Saturday, February 28, 2009


This afternoon I was eating a piece of cake from a take-out container when Gryphon, my dog, who loves chocolate, ventured a lick at some frosting on the lid. I said his name in a scolding way and, without thinking, lifted the magazine I was holding in my hand in a gesture of playful admonishment, as if I were going to bop him on the muzzle (something I would never do, even in a playful way). This is a 70-pound dog who wrestles on the floor with Adonis, but something in my gesture and-- yes--the energy of my intent caused him to cower as if he'd been struck. His posture was as automatic as my raised hand had been.

I felt awful. The thought came to me immediately, "he HAS been hit." In his life before us, I mean. Lugh, whom we raised from puppyhood, wouldn't have even understood the gesture. But Gryphon knew it. I apologized to him and promised I would never hurt him. I hope he understood me.

Lugh was the most joyful being I've ever known. People responded to him because he embodied pure joy. Gryphon is sometimes happy, I think, and often content, but I don't know that I've ever seen him express joy. Surely he had a difficult early life where he was at best neglected. He is an anxious dog.

I want to give him a good life and to help him, as best I can, to suffer less from anxiety. But I also have to accept him for who he is. I practice seeing his divine nature, his Buddha nature, if you will, and I also practice seeing him clearly for who he is as an animal.

I practice acceptance of my dog. He is who he is. I don't need him to be joyful. Or, if I do, that's my need, twisted and unfairly projected onto him.

Similarly, I practice acceptance of my son: easy in some ways, since infants are such shining beings, but difficult, too, for example when he's crying and I can't find a way to comfort him, or he's waking every two hours in the night to nurse for 45 minutes. But he doesn't need to be other than who he is, either in his divine nature or his baby nature (or his individual nature).

But the hardest practice, I find, is to feel acceptance for myself. To believe, truly, that there is nothing about me that needs to change. To accept who I am, right now, in this moment. To approach myself with gentleness instead of force. That is my challenge, and it's a worthy one, I believe, because my child will learn how to treat himself by watching how I treat myself.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Passing through the gates

I'm loving being a parent. The sight, smell, and sounds of my lovely boy fill me with pure joy and happiness. That's true, though it's also true that the first weeks of parenting are singularly challenging. He'll be seven weeks old on Saturday.

Labor was a harrowing rite of passage. "Initiation" seems like such a lilting, romantic idea, till you go through one. Hurts like hell.

When I began this blog nearly four years ago, I chose "Inanna" as a nom de blog because she seemed like an ancient Mama Goddess who didn't get a lot of air time (what did I know?). Also, I loved Talia Took's depiction of Innana in her aspect as a goddess of sexual love and fertility. Later, I felt a bit sheepish about my choice: "queen of heaven and earth" was meant as an ironic descriptor for little ol' me.

However, what you might know about Inanna is that her descent into the underworld is a paradigmatic rite of passage. Her initation involved giving up every claim to identity she had and all her worldly goods, abasing herself in front of her sister/shadow, the queen of the underworld, and having her corpse hung on a meat hook in hell. We might call it the mother of all initations.

Shortly after beginning this blog, I began studying astrology, and I learned that the Sabian symbol for my sun at Pisces 11 is "a group of serious-eyed, earnest-faced men are seeking illumination and are conducted into a massive sanctuary." The symbol for my conjunct north node, at Pisces 12, is "a convocation of the Lodge of Initiates has brought the earth's glorious souls in spirit to examine candidates." In other words, initiation is my raison d'etre, in this lifetime at least.

And so after a series of initations over these last several years, one fast upon the heels of another--mystery school initation, ordination, traveling to Turkey, ending my academic career, the illnesses that pointed the way out of academe, adopting my beloved dog Lugh, Lugh's death--I decided to become a mother, Goddess willing.

Labor was a dark door that I approached unwillingly but also with singular determination. I was wary and afraid, but I also believed in its necessity, its sacredness. There were times during my labor with Lucian when I thought, "this is the worst day of my life"--a thought I don't think I've had on any other day. The pain was unlike anything I've ever experienced, and the thought floated through my mind that childbirth is more physically challenging than war. ("Take that, you big, macho, patriarchal, death-fetishizing assholes," was the other part of that thought.)

I worked in a huge cauldron of warm water at home, surrounded by midwives, and I had the dream that I was reliving my own birth, my mother's labor. I screamed often, and worried the dog, though Adonis reports that my focus was inward and away. There was an abrupt break in the labor at transition; the baby's heartrate dropped and didn't recover, and my midwife made a quick decision to move us to the hospital, where Lucian was born four hours later, after I pushed him out myself under conditions that mostly felt hostile. But I was held by a large community saying prayers, meditating, visualizing, and making magic. The magic worked; more on that later.

At the end of labor, with a roar--his, mine, that of the people in the room--my sweet baby entered this life. Someone placed him on my chest. Adonis cried. And--forgive the cliche--I knew that that day was also the best day of my life.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Earth my body, water my blood

So go the words to a popular Wiccan chant. ("Earth my body, water my blood, air my breath, and fire my spirit." Alternatively, "earth Her body..." etc.)

I'm sure I'm not the first breastfeeding woman to make this observation: whoever crafted Jesus's words to his followers at the Last Supper surely had a breastfeeding woman in mind (or was herself a breastfeeding woman?).

"Take and eat. This is my body given for you. Take and drink. This is my blood shed for you."

These words are biblical and appear as part of the liturgy for holy communion recited in Catholic and Protestant churches.

[In Chinese medicine, breast milk and blood are considered the same substance. Thus the breastfeeding woman to stay in good health should build her blood (e.g. by eating iron-rich foods and taking herbs like astragalus) since she generates and loses extra "blood" each day.]

We Goddess-folk can get a little itchy if we think our experiences are being appropriated by patriarchal religion. It's difficult not to wonder why Christianity had to assign a central ability and task in the lives of women to their Main Guy and elevate it to the central and supreme sacrifice of the faith. Jesus gets mad props for making this sacrifice; his willingness and generosity are signs of his divinity.

But women are the ones who literally give of our body and blood so others might live. And that gift is one of life begetting life, not one of death begetting life. Also, the earth is conceived of as a Mother largely because She provides food and water for her creatures. She provides all the nourishment we need. And, in right relationship with us, She regenerates and can continue to feed us. No "ultimate sacrifice" is necessary.

Women's work - and dear Goddess can I now testify to breastfeeding's being work! - goes unnoticed and unheeded. It's mostly taken for granted. But attribute these qualities to some guy and call him the Messiah, and all of a sudden it's a big deal.

Frackin' patriarchy.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Week 6

I can't believe that this being of light has been entrusted to me. Every day is a delight, a wonderful gift. I feel like my raison d'ĂȘtre is to love.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Love is the Source

Adonis said he didn't understand what the heck I was talking about when I said that "the energy of joy and pure love that they [babies] bring is the energy that grounds Being--the energy that some of us call, in convenient shorthand, Goddess." That's what I get for blogging while sleep-deprived, because usually he knows what I'm talking about.

Terri says it differently here: "Love is the Ground of All Being, the Zero Point of the Universe whence all matter and spirit is bound." To use Plotinus's image, Love is the One overflowing, self-generating.

Carol Christ writes about attending her mother's death that she (the daughter) experienced the overwhelming presence of Love, and that for her that was a tangible, indubitable experience of Goddess's presence.

It's just a belief. A tenet of faith. In the beginning, there was Love. At the end, there will be Love. Love is the Source. Love is the Ground. If you believe this, you will experience the universe thus. Call it confirmation bias. Call it revelation. Call it faith. Regardless, it is a rich and joyous way to live. It is a good way to regard the earth and all her creatures.

When I gaze upon my baby's face; when a dog at the SPCA crawls into my lap; when a friend offers me compassion--then I feel the Source rise in me like sweet water from a spring. And my faith, which is so often a guttering candle, burns a little more steadily and brightly.

Monday, February 09, 2009

29ish days

Today marks the end of Lucian's first lunar cycle. (Tomorrow is the one-month solar date.) Happy birthday, beloved one!

Wednesday, February 04, 2009


Today my therapist described to me her belief that babies come to us with all this spiritual wisdom that they bring either from their own past lives or from wherever they've just been. The energy of joy and pure love that they bring is the energy that grounds Being--the energy that some of us call, in convenient shorthand, Goddess.

Not only my own relationship with Lucian, but the world's response to him, suggests to me that something like that theory is true. Never have I been surrounded by such goodwill and/or never have I been so open to receiving it.

Seeing things as they are

"In refusing to acknowledge how things actually are in any moment, perhaps because we don't want them to be that way, and in attempting to compel a situation or a relationship to be the way we want it to be out of fear that otherwise we may not get our needs met, we are forgetting that most of the time we hardly know what our own way really is; we only think we do. And we forget that this dance [of reciprocity and interdependence between self and world] is one of extraordinary complexity as well as simplicity, and that new and interesting things happen when we do not collapse in the presence of our fears, and instead stop imposing and start living our truth, well beyond our limited ability to assert tight control over anything for very long.

"As individuals and as a species, we can no longer afford to ignore this fundamental characteristic of our reciprocity and interconnectednes, nor can we ignore how interesting new possibilities emerge out of our yearnings and our intentions when we are, each on our own way, actually true to them, however mysterious and opaque they may at times feel to us. Through our sciences, through our philosophies, our histories, and our spiritual traditions, we have come to see that our health and our well-being as individuals, our happiness, and actually even the continuity of the germ line, that life stream that we are only a momentary bubble in, that way in which we are the life-givers and world-builders for our future generations, depend on how we choose to live our own lives while we have them to live."

(Jon Kabat-Zinn, Coming to Our Senses)

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Embodying the abundant universe

(From the Gaian Tarot by Joanna Powell Colbert)

I believe as a tenet of faith that the universe--the Goddess, the Mother--provides what we need in abundance. Always.

This belief doesn't reside in my intellect, if you will, but in my gut. My brain easily generates myriad reasons why this belief is false; begin with the reality of poverty. But my belief, which relies on faith, isn't so much a proposition against which to marshal arguments. It is, rather, a way of understanding the world. It functions like a background assumption. (I'm well aware of problems with confirmation bias, but I'm not doing science here. Grant me poetic license.)

I think that whether or not this belief (or way of understanding the world) comes easily to you depends on the circumstances of your early life. That's not to say that we can't come to believe that the universe provides for our needs in abundance even if the circumstances of early life were meager in the relevant sense. The first step in coming to believe is realizing that we believe otherwise; for example, to realize that we're acting from an assumption of penury, that we believe fundamentally that life is hard, that we're its victims, that we're undeserving, that things never get better, that people are out to get us. Thus we uncover our operating assumptions. We work to accept that we have them (and acceptance is no small feat, though I give it short shrift here). And we begin to pay attention to all the hints we're given that assumptions of scarcity are false. When people make gratitude a practice, that's what they're doing: they're paying attention; they're counting their blessings.

(I've had a hard time with the idea of practicing gratitude because I have an old belief that I don't deserve my many blessings. Gratitude is, in my mind, and for biographical reasons, linked with feelings of guilt and undeservingness.)

Very early in one's life sojourn, one learns on a basic, physical, preverbal level that the universe provides for one's needs, or one learns that it doesn't. I think I'm lucky; I got the message, somehow, that my needs would be met. Maybe I carried that belief into this life with me. (My "soul card," in tarot, is the Empress. Both my rising sign and my Pluto carry the message, too.) Maybe my faith formed as the result of responsive early mothering. (Thanks, Mom!) Things--mostly thoughts--have happened to occlude my faith, but I think that at its foundation it's solid. It is a glorious piece of luck.

I know that as I spend these early weeks with my child, my one task, as I see it, is literally to embody for him the abundant universe. He's still coming into this life; he's new here. How is the world as he finds it? There is a lot of big, scary, uncertain stuff that he doesn't need to know about yet. But he is almost always held. We hold him bare skin against bare skin. We hold him in the sunlight streaming through our bedroom windows. We carry him, we sleep next to him, we wear him in a sling. He is never away from us. He is never left alone. We sing and babble and kiss him and make jokes. He is always fed when, or even before, he asks. There is plenty to eat. He is kept dry and clean and warm. That big, loud beast, the dog, is his friend. He shows no fear.

And there is a huge, excited, welcoming, loving community holding him and his parents. We were held during the birth by an extended network of friends. Witches worked magic for him. Astrologers watched the sky. Gifts continue to arrive. People come to visit. Home-cooked dinners appear on our doorstep every other day; his body is literally being built by the community. I'm in awe of the generosity, love, and good will engendered by this small being.

He affirms my faith in all things good.

Monday, February 02, 2009

A poem for Brigid

(Venus at the Forge of Vulcan, Louis Le Nain, 1641)

Dare you see a Soul at the White Heat?
Then crouch within the door--
Red--is the Fire's common tint--
But when the vivid Ore
Has vanquished Flame's conditions,
It quivers from the Forge
Without a color, but the light
Of unanointed Blaze.
Least Village has its Blacksmith
Whose Anvil's even ring
Stands symbol for the finer Forge
That soundless tugs--within--
Refining these impatient Ores
With Hammer, and with Blaze
Until the Designated Light
Repudiate the Forge--

(Emily Dickinson)

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Imbolc: in the Mother's belly

(Lucian, 3 weeks)

Normally for Imbolc I host a poetry party. We light candles, eat dairy-rich foods, and drink wine. Everyone brings a poem to read. I especially encourage children to read; our youngest reader was five. We've had poems read in Russian, Icelandic, and Yiddish, as well as English. Folks have read Shakespeare and Shel Silverstein, Olga Broumas and Mary Oliver. People read their own poems, too. This is a good time of year for a party, and it's a nice way to celebrate the holiday with non-Pagan friends.

This year I've been a bit preoccupied, and I didn't notice Imbolc creeping up on me, despite the days growing longer again. Only yesterday did I realize that February is upon us. I'll make time to participate in the Fourth Annual Brigid in the Blogosphere Poetry Slam. But no party this year.

My life feels like it's been stirred in Brigid's cauldron these last several weeks. I'm still assimilating the enormous initiation and transformation I've undergone. To you, I send all good wishes of inspiration and transformation.