Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Links on the UU church shooting

Shakesville has a moving first-person account of the shooting at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church last Sunday morning. Melissa McEwan has (as always) excellent commentary on the shooting as a domestic terrorist attack, and violent, eliminationist rhetoric in the mainstream conservative movement. The gunman, whose stated motive was hatred of liberals and gays, had also years previously threatened the life of his ex-wife, a member of the church.

(You can go here to send messages of love and support to the church.)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Thoughts on a Pagan ethic: guilt and gratitude

(1) We have a way of structuring our moral lives, in the dominant U.S. culture at least, that makes no sense: thinking of things in terms of "deserving" or "not deserving." This musty old moralism is an artifact of Protestantism, perhaps ("work hard and you'll get what you deserve"), or even of the Old Testament ("an eye for an eye"). These moral categories may cause various familiar affective problems--a misplaced sense of guilt and entitlement, for example. But another kind of problem--we might call it an ontological problem--is that these categories of desert fail to describe reality. In a world where the distribution of wealth, luck, and opportunities is so disparate, it doesn't make any sense to say that we get what we deserve.

(2) I'm someone who is inclined to feel guilty for her many blessings, as long as I'm thinking in terms of desert (deserving). Gratitude is tainted for me if I feel like I don't deserve what I have. And how could I deserve what I have, when so much of it comes down to luck? Many opportunities have come to me because I benefit from unfair systems of privilege, for example, because I am white in a racist society, or because I was born into the middle class in the United States in the late 20th century, when we lived on resources ransomed from the future. Why should I have so much when others don't? When I think in terms of desert--and inevitably I think that way--I feel nearly paralyzed with guilt.

(3) Guilt in most, if not all circumstances is a useless feeling. It's a form of moral disempowerment.

(4) How do I escape the labyrinth of guilt? I need a new way of thinking about the things I have. I used to think that there had to be a way of eschewing privilege, as if I could refuse to be white in this racist society, or as if it would be a good thing to turn down the chance for a university education. I still hold to this idea in some ways; I refuse to marry, for example, in part because it seems to me an exercise of unjust privilege. (Whether I'm cutting off my nose to spite society's face remains to be seen. And it's not as if I give up heterosexual privilege by refusing to marry my male partner. Hell, most people assume we're married anyway. )

(5) One of the characters in Widdershins says it this way: "accept the gifts that you're offered." There may be extrinsic reasons to accept those gifts; doing so may put you in a better position to help others, for example. But I believe there are intrinsic reasons, too, to accept gifts graciously and lovingly offered. The character who says to accept gifts also believes in doing good without thought of recompense. We might also accept kindnesses without feelings of obligation, of needing to pay anything back. Perhaps it is a better thing to say, humbly, thank you.

(6) The power to effect good lies in being a good steward of whatever gifts we're given. We are all of us surrounded with blessings. As a Wiccan I feel strongly how the earth offers Herself up freely to us, how She provides us with all of our needs. What shall we do? How shall we act? We shall guard and nurture the gift, rather than squander it.

(7) This is the idea I'm trying on in place of guilt: to be a good steward of my many blessings; to treat my fellow beings as worthy of respect, integrity, and love; to guard and protect, and to make wise use of that which has been given to me. In other words, to live in balance with the blessings. To live in accord.

Monday, July 28, 2008


I spent the weekend in a workshop studying astrological lunations. Lunations are roughly 29-year cycles divided into 8 phases (like the 8 phases of the moon) of 3+ years. An individual's cycles depend on what phase of the moon s/he's born under and the progression each year of the natal sun and moon (the natal sun progressing about 1 degree per year and the natal moon progressing about 1 degree per month); where sun and moon come together on the same degree of the zodiac, that's the new moon.

For example, I was born under a last quarter moon in 1970; my first new moon occurred right after I turned six, in 1976. My second new moon occurred in 2005, and I'm nearing the end of that phase, moving into a crescent moon phase early next year. Each 3+ year phase has a different energy, so it's interesting and useful to track the events of one's life via the moon cycles in order to reach a better understanding of what was happening when and why.

In short, studying lunations is one way to study the energetic cycles in a life and to get a "big-picture," relatively impersonal view of the events in that life. The Sabian symbol for each new moon is like a book title describing the 29-30 years covered by that volume of one's life. The first volume of my life was marked by Pisces 17; title: "An Easter Promenade." There I see the symbolism of traditional religion, of crucifixion and resurrection, and of stately walking in one's best apparel. The title of the current volume is Aries 16: "Browning dancing in the twilight." I love the magical feeling of this symbol, the picture of the elementals dancing in liminal space.

I began the mystery school and this blog is 2005, with the dawning of my dark moon.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Ten things

Ten things that are making me happy these days:

1. My partner, who never ceases to delight me,
2. The nervous new pit bull at the SPCA last week who curled up on my lap and went to sleep,
3. Raspberries and cherries from the local farms,
4. Swimming in the cold, lush, green gorges, under the waterfalls,
5. The Gaian Tarot eights,
6. My prenatal yoga class with the best yoga teacher in town (who teaches only prenatal now, so I had to get knocked up to join her class),
7. Dancing at the Saturday evening outdoor concerts,
8. My appetite,
9. Dreaming about new gardens,
10. Anticipating closing on our house one week from today!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The temple of Artemis

A year ago I was meditating here.

These are ruins of the temple of Artemis near Ephesus, in present-day Turkey. The temple was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It was the home of the famous many-breasted (or bull-testicled) statue of Artemis.

On the day I visited, there were several men selling reproductions of the statue, set up on tables near the ruins. Though I'd tried to haggle over prices (it's expected) throughout my time in Turkey, I'd also kept to the practice of not bargaining over the price of magical tools. (I'd purchased a knife to use as an athame and several goddess statues.) I picked up the statue that called to me and asked the man, "how much?" "Dollars, euros, or lira?" "Dollars," I replied, thinking of the $10 bill I had in my pocket. "$10," he said. Done.

The temple grounds were ringed with blessed thistle, which made me think of the epithet Thalia Took assigns to Artemis, "defend your boundaries!" I sat at the foot of the column you see here and meditated, surrounded by a few friends. Someone snapped a photo of us. A friend commented later on how it was the fertile women in our class--those of us still bleeding and hoping to have children--who had meditated in the temple, gathered around the column, while the rest of our class explored the grounds. Artemis is a guardian of children and animals, and She is traditionally invoked by women in labor as a Midwife.

Much has changed in my life since I sat meditating at the temple a year ago. The Mother took our beloved Lugh, something we can't pretend to understand but which we know happened as it should. I invoked Artemis on Lugh's behalf, several times, and I will invoke Her again as we adopt other dogs. I've invoked Her in her Amazon aspect on my sister's behalf, as she faced breast cancer. And in six months it will be my turn to invoke Her in childbirth.

She has accompanied me since before I knew I was a Witch, at least since I was an voracious young feminist, if not since I was a child who loved the wild places. And there is something of Her in me: guardian and fierce protector.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Your typical pregnant, Pagan summer

I've finally emerged from the exhaustion and nausea that accompanied my first trimester. It feels so good to be able to stay awake after work, do things on the weekends, and even enjoy a meal! The last few weekends have been lovely idylls with Adonis--the farmers' market, brunches with friends, swimming in the gorges, going to the movies, Saturday night picnics and outdoor concerts. We've also begun packing our apartment; movers are scheduled to come in three weeks to move us into our new house. I'm glad we're enjoying the beautiful summer, even with all the change swirling around us.

I've been reading Kim Antieau's novels and, on Joanna's suggestion, I've begun reading Charles de Lint. Adonis and I have become big fans of "Mad Men," and I was delighted to find a couple of familiar Witches keeping an obsessive blog about the show. And of course, we're watching and rewatching Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog (fan blog here). Aren't you?