ILM James B. Whitney, Odin's Day, 13 January 2010
January 15th, 2010 (01:34 pm)
current location: Samsun, Turkey
current mood: sad
current location: Samsun, Turkey
current mood: sad
ILM James B. Whitney
Born in the too recent past in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA
Died on Wednesday, 13 January 2010 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
"When I can pick up chicks while bar-hopping in Mecca, I'll believe in the possibility of peace in the Middle-East."
This is what the Star Tribune had to say:
James B. Whitney Jr.
Whitney, James B., Jr. age 46, of Mpls., formerly of Glendale, OH, passed away 1/13/10. Survived by many uncles, aunts, cousins and friends. Graduated from Manhattanville College in New York. An accomplished linguist and extensive world traveler. Interested in American Diabetic Association and National Federation for the Blind. Memorial service will be held at a later date. Washburn-McReavy Davies Chapel 612-377-2203
Published in Star Tribune on January 24, 2010
This week, I've been wanting to call James to chat now that we've finally got some money on our Skype account again. I haven't talked with him since coming to Turkey. Wednesday night, our internet went out and it's still gone. It's now Friday morning, Freyja's Day, I come in to work and check my email to hear from Leann, a mutual friend, that James has died. It was a shock but not a surprise. Between his kidney transplant in 1996 and then loosing his leg in 2006, diabetes hasn't been gentle with James.
So here's to my friend a fellow Odhinnist, a loving but far-from-gentle Freyja's man.
We first met in 2000 after moving back to Minneapolis from Ireland (and a brief and rather unpleasant stay in Duluth). We were introduced by Joseph Amara (formerly Norman) through Magus and the University Pagan Society. James and Kira had a common interest in Elves, Alfar, or the Fae and their relation to Celtic and Nordic cultures and mystical practices.
James had a colorful reputation. As the quote above indicates, some of it was fully deserved. Some described him as an effective and competent Ceremonial Magician with a talent for languages. Others described him as an Evil Sorcerer wantonly cursing his foes. We were warned off by some of our friends at the time. Of course, curiosity won out. Which was for the better. For almost ten years now, James has been a close friend. His most vocal detractor, on the other hand, has since turned out to be rather mentally unstable.
James grew up among punks, skinheads, and a lot of working class folks back in Cincinatti. It certainly left an impression but he couldn't get out fast enough. He lived abroad before coming to Minneapolis, mostly in Europe and he talked most about Germany. But that was all well before we knew him.
By the time we met, he had calmed down considerably from his youth. He was now a personal trainer and had been teaching Tai Chi and studying Kali in Minnesota, as well as learning whatever he could about ancient Heathen mysticism and more modern Western Ceremonialism and mystically-inspired art. While having a strong foundation of Hermeticism, a lot of Ceremonial thought and theory was strongly influenced by German mystics.
For many years, we'd get together on Saturdays at the Espresso Royale in Dinkytown. James and his friends would be finishing their Tai Chi training, just in time for Kira and I to be waking up and wanting some coffee and pastries for brunch. This would usually be about 3 in the afternoon. It was a very mixed group of Pagans, Heathens, Spiritualists, Mystics, Martial Artists, Buddhists, Agnostics, and probably even some Abrahamic folks over the years. Many of the coffee crowd weren't neatly pigeon-holed and the conversations reflected that.
James was also friends with some local Gregorian Witches who were hosting "Ecumenical gatherings" a few times each year at Crow-Hassan County Park just outside the Metro area. It was a similar mix to the weekends at the Royale but an entire day with a fire-pit, a cabin, a barbecue and beer. People would arrive in the afternoon and drink, eat, and talk until nightfall when there would be a brief ritual to "officially" start the gathering. The idea was to have as many points of view as they could and to discuss things from as many perspectives as we could. All while sitting around a fire and sharing food and drink.
In between the Royale and the Ecumenical Gatherings, there would be many late nights at his home, drinking, chatting and listening to a wide variety of music from all over the world. To get just a sample of what we'd listen to, you can read James' reviews on Amazon.com but it's just the tip of the iceberg.
James was also one of the many friends who braved the weather and the "wild" to join us for our wedding on 21 June 2002. It was a camping event on Kira's family farm. He and our mutual friend Joe Lapadat, drove up from Minneapolis together. The weather throughout Minnesota was heavy storms, pounding rain, and high winds. They decided not to camp with us.
Of course, everyone who was at the wedding knows that while the rest of Minnesota was deluged with rain, Barnum, where the wedding was, had clear skies, bright sunshine, and a gentle wind.
By this time, Joe had taken over the Ecumenical Gatherings. Some time after our wedding, he and James asked us to do the opening ceremony. We did what in American Asatru is usually referred to as "Blot" or blessing (it's really more of a Sumble, but that's another discussion). It was simplified to allow everyone to take part regardless of preference of Pantheon and focused more on the spirits of the place. We got a lot of compliments on it and James and Joe wanted to look at adopting something like it as part of the regular starting ceremony because of the way it drew everyone together.
But then on Wednesday, 26 May 2004, as Joe was driving in Minneapolis, his heart gave out. He lost consciousness and his car gently rolled to a stop at the side of the road. The Ecumenical Gatherings died with him. Joe's wake and memorial hosted at the home of Joseph and Mela Amara was the last gathering of many of those folks.
This wasn't the only thing to end for James this year. His diabetes and health problems culminated with an infection in his foot. It left him housebound and tied to a machine. This ended his time as a physical warrior to say nothing of his job.
The Spring of 2005 was a crazy time. Kira was still unable to find work, I was priced out of continuing at the University of Minnesota and we had decided to make the jump and move to Moscow, Russia to start teaching English abroad. Once we were abroad, we talked to James by phone occasionally but rarely made it back to the US. Eventually, the infection in his foot worsened. He lost his foot, then his leg. The one time we were back in Minnesota, we weren't able to visit since the combination of my broken leg and my Grandfather's funeral kept me out of Minneapolis.
But then we moved to Berlin for a contract that turned into a disaster. This brought us back to Minneapolis for a time since our families didn't want us moving further away without at least some time to see us.
So we reconnected with James. We had lost his phone number but he still lived in the same house. We met up with Leann and Jon, two of the old Royale regulars and were able to get in touch with James and visit him for an afternoon sitting in the yard drinking beers and chatting like we used to. James is one of those friends that you can see every day for years, then life takes you away but then years later you are brought back together and it's like nothing has changed.
James and I continued to meet throughout the Spring and Summer. Most days, we were just talking and sharing a few beers. Then his uncle bought him a home-gym. James wanted to start getting back in shape so that when he was healed enough for a prosthetic leg, his muscles would be good to go. We would get together a few times a week to train. I had a hard time making it as regularly as I would like since James was now a pretty solid morning person, often awake by 5am. Some days, I would just be getting home from work at 5am and would sleep through my alarm and miss out on our training sessions.
He was looking forward to the prosthetic. Once he got his new leg, he had plans to go to a big Football match in Australia in 2011 with one of his friends. He and I talked about going to Iceland with Kira and Michael. We would visit many of the old sacred spots and drive out to the Icelandic Museum of Witchcraft and Sorcery. Who doesn't want to see a real pair of nábrók?
Then this past Summer, the job offer from Turkey came and it was a race to get everything ready.
James and I were never big on good-byes. "See you later" was better. As stubborn as he was, it seemed like the only parting wish needed since there would always be a "later".
I'm happy that's he and his leg are back together again but the world seems a little less colorful now. Toasting his memory in Reykjavik won't be the same as sharing a pint.
See you later brother.