Wednesday, December 21, 2005

A blessed Yule

We tend a fire throughout the longest night to coax the sun's return. The tired sun, held in the arms of Night, grows younger and younger, to be reborn at dawn. What a miracle it is to live on this watery planet suspended at just the right distance from the sun for us to grow and thrive. Metaphor and stories abound: The people who walk in darkness have seen a great light. Hope is kindled in the shadows, in squalor and rejection, in a crowded city, on a mundane journey. The Divine must be tended like a helpless infant. But the literal is also worthy of awe: food, heat, wind, ozone, garden, growth, dinner. Photosynthesis. Delicate, chance-in-a-million life.

From our vantage on earth, the sun sleeps long and wakes slowly. Did our "primitive" ancestors worry its return? Even philosophers like David Hume - sophisticated, post-Enlightenment - wouldn't guarantee the sun's rising again. So we keep vigil through this night. We greet the dawn with wonder and relief. Summer is still a promise and a dream. Dream the long nights. Bask in the warmth of your tribe. Stoke the fire, and hope the future into being.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Yule altar

A few years ago - I don't remember when - I began a tradition of building an altar dedicated to peace on my fireplace mantle. This morning I built one again. As someone who grew up loving Christmas, it's important to me to claim this season as my own, and to bring a mix of the solemn and festive to my own Pagan, Wiccan holy day. I celebrate Yule intimately, with my lover and perhaps a few friends. Then I fly to my parents, where we still celebrate Christmas. I treasure the quiet of the solstice before the bustle of Christmas, and I try to keep this time of year quiet and home-centered if I possibly can. Yesterday, Adonis and I took our new puppy, Lugh (his real name, not an alias!), out into the snow to cut down our Yule tree. Now she stands proudly in our living room, in a corner with two windows, next to the fireplace. We will string her with white lights. The altar - the mantle - is decked with gold and blue paper stars strung beneath it. There are crystals, stones, candles, and a bunch of dried white sage. A hurricane glass filled with brightly colored Christmas-tree ornaments from Target. A card with a dove carrying holly berries in its mouth. Tarot cards: an image of the sun from Adonis's Soul Cards; The World from the Gaian Tarot; Lakshmi (X: Fortune) from the Goddess Tarot; and the seven of pentacles from the Druid Craft Tarot. Images of the Goddess: a statue of Kwan Yin in meditation, holding a small orb - the earth; a painted icon of Mary as Goddess of Peace; a Healer sculpted by a local artist; a stone egg with a spiral on it, from Iceland; a snake, also crafted by someone locally. A small statue of a woman kneeling in prayer. An inukshuk from the Inuit in Canada. A small vial of oil from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab.

We've been spending the last few nights with fire lit, cooking at home, cuddling with the dog, and my reading aloud from Pride and Prejudice. It's a damn near perfect life.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The Circle Within, 2

Someone once asked me, "What's the point of this Wicca thing? I mean, if you're not trying to get into Heaven or find Nirvana, what are you trying to do?"

That is a tough one, and a question I don't think many of us have given a lot of thought to. It is difficult to step back and look at the bigger picture. I gave the only answer I knew, then or now. The point of Wicca, the real mystery behind it all, is to remember the Divinity within ourselves and all things; to manifest our God and Goddess all the time, every day, every moment; to love as They love, to give as They give; to serve Them in perfect trust, and thus bring Their grace more fully into the world; to understand that we are the embodiment of the Divine love and nurture, and to express that love in the world; to walk as God and Goddess.
- Dianne Sylvan, The Circle Within, p. 5

"Up to this point, how have you seen the God and Goddess? Do They have faces and names? Are They a presence without words?"

It's characteristic of Wicca to conceive of the Divine as Goddess and God. Of course, if you ask three Wiccans how they do this, you'll get seven answers. I believe that the divine creative and destructive force in the universe is Goddess. I call the earth Goddess. It's important for me to conceive of the Divine as female because I am a woman made in Her image, because the idea of God brings with it monotheistic patriarchy (although, unlike some Goddess folk, I don't believe this is a necessary connection), and because I think it's important to craft a new imaginary of the Divine (this last point is made by Carol Christ in her excellent paper "Why Women Need the Goddess"). I don't believe that all the gods in all the different world pantheons are real and distinct entities; rather, I think each one reveals to us an aspect of the Divine. For myself, I often address Spirit or Goddess, but I also feel drawn to Her in Her guises as Artemis, Demeter, Hecate, Brigid, and Kwan Yin.

I resist what I see as the gender essentialism of much of Wicca, dividing qualities and tasks into male and female and thus into the realms of God and Goddess. That sort of thinking is evident in this image of the "Lord and Lady." Never mind that they are pale white with golden hair. The "Lord" is standing upright, body square to the viewer, clasping the "Lady" at her wrist and around her back. He is a head taller than she is, and far more muscular. Her soft body is turned inward towards him, her head resting on his shoulder, as if she is leaning on him for support. Her gaze is dreamy and far away; his is level and steady. This image is sexist and heterosexist. Hardly a powerful or liberating image of female Divinity!

The Divine is beyond human comprehension. However, being human, we imagine Spirit and put faces on it, and not just human faces. I think of the Goddess as human and animal, as transgendered, as intersexed, as both male and female, and neither. My favorite male face of God, and the one I invoke most often, is the Green Man. I think it's important to have conceptions of male Divinity; I'm not Dianic, although I respect the Dianics, and their work influences my own. But we, both women and men, need a conception of the male Divine because we desperately need new models of how to be a man. The God as queer, as trickster, as gentle parent, as nurturer, as part of nature, as bodily, as One who respects women and fights violence...this is my image of the God.

Monday, October 03, 2005

"Earth's crammed with heaven."

Many Pagans (and lots of other people) love Rob Brezny's Free Will Astrology. I think of Rob as a prophet of joy for the jaded hipster set. (I include myself in that demographic, although my hipster cred is questionable.) The other day I picked up his book, Pronoia is the Antidote for Paranoia, which promises to be a holy book of fascination and clear-sighted optimism. I want to join Rob's tribe.

So I'm curious, my fellow creators. Since you and I are in charge of making a new world - not just breaking the old world - where do we begin? What stories do we want at the heart of our experiments? What questions will be our oracles?

I'm allergic to dogma. I thrive on the riddles. Any idea I believe, I reserve the right to disbelieve as well.

But more than any other vision I've ever tested, pronoia describes the way the world actually is. It's wetter than water, stronger than death, and truer than the news. It smells like cedar smoke in early spring rain, and if you close your eyes right now, you can feel it shimmering like the aurora borealis in your organs and muscles. Its song is your blood's song.

Some people argue that life is strife and suffering is normal. Others swear we're born sinful and only heaven can provide us with the peace that passes understanding. But pronoia says that being alive on the rough green and brown earth is the highest honor and privilege. It's an invitation to work wonders and perform miracles that aren't possible in any nirvana, promised land, or afterlife.

I'm not exaggerating or indulging in poetic metaphor when I tell you that we are already living in paradise. Visualize it if you dare. The sweet stuff that quenches all of our longing is not far away in some other time and place. It's right here and right now.

Poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning knew the truth: "Earth's crammed with heaven."

Cleansing my work space

On Friday, I finished a chapter draft and sent it to my advisor. Today, I begin to write the next chapter. I've decided to do a purification ritual in my study nook to prepare for new work. Fortuitously, today is the new moon.

I'm going to clear the extraneous paper from my office and dump it in a basket in the living room to take care of later. (My office, by the way, is a 3'x5' former closet with a window and no door; it opens onto the hallway that runs the length of my apartment. Into the space, I've tucked a table and chair, a file cabinet, and many, many books, as well as all the charms I keep around me while I write - postcards, action figures, crystals, small pieces of art....) Then I will dust the books (a feather duster makes short work of this) and wipe down the surfaces and floor with rosemary water. I will tame the cords beneath my desk as best I can, fill the pencil holder with new pens, stack fresh paper and notecards on my desk, put away books that are lying around, neaten and straighten. Purify with salt water and incense.

And begin to write what comes next.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

The Circle Within, 1

Whew! I've spent the last couple of weeks finishing a draft of a dissertation chapter. It's handed in, and I'm back, just in time for my favorite month of the year, culminating in my favorite holy day.

TurtleHeart is reading The Circle Within: Creating a Wiccan Spiritual Practice by Dianne Sylvan and writing about it on her blog. I recently purchased this book myself. Sylvan gives suggestions for how to develop a daily, personal spiritual practice and integrate one's mundane and magical lives. Like Turtleheart says, the book is useful for those who follow Pagan paths other than Wicca. It's also very well-written. I've decided to accompany TurtleHeart on her journey through The Circle Within by posting my responses to the exercises here. I welcome you to post your own responses in the comments section or on your own blog.

"Take a moment, or even a few days, to make a list of all the things you do in your life that make you feel spiritually fulfilled. This doesn't only include things that are viewed as traditionally spiritual, like ritual and prayer. It can be anything from playing with your children to reading, painting, gardening, dancing, or writing if it makes you feel closer to your gods. Think of your list as your current spiritual practice, and look it over. Where are the empty spots? What sorts of activities would you like to add more of? Don't make any decisions, or judgments; just think on it for a while." (pp. 16-17)

What activities make me feel spiritually fulfilled? (I've placed an asterisk after those I do daily.)

  • Writing my morning pages*
  • Saying a prayer*
  • Lately I've been lighting incense in front of Kwan Yin on my altar in the morning before I begin writing.*
  • Greeting the five elements/directions in the morning*
  • Lighting candles in the evening
  • Meditating - when I manage to do it
  • Yoga - I've been attending class once a week.
  • Tending my altar
  • Reading tarot - which I haven't done in months
  • Tending my herb garden - when I have one; I don't right now
  • Taking walks in nature
  • Wearing a pentacle or goddess necklace*
  • The Dances of Universal Peace
  • Sex* - most days!
  • Going on retreat
  • Swimming in the lakes during summer - especially when I can go naked
  • Burning smudge sticks
  • Camping
  • Sitting around a campfire
  • Sleeping outside
  • Looking at art that reflects my spirituality*
  • Reading books that reflect my spirituality* - even if just a little
  • Participating in ritual
  • Watching the moon through its phases
  • Watching the seasons change
  • Cleaning my house
  • Breathing
  • Seeing my astrologer
Where are the gaps?

  • I would like to have a regular practice, even if brief, for observing the sabbats and esbats. My celebrations are pretty ad hoc, if they happen at all.
  • I would like to develop a daily meditation practice.
  • I realize how much I miss my herb garden and would love to have one.
  • I like TurtleHeart's idea of a self-blessing on the new and full moons.
  • I would like to do more spellwork.
  • I would like to return to a more regular tarot practice.
It looks like I have a pretty full spiritual life, and I think that's right. I do wish I had more people to share it with. I'm not sure if I want more structure or not. I know structure can be a useful, but I so often slip into berating myself for what I "should" be doing. I guess I really do want to integrate my mundane and magical lives! I would love to hear how you all do this.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Worshipping the creation

It is commonplace for Christian critiques of Paganism to admonish us to "worship the Creator, not the creation." (See for example Focus on the Family's Dare 2 Dig Deeper: Breaking the Spell, a pamphlet for youth describing the so-called dangers of Wicca). The implication is that Pagans worship "creation," or nature. But to say that Pagans worship "the creation" is to commit the fallacy of begging the question: if we call nature "the creation," that presumes a creator. And most Pagans, like atheists, won't grant that there is a creator who stands outside of nature and creates, like a potter at his wheel. To make the point another way: Goddess is not the Judeo-Christian God in a skirt.

That is why the problem of evil isn't a problem for Wiccans and other Pagans. We don't believe in an all-knowing, all-powerful God who should have stopped the Holocaust, or Hurricane Katrina. (The problem of evil asks how such a God can also be all-good, given that he allows bad things to happen to his people.) Since Pagans don't believe in a vengeful or retributive God, we don't say stupid things such as, God visited the hurricane on New Orleans to punish the people for their sins.

Pagans don't believe in sin, and we don't believe in that God. Rather, we "believe in" the creative and destructive forces of the universe. We honor, not "worship," the cycles of nature. We believe in living in accord with nature and learning her lessons. For example, it is foolish to warm the seas, build a city below sea level, destroy the protective barrier wetlands and let the levees crumble, permit poverty to flourish among the people of that city, and have no plan for evacuation. A hurricane is a force of nature, but its severity and its impact on human lives have everything to do with humans taking responsibility, or failing to take responsibility, for our roles within nature. For we, too, are a part of nature. Human intelligence and human goodness are ours to use or forsake. We are given many gifts. But we accept few of them with humility or gratitude.

Starhawk says that human beings are co-creators with the Goddess. That reminds me of an old Jewish aphorism: "Why did God give us wheat and not bread? So that we would participate in creation." We are part of the creativity of nature. We are part of the conscious universe. By praying, performing ritual, and moving energy, we acknowledge our human role. We live not only in the more familiar, material world, with its vast resources, but also in a liminal space where we can converse with the spirits of place, the animals, and the ancestors. Our humility is not that of subject towards king, but of participants in the web of life and death. We can ask for help and guidance, just as we can offer those things when we are asked. By watching, listening, feeling, and applying our intelligence, we can learn our place in the fabric of things. With arrogance, hierarchy, greed, and willing submission, we kill ourselves and our earth. With humor, generosity, respect, humility, and loving kindness, we honor the Goddess, however we conceive of Her, and we honor ourselves.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Starhawk: "A Pagan Response to Katrina"

Essay reprinted in full, and absolutely worth reading the whole thing (via Goddessing):

Feel free to post, forward, and reprint this article for non-commercial purposes. All other rights reserved.

As Pagans, as worshippers of nature, how do we respond to an event like Hurricane Katrina, one of the most destructive natural disasters in the history of the United States? What does it mean to 'worship' something that, with one breath, can wipe out a major city? Do we see this as punishment, retribution for some Pagan sin? As an object lesson in the reality of climate change and global warming? As an overheated Goddess batting away some of the oil rigs contributing to her fever?

Of course, no one can speak for all Pagans. There is no overall Council of Pagan Thealogy to hand down an official dogma. But here is my own answer, as a priestess, teacher, writer, activist and thealogian.

Pagan religions are not punishment systems. We don't worship Gods of retribution, but a Goddess -- or Gods and Goddesses -- of mystery, in many aspects. The Goddess has immense power, both creative and destructive: the power that pushes a root out from a tiny seed and sends its shoot reaching for the sky, the power of the earthquake and the volcano, the rain that feeds the crops and the hurricane. We respond to that power with awe, wonder , amazement and gratitude, not fear.

The great powers of nature have an intelligence, a consciousness, albeit different in magnitude and kind from our own. Everything in nature is alive and speaking: the deep, crystalline intelligence of the rock heart of the planet, the fungal threads that link the roots of trees into the nerve-net of the forests, the chattering birds and the biochemistry of plants and mushrooms are all communicating. Our spiritual practice, the practice of magic, is about opening our eyes, ears and hearts to be able to hear, understand, and communicate back. And those powers want us to communicate with them. The Goddess is not omnipotent -- she is co-creative with human beings. She needs human help to create fertility and regeneration. The elements, the ancestors, the spirit beings that surround us want to work with us to protect and heal the earth, but they need our invitation.

Nature is also human nature. Our human intelligence, our particular, sharp-pointed ability to analyze, think, draw conclusions and act, our esthetic/emotional capacity to thrill at a beautiful sunset, our deep bonds with those we love and our empathy and compassion for others, are all aspects of the Goddess Herself. Indeed, she evolved us complicated, contradictory big-brained creatures precisely to experience some of those aspects. Or to put it simply, she gave us brains and she expects us to use them.

As a Witch, as a priestess of the Goddess, I make daily time to meditate and listen, ideally in some place where I have direct contact with nature. I rarely use an indoor altar any more -- instead I sit in the woods, or at least, in my garden, quiet my thoughts, open my eyes, look and listen. And what I've been hearing lately, in company with every other person I know who is in tune with the deep powers of the earth, is anguish, distress, deep rage, and dire warnings. The processes of environmental destruction, in particular, the overheating of the earth's climate, are already underway. A few weeks ago, when we were preparing for the Free Activist Witch Camp that Reclaiming, our network of Witches, offered in Southern Oregon, I asked, "Is there any way to avert massive death and destruction." The answer I got was an unequivocal 'no'.

"The process has gone too far," was the answer. The image that came to me was river rafting and shooting the rapids. There was a point where we as a species could have chosen a different river, or a different boat, or a different channel. But now we're in the chute. We can't turn back. We can't stop.

There's a command in river rafting, used in extreme situations: "Paddle or die." If you paddle, you have some power -- not enough to change the flow of the river, but enough to steer a course and avoid crashing on the rocks. If you give up, the river will most likely flip your boat, and you will drown.

When we emerged from the woods, a little-reported item in the news media, hidden away on the back pages, informed us that vast stretches of the tundra were melting in Siberia. If we were collectively using even a minimum of our human intelligence, this news should have been trumpeted on the front page with all the alarm of a terrorist attack, for it is far more dangerous.

Global warming increases the intensity of storms. Turn up the fire under a pot of water, and the bubbles will be bigger, faster and stronger. Hurricanes draw their energy from the heat in seawater. The Gulf of Mexico is abnormally warm -- and hurricanes have doubled in average intensity in the last decade and a half. Hurricane Katrina was a natural phenomenon, but Katrina's progression from a Category Two up to a Category Five as she crossed the gulf was a human-caused phenomenon, a function of our choices and decisions, our failure to steer a different course.

The forms and names we put on Goddesses, Gods, and Powers help translate those forces into terms our human minds can grasp. And so the Yoruba based traditions that originate in West Africa have given the name 'Oya' to the whirlwind, the hurricane, to those great powers of sudden change and destruction. Santeria, candomble, lucumi, voudoun, all include Oya in some form as a major orisha, a Great Power. Offerings are made to her, ceremonies done in her behalf, priestesses dance themselves into trance possession so that she can communicate with directly with the human community.

No city in the U.S. has more practitioners of these traditions than New Orleans. On the night the hurricane was due to hit, I made a ritual with a small group of friends to support the spiritual efforts that I knew were being made by priestesses of Oya all over the country. We were in Crawford, Texas, at Camp Casey, where Gold Star mother Cindy Sheehan, whose son was killed in Itaq, camped near Bush's ranch to confront Bush with the painful reality of the deaths his policies have caused. Many of the supporters there were from New Orleans, worried about their homes, their friends and families. The overall culture of the camp was very Christian -- we found no natural opening for public Pagan ritual, although a number of people did indicate to me quietly that they were 'one of us.' But our little group gathered by the roadside, cast a circle, chanted and prayed.

We prayed, speaking personally in the way humans do: " Please, Mama, we know what a mess we've made, but if there is any way to mitigate the death and the destruction, to lessen it slightly, please do." That same night Christians were praying and Orisha priestesses were 'working' Oya, and the hurricane did shift its course, slightly, and lessened its force, down to a Category Four.

And New Orleans survived. Not without loss, and death, but without the massive flooding and destruction that was feared. We all breathed a sigh of relief.

And a day later, the levees failed, and the floods came. They failed not from an Act of Goddess, but from a lack of resources. The Bush Administration had systematically cut funding for flood control and for repairing and increasing the strength of the levees. The money went to Iraq. Much of the Louisiana National Guard was also in Iraq. FEMA, the Federal Agency responsible for responding to natural disasters, had been gutted, defunded, refocused on terrorism, and its directorship given to a Bush
political crony with no experience in disaster response.

Now, weeks later, New Orleans remains under martial law. Official efforts at relief have ranged from inept to brutal, and the lack of planning and concern for human life, the punitive quality of the official response, seem deeply linked to prejudice and racism which devalues the lives of the poor, especially if they're black.

But ordinary people of all faiths have responded to this disaster with caring and compassion, with massive donations and relief efforts, and with shock and rage at a government which so completely fails to embody the values of human decency and respect for life that it claims to represent.

The Goddess does not punish us, but she also doesn't shield us from the logical consequences of our actions. Katrina's destructive power was a consequence of a human course that is contemptuous of nature. A Native American proverb says, "If we don't change our direction, we're going to wind up where we're headed." Katrina shows us a glimpse of that awful destination.

And she also shows us hope. We can change, and if we truly awaken to the need, maybe we will, before it is too late. The outpouring of concern and efforts to help, the hope, determination and vision of some of the citizens of New Orleans who remain, the grief we feel for the dead and the losses and the compassion that a huge tragedy evokes are the tools we need to set a different course, one that honors nature and human life, that uses our human intelligence to restore and regenerate the natural world, awakens our compassion, and kindles our passion for justice. When we set a new course, all the powers of life and growth and regeneration will be flowing with us. And when we ally with those powers, miracles can happen.

------------

SOME PAGAN RESOURCES:

THE PAGAN CLUSTER -- the group of Pagan activists I work with, will be sending a team to the area in October. For information and donations, see http://www.pagancluster.org/.

......

THE BLANKET PROJECT is an ongoing spell of compassion with the goal of providing handmade blankets to survivors, symbolizing the intention to blanket the country with compassion and caring. For information, see http://www.theblanketproject.com/
or email info@theblanketproject.com.

......

E-WITCH PAGAN AUCTION

Look for items marked NOLA PaganRelief: www.e-witch.info/
I will be donating an original manuscript and a limited edition, signed, numbered leather-bound 10th Anniversary Spiral Dance

.......

HOUSING BOARD FOR PAGAN HURRICANE SURVIVORS and those who can offer housing
www.ironoak.org.

.......

OFFICERS OF AVALON: officersofavalon.com
An organization of Pagan police officers and emergency service providers, they have already made one supply run to Mississippi, reports are on their webpage as well as information on how to donate.

.......

TEMPLE OF DIANA is accepting financial donations to be sent to the best organizations involved with hurricane relief efforts. Send your donations in any amount, and payable to Temple of Diana, with "hurricane relief" in the memo, and send to:
Temple of Diana
P.O. Box 6425
Monona, WI 53716

-------------

SOME GENERAL PLACES TO SEND AID:

REBUILD GREEN: www.rebuildgreen.org

Hurricane survivors who have remained in the Algiers neighborhood of New Orleans are determined to remain, rebuild their city with environmental awareness and a social conscience. They have set up the first functioning medical clinic for ordinary people, and have other projects in hand. They desperately need funds.

......

FAMILIES AND FRIENDS OF LOUISIANA'S INCARCERATED CHILDREN are doing intense work among the shelters and prisons with displaced youth, mostly African American. Believe me, the Red Cross and the Christian charities won't be pouring out relief to this group! They can also use some volunteers (especially African American) and many gifts in kind. Send a check to the "FFLIC Hurricane Relief Fund" to:

920 Platt Street
Sulphur, Louisiana, 70663



......

THE VETERANS FOR PEACE BUS that was at Camp Casey in Crawford, TX has now gone down to Covington, Louisiana to do relief work. They also need donations of money and computer equipment.

Make a donation to Veterans For Peace Chapter 116: www.vfproadtrips.org


Tax deductible cash donations can be send to:

Veterans For Peace Chapter 116
28500 Sherwood Rd
Willits CA 95490

Cell PH 707-536-3001

......

FOOD NOT BOMBS (www.foodnotbombs.net) will be providing food for refugees. They can use volunteers to prepare and serve food, and, of course, donations. You can make a financial donation on line or mail checks to:

Food Not Bombs
P.O. Box 744
Tucson, AZ 85702
Please call (1-800-884-1136) or email us if you can join them on the bus or help with gas money: katrina@foodnotbombs.net

.......

Starhawk is an activist, organizer, and author of The Earth Path, Webs of Power: Notes from the Global Uprising, The Fifth Sacred Thing and other books on feminism, politics and earth-based spirituality, including the co-authoried Pagan Book of Living and Dying. All are available at . She works with Reclaiming , a network that offers training in earth-based spirituality and ritual. She teaches Earth Activist Trainings that combine permaculture design and activist skills, and works with the RANT trainer's collective that offers training and support for mobilizations around global justice and peace issues.

Donations to help support Starhawk�s trainings and work can be sent to:

ACT
1405 Hillmount St.
Austin, Texas
78704
U.S.A.

To get her periodic posts of her writings, email and put "subscribe" in the subject heading.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The religion/spirituality meme

This meme appeared at TurtleHeart's, too. It was started at A Pagan Sojourn. Sojourner has links to those who have responded so far.
1. Why do you choose the religion you embrace?

It makes sense to me that the universal divine creative force is female, is Goddess. Wicca teaches me to love myself as a woman, as queer, as a sexual being, as an animal. ("You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles in the desert, repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves." - Mary Oliver) Wicca, like yoga, permits an embodied spirituality; we meet spirit through, not in spite of, our bodies. Wicca reveals to me an enchanted world. It teaches me to look beyond and behind my rationality, which I have overvalued to the point of fetishism. Wicca makes sense to me psychologically; here I am influenced by the Faery Tradition of Victor and Cora Anderson, Starhawk, and Thorn Coyle. Wicca honors the Younger Self. It honors poetry and the mystery at the heart of existence. Nakedness of all kinds is holy.

2. How religious are you? How often do you practice your religion?

I study often. I practice ritual frequently but sporadically. I observe the wheel of the year, the solar and lunar holy days. I pray. I acknowledge the presence of the divine daily.

3.Why is this religion the right one for you?

It's a gut feeling more than anything. Wicca feels right. It makes me happy. Many Witches believe that we were Witches in past lives, too. I'll drink to that.

4. How does the practice of this religion improve your life or what benefit do you recieve from its practice?

I am more grounded. I have a strong sense of myself on a path, a journey, and I'm learning to trust the signposts. I have more compassion for myself and others. I am more likely to trust my intuition. I am more open to the movement of energy and the way that affects our dense bodies. Wicca permits me synchronicity. It helps me understand myself and others better.

5. Are you spiritual as well as religious? Or is one more prevalent then the other?

I don't distinguish between spirituality and religion.

A book meme

TurtleHeart tagged me for this meme ages ago, and I'm finally getting around to it.

What is the total number of books you own?

I'm guessing between 1500 and 2000. I have no idea.

What was the last book you bought?

The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron

What was the last book you read?

The Blood of Others by Simone de Beauvoir (A novel that examines the extent of individual moral responsibility under times of widespread crisis - in this case, WWII in France)

What are five books that have been particularly meaningful to you?

1. Little, Big by John Crowley (Magical realism, a family saga, and faery religion)

2. The Fifth Sacred Thing by Starhawk (A detailed and hopeful vision of the future; gorgeous and starkly inspirational)

3. The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir (The founding text of modern feminism, and a visionary if ill-understood work of art)

4. I'm not Stiller by Max Frisch (Mid-century Central European fiction examining the instability of personal identity)

5. A Room of One's Own by Virgina Woolf (Began my passionate devotion to women's art and creativity.)

6. Feminist Theory From Margin to Center by bell hooks (Jolted me out of my white girl's perspective and gave me respect for the role of men in feminist movement)

Monday, September 05, 2005

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Katrina

I've been blogging incessantly about Hurricane Katrina at my other, more public, blog. I haven't the energy or heart to continue here. My thoughts and prayers are with the people of New Orleans.

I keep three blogs. My oldest blog is widely read, and I blog under different psuedonyms here and there. I started this blog specifically to talk about the more interior aspects of my spirituality, which is why I rarely talk about politics or my work here, and why my blogroll here is limited to Pagan blogs. My third blog is quite specialized; I'm using it to write my dissertation. If this blog is silent for a few days, it's usually because I'm busily writing somewhere else. I very much value the space I have here to write about my spiritual life, and I appreciate the small audience that has formed here. Blessings to you all.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

A prosperity spell

Moonchild has posted instructions for a lovely prosperity spell she's been casting.

Are Goddessless Christians targeting Pagan youth?

Jason Pitzl-Waters has the scoop.

Top 10 Things Heard in a Pagan Store

From Secrets of a Witch, whose author, I presume, is proprietor of said pagan store:

10. So, all of the sudden, I realized I was dressing my north altar to be my south altar! I thought I was losing my mind until I remembered that Mercury was in Retrograde!!

9. What do you mean you don’t have Wolfsbane??? Don’t you know without Wolfsbane my Mugwort and Mandrake Root are useless????

...

5. Q. What is that thing called?
A. A Pentacle
Q. What’s it for?
A. It’s a Pagan symbol that represents the elements and the spirit
of the faith upon which we’ve built our religion, our lives, and
our concept of God.
Q. Oh, okay! I’ll take it! Look Honey, I’m buying a Pentathingy!

...

2. This herb can be used for summoning the Devil… or on chicken.

Read the rest.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Sex, art, poetry, myth, magic

In his interview with Tim Boucher, Gnostic priest Jordan Stratford characterizes Wicca - or the elements that attracted him to it as a teenager - as a religion of sex, art, poetry, and myth. That was the best concise definition I've heard in a while. I added the word magic, and now when people ask me about my spiritual practice, I can reply that it's one of sex, art, poetry, myth, and magic. Beautiful.

Adonis and I are headed into the Adirondacks this weekend for canoeing and camping. I can't wait to be out in my temple again.

Bright blessings for your weekend!

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Gnosticism

I don't know from Gnosticism, but I like much of what Jordan Stratford, "an ordained Priest of the Apostolic Johannite Church," has to say in this interview on Tim Boucher's site. Here is a taste:

When I say that Protestantism is Spiritually bankrupt I mean that it’s evident that the Spirit has abandoned it. It’s anemic, suburban, vapid. The spiritual Geiger counter doesn’t tick there. There is no deeply resonant myth in guitar masses, big screen tv’s, mega-church mega-missions, or applied pop-psychology. All those smarmy websites with picnicking shampoo-and-conditioner couples holding up babies or golden retrievers in the sunshine. Only those traditions which are sombre, iconic, and dimly lit create space for Hermetic reflection and illumination. Glossalalia, interpretive dance masses and Kumbaya are just embarrassing for everybody. And if your congregation is larger than your high-school grad class, flee.

The whole interview is very smart.

Also, from Stratford's blog, the Seven Principles of Cosmic Spirituality, with which I'm totally on board:

1. The entire cosmos is the manifestation of Divine Mind—every molecule, every cell, every creature, every rock, tree, mountain, planet, blazing star, whirling galaxy and universe of galaxies.

2. We are all an integral, interconnected part of the whole cosmos and our own inner world is a holograph of the cosmos within us.

3. One basic datum underlies every religion under the sun, the principle of Incarnation. The Word or Logos, God’s self-expression made manifest, has given the light of its divine spark to every mind/soul coming into the world. Christians call this the Christ or "Christ in us." Other faiths have different names or modes of expression for this same inner reality.

4. Every religion whose ethical core is summed up by the word "compassion" or "loving-kindness" to all other creatures without exception has a vision of the truth and is a valid "way" to Transcendence.

5. No one faith or religion—whatever its claims may be, alone has The Truth.

6. True cosmic spirituality is steeped in, flows from, and derives its most powerful analogies and metaphors from the natural world – from the tiniest bit of dust to the spiralling stars above.

7. The core aim of cosmic spirituality is radical transformation, both personal and societal.

Monday, August 22, 2005

The Pagan Carnival

Jason at The Wildhunt Blog has done an excellent job compiling the first Pagan Carnival, "a bi-weekly summary of the best writing in the modern Pagan, Heathen and occult blogosphere." It's a wonderful idea for on-line community building, and it inspires me to want to write better posts! If you read something on the Pagan web that you think Jason should include in the Carnival, drop him a line at jpitzl@wildhunt.org

Well done, Jason!

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Reading and enjoying the weather

The weather the last two days has been glorious: in the 70s, low humidity, breezy, crystalline blue skies. (Note to the Goddess: we could still use a good, steady, soaking rain.) I've been enjoying a couple books I've taken out from the library, both of which I want to add to my personal library when I can. Goddess Initiation, by Francesca de Gandis, is a 12-month program based in Celtic Shamanism, with a host of straightforward and practical exercises that are by all accounts quite powerful. The reviews at amazon.com, to which I've linked (although I encourage everyone to buy books from their local independent booksellers), express strong opinions, whether positive or negative. I enjoyed reading them. Both Starhawk and Margot Adler praise her work, and those are good enough recommendations for me. The cover art is a bit cheesy; sadly, that's too often the case with Pagan books. The other book I'm reading is A Witch Alone by Marian Green. This is also a 12-month - or, more accurately, 13 moon - course in Wicca. It's pitched at a level higher than beginner's, although I think beginners could still gain a lot from the book. I'm enjoying Green's very good writing.

I've also lately found some inexpensive books at used bookstores. (Best score: a hardcover, unmarked copy of The Chalice and the Blade for $1!). I'm always updating my occult library page, so if you're the sort of person who loves to browse other people's bookshelves, have a look. I welcome suggestions wholeheartedly.

(A note to amazon reviewers: if you can't spell - if you don't know the difference between 'your' and 'you're' - I'm not going to take your reviews seriously. Don't waste your breath.)

Monday, August 15, 2005

Rock. On.

FYI: I'm going to stop calling myself a Witch and start calling myself...

der Hexenmeister

(Link via Tim Boucher)

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Liberation and limitation

Tim Boucher has seredipitously posted about the complementary roles of liberation and limitation in spiritual practice. I say "serendipitously" because I've been thinking and writing about limitation as a means to opening more space in my life for the things I truly value (see my posts on simplicity below). Worth a look if you've been thinking about grounding and/or creativity.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Further thoughts on simplicity

Simplicity is not about deprivation.

Simplicity is not about adopting a scarcity mentality.

Simplicity is about developing awareness of the choices I'm making every day.

Simplicity is about consciousness, about being awake.

Simplicity is about being honest with myself.

Simplicity is about making choices that further my well being.

Simplicity is being deliberate about how I want to live.

Simplicity is about conserving energy and resources.

Simplicity is about gratitude to Gaia and humble acknowledgement of her gifts.

Simplicity is about having enough.

Simplicity is about taking enormous pleasure in swimming in a pond, making lunch at home, camping under the stars, walking to the library to find new books, sitting and talking with a friend on her front porch, going to the farmers' market, slowly gleaning my possessions and giving away what I no longer use.

Simplicity is about responding to my body's needs: for food, movement, touch, sex, laughter, sleep.

Simplicity is about slowing down regularly to hear my soul's call.

Simplicity is about creating the life I want to have.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

First thoughts on simplicity

I grew up, like anyone born and raised in the U.S., in a puritanical, Protestant culture. Many of my ancestors were Scandinavian Protestants; if you've seen the movie Babette's Feast, you'll have some idea of what I'm talking about. I also grew up a woman in a culture that expects women to deny themselves. I've practiced self-denial in the strange modern forms it takes: dieting, chastity, losing touch with my needs and wants. Somewhere along the way, I decided to throw off the culture of restriction and denial, and to embrace pleasure and abundance.

But it's not that simple. What happened is that I "polarized." I wasn't "escaping" cultural norms; I was simply working at their other extreme. The culture says "work hard;" I disdain hard work and try not to do it. The culture says "diet;" I eat whatever I want without regard to health or even, really, pleasure. (And there's nothing counter-cultural about that: the messages we get are polarized and extreme: "work hard, play hard;" "diet and indulge yourself;" "save your money, go shopping.")

I couldn't understand why eating lots of sugar, buying myself little (or big) treats, and spending lots of time "relaxing" in front of the computer weren't making me feel better. And then my therapist asked if I'd ever thought about limits as a way of taking care of myself. Restrictions as a positive thing? No way! If I don't let myself go out to eat, life will be no fun. If I don't order dessert, I'll feel deprived. I deserve that piece of jewelry, and it's so inexpensive. I don't have to exercise if I don't want to! And so on. Welcome to my inner five-year-old.

The ironic thing is that, despite my commitment to pleasure, I've been living without ways to take care of myself, and that doesn't feel good. I don't eat regular meals, and then I go out for a big, exciting restaurant meal with friends. I let myself run out of groceries, and then I feel deprived and hungry and have to order a pizza. I stay up too late and sleep in. I eat too much sugar and feel like crap. I'm in debt. I'm overweight. My dissertation isn't finished. My apartment isn't clean (although I've been working on it this week, even in the heat, and it looks much better than it did). I'm not trying to be hard on myself (although I'm excellent at that). I'm just trying realistically to assess my situation and say: what I'm doing isn't working for me, it's not producing the life I want to be living, something has to change.

In addition, we have very little money this (academic) year. I'm on unemployment and am working on finishing my dissertation, and Adonis is in graduate school. Last year, on the other hand, we were both fully employed and had plenty of money. I have everything I need. I have clothes, books, grocery money, rent money; we have a car (although Adonis takes it to school with him); I have beautiful state parks and plenty of cheap or free ways to entertain myself. I just can't spend a lot of money. That's hard for me; I tend to live beyond my means. But I'm really thinking about how to make (financially necessary) simplicity a spiritual practice for myself.

Right now I'm working on building awareness. Adonis and I sketched a budget, and I'm keeping track of everything I spend in a little notebook. Consciousness works! Yesterday I didn't buy a small, pretty ring that was only $11 because I reminded myself that this is a spiritual practice (even though I don't really know what that means yet). I'm proud of myself.

Sweet passage, Monica Sjöö

You already know that Monica Sjöö has died. I learned first from the Furious Spinner yesterday; the Wildhunt Blog also has a nice collection of commentary. Last night at my women's circle we lit a candle on the altar to help light her way; it burned down as we spent the hours telling our stories from this summer's Pagan festivals and Witchcamps. We also admitted that none of us - for shame - has read her work, even though we know of her work. I somewhat blithely promised to read The Great Cosmic Mother. Zoe cautioned me to be careful what I promise the dead. So now I really have to read it! (I've always intended to, you know.)

Monday, August 08, 2005

Some notes for future blogging

Here are some things I've been thinking about and may blog about when I can collect my thoughts:

(1) What does it mean to be Pagan clergy? How does one train and where does one serve? Is that my path?

(2) What does it mean for Paganism or Witchcraft to be a public religion versus a private, secretive one?

(3) Voluntary simplicity as spiritual practice.

(4) Taking care of oneself as spiritual practice.

(5) Should I get a tattoo?

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Mercury retrograde and my iBook

Since the planet Mercury is in retrograde, I decided it would be a fine time to reformat the hard drive on my iBook. Foolish, foolish mortal! I risked the trickster nature of the god, and I lost.

Mercury, as you likely know, governs communication and travel. When Mercury goes retrograde, which happens three times each year for about three weeks, we are advised to slow down, think matters through before acting, regroup, rethink, put off important decisions, and take special care with travel plans and communication. It isn't the time to reformat a hard drive.

I needed to reformat because I installed Tiger (the newest Mac OS) on my 20-month-old iBook G4 about a month ago, and ever since, my computer has been running slowly and programs have been frequently closing without my prompting. I was seeing way too much of that little spinning rainbow circle. This was driving me crazy. The advice I got was (a) to do a "clean" reinstall of Tiger and (b) to upgrade my RAM to 512 MB. Since the RAM will cost me $150, I decided to do the reinstall first to see if that helped matters. The good news is that it has.

The bad news is that I lost data. In moving information from the iBook to my external hard drive and back onto the reformatted iBook, I managed to lose: the contents of my address book, all archived email messages, and all Firefox preferences (which allow me to navigate my blog-world - what you don't know is that I have two other blogs). Notice anything about the particular data I lost? Yep, it all has to do with communication. Ha!

I wanted to blame someone for this misfortune, but despite the fact that Adonis was helping me, I couldn't blame him, since it wasn't his fault. We did everything by the book, we believe. We have no idea what happened ... except that we tempted Mercury, and he laughed at us.

Be careful out there.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

A Witch's playlist

A while back I started assembling an idiosyncratic witchy playlist in iTunes. Here is what I have so far; I'd love suggestions.
  • A Witch - Monty Python's Holy Grail (Yes, you can get this on iTunes! "She turned me into a newt!" "A newt?" - pause - "It got better...")
  • Building a Mystery - Sarah MacLachlan - Surfacing
  • Witches' Song - Marianne Faithfull - A Perfect Stranger ("Shall I see you tonight, sister, bathed in magic, greet? Shall we meet on the hilltop where the two roads meet? We will form a circle, hold our hands and chant, let the great one know what it is we want.")
  • Mysterious Ways - U2 - Achtung Baby (A bit of a stretch, I know. But still, at the end: "We live through miracle days. Spirit moves in mysterious ways.")
  • Gypsy - Fleetwood Mac - Greatest Hits (It's cheesy, but I actually like this song. Anyone remember the video?)
  • Crescent Moon - Cowboy Junkies - Pale Sun, Crescent Moon ("Won't you come with me?" she said. "There's plenty of room in my iron bed. You're looking cold and tired, and more than a little human. I know I'm not part of the life you had planned, but I think once your body feels my hand, your mind will change, and your heart will lose its pain.")
  • Under Your Spell - Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Once More With Feeling ("The moon to the tide - I can feel you inside - I'm under your spell - Searching - Like the sea, pulled to you so helplessly - I break with every swell - Lost in ecstacy - Spread beneath my Willow tree - You make me complete - You make me come....")
  • Losing My Religion - R.E.M. - Out of Time (This song has always resonated with me, even though "losing my religion" is really a southern expression for I can't remember what. Also, check it out.)
  • I Put a Spell on You - Creedence Clearwater Revival - Chronicle, vol. I
  • La Bruja - Salma Hayek - Frida soundtrack
  • The Mummer's Dance - Loreena McKennitt - Book of Secrets
  • No Man's Woman - Sinead O'Connor - Faith & Courage (Because the song sounds so frickin' cool.)
  • I Am a Vamp! - Ute Lemper - Berlin Cabaret Songs (Fantastic song from the decadent days of Germany's Weimar Republic: "My bed belonged to Pompidou; like Loulou I have bright red hair; I dance as well as Solomé; and treat my Baptists just as fair. I wear Mata Hari's dress, the ring of Marie Antoinette; the fairest Helen wore this corset to a gala Trojan fête. I am the poison of the Morgians; I am a witch like Joan of Arc. I wear the stockings of Dubary, bathe in coffins for an art.")
  • Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered - Rodgers & Hart (Ella Fitzgerald) - Best of the Songbooks ("Those ants that invaded my pants - finis!")
  • Witches - Cowboy Junkies - Caution Horses ("Come dance in the moonbeams, ride the night wind, make love to the darkness, and laugh at man's sins.")
  • Daddy I'm Fine - Sinead O'Connor - Faith & Courage ("strong independent Pagan woman singing")
  • The Christians and the Pagans - Dar Williams - Mortal City (What Pagan doesn't love this song? "The food was great, the tree plugged in. The meal had gone without a hitch ... till Timmy turned to Amber and said, "Is it true that you're a witch?")

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

All hail the Flying Spaghetti Monster


Here's a fun refutation of "Intelligent Design" theory. ("Intelligent Design Theory is neither intelligent nor a theory: discuss.") The graphics are particularly worth a look.

(Via PZ Meyers)

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

First harvest

Noddy at Numenous Thoughts writes about eating locally "as an act of Divine Connection." I like that idea. I've eaten local foods for years as a way of supporting the local economy and the local organic farms, as well as nurturing and protecting the environment and my health. Now I'll add the idea of eating locally as spiritual practice to my thoughts and intentions.

This week is Local Food Week where I live, too. People are pledging to spend $5 this week on local foods (no problem!) and several restaurants are offering meals made entirely with local foods. (Hmm, I think I know what Adonis and I are doing for dinner tomorrow night.) This evening I walked with a friend to pick up our farm share for the week: corn, onions, carrots, beets, potatoes, tomatoes, summer squash, and herbs. At the farmers' market today I got green peppers and chard. I have peaches and blueberries from the fruit stand. I'm stocked with local garlic, honey, and wine. I cleaned out the fridge this evening and arranged all the food so I could easily see what I have. It's a good time of year, and I feel very blessed.

Say it, sister!

Morgaine, of The-Goddess, has a new blog, with Psuedo-Adrienne, called Women's Autonomy and Sexual Sovereignty Movements. Morgaine is an unabashed Witch. (Is there such a thing as an abashed Witch?) Here is a sample of what she has to say about women's sexual sovereignty.

I want women to be treated as full and equal citizens under the law. I want the law to stop tolerating men’s infidelity, and stop penalizing women’s sexuality. I reject the monotheist idea that sex is only for procreation, and that engaging in sex is somehow “wrong”. It is a normal adult activity that people should be free to enjoy in an honest, responsible manner. The state has no business in the bedroom. It’s only input to sexual activity should be to prevent the spread of disease, and it isn’t even doing that. Only women should have the power to make decisions that affect only women. No Uterus, No Opinion.

Yes, that phrase is harsh, and men bristle at it. I don’t care.


My uterus is not a political issue, and no male is authorized to negotiate the disposition of it. Ever.


Having a child is an awesome responsibility. I admire the people who choose to do it. Stewardship of another human, whether through parenting, teaching, or healing, is a sacred act that should be taken on with an open and loving heart. We cause only harm by forcing people to have children they don’t want. The current declines we are seeing in the crime rate are in direct correlation to the availability of legal abortions. It is wrong to force a woman to risk her life if she is unwilling or unable to carry a pregnancy to term. It is pointless for society to create a burden on women, social services and the legal system when we have a perfectly viable alternative to unwanted pregnancy.

Bush, ID, and the politics of ignorance

I like a good fantasy as much as the next Witch, but my ultimate loyalties lie with the reality-based community, and I couldn't be a Witch if in affirming my spirituality I had to disavow science. It's a common misconception about Pagans - one I myself held for many years - that we believe in the supernatural and are unscientific. But Paganism is a naturalistic path. Many Pagans are science geeks and wonks. Many of us may also believe that science isn't the only paradigm for knowledge; personal experience, and poetic interpretation of that experience, is also valued. (And here we could have a discussion about what counts as knowledge ... but we won't.) But I've never known a Pagan who was so willfully ignorant as to deny evolution, and I've never known one as anti-intellectual as the fundamentalist Christians who endorse so-called "Intelligent Design" theory. Now George W. Bush has told reporters that he supports teaching ID in our public schools. You can find details and analysis here, at PZ Meyers' excellent blog.

Phyllis Curott, in her lecture at Starwood on the growing theocracy in the U.S., addressed the religious right's hostility toward science. She said that widespread ignorance among the citizenry is an important component of social control, and that the religious right's dismantling of public education is a deliberate part of their political agenda. Those of us who are Americans and who care about our country have to fight back.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Reflecting on Lughnasadh

Here is a lovely personal reflection on the meaning of Lughnasadh by a Texas pagan named Andy.

I did it!

Those of you who know me will be shocked to hear that I did manage to make it up before dawn to meditate. Then I went to the gym.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Planning for Lughnasadh, pt. II

The days are getting shorter. I start to notice that at Lughnasad. Tomorrow, the sun will rise at 5:58 a.m. where I am. I'll be up to meditate at dawn, and if it's not raining, I'll be in the park across the street from my house. (If you know me, you're laughing - I'm not a morning person.) Here's why: Yvonne and Gavin Frost recommend that we meditate when the sun is below the horizon and at the same time every day. My astrologer and spiritual teacher recommends that I meditate at dawn through August to gain insight into my life's path. So I'll set my alarm for 5:40, take my cotton quilt, a candle, and a small bag of sea salt for casting the circle, and go to the park, lean against a tree, face north, cast a circle, invoke protection, and sit.

Then I may crawl back into bed.

Tomorrow is a work day, but I'll also take some time for a tarot reading and to meditate upon my hopes and fears, to think about what needs to be nurtured and what needs to be cut away. For breakfast, toast with honey. For lunch and dinner, harvest vegetables.

Mercury is retrograde in Leo. The moon approaches dark and moves from Gemini to Cancer just before dawn; take good care of yourself and tune into your feelings.

Blessed Lughnasadh.

Quiz: Spiritual Journey











Darkest Before Dawn

You are 71% along the path.
Carrying little with you but a great store of knowledge, you are not
even sure what more you seek. The last part of the journey is the most
difficult, yet you face it with perseverance, having learned much to
sustain you already. Soon all will be revealed...

"Doubt can only be removed by action." - Goethe

artwork by Hans-Werner Sahm















My test tracked 1 variable How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 73% on progress




Link: The Esoteric Path Test written by spiral9 on Ok Cupid

Saturday, July 30, 2005

95 Theses for the third millennium

Matthew Fox, theologian and excommunicated Catholic priest, perhaps best known for his book Original Blessing, recently posted 95 theses in front of Wittenberg Cathedral in Germany. (In 1517, Martin Luther ignited the Protestant Reformation when he nailed his 95 theses to the doors of Wittenberg, calling for reform within the Catholic Church.) Fox has also posted his theses to his brand-new blog. Clearly he has learned from Witches and Pagans, among others. Here is a sample:

1. God is both Mother and Father.

6. Theism (the belief that God is 'out there' or above and beyond the universe) is false. All things are in God and God is in all things (panentheism).

8. All are called to be prophets which is to interfere with injustice.

10. ...Science is no enemy of true religion.

18. Ecojustice is necessary for planetary survival and human ethics, and without it we are crucifying the Christ all over again in the form of destruction of forests, waters, species, air, and soil.

23. Sexuality is a sacred act and a spiritual experience, a theophany (a revelation of the Divine), a mystical experience. It is holy and deserves to be honored as such.

33. The term 'original wound' better describes the separation humans experience on leaving the womb and entering the world - a world that is often unjust and unwelcoming - than is 'original sin'.

36. Dancing ... is a very ancient and appropriate form in which to pray.

42. Our connection with the earth (first chakra) is holy; and our sexuality (second chakra) is holy; and our moral outrage (third chakra) is holy; and our love that stands up to fear (fourth chakra) is holy; and our prophetic voice that speaks out (fifth chakra) is holy; and our intuition and intelligence (sixth chakra) are holy; and our gifts we extend to the community of light beings and ancestors (seventh chakra) are holy.

55. God speaks today as in the past through all religions and all cultures and all faith traditions, none of which is perfect nor an exclusive avenue to truth, but all of which can learn from each other.

64. Biophilia, or love of life, is everyone's daily task.

From Starwood, lessons magickal and mundane

My strongest intuitive sense is kinesthetic; I "visualize" with my body./ Living outside feeds me./ Consciousness changes in response to environment; I felt altered for much of the week./ Magick arises from changed consciousness./ Festival space allows me to recalibrate./ Fairies and humans love sparkly things./ I can train myself to bliss!/ Boldness and honesty are sexy./ We emanate an ancient strength./ I want more costumes./ The energy I send out affects how people meet me./ Walking through camp bare-breasted in the late afternoon - many people met my eyes and smiled./ Sky-clad rocks./ A comfortable bag and chair are crucial./ Creativity and inspiration are water for my spirit./ I savor the taste of mead./ Goods are cheaper at festival./ It really will rain./ Pitch a tent by the all-night bonfire for naps./ Dancing is part of my path./ Pagan celebrities are worth the hype./ Do ritual under the full moon at midnight./ Drums are the heartbeat of the earth made audible./ Worship fire./ Unloose your mind./ And laugh.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Planning for Lughnasadh, pt. I

We're just days away from a major Wiccan sabbat, Lughnasadh (or Lammas), on (or around) August 1. Lughnasadh (LOO-na-sahd) falls halfway between the summer solstice and the fall equinox, both minor sabbats, and it is the first of the three harvest festivals. (The second is Mabon, or the fall equinox, and the third is Samhain, or Halloween.) I admit that I don't observe the sabbats with any regularity, and sometimes my observation comprises little more than a walk and a silent appreciation. Other times I host a party or ritual, or attend a public ritual. One year I went to a nature center and did a solitary 24-hour retreat for Lughnasadh, and another year I helped friends harvest their garlic in a pouring rain. But Lughnasadh doesn't have much personal meaning for me - not the way that Imbolc and Samhain do, for example. I thought I would take some time here to think "out loud" about the meaning of Lughnasadh.

The sabbats observed by many contemporary Pagans originated in the British Isles and bear Celtic names. That the sabbats are celebrated when they are makes sense, since they're solar holidays and thus depend on the position of the sun: the solstices, the equinoxes, and the days equidistant between those. But Paganism is a religion based in local practices, so it doesn't necessarily make sense to call the sabbats by their Celtic names, nor to give them the same meaning that the Celts did. I like the sound of the word Lughnasadh, so I use that word even though I don't feel particular affinity for the Celtic god Lugh, a solar god, a storm god, a communicator, and/or a trickster. Since some of my ancestry is in fact Celtic (Scottish and Irish), I don't mind using the Celtic names more generally. But like a lot of modern Pagans, and to the chagrin of some, my pantheon is a mixed one.

Where I live, in the northeastern U.S., the weather and agricultural patterns aren't very different from those in Britain, so I also tend to use the standard meanings assigned to the Sabbats. Thus Lughnasadh is the early harvest for me, the time when bounty really begins to flow from the local organic farms, and when garlic, herbs, grains, and seeds are harvested and dried to last through the winter. It is traditional at Lughnasadh to bake bread (but it's way too hot here for that), to make corn dollies (something I have no interest in doing), and to burn a straw man in acknowledgement of the grain god's sacrifice of himself in the harvest (I'm not about to do that by myself). What, then, can I do to observe the sabbat and make it meaningful for me?

An excellent resource for observing the sabbats is the book Circle Round, by Starhawk, Diane Baker, and Anne Hill. Even though the book is written for those raising children in Goddess traditions, I find it useful just for me, which makes sense since I am myself am a child in the Craft (and I suspect that if I were to have children and raise them in the Craft, I'd learn a lot more about my tradition!). Here is some of what they write:

Lammas is a time to think about our hopes and fears. We hope that we'll be able to pick and eat what we've worked so hard to grow - but a lot could still happen. ...To harvest, we must cut down the plants we've tended so carefully. To people who live close to the earth and growing things, this almost feels like killing a person. We mourn and grieve for the spirit of the grain and the green things. We honor them because they give us life by letting us eat them. We feel sad that summer must end for us to reap the harvest. But we feel happy, too, thinking about all the good things we'll have to eat! ...Lammas teaches us to feel sad and happy.
Because Lammas comes at the season when the grain and many fruits first begin to ripen, it was always a time for special offerings. The first fruits to ripen and the first grain that was ready to reap were considered to be especially sacred, as if they carried within them the spirit of the Goddess herself. [Note, too, that to sacrifice the first fruits is an act of faith that the Goddess will provide further.] The bees are very active now, and their sweet, golden honey is a symbol of this sunny time.
At the summer solstice we learned to be generous, to sow many seeds. Now, at Lammas, we must learn to be protectors and nurturers of what we've planted. ...In ancient Ireland and throughout the British Isles, Lammas was a time for great fairs and markets. It marked a time of sacred peace.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The winding path

As the subtitle of this blog suggests, I've been a long time coming to my religion, and I've resisted much of the way. Raised a Lutheran in the American Midwest among more fundamentalist Christians, Jewish friends, and one or two Muslim and Buddhist classmates, I knew little of religious diversity. Fortunately, my parents taught me tolerance for, even appreciation of, difference. They sent me to my friends' bar and bat mitzvahs and explained that of course the Jews were going to heaven; they welcomed my young boyfriends, whether African-American or Chinese-Buddhist. It was the 1980s, and what I heard of the New Age movement was that it was all crystals and psuedo-psychics in California (and the White House!).

I didn't hear about Paganism or Witchcraft as spiritual practices until my first year of college, when a friend gave me a copy of Starhawk's Dreaming the Dark. Reading it, I was both fascinated and dismissive. That was 1988. My college years saw me in and out of the Lutheran Church, as I read Mary Daly and texts from the women's spirituality movement and wondered if I could be both feminist and Christian. (If one had to go, it was going to be Christianity. Feminism was my real religion.) As I contemplated graduate school, I seriously considered attending a Lutheran seminary. I was going to be a revolutionary, using feminine pronouns for God and fighting for full inclusion of gay clergy and parishioners. I was going to be a progressive Martin Luther, with all of the sex and none of the sexism (or anti-Semitism). But that fever passed, and I entered a graduate program in philosophy, where I tried my damndest to be an atheist, or at least pass as one - atheism being the favored religion of academia.

Were I to recount the strange dance of attraction and repulsion that's brought me to where I stand now on my spiritual path - well, I would have to write a book to sort through everything. I hardly know myself how I've gotten here. Like many Pagans, I have stories from my childhood about intense experiences in nature (one that stands out took place in a grove at my fundamentalist Bible camp). As an adolescent I would sometimes sit in church and imagine dancing naked through the sanctuary. (Of course, naked dancing is now part of my spiritual practice.) Feminism helped light my way to the Goddess. Somehow I escaped many, if not all, of my parents' and culture's repressive attitudes toward sex. I read a lot. My cast of mind mixes openness with scepticism. And I have found a tradition, ever-changing and re-making itself, that loves what I love: the earth, our bodies, ecstacy, imagination, play, fire, music, sex, open inquiry, and love.

Updating the rolls

I'm enjoying myself updating this site. You'll see that I've divided the blogroll into "Fellow Travelers" (blogs, mostly), "Resources" (organizations and media), and "The Tasteful Witch" (things to buy). Do make suggestions in the comments if there is something I've missed, but be warned: blogs must be updated frequently and include more discussion than a rote diary, resources need to be established (rather than fly-by-night) and useful, and "the tasteful witch" must meet my exacting aesthetic standards - I appreciate kitsch, but I hate tacky. In addition, if a site is poorly designed, difficult to read or use - forget it. I can't stand blinking images, corny music, overlapping text, or obtuse navigation. On the other hand, I adore gorgeously-designed sites (and with I had either the talent or the money to meet my own standards on this site). And I treasure sites that offer for sale something other than the usual, mass-produced cauldron-athame-bumpersticker. So if you know of a site that's erudite, beautiful, and/or unique, do let me know.

Monday, July 25, 2005

The natural order of things

I heard a bizarre radio commentary this afternoon on a Christian radio station. I've looked around the 'net to see if I could find a link to it, to no avail. (I can't remember the name of the speaker nor the name of his new book.) The speaker was talking about how he's learned the importance of following the earth's natural order. Sounds pagan, right? He didn't say, "God's natural order," he said the earth's natural order. His example was as follows (and I'm probably missing some details, so bear with me). A community in Africa was suffering from malaria. The World Health Organization, in order to stem the spread of malaria, sprayed the thatched houses in the village with DDT (I believe this was a number of years ago). Unfortunately, the DDT killed not only the mosquitoes, but also the predator of some insect who eats straw. As a result, the thatched roofs caved in. Geckos ate the straw-eating insect and became sick from DDT; cats at the geckos and became sick. As the cats died, the rats began to take over. So the WHO parachuted cats into the village to eat the rats.

The speaker's point was that by spraying the people's homes with DDT, "the bureaucrats at the World Health Organization" ignored the natural order of things and made a big mess. Now I'm inclined to agree with that assessment stated thus. However, the speaker implied that the WHO shouldn't have interfered in the first place, unfortunately also implying that letting people grow sick and die of malaria is part of "the natural order of things." But let's give the speaker the benefit of the doubt and assume that he didn't mean that, even though he said nothing about saving people from malaria.

Then the speaker made a fabulous leap of illogic: he compared interference in the malaria case with homosexuality and non-monogamy. That is, just as the WHO interefered with the natural order of things by spraying for mosquitos, so do human beings interfere with nature's order by engaging in various "unnatural" (by definition) sexual practices! The moral of the story is that we run into all kinds of trouble when we mess with Mother Nature. And, apparently, having sex outside of heterosexual marriage counts as messing with Mother Nature.

I love it! It's so profoundly stupid! It's one thing to argue that God decrees heterosexual marriage; I mean, how can we argue with that? ("No he doesn't." "Yes he does." "No he doesn't.") But to argue that the only natural expression of sexuality occurs within heterosexual marriages? This despite the fact that human beings have always engaged in same-sex sexual practices, have always sought sex outside of sanctioned relationships, and have always been promiscuous in our search for pleasure and reproductive success? How can the commentator not see that his definition of 'natural', or what counts as natural, is stipulative?

Wow. As the old saying goes: I must refuse a battle of wits with an unarmed opponent.

Starwood

I just returned from my first Starwood, and I'm blissed out. How wonderful to spend time living in the woods, in a community of pagans, and learning from the likes of Isaac Bonewits, Yvonne and Gavin Frost, Phyllis Curott, and LaSara FireFox. The friend who invited me promised me I would see things I'd never seen before, and that's true: I'd never before seen a naked man painted red dancing around a fire, or 300 people raise their arms to the full moon, or a fairy woods, or a penis pierced seven times, or a dark road lit with candles, or my own body painted with tribal markings. Although I partook of smoking herbs only twice, and I drank only small amounts of beer and mead (dear Goddess, I love mead), and I slept a fair bit (at least seven hours a night), my consciousness was nevertheless altered much of the time. It was delicious. It was magical. I'll be there next year.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Let us pray

Dear Goddess, you wealthy anarchist burning heaven to the ground:

Many of the divine chameleons out there don't even know that their souls will live forever. So please use your brash magic to help them see that they are all wildly creative geniuses too big for their own personalities.

Guide them to realize that they are all completely different from what they've been led to believe about themselves, and more exciting than they can possibly imagine.

Make it illegal, immoral, irrelevant, unpatriotic, and totally tasteless for them to be in love with anyone or anything that's no good for them.

So mote it be.

(Rob Brezny at Killing the Buddha; they need more pagans writing for them)

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Strength

The sun is in Cancer and the moon is in Leo. When the moon is brand-new, as it is tonight, we tend inward. Gazing within during a Leo moon calls to mind the tarot card called Strength, traditionally pictured as a woman stroking a lion. The idea is one of inner strength. Since the sun is in Cancer, that most maternal of signs, we can ask ourselves about the relationship between mothers, lions, and strength. Here is one story:

At the solstice two weeks ago, when the Sun entered Cancer, a remarkable tale about nurture came out of Africa. It is a reminder, perhaps, of how fierce Cancer must sometimes be. A 12-year-old Ethiopian girl was kidnapped, then beaten, by seven men trying to force her into a marriage she didn’t want. That’s not unusual; a majority of Ethiopian marriages begin this way. Yet surely the Moon Goddess had a hand in what happened next. Three lions appeared. Fierce lions. They chased off the men. They guarded the girl for half a day until she was found by family and police. "Like a miracle," said a local police sergeant. "They just left her like a gift," he continued, "and went back into the forest."

(Dana Gerhardt, from Mooncircles)

Tonight my women's moon circle constructed an altar on a low table decked with an orange silk scarf, stone lions, stuffed-animal lions, Strength chosen from various decks, a crystal, a Goddess-rosary, cedar smudge-stick, a statue of the moon Goddess as maiden, and, at its center, a candle burning in a red glass bowl. Our intention was to call on leonine inner strength as a response to this morning's bombings in London. We want our leaders to pause, to breathe, to use the space created by that breath to imagine a different kind of response, one grounded in Strength rather than brute and brutal power. We sat around the altar holding hands, and we breathed together, holding our breath on the inhalation, creating space in our bodies and energy fields, and exhaling to speak 0ur wishes for a different response to terror. What response promotes peace, wisdom, compassion, foresight, deeper understanding, joy? We chanted to Tara, bodhisattva of compassion, improvising harmonies, singing into silence. Thus we conspired and prayed, honoring and giving voice to the ferocity of the Mother, the Goddess as lioness.

London

Prayers and blessings to those directly affected by this morning's bombings in London. May peace prevail on earth.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

For Hestia -

In honor of the sacred art of tending a home (the sun is in Cancer, after all, and this morning the new moon was, too), a woman after my own heart:

Tending to my physical space, filling it up with little things which inspire in the moment, which care for my emotional space, and which keep me dreaming of what's to come is just as necessary and vital as any of the other work that I do.... My living space has to fit many bills: it has to be a space fit for working, and one fit for the day-to-day of living, but as a working artist and activist, it also has to be fit for dreaming, musing, idea-making, visualizing, and creating in my head, as well as with my hands. And even on my slim budget, with limited space, and my substandard housekeeping skills, to work for me, it has to be full of beauty. As a sensualist, and that being a big driver for me in living and work, I need lushness; whether that's the bed I make, knowing the delights it can cradle, a rich wash of color or light where I have my morning cup, or something soft to feel under my feet. I forget that time spent as I have the last few days is necessary. It always seems so frivolous; there are so many other things that need doing that seem as if they should take precedence. I mean, try to save the world or polish an endtable: seems a pretty simple matter when it comes to priorities. Yet, at the end of a day of tending to my space with care, I feel a calm and a clarity that I then remember benefits me tremendously. When all of my little sitting spaces are looked after and tidied up, my brain has room to explore more openly and to feel more at home.

Heather Corinna

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Are female orgasms evidence for the Goddess?

The always delicious Mark Moford thinks so.

Maybe, in other words, the female orgasm doesn't need a purely biological purpose. Maybe it's about something more. Maybe it has -- dare we say it? -- a spiritual purpose. Vibrational. Transcendental....Have you seen a wild female orgasm lately? Have you borne witness? Because you really, really should. One good look and the fact comes clear: The thing is at once directly hardwired to the deep chthonic Earth while at the same time has the bright shimmering cosmos on speed dial. It's true. It's obvious. Any good and deeply felt female climax is clearly a subatomic vibrational pulse of such unusual and kaleidoscopic frequency that the only ones who can truly hear its messages are purple orchids and bright red snakes and the aliens who built the Great Pyramids. All hail.

Monday, July 04, 2005

And merry meet again

My, it's been a long hiatus, and an unannounced one at that. It's death for a new blog not to post frequently, but perhaps the blog is so new, and my readership as yet undeveloped, that I can regain my footing here with few being the wiser. I've been on vacation: an extended roadtrip with my lover before he begins an intense one-year graduate program that will take him away from home during the week. We drove over 4500 miles, as far south as Amarillo, as far west as Santa Fe, and as far north again as Milwaukee. Along the way we visited Adonis's mom in Oklahoma City, dear friends in Denver, and more dear friends, including our goddess-child, who is 18 months, in Milwaukee (I call myself his fairy godmother). Adonis and I both had our first experience of New Mexico, which we loved. And we saw a lot of the U.S. appearing profoundly Christianized, or evangelicalized. It's frightening. When we got to Boulder, we were able to pick up a bumpersticker: Abortion: A woman's right to choose. We don't feel the need to advertise our fanatically pro-choice views where we live; everyone knows us, anyway, and most agree. But driving through the Middle West and West, we were desperate to voice dissent. And that was before Justice O'Conner announced her retirement - a blow we didn't anticipate.

In New Mexico I collected Mexican folk art. I've always loved the skeletons for El Dia de los Muertos. (I love the holiday, too; it's good to acknowledge death as an integral part of life and to keep our beloved dead among us.) I'm drawn to Frida Kahlo iconography. And, of course, I dig the more pagany aspects of Catholicism (not having been raised Catholic myself). So I bought milagros and icons - Mary as the Queen of Heaven, a shrine for Frida, a woman's torso pressed in tin to bring good health. Adonis bought an icon of the black Madonna for himself, not knowing the content of the book I was reading at the time, The Secret Life of Bees, which tells the story of a black Madonna and a family of women in the South circa 1964. (Nearly all the women I met along my trip had read the book already, but if you haven't, allow me to highly recommend it - the first novel by Sue Monk Kidd, who wrote The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, a memoir of her journey from conservative Christianity to the divine feminine.)

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

The Fisher King

The Fisher King has a wound in his genitals - that is, his creativity is wounded. I wrote in my journal:

The Fisher King has wounded creativity, rules over a wasteland, has a treasure in his midst, and is trapped without a compassionate witness who's willing to be made a fool.

The first question the Fisher King needs to be asked is, what is wrong here? Asking this question is the beginning of healing.

Why can't you stand? How were you hurt? Where is your castle? Why is the land barren? What happened here? What is this pageant? Where did the grail come from? Why is that woman carrying it? Can it not heal you?

And so on.

The second question the Fisher King needs to be asked is, what is sacred? Whom or what does the grail serve?

The experience of the sacred is the experience of the grail. Do you remember your grail experiences? What is sacred to you? When you receive these moments of grace, what will you do? Will you walk away from the grail? Or will you struggle to hold on?

In every version of the Fisher King story, the chalice or grail is carried by a woman. Before it was a Christ symbol, it was a goddess symbol, this chalice filled with sacred blood. The grail disappeared into the forest that is the collective unconscious. It is up to women to recognize the loss and carry the grail out of the forest. In other words, it is up to women to reclaim the sacred feminine.

In the Catholic church, only men are permitted to bear the chalice. If the chalice can be a symbol for the womb, then how fitting that the all-male Church hierarchy decrees its power over the chalice - that is, over women's wombs. It's simply a matter of power.