to dwellers in such a home.
Of course, this is just one example of the powerful lesson that I have learned in the Craft, and have applied in many aspects of my life. That is, when you work with the Earth, you learn and work with the ways of nature, things flow more easily for yourself and others. This is true when it comes to my finances, and it is true when it comes to my mind, to my heart, and to my spirit.
Where are humans down on the evolutionary path? I am interested in your predictions on anatomical morphing and spirituality.
Our next step in evolution is going to be assisted by technology, and we are going to have control over it. My consort and I both work in information technology, and we’re both very interested in watching the way technology is changing not just the face of our societies, but affecting our evolution as individuals. While we wait for the imminent singularity to arrive, we often wax poetic about the good old days, when we had to take our bikes to the library to do research for our homework assignments, and then we both agree that those days weren’t so good after all. If one of the next questions on this list needs a bit of scholarly referencing, I can pop open a tab and look up anything I need. This interview might have taken days to complete if I had to run to the library every time I needed to reference something that wasn’t on my bookshelf.
It’s almost superhuman, when I compare the capabilities that I have now compared to when I was growing up. The incredibly fast access to information that we have has freed up so much more of our time and energy that we can pursue so many more things. I am renovating an old home currently, and I saved about $2700 on paying someone to refinish these old hardwood floors because I looked up some videos on YouTube and watched someone else show me how to do it. I have access to teachers, to knowledge, and to capabilities that I never have before.
Taking in new knowledge builds new neural pathways in the brain. There is lots of research out there that all suggests that one can ward off Alzheimer’s by constantly challenging the brain. Crossword puzzles are often noted as particularly good ways to help keep your brain in healthy working order, even well into senior years. Basically, either you use it or you lose it.
But why wait? I’m constantly challenging myself to learn new things, try new things, and to effectively build a better brain right now. Whether it is through playing mentally intensive strategy games, such as Starcraft, or watching YouTube videos to learn a new skill, my ability to evolve has been supercharged by the wondrous technologies we have at hand.
Information, those spirits of Air, fly more freely than ever before. A letter of news from England to Colonial America took weeks on a sea voyage to reach its intended recipient. A letter from Mom across the country used to take days by mail to get to me. Now I get cranky when my internet connection’s ping time goes up by a few milliseconds. Gaia’s neural network is more awake, more alive, and more brilliant than ever. If we work with it – as above, so below – we can be as well.
Are you seeing any shifts away from traditional religion to a more Nature-based view?
We have seen a sharp rise in both paganism and atheism across the world in the past decade. I think this is partly due to the increased access to information we have in the world. The teenager living isolated in the Bible Belt can get online and find information about how others worship and practices as well as find information from scientific sources that make all sorts of truths he was told in his church hard to reconcile. A few decades ago, he would have had to work really hard or been really lucky to find such a variety of viewpoints.
As a general rule, both pagans and atheists have a stronger-than-average tendency to view the natural world with a sense of awe. Richard Dawkins, one of the most prominent atheists in the world, has often spoken of his sense of awe and wonder in regards to the universe. Dawkins once said, “The word ‘mundane’ has come to mean boring and dull, and it really shouldn’t. It should mean the opposite because it comes from the latin ‘mundus’, meaning the world, and the world is anything but dull; the world is wonderful. There’s real poetry in the real world. Science is the poetry of reality,” and I couldn’t agree more. Among my atheist friends, I have heard the disgust they have for religions that discourage a deeper, more intimate knowledge of Nature and Her ways in favor of the cop-out, “God did it.”
I think humans are generally becoming more aware, and as we do, we’re becoming more demanding of our rights to view God (or in the case of atheists, awesome but not divinely inspired whatsoever), up close and personal. We aren’t going to be satisfied for someone else’s map to the territory; we want to see it for ourselves. We are shifting from the churches of the Hierophant, who interprets God for the masses to the circles of the High Priestess, who seeks the doors of enlightenment for herself, and helps others on their quests. We are shifting to the labs of the Magus, who seeks knowledge and understanding of that which is sacred.
How does myth work with science fiction or fantasy?
Science fiction, in our culture, has arisen alongside industrialization. Our landscapes have changed radically compared to those of the past few millennia from 1800 – 1900. We went from being very pastoral to very urban. We no longer were surrounded by natural scenery, but steel, brick, and machinery. Nowhere in this urban landscape would you find a woodland elf or a water nymph, but if you listen very closely, you might hear voices in the machines. It is no wonder that this is the time we say the emergence of literature such as Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein,” considered the first work of science fiction, and later the rise of the mythic and wondrous tales of H.G. Wells and Jules Verne.
The new possibilities that technology have offered us have opened up questions and moral dilemmas which we have never seen before. What if you could make a living creature, like Frankenstein? We’ve seen this question repeated over and over as a theme in science fiction, all the way to up to androids such as Data dreaming of electric sheep. Now, with current breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, the introduction of technologies such as the memrister, we are looking at the very possibility of the creation of artificial life as an actual, attainable reality.
When that happens, we will have had two centuries’ worth of philosophic inquiry into how best to approach the advent of artificial life in a manner that is sustainable, healthy, and beneficial to all life forms involved. Fantasy and mythology prepares us for the challenges we will face in life. Science fiction prepares us for the challenges we will face in the future.
Are modern shamans helping to create new mythologies? If so, can you give us some examples?
One of the most important tasks of the shaman is to travel between the worlds, to move beyond ordinary consciousness and into the realms of the extraordinary. Well, what good is a trip if you don’t bring back photos, souvenirs, and great stories to share?
I think art is a very shamanic practice in this regard. An artist goes into the realms of the muse, finds what treasures she can there, and then brings them back to the real world through writing, painting, sculpting, music, or any of the other means by which a human can express herself. Gene Roddenberry saw way into the future, into a realm that existed only in his mind, and brought back an entire universe, complete with its own gods, heroes, and epic tales. Star Trek is a modern mythology. He might not have called himself shaman, but he certainly was doing the work of one.
In my explorations of the other side, I have always made it a point to bring something back. That which I have brought back has appeared in my paintings, my writings, and other creative endeavors. Bringing something back is how modern shamans inspire new mythologies.
Artists may go through many initiations on their alchemical journey. Please tell us about some of your key learnings, wing busters and transitions.
One of the first amazing moments of awakening happened when I was in this state park a little ways south of Tucson, Arizona. I was 18, and we were there with the science competition team from my high school (we took state, and were invited to nationals.) Our being there was a bit of magic, actually. We didn’t think we could afford to go to nationals, and so we were going to have to pass. Then, a local newspaper ran a story on us, and pointed out in the story that we might not go to nationals. Donations just started rolling in, some from individuals, some from local businesses, and one $5 check from a little old lady who said it was all she could afford, but wants us to go there and win! So, going into this journey, I already had a sense that Fate was at work.
It was my first time being so far from home, and my first time seeing the desert. While everyone else was playing in the beautiful oasis-like pools full of tadpoles, I went and hiked up to this mesa and just spent some time thinking, “Wow. This is big, really big,” and really riding this amazing level of awe and wonder which I had not experienced in such an awakening manner before. I’d always been a nature child, loving to be outside and getting dirty tromping around in the woods, but this was something more. There were these moments of perfect calm, perfect connection, a perfect understanding that everything was connected and everything was whole, and that I was a part of this integral wholeness of all things. I felt like the Fool up there on that mesa, with my backpack on my shoulders and my eyes to the eternal skies and fields of cacti, raising their arms in praise until they disappeared at the horizon.
Though I’d had leanings toward occult practice in high school, it was at that point that suddenly the magical felt very tangible to me. It was pretty much at that point, in May of my senior year of high school, I knew I had found a path that was meant for me. It had colored everything I have done since then. In my pursuits in life – visual arts, web design, teaching, technology – I have been guided by that initial sense of connection that caused all of my nerves to light up on that day on the mesa. “Does this fit in with that Great Pattern? Is this working with the flow or against it?” has always been there to help guide me through life, and make sure that I am making the most of my talents during my short time in this body.
How do you connect mythmaking and innovation in your work?
The gods are constantly revealing new things to humans. Though those who have originally told their stories may not still be alive, the gods still are. They rely on us to listen, learn, and tell new stories of them.
I find these new stories by stepping across the boundary into the world of the mythical. A lot of my work involves traveling to those other planes where I can learn new things of these gods, spirits and heroes, and bringing it back to apply in this world. My favored talents lie in the realms of visual arts, so I use visual means such as painting, costume making, and mask making to relay what I have seen.
Myths are the stories of ourselves. When I travel in those mythical dimensions, I am likewise exploring the extremities of my own mind, discovering new parts of myself. Without new discovery, there is no new growth.
I enjoy working with other mythical travelers who have skills in other areas to collaborate in creating rituals which address the mind, the heart, and all of the senses. Some of the best rituals I have participated in were theatrical ones in which we created a wholly immersive environment in which we explored myths together, role playing the gods and heroes in our sacred space. I am excited about my future possibilities to work with people in the future to create more such theatric rituals, both based on old stories and traveling to those mythical lands to find new ones.
Are religions dividing us in America? Who wins and looses?
I have very little love for organized religion and its sacred cows. Religion has turned into a horrible dog and pony show in this country, and I refuse to be any part of it. I run a small coven where I work very hard to help others find ways to make the most of their talents on this earth, but I’m very careful about not turning on any dogma. I have my own understanding of the Gods, from the great and mighty forces of the universe, to the more tangible ones such as Oshun, whom I can go visit by dipping my toes in a river. My consort has his own understanding of the gods which is very different than mine, but still very real and very important. You have your own way to understand the Gods, too, as do we all. All realities are possible; the presence of my gods does not exclude the existence of yours. I think it’s important that each have us have our own understanding of the Gods. But how it works? I can’t explain it; you just have to experience it for yourself. I just think it’s important to seek that out and find that connection. I’m not going to tell you what it is, though. I can’t. I can only help you through the door.
The Hierophant is more interested in the outward appearances, traditions, the rules, community, and social order. Organized religion focuses on the exoteric more than the esoteric experience. Organized religion has already defined god and told you what He, She or They look like. They often don’t emphasize the importance of personal experience, and because of that, those more personal moments of awakening aren’t encouraged or even acknowledged. I think organized religion holds back, rather than encourages a connection with God. After all, if the flock knew they could get to God themselves, the clergy would be out of a job!
At its worst under organized religions, people insist on the rightness of their vision and the wrongness of everyone else’s vision. How can we be right and they be right at the same time? Since that’s apparently an impossibility, then we must be right and therefore superior to all of these people who are wrong. Sometimes it even leads to thinking that we really should help those people who are wrong, because it must really suck to be wrong. If they refuse our help, then we’ll put a stop to what they are doing that is so wrong.
There is our division. The church leaders win big followings, grandiose egos, tax exemptions and huge tithes. The average human loses the ability to find their own connection and vision of God, and instead becomes just a player in the tribal warfare.
Thankfully, though, I think more and more people these days are demanding their own visions of God, not those interpreted through another person. This makes me optimistic.
What does a Full Moon mean; do to you?
When I look in that silvery Lady’s eyes, I know that I am looking at the same moon that the creatures on earth have seen since we first crawled out of the primordial ooze. She pours magic like water into my heart, which I feel racing in my chest as my skin lights up. She sings to me and I am moved to dance. I gaze into her silvery eyes and I listen to ancient words. She delights my eyes with visions, which I will the next day paint, draw, sew, write, build or code. She is the giver of beauty and inspiration, of mystery and magic. You need but silence yourself and listen; She will share her secrets with anyone who seeks her.
You write that your roots are key to understanding and growth. Can you explain this?
Know thyself. It’s on the wall in my temple, too.
I’m a tech geek. I have my dad to thank for that, because he and I used to tinker on electronics, cars, and computers ever since I could stand upright. I have a strong DIY ethic, and if it breaks I’ll make every attempt to fix it before throwing it out. I know my way around a set of tools and I can build anything I put my mind to. I have not just my dad to thank, but his parents, and his parents before that, and his parents before that. Every generation teaches the next.
On the small farm where my dad grew up, my grandparents and great grandparents had no consumer ethic to fall back on. If they couldn’t do it themselves, they might not have survived. Grandma kept the farm running, and she was a very resourceful woman. Even well into her old age, she had an amazing vegetable garden and every summer she kept our family stocked up on the best, tastiest and healthiest vegetables. If she didn’t know how to grow food that well, it’s likely I would not be here today. She passed her ethics of doing it yourself, self-reliance and sustainability along to my father. He passed them along to me.
I understand one of my strengths even better because I understand where it comes from. I know more about why I am the way I am, and by knowing that, I know more about how I can become who I am becoming. And, of course, all of it always reminds me that I’m still nowhere close to finished learning any of that yet.
A lot of my magic focuses on developing capabilities and being adaptable with these capabilities. In essence, I consider a large part of my work about being able to have the flexibility and the capability to work with any situation that life throws at me. The gods teach me to become a more capable person. I have a deeply-rooted understanding of why this is important to me, because being capable was something my ancestors did well and enabled my very existence.
Though our roots provide us with a solid foundation, I must always be mindful that they can bind me if I’m not careful. We have certain tendencies toward certain things, certain programmed responses. Understanding where I come from will help me to understand these responses which I tend toward. When I have that understanding, I then have the choice to either accept the default setting or to change it. It puts me in control.
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Please join us in the openmythsource reservoir for reflection in community.
Naya at silverspiral.org