Yesterday was a bittersweet day for me.
Last week we were shocked to hear that Eddy Gutierrez (also known as Rev Hyperion and Dr. E) had passed away after a massive heart attack. Yesterday was his funeral, and Linda and I drove down to attend.
I first met Eddy at PantheaCon, around five years ago. We had communicated via email and social media, brought together by our podcasts, but had never been face to face. His first words to me were “Chris Penczak is looking for you”, and for a moment, I thought that I had somehow caused offense and was now in trouble. It turned out that Chris just liked my work, and wanted to meet me. But those words were the beginning of a friendship that largely involved an annual beer at PantheaCon, and occasional visits here in Los Angeles, but a friendship that somehow became curiously close, despite the rarity of our actually getting together. I think that this was just who Eddy was – he developed these strong connections with people, and connected people with each other.
Never was this friendship more evident than on two occasions. The first was when I was looking for someone to help demonstrate guising techniques for the DVD I was filming, “Making and Using Ritual Masks”. Eddy and his then partner came up from san Diego to spend the day cavorting around our temple in various leather masks, demonstrating trance and ecstatic techniques that could be amplified by the use of properly prepared masks.
As a thank-you, I gave Eddy one of the masks I had made for the DVD, a stylized stag skull mask, which can be seen on the new cover for that DVD.
The other occasion was a little over a year ago, in September 2012. I had just had a massive heart-attack of my own, dying and being resuscitated several times on the way to the hospital. The doctors used an experimental technique, called Artic Sun, to freeze my body to preserve my brain function, while people around the world rallied to assist me with healing circles, prayers, and good vibes. It worked – after only seven days in hospital, I headed home, to be met by Eddy and the love of his life, Clayton, at our home. They spent a few hours with us, and Eddy gave me a healing Mojo bag he had prepared for me, along with a special oil to feed it.
Until I had my heart attack, I was largely unaware of the reach my podcasts, books and DVDs had – it never occurred to me that anything I was doing might make a difference, or even had an audience. I did it because I needed to. But lying in that hospital bed, I becan to hear stories about what was going on… how my condition made the Pagan headlines with an article on The Wild Hunt, and how people as far afield as Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone in England, Sufi groups in Africa, and even Christian churches in the Midwest were praying for me, working rituals, or crafting healing spells, each in their own way. The realization that people I never met cared for me hit like a ton of bricks, and I remember sobbing in gratitude and awe that people would feel that way about me. Standing there at my doorstep when I arrived home that day, Eddy became for me the face of all that support.
So when we heard the call for healing for Eddy, we did not hesitate, and I’m proud to say that I witnessed the Pagan community leaping into action once again. Sadly, for Eddy the time had come, and later that afternoon we heard that he had passed away.
And so, yesterday, Linda and I – dressed in the lightest clothes we possess (Lacumi funerals do not allow black or dark colors to be worn by attendees) – hit the road to see our friend off for the last time. We allowed for typical Los Angeles traffic that never materialized, so we arrived early, which gave us the opportunity to connect with Tommie Starchild, David Shorey, and some of the brethren of the Unnamed Path, the tradition started by Eddy for men who love men. The service was beautiful, with many memories invoked of this lovely man and the changes he wrought in people’s lives. His mother and sister were gracious beyond belief, making sure to greet every person with a hand held and an inquiry on how they were holding up. Eddy’s aunt sang an emotion-filled rendition of the Lord’s Prayer, several of the brethren spoke of Eddy, and Clayton did too. A moving video tribute to Eddy was played, then it was time to move from the funeral home to the grave-side.
It is only fitting that Eddy’s last ride through town was an adventure. We had quite a distance to cover, so the procession was escorted by a number of motorcycle cops. As a result, we were treated to the surreal experience of running through red lights, waved on by the cops, and powering down the freeway with hazard lights flashing, encouraged by the cops to drive faster to keep up with the rest of the procession. Eddy’s mother said that he would have appreciated all of that.
Finally, we all stood around Eddy’s coffin, physically connected to each other, to say our final farewell. It was a beautiful event, though one none of us ever wanted to happen. We finally got to meet people we’d only ever seen online… Rex Barbatus, Chris Black (who in addition to being a brother of the Unnamed Path, is also one of our remote coven students), and the others. We also cherished rare moments in the company of Tommie and David, and also Tony and Jo-Ann Mierzwicki… even in death, Eddy was still bringing people together.
Eddy, we may not always have agreed with each other on esoteric matters, but we always had respect for each other, and love. You have changed the lives of many, and your legacy will live on – we will honor you among our Ancestors, and you will never be forgotten!
Home from hospital after my own heart attack, with Jo-Ann and Tony Mierzwicki and their daughter Michaela, Sue and Jay Mayer, my wife Linda, and Eddy.