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.


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


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.


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.)