through the veil

because this event has received so much media attention, I want to talk about it in our public forum, as well as in my private journal. so, crossposted from .

for those who don’t already know about this, one of the people who died earlier this month in the Sedona sweat-lodge malfeasance was a friend of mine. a longtime member of the Albuquerque community, and a wonderful, gentle, beautiful human being. a fellow Taurus, stubborn and sensible with it; a grounding voice throughout the early years of Tathata. and a wonderful, caring, loving dad.

this week, gave me a disc full of photos of James. i want to share a few of them here, before i pass the whole disc along to Alyssa, his widow.

i am starting to move beyond the immediacy of grief. more news articles (full of anger and more details of the criminal way that sweat lodge was run) aren’t hitting me with such enormous impact anymore; i am moving from intellectual acceptance of his death to emotional acceptance of it. maybe carrying a little of the energy they put out last weekend at his memorial in Milwaukee, though i couldn’t be there. Rev could, and was, and found it transformative and beautiful. so i got to touch a little of that energy through him, which i appreciate.

Alan and I are both from central Arizona, where this happened. so i was talking to Alan’s brother about the whole thing last week, and it turns out that he has close connections to people that work at the resort in Sedona where Ray rented the land where this happened. so i found out more disturbing facts about the whole incident, and the upshot of the conversation is learning that James’ family plans to press charges, and is collecting statements from folks they can get ahold of who were there. I am putting them in touch with each other toward that end.

part of me is inclined to get into the gorey details, but the Arizona Central has already done it, as survivors have begun to come forward and talk to the press.

there are two articles there. and more linked in the paper’s right-hand column. the woman who was in intensive care died, for a total of three. Sam’s mom says many people were delerious when they were led into the lodge, and the people that died were those furthest from the air source. The fast that they performed for a couple days before the lodge involved abstention from *water* as well as food (!!! in the high desert! this is in and of itself criminal), and when people in the lodge began to call for water and air, and to tell the charlatan in charge that others near them had fainted and needed help, he told them to struggle through their difficulty in order to acheive spiritual growth & transformation. NOT the proper way to run a sweat lodge, and for all that i belong to the culturally-appropriative pagan community, i sympathize with the native american peoples who are feeling like a sacred rite of theirs has been defiled by this event. because it has.

transformation indeed. all the way through the veil, for those three, and straight into a hospital with an assortment of acute organ failures, for 19 others, who were lucky to recover. i am glad that Yavapai county is pursuing the matter as a homicide case, and that the families are pressing charges.

on the other hand, i’m inclined to let the Yavapai County sherriff’s office do all that, and let go of blame and anger for myself–after all, James chose to be there, and things don’t happen for only one reason. His son, who is 7, told Alyssa, “There is a hole in heaven right now, and heaven is very sick. And God has asked his strongest angels to come home. Because they were needed in heaven more than they were needed here. And that is why Daddy had to die.”

which is what we said of Albert, a deeply respected community elder, when he crossed, some years ago. That the mighty dead must have great need, to have torn him from our side so early. James was certainly another such great-souled person.

on the one hand, i really didn’t know James all that incredibly well. but he was around for years, and we overlapped in community a fair bit, and he was a person whose existance i considered a benefit to the world. a good human being. we didn’t keep in touch after his family moved back east some years ago, but now his absence opens up a hole in the universe, a tear in something that i hadn’t previously perceived as whole, but which was whole and beautiful in spite of my lack of recognition. and now the rent in that fabric is all the more visible. i wish i knew him better. i wish i had taken the time.

so, James. band photos, because that’s where I came to know him, and it’s what i have. for our non-local readers, i had a long-term relationship with the singer & lead guitar player in a local pagan rock band called Tathata (that is, i was involved with Matt, who formed said band with bandmates from a previous band, including James, and some other friends). James played bass & drums in that band, and had played drums with Matt for many years prior.

All photos by Jim Blanchard.

singing in the studio for Tathata:

at Stella Blue:

with the band:

and my favorite: