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.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Grail, Goddesses, Crones, and Circles

That was the name of the weekend-long workshop I attended at Kripalu. The workshop was itself a circle of women, taught by the feminist Jungian psychiatrist Jean Shinoda Bolen, perhaps best known for her 1985 book, Goddesses in Everywoman: A New Psychology of Women. Bolen is a wise, grounded, and engaging speaker who teaches by telling stories. I listened to hours of stories over the weekend and sat enrapt. Bolen believes, quite simply, that circles of woman can and do change the world. She says that we can heal the patriarchy by bringing the Goddess back and by relearning how to value our connection to the material, to mater.

Dr. Bolen began the weekend by telling us the story of Perceval and the Fisher King. This is a story from Arthurian legend. Bolen said that the story is so old that, when we hear it told, it comes to us like a dream:

Perceval's father and older brothers had been knights, but the father was either killed or wounded, depending on the version of the tale, and the brothers were killed in battle. Perceval, then an infant, was his mother's only consolation, so she took him and raised him in a forest far away from King Arthur, so that he would never even know what a knight is. Yet one day when he was a young man he encountered five of King Arthur's knights, and not knowing what they were, he assumed they were angels. They thought him a fool. That day he met with his destiny. He went with the knights to King Arthur's court to be made a knight himself. And so he was, the fool of noble birth.

When an image of the Grail appeared at King Arthur's court, the knights left their brotherhood and the round table, scattering to all directions in pursuit of the Grail. One day on his quest, Perceval encountered a fisherman sitting in a boat. The fisherman invited Perceval into his castle, and Perceval, seeing only a wasteland, thought he was being taken for a fool. But then, as in all good tales, the castle emerged from the mist, and Perceval went inside and met again with the fisherman who was now dressed as a king and sitting on a throne. That night as every night there was a feast and a pageant, and at the end of the pageant a woman entered bearing the Grail. Perceval longed to understand what was happening but, afraid of being taken for a fool, he asked no questions. The next day Perceval left the castle, which disappeared into the mist, leaving only the wasteland behind.

Only then did Perceval learn that the Fisher King suffered from a wound that wouldn't heal so that his kingdom had become a wasteland. Only a fool could heal the king by asking two simple questions - the questions of a simpleton, perhaps, but also questions of perception and compassion: "What ails thee?" ("What is wrong here?") and "Whom or what does the Grail serve?" ("What is sacred here?")

Monday, May 23, 2005

Full moon in Sagittarius

Tonight the moon is full in Sagittarius, which is also the sign where my moon falls in my birth chart. Sagittarius is the zodiac's philosopher, but it is also a sign of intuition and faith. For more information on this moon and its significance while the sun is in Gemini, see the articles at Mooncircles.

(More permanent links here and here.)

Lakshmi: Fortune

When I arrived at Kripalu, after settling into my room, I went to the hot tub to take a ritual purification bath. After bathing and changing into fresh clothes, I sat down with the majors from the Goddess Tarot and my journal. I turned over one card: X. Lakshmi: Fortune. Lakshmi is the Hindu goddess of luck. In standard decks, this card is known as the Wheel of Fortune. I interpreted the card simply as karma: I am exactly where I am supposed to be, here at Kripalu, this weekend, this workshop (more on that later). Indeed, the week proved to be rich with synchronicity. But I get ahead of myself.

In my journal, I made a list of my hopes and expectations for the week:

1. To be inspired.
2. To ground myself in my body.
3. To clear my head.
4. To be creative.
5. To have fun.
6. To reclaim my flexibility, my integrated body.
7. To learn more about myself.
8. To feel love and joy.
9. To meditate.

The week was a roaring success on all counts.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Home again

I've just returned from a retreat at Kripalu in western Massachusetts. The trip was long-awaited and much-anticipated, a chance to bring my body back into my conscious awareness. Like most people in our culture, I live much of the time in my head, unaware and cut off from the intelligence of (the rest of) my body. As I'm learning more and more, embodiment is such an important part of my spiritual practice. I've studied yoga off and on for a number of years, so for a long time I've heard about the idea of bringing mind, body, soul, and Spirit into balance. But I feel like I'm just starting to get what that means for me. Over the next few days I'll be posting here about my time at Kripalu and its contribution to my spiritual journey. Namasté.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

The lusty month of May

It's my sincerely held religious belief that every holy day ought to be celebrated by fucking - and Beltane most of all. Oh to wander into the fields to find some lovely maid or man or more, to return in rumpled clothing for the feast. I'm all for a good fertility festival, as long as fertility is understood broadly - plant any seed you wish to grow this year. Children or "children" conceived on the first of May are magical.

I'll spend the morning lying in with my lover. If I'm up in time I'll bathe in the morning dew. We'll brunch and buy primroses for the kitchen window, then do our laundry and go on-line to find a cottage for our summer vacation. If it stops raining long enough, we'll take a walk and see the spring blossoms. I'll write a poem, too, in the spirit of seed-planting.

A merry and fae May Day to you!