Queer I Stand
Sphinxes in the Library: A Review of T. Thorn Coyle's "Make Magic of Your Life"
Reading this book came at an important and opportune moment for me, as I had just returned from a busy and successful PantheaCon. In certain respects, however, I had more questions than I had answers for, more anxieties and uncertainties than I had complacencies resulting from recent successes, and a generally difficult time attempting to re-integrate my new insights and responsibilities with my quotidian life. (I've written a bit more about this here, and wrote along the very same lines last year as well in a previous "Queer I Stand" column here.) Despite still not feeling "quite right" with my world and my existence, and not having had nearly enough sleep, I made the time to read this book, and relished every moment of doing so, including the difficult moments. Reading this book has, perhaps, been one of the best integrative activities I've ever done following PantheaCon; perhaps marketing it at PantheaCon (and other conventions) in future years with that use in mind might prove very useful for everyone!
In addition to numerous helpful exercises and capstone rituals for each of the five sections, the book is peppered with inspirational quotes from a wide variety of sources, and several extended anecdotes from a group called the "Wise Council" whose constituent individuals are profiled toward the end of the book. Amongst these Wise Councilors is the Patheos.com Pagan Channel's own Crystal Blanton from the "Daughters of Eve" blog. While these insights and examples from others are used effectively, Thorn's work is very much based in her own experiences, which she details at various points, including experiences of burnout and failure. These were extremely encouraging for me to read, not because of some sense of schadenfreude, but because Thorn has been something of an eminent "Pagan superstar" over the past few years whom I have admired greatly. Even superstars can't shine 24/7—and that's okay!
While I still want to push myself harder, and know that I can stand to be challenged more in many respects in my own work, life, and spiritual journey (all of which are different regions of the same territory, in any case), it is also useful to know that exemplary individuals fail, have bad days, and have ongoing troubles. The disarming honesty of Thorn's accounts of difficulty and failure inspire compassion, not only for Thorn's work and that of others, but most especially for myself. This is an invaluable and important lesson that needs to be emphasized, reviewed, and revisited for most of us, I suspect.
Two further things (amongst many possible) in this book were outstanding and deserve further mention here. In Part I, "To Know," chapter 2 is on "Needs, Wants, and Desires." This chapter alone is worth the price of the book (and far more!), and should be required reading for spiritual seekers in every tradition; in fact, I'd go as far as saying that it should be required reading for every graduating high school student. As a culture, we in the United States are painfully under-educated in discernment over the differences between needs, wants, and desires, and this brief chapter goes a very long way in helping to clarify those matters considerably. (As a potential further project for the future: the issue of discernment arises throughout the book, but it does so especially poignantly in this chapter. A fuller exploration of the act of discernment might be a good study to undertake soon, perhaps collaboratively in concert with a variety of spirit-workers, spiritual directors, theologians, philosophers, and other practitioners within the modern Pagan and polytheist religious communities.)
P. Sufenas Virius Lupus is a metagender and a founding member of the Ekklesía Antínoou (a queer, Graeco-Roman-Egyptian syncretist reconstructionist polytheist religious group dedicated to Antinous, the deified lover of the Roman Emperor Hadrian and other related gods and divine figures). E is a contributing member of Neos Alexandria and a Celtic Reconstructionist pagan in the filidecht and gentlidecht traditions. Follow Lupus' work on the Aedicula Antinoi blog.