Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Sap's running. Can you feel it? My pagan heart thrums with the turning of the wheel.

My baby turned 1. I turned 40. Life is very sweet and not at all what I expected. But I'm devoted. To the whole thing, religiously. That is my thealogy.

Monday, February 01, 2010

A Ritual to Read to Each Other

If you don't know the kind of person I am
And I don't know the kind of person you are
A pattern that others made may prevail in the world
And following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dyke.

And as elephants parade holding each elephant's tail,
but if one wanders the circus won't find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.

And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider--
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.

For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give--yes or no, or maybe--
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.

~ William Stafford

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Fifth annual cyberspace poetry slam for Brigid

A lovely tradition, now in its fifth year:

WHAT: A Bloggers (Silent) Poetry Reading

WHEN: Anytime February 2, 2010

WHERE: Your blog

WHY: To celebrate the Feast of Brigid, aka Groundhog Day

HOW: Select a poem you like - by a favorite poet or one of your own - to
post February 2nd.

Participate and help to weave the web.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Maternal Thinking

For some mothers, giving birth to and living with children inspires something akin to a religious respect for nature. (Sara Ruddick)

Despite many years working on a Ph.D. in ethics and feminism, I never read Sara Ruddick's oft-cited, oft-criticized (for being "essentialist") book Maternal Thinking: Towards a Politics of Peace. I probably read some excerpts along the way and joined in the criticisms, fancying myself a radical feminist uninterested in motherhood.

But this week I started reading the book as part of my resolution to read some whole books this year, the first year of motherhood being singularly ill-suited to reading books. My copy of Maternal Thinking is the British paperback with its ugly jacket art; I probably picked it up for a few dollars at the library book sale because I thought a feminist philosopher ought to own a copy, even if she never read it. I found it again over New Years because it rested on a bookshelf in my son's play space, behind some building blocks.

It is a wonderful book. Carefully argued--with all the usual criticisms addressed in the first chapters, ye lazy critics--impassioned, engaged, emotionally astute, blindingly smart, it has me engrossed. The notes to chapter four cite Iris Murdoch, Adrienne Rich, and Virginia Woolf, who might as well be the troika who rule my thinking life, as well as Spinoza, that old heretic.

Highly recommended.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Pisces 11 and 12

One of my most important spiritual teachers is an astrologer by trade, and I'm erstwhile her astrology student. I used to think astrology was a bunch of nonsense and hokum. But then I met my teacher, Linda, and I couldn't deny the genius expressed in her understanding of this complicated art. I still have only the smallest idea of what's going on or what she's talking about, but Linda's way of doing astrology makes each person the hero of her own life and each life replete with meaning.

I have come to understand myself as an initiate because of two symbols that appear in my natal astrological chart (the snapshot of the sky taken at the minute of my birth from the perspective of my location on earth). First, my sun is at Pisces 11 (in the 11th house). The Sabian symbol for Pisces 11 is: A group of serious eyed, earnest faced men are seeking illumination and are conducted into a massive sanctuary. Second, my north node is conjunct my sun, at Pisces 12, the symbol for which is: A convocation of the Lodge of Initiates has bought the earth's glorious souls in spirit to examine the candidates.

The sun represents the meaning of one's life. The north node represents where one is headed in this lifetime. That my sun and north node are conjunct means that the meaning of my life and where I'm headed in life (my north star, if you will) are in sync. To me, both of these symbols are deeply spiritual. They make sense to me as someone who has sought meaning and the Divine her whole life.

While an initiate has mastered a body of knowledge in order to be initiated, she is also very much at the beginning of something: she us up for examination, she is being ushered into a sanctuary. At first this idea of being a beginner, not a master, chafed my ego: "Well crap, in this lifetime I only ever get to be a newbie?"

But I assume the mantle of initiate with reverence anyway, and I remind myself of the archetypal importance of the beginner (for example, the Fool in the tarot). My life snaps into narrative focus--it makes sense--when I remember myself as an initiate, when I narrate my life as a story of initiations. The story of undergoing an initiation is a way to make sense of and revere difficult times, because initiation isn't easy. Inanna had to give up her very life, her flesh and bones. The old saying that in childbirth a woman descends to the underworld to retrieve the soul of her child isn't an unfair description of my experience in labor.

As for my nom de blog, I chose it before I understood anything about myself as an initiate. But now I think it makes lovely, prescient sense.

Friday, January 01, 2010

The initiate

I feel tremendously blessed.

Last year during the full moon in Cancer, I gave birth. Last night saw the return of that full moon (though my son's solar birthday is still nine days away). These past twelve lunar cycles have been a year-long intensive, an initiation, a breathtaking journey down into myself--a self who is now two, in that strange human way that flesh begets flesh and produces another who is of oneself but not oneself. From breastfeeding, and sharing attachment parenting with my partner, has emerged the most intimate relationship of my life, we three. Being a mother challenges me in ways I never anticipated and brings me into bliss.

One of the most striking things, to me, about motherhood is how it's brought my values into sharp focus. I'm someone who cares about value--moral, aesthetic, etc.--a lot. Becoming a mother, with the relentless demands on my energy and attention, has burned away a lot of bullshit. Here is what matters to me: family, spirituality, creativity. I can flesh that out again--my spirituality encompasses my devotion to the earth, for example--but those are the clean bones.

So I return to this space, where for many years I've written about spirituality, my winding, earth-based path. My passion is still here. If you're reading--and especially if you've been reading for years--I'm grateful.

Friday, October 16, 2009

All's well

All is well. I've just been busy raising a baby these last several months. Very challenging. Sheer bliss.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Pagan values: pleasure and beauty

Let My worship be in the heart that rejoices, for behold, all acts of love and pleasure are My rituals. Let there be beauty....

(The Charge of the Goddess)

To be incarnate in a human body is to know exquisite pleasure. I imagine that when souls choose to incarnate they do so largely because they want to put on a body and feel the lusciousness of being human: of flesh upon flesh, of swimming in cool water on a hot summer's day, of eating chocolate and strawberries, of dancing and yoga, of stroking an animal's soft fur, of making and witnessing art, of warming in front of a fire, of mud baths and hot springs, of smelling incense and flowers, of nibbling a baby's fat thigh.

For we Pagani, all glory is in embodiment. We don't honor asceticism, chastity, or restraint. There is no reason to deny the pleasures of the flesh. All mutually consensual and pleasurable sex is holy. All variations on the human form are lovely and beloved. Our sacraments include taking care of oneself and one's body, of each other's body, of animals, children, and the land. We seek the pleasure in eating and shitting, in crying and bleeding, in sex and dancing, sleeping, stretching, breathing.

To make beauty is a holy thing: to plant a flower, prepare an altar, pick up litter, carve a toy, sweep a stoop, cook a meal, or paint a picture. We practice bearing witness to the beauty in others. If I could do nothing more than reflect back to my son the beauty that shines in his face and his whole being, then I have been a good mother.

It's not necessarily easy. I complain sometimes. I have a habit of negative judgment. I let ideas about what's wrong, and my self-judgment, cloud my vision of what's true and right and beautiful and holy. I sometimes deny my body what it needs. I worry about the weeds in the garden, the dust in the house, the shape of my body, the uncertainty of my path in life. I tell myself that I don't have time to enjoy myself, or that I don't deserve to, or that I should be doing something different from whatever it is I'm doing. We must be vigilant against self-denial and self-abnegation.

The call is always to open to what is, to make a small patch of earth beautiful and lively, to enjoy the pleasures given to me every day, to love my life and make it holy and delicious and good. To turn toward myself. To embrace the mystery and mess. And to give thanks for the good green earth, all-sustaining and filled with delights. Blessed be.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Pagan values: immanence

Deborah Lipp has written recently about immanence, so as a lazy blogger let me point you first to her post. Do come back.

Deborah says that the immanence of deity--which she defines as gods' being inside us--means that the source of value and goodness is also within us. Such a view rejects an authoritarian, "handed down from on high" view of morality in favor of something more self-directed, more democratic. I define immanence more broadly than Deborah does, though I don't disagree with her.

I take the transcendence of deity to mean that god is somewhere outside of nature or everyday reality: above, beyond, distant from us. If god is "out there," even if he can intervene "in here," then "out there" is more divine, better, more desirable. It's heaven. If god is transcendent, then we are necessarily at least somewhat alienated from god, because there is a place he occupies that we don't. (Hence the need for mortal intercessories in Christianity: saints, Mary, or Jesus--someone who can get the message to the big guy, who can mediate between heaven and earth).

The immanence of deity means that there is no "out there"; there is only "right here." The Divine is present on earth and in us. She is present in mountains, springs, trees, compost piles, cities and slums, my pit bull, you, and me. Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote that "earth's crammed with heaven." More prosaically, I think of the world's being infused with divinity.

People either believe in the immanence of deity because they experience the world that way (Starhawk famously compares the question "do you believe in the Goddess?" to "do you believe in that rock?"--belief really isn't at issue), or they experience the world as suffused with god because they believe it is (the background belief thus affects the quality of experience). I can't tell which it is for me; the mystic favors for former explanation, and the skeptic favors the latter.

Why does it matter whether deity is immanent? On a practical level, the way I treat the beings and things around me is affected. I'm much more likely to be patient with my dog, my child, myself, if I remember that we all partake of the Divine. Other choices I make that reflect my belief in the Goddess's immanence are to eat food that's organically or humanely raised, to pick up trash when I'm hiking, not to use chemicals when I garden or clean my house. It's not that I think, "god is there, I should be careful." Rather, I experience the things in my life as holy, and from that experience I strive to make choices that honor the holiness of all beings.

Thus a belief in immanence is closely connected, for me, to a belief in the sanctity of the earth. The earth is all we get. There is no heaven, no afterlife in another place untained by fallen humanity. We don't get to escape the earth. We don't get to use it up and then leave. If we eschew or deny what's real, we don't get to transcend the consequences of our actions. God Herself is in the whole thing. She is the shadow as well as the light. And She is as close as the beating of your heart.

Blessed be.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Pagan values: the sanctity of the earth

If you had to find one value that the majority of Pagans would identify as a Pagan value, the sanctity of the earth might be it. For many Pagans, this value is central to our spirituality.

Some say that the earth is the Goddess and don't mean that metaphorically (some do). Many subscribe to something like the Gaia hypothesis, which posits that the earth itself not only houses living beings but is a living being itself. Many say that we find the gods in nature. Pagans tend to be animists, believing that even things like trees, rocks, and mountains have a kind of soul, spirit or consciousness. Many if not most contemporary Pagans believe that the earth is holy and has instrinsic value.

In keeping with this value, Pagans strive to live in right relationship with the earth and her creatures. We invoke the ideas of balance and right relationship and reject models of dominance. We may practice permaculture, buy organic foods, garden organically, strive to live sustainably, belong to conservationist groups and land trusts, advocate rights or protections for animals, or shelter and rescue domestic animals. Most of the Pagans I know are involved in one or more of these practical, earth-honoring activities.

Our rituals often take place out of doors, and even when they take place indoors, we often invoke and honor nature, the earth, or earth spirits and guardians. Many Pagans honor the old agricultural cycles and the phases of the moon. We practice grounding ourselves and our energy, and we value the particular places where we live. One Witch I know says he can't sleep well if he doesn't know the land.

Some conservative Christians make the disingenuous mistake that all environmentalists are Pagans. Of course that isn't true; one can value nature, animals, trees, habitat, and the wild without practicing Paganism. But Pagan religions are the only ones I know that make concern for the earth a central spiritual value.

Surely the image of earth as Mother arose in cultures where there was less separation from the land than in ours, and where breastfeeding children was the norm. The way that a human mother gives of herself for her child, providing nourishment and care, fulfilling the needs of early life, mut have struck our ancestors as analogous to the way the earth provides us with water, food, medicine, shelter.

In right relationship, we love the One who sustains us, as She sustains us with her love. Blessed be.