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.