Six years ago this month, the queer Pagan community lost a greatly respected teacher. He was held in high esteem, not just by those who followed his tradition, but by the many who were touched by him and his work in the various spiritual communities in which he was active. He was an initiate of Witchcraft, a Santero, a professional Rootworker, and the founder of his own spiritual tradition of queer ancestor reverence, which was made popular by the many episodes of his instructional podcast.
In the wake of his sudden and unexpected death, there was a great outpouring of emotion that far exceeded what I had previously experienced when other prominent members of the Pagan community had passed. I was also struck at just how many different communities and magical traditions had been so deeply affected by him and his work. He was greatly loved, and so perhaps it is not surprising that some would publicly announce his sainthood in the weeks and months after his passing.
This was an interesting experience for me personally. To me, he wasn’t first and foremost “Rev. Hyperion,” as he was known in the Unnamed Path and Wiccan communities, or as “Dr. E,” as he was known in the Hoodoo and Rootwork community. To me, he was simply Eddy Gutiérrez, my friend.
I met Eddy at PantheaCon one year and we immediately hit it off. He was handsome, sassy, and smart, and while he could throw shade with the best of them, he also had a huge heart and was always willing to help someone in need. Perhaps because of this, some of his magical communities went so far as to name him a “saint” after his death.
Some might scoff at the notion that he has been named a saint, and to be honest, it struck me as strange at the time. Having grown up in a society in which when the word ‘saint’ conjures up images of Catholic martyrs and obscure religious figures, one might be forgiven for such a response. Perhaps in the minds of most, a “saint” is someone without flaws, someone who had given of themselves selflessly, perhaps living in poverty and renouncing the world of earthly pleasures altogether.
That was not the Eddy that I knew. True, he was compassionate and approached his spirituality in the mindset of service, but he had flaws like the rest of us. He could respond from a place of anger or egotism, like anyone else, and he certainly did nothing in the way of renouncing the world of pleasures. (Truth be told, if he had done so, then he and I would likely have not been friends; he and I were known to indulge in the occasional pomegranate margarita, and that’s all I’m going to say about it.) No, Eddy was deliciously human, and it was his humanity, I believe, that touched so many.
Still, one might take exception at the bestowal of the title of sainthood. The Catholic Church requires some form of miracle to be reported by multiple people before even considering such an act. To this I must refer the reader to the works of Judika Illes, and specifically her book, “Encyclopedia of Mystics, Saints & Sages”.
I first met Judika back in 2016 when she was the keynote speaker at Templefest. Her talk on the subject (subtitled “What’s a Nice Witch Like You Doing Giving A Talk On Saints Like This?”) detailed the histories of many popular and lesser-known Catholic saints, as well as those not sanctioned by the Church. She explained that many religions had saints and that it was only the Catholic Church that sought to formalize them within their spiritual bureaucracy. Some of these “unofficial” saints are recognizable by the magical community, such as the beloved “St. Expedite” who is revered and worked with by many a Rootworker and magical practitioner. But most importantly she described a saint as not someone without flaws, but as someone who – after death — would appear to those in need to offer assistance. One of the big take-aways of her talk, for me, was when she said that the opposite of a saint was not a sinner, but a vampire. A vampire is a spirit who feeds off the life-force of the living, while a saint is a spirit who would offer said life-force as a blessing.
Witchcraft, too, has its “saints,” though we tend to refer to them as “the Mighty Dead”: spirits of witches and warlocks who return in spirit form to assist in the workings of living practitioners in order to “better the Craft” from the other side. In the weeks and months after Eddy’s death, I began to hear reports of him appearing to people in spirit form to offer help. If this had been confined to just the Unnamed Path, one might easily dismiss such claims as a psychological manifestation of grief or as simply “wishful thinking”. But I have personally heard several credible stories from people who were not members of his spiritual communities, and in one case, the person had never even heard of him until the encounter. In all of these cases, he appeared and was able to offer something in the form of either tangible advice (which would prove to help heal the situation) or in the form of an intangible energetic blessing which effectively did the same. I even had had my own encounter with his spirit.
In life, Eddy was my friend. Though we lived far apart, when we did find occasion to get together, we would spend hours discussing various techniques of magic and spirituality, as well as practicing meditation, trance, and ritual. We also did our fair share of laughing, drinking, and throwing shade, as one might expect from young(ish) gay men hanging out together.
In addition to being my friend, he was also my Reiki Master, and he attuned me to the Master-Teacher level of that spiritual healing system. On the occasion of him passing the attunement to me, we had a discussion about one non-traditional form of Reiki lore which involves “Reiki Guides,” purported by some to be the spirits of Reiki Masters who have passed on and then return to assist Reiki practitioners in their work. Eddy was dismissive of such an idea, stating flatly that he believed that people were simply anthropomorphizing the “intelligent energy” of the Reiki system, since he said he had never experienced such, even though he worked extensively with various spirits in his other work. We both felt a type of lofty smugness and went on with our day.
In the next day or so after his death, I was performing a Reiki session for a client who was suffering from anxiety. While I was positioned at the client’s head, I suddenly became filled with the almost overwhelming feeling that Eddy was positioned at their feet. Without words, I felt him communicate to me that I was to send energy down through the client’s head, through their body, toward Eddy, who would “catch” it and ground said energy into the earth. This was not a way of performing Reiki in the traditional sense, but I felt compelled to comply, not knowing if this experience was “real” or was a manifestation of my own shock and grief at his sudden passing. When the session was complete, the client thanked me and went on their way.
It was later, when speaking to one of my own students who was also a student and initiate in the Unnamed Path that I learned that this was a specific type of healing performed in that system. I was humbled; not only did this indicate to me that my experience was genuine, it also taught me that both Eddy and I were too quick to dismiss the reported experiences of others simply because we had not ourselves experienced the phenomenon. This was a blessing and has helped me to more readily identify the effects of my own ego in the work that I do.
Six years after his death I still find myself thinking of him and learning from his many lessons, both intentional and not. He was a role model – not because he was perfect, but because he was real. He bestowed his numerous blessings on the world in many forms. Sometimes they came in the form of his teachings. Sometimes they came as his sense of humor or his infectious smile. However they manifest (and they do continue to do so) I remember my friend, the saint, who is still here to help those in need, now no longer confined by the limitations of the physical. As he said in life of the queer ancestors, “They do not ‘rest in peace’, they rise in power!”
Though in one form gone from us, he has risen in another. I remember you, my friend, and I see the work you are still doing.
Eddy’s Rootwork business, now run by his mother, can be found here: https://conjuredoctor.com.