Tag Archives: Pagans

And If the Goddess Doesn’t Exist . . . .

eleusis

I’ll add this one point to yesterday’s post:

It was said of those who experienced the Eleusinian Mysteries that they no longer feared death. Plato said, “Our mysteries had a very real meaning . . . .” And Cicero said, “Nothing is higher than these mysteries . . . they have not only shown us how to live joyfully but they have taught us how to die with a better hope.” I am a Witch because I have direct experience of the mystery, the Goddesses, the conscious Planet, Her living rocks, and leaves, and waters, of what magic feels like when it flows up from the Earth, through my hands, into the world.

But my analytical side understands that most modern day psychologists would consider my beliefs a bit mad. Oh, not dangerous. “She’s apparently able to hold down a job, pay her bills, take her trash out on Mondays, drive on the right side of the street, pass for normal. But, still, kind of batty.” Maybe a chemical imbalance in the brain, an unresolved neurosis, early dementia.

The truth is that, even if the sane people were right and the planet were simply inert minerals, the Goddesses figments of a fevered imagination, and the mysteries no mystery at all, I would still live my life exactly the same. I would go on experiencing the mysteries, worshiping the Goddesses, doing magic to make the world a better place. Because that’s the only way that it all makes sense to me. Because that’s the only world in which I want to live.

So maybe that’s part of the reason why I can’t get too worked up over disputes over whether it’s real or theoretical Goddesses dancing on the head of a mushroom. In the end, I agree with J.D. Salinger:

“I was six when I saw that everything was God, and my hair stood up, and all,” Teddy said. “It was on a Sunday, I remember. My sister was a tiny child then, and she was drinking her milk, and all of a sudden I saw that she was God and the milk was God. I mean, all she was doing was pouring God into God, if you know what I mean.”

It’s all just Goddess pouring Goddess into Goddess. May it be so for you.

Picture found here.

Rites of Spring

And We Do Not Fear

And We Do Not Fear

100 years ago tonight, Stravisnky’s Le Sacre du printemps, or the Rites of Spring, premiered at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées. It nearly caused a riot.

Stravinsky is supposed to have said that the ballet depicted “Pagan Russia unified by a single idea: the mystery and great surge of the creative power of Spring.” One of my all-time favorite artists, Nicholas Roerich, designed the sets and costumes.

Even more than the Firebird, this dance changed forever the nature of modern ballet and, some would say, modern symphonic music and modern theatre.

Picture found here.

Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains PotPourri

23ec4p2

* It’s been a cool Spring here in the magical MidAtlantic. It was sunny for our Beltane celebration, but still cool enough that the fire felt good. Shortly after we finished up, the rain came and put out the fire. It rained all night and, by morning, everything was that indescribable shade of emerald that simply bellows, “Alive!” Things change so quickly in Spring. Literata has a great discussion at her blog about Beltane, desire, relationship, and change.

* My latest article — on magical ethics, and, yes, I do have some — is out in the current issue of Witches & Pagans. You can subscribe and buy back issues here.

* Julian Meade writes:

Today I was plowing faithfully through a horticultural tome when I came to a chapter which began thus, “If you would have a really successful garden, it behooves you –“
The hell it does. My garden is one place in the world where I am not beehoved.

~ from The Unbeehoved Gardener in The Writer in the Garden, edited by Jane Garmey.

I love that. We all need at least one place, either a garden or a room of our own, where we are not even the least little bit beehoved. Where’s your unbeehoven spot?

* Today is supposed to be Pagan Coming Out Day. I know that this isn’t going to make me popular, but, here goes: I’m all for Pagan Coming Out Day and for Pagans coming out on any day — except.

Except that for some people, it’s still not safe. People do still lose their jobs (and medical benefits, etc.), their clients, their children, their homes, etc. when they come out as Pagans.

I admit to getting a bit chaffed by people, often professional Pagans who don’t have “day jobs,” and/or children, who self-righteously announce how easy it is for them to be out and how they’ve done it for years. (I’m glad for them and I hope that someday, due, in part to their efforts, being Pagan won’t be any more remarkable than being Jewish, or Hindu, or Catholic, or generic Christian.) It’s just that there’s a whiff of condescension about those pronouncements and a lack of understanding of what other Pagans have to deal with. (In some cases, there’s even a bit of unacknowledged privilege: people without children can often be unaware of what parents face; urban Pagans can be fail to understand what it’s like to live in the rural South.) And, I admit that it makes me even a bit more out-of-sorts when those same folks conduct their latest “please donate for my medical expenses” or “please contribute to my travel fees for a festival” campaign. Yes, we all need help sometimes and we should all help each other as much as we can. But some of us have funds to donate because we have day jobs that require us to stay in the Broom Closet while you’re busy being an “out” Pagan. I’m willing to honor your role and the trail that you’ve blazed; in return, I’d like you to honor my path and my contributions. For anyone coming out today, I’m sending you bright blessings and a wish for acceptance.

* Here’s a poem for you:

You May Leave a Memory, Or You Can be Feted by Crows

~ Dick Allen

Three years, Huang Gongwang
worked on his famous handscroll,
Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains.

As he put successive applications of ink to paper
over the “one burst of creation,” his original design,
it is said he often sang like a tree frog
and danced on his old bare feet.

One day, he adds one hemp fiber stroke,
the next a moss dot.

What patience he had,
like a cat who comes back season after season to a mole’s tunnel.

Honors may go to others.
Riches may go to others.
Huang Gongwang has one great job to do.

And he sings like a tree frog,
and he dances on old bare feet.

That’s how I want to live, to write, to garden, to be.

* What’s the best change that you’ve made in your life since Samhein?

Picture found here.

Dark Moon Potpourri


*Yesterday evening, I found myself across town at a meeting that was ending at the height of rush hour. Instead of sitting in a cab for 40 minutes, I met Son and DiL for dinner. Afterwards, driving home along the pearly pink Potomac just at dusk, I was talking to the River when I turned onto Spout Run and watched a doe sprint across the road, from the woods into the water in the run.

I know that gardeners are supposed to be at war with deer (and, seriously, if they ever show up and nom my day lilies and hosta, well, it’s not going to be pretty) but I ward my tiny Bit of Earth against them and, so far, it’s worked. For years and years, seeing a deer has been a sign of good luck for me, a message from the universe that I’m on the right track and just need to keep on keeping on.

I drove the rest of the way home feeling very, very blessed.

May it be so for you.

*I really need to start reading Franzen:

Today’s nature writers have a serious decision to make. If we still want to be thought of as anything other than incestuous literary outcasts who are the only audience for our own writing, then we better think hard about what it means that America’s premier novelist is a birder writing about overpopulation and land conservation. If we hope to end up something other than jaded academics that make a living teaching expensive nature writing classes that students love but aren’t professionally going to benefit from at all, then I say we get Franzen’s back.

Here’s why: Franzen has brought environmental issues into the limelight, and not just in the literary sense. He’s a household name. For someone writing about environmental problems, that’s an accomplishment that can’t be understated. Who else besides Al Gore can claim such name recognition? These days, not only has writing about environmental issues become marginalized and out of vogue, heck, being ecologically literate isn’t even important.

hat tip: Sia.

This:

.

Being late on a regular basis (you know who you are) is a sign of your sense of privilege and of your clear disrespect for others. It says, as loudly as it can possibly say, “My time is more important than yours. It was more important for me to sleep in, get up and putter around, finish reading that chapter, etc. than whatever you might have done with the time that you spent standing around and waiting for me. That effort that you put into getting up early, leaving on time, being prepared? Well, that was sweet, albeit now wasted, but I’m too important for that.”

Seriously. That’s what everyone is thinking when you stroll in twenty minutes late, even if they’re too polite to say it.

And, no, that regular call that, by now, we all expect, that call that you make just as the ritual is supposed to start, saying, “OK, I’m leaving just now [from my home, 45 minutes away from the ritual,] and will be there soon,” no, that doesn’t make it OK. It makes us roll our eyes. At you.

The other week on our drive up to Longwood, Landscape Guy & I were talking about self-respect. There are two things that both of us do as a sign of respect not only to others, but, also, as a sign of self-respect. We’re both almost always on time. And we both make our beds almost every morning, even though we live alone. (Yes, sometimes — maybe once every few years — you leave early enough to arrive, based on past experience, on time at the ritual space. And there’s a bad traffic jam and you’re late. And, sometimes — maybe once every few years — I’m swamped at work, fall into bed at 2:00 am, claw my way out of bed at 6:00 am, and leave for work w/o making my bed. Note the operative words: once every few years.)

Both of those acts are ways of saying, “I am the kind of person who . . . .”

Do you operate on Pagan Standard Time? How tolerant is your circle of this practice? What do you do out of self-respect?

*Here’s a wonderful post about gardening with the God/desses.

Performing chores and labor in a ritual context is a meditative exercise. Unlike Eastern meditation that seeks to disengage the mind, and is passive both physically and mentally, pagan meditation is active. It differs, too, from the Christian form of meditation of Western civilization. Often Christian meditation involves reading passages from sacred texts or from prepared devotional texts. One is to silently ponder the meaning of these texts, applying them to himself or herself. . . . The method used by Teresa of Avila was similar to Eastern meditation in that her “recollection” involved suppressing the intellectual mind and the senses as she focused on a prayer so that her soul might recall its spiritual origin. ”Recollection” was preparatory to other stages of quiet meditation. In both Eastern and Western (Christian) meditation a goal is to disengage the mind from the body. This is due to a perspective of the physical world being somehow evil and contradictory to the spiritual world. . . . Pagan practice instead begins with a notion of the Universe being composed of body, mind and soul, and a desire to bring these three parts into harmony. Harmony is sought within one’s own being, and also in the world around us. . . . But the starting point begins by introducing ritual into our daily activities, developing a sound mind and a sound body in harmony with our soul, which will in turn bring us into a harmonious relationship with the Gods around us in Nature. The garden quite literally feeds our body, our mind, and our soul, even as the garden acts as a euphemism for tending our relationship with the Gods in the Universe.
Vadete in pacem Deorum.

For me, it’s weeding. Odd as it sounds, I love to weed. It’s one of the most meditative tasks I know, other than kneading bread or knitting.

To work in my garden is to co-create the manifest (thank you, PaganMamma) world in partnership with the Goddess. I am never so humbled nor so honored as when I pull weeds.

*Do you have a picket pin?

*What JMG Said:

Being a Druid today means learning how to take less from nature and give more back, reshaping every detail of our daily lives in order to honor and heal the living Earth. Being a Druid means composting vegetable peelings instead of sending them to a landfill; it means walking or bicycling instead of filling the air with tailpipe fumes; it means buying groceries from local organic farmers instead of from multi-national agrabusiness. Such acts are practical necessities to everyone who recognizes the interdependence of all life. To Druids, and all others who follow nature-centered paths, these things are also acts of worship, disciplines of the spirit, offerings we make to the Goddess-Planet on Whom we live our lives.

“Reshaping every detail of our daily lives”: that’s a spiritual practice. JMG’s discussion ties in with my recent post about the importance of just being outside and observing to the process of becoming a Witch. Composting, for example, is messy business and mundane in the extreme. It’s hardly the esoteric training that anyone hoping to become a Witch or Druid might imagine. And, yet, it’s magic. It’s necessary. And it’s what Witches and Druids do.

*I’m going to get to this exhibit in the next 72 hours, or die trying, even if I have, thanks to a crush at work, to speed-walk through it. How important is art to your spiritual practice? To your practice of magic? How do you make time for it?

*Here, in the heart of deep Summer along the Potomac, the early morning hours are often the only ones when it’s really comfortable to lie between clean sheets and drift, half asleep and half awake. That makes it even more difficult to drag myself out of bed. Lately, these guys get me up and onto the treadmill. (I’m fairly certain that getting an old, American Nonna up to exercise is nowhere in these young men’s mission statement.) Who inspires you to live healthy? Whom might your inspire, all unawares?

Picture found here.

A New Sabbat


Next Sunday, April 22nd, is Earth Day, although I’m fond of the United Nations’ designation of it as Mother Earth Day. If I ran the zoo, Earth Day would be the 9th Sabbat. What could be more important to Pagans than the Earth?

Of course, in some sense, every day is Earth Day for practicing Pagans; being in relationship with the Earth is a major part of most Pagans’ religious work. Yet, just as it’s a good idea to have Samhein to help us to really focus on our ancestors, our own eventual death, and issues that reside in our own underworld (as well as the dying of the year), even though those are also issues that we work with all the time, it’s a good idea to have a day devoted to Mother Earth and our relationship with her.

For many Pagans, having a relationship with the Earth is sort of like le bourgeois gentilhomme in Moliere’s play who exclaims, “Par ma foi! il y a plus de quarante ans que je dis de la prose sans que j’en susse rien, et je vous suis le plus obligé du monde de m’avoir appris cela,” roughly translated as: “I’ve been speaking prose all my life without even knowing it!” We grew up having that relationship, just as fish grow up swimming and only later learn that it’s not a universal, that not everyone is in communion with the trees or hears what the bees are dancing. And it’s often Paganism’s acknowledgement and celebration of that relationship that, inter alia, draws us to Paganism.

In Last Child in the Woods”, however, Richard Louv notes that many children today spend less and less time outside, especially the sort of unstructured time that can lead to a relationship with Mother Earth (playing soccer, for example, is wonderful. G/Son’s a pretty decent soccer player for a six-year old and his weekly soccer practice gets him outside, gets him some fun exercise, and teaches all the good things that team sports (at their best) can teach. But it’s not the same as just “messing about” outside).

In two insightful posts, Literata makes Louv’s point rather nicely, I think. In Waiting for the Bus: A Hymn to the Landbase of my Youth, she writes, in part:

This is the place where I
grudgingly
picked up pine cones and
gleefully
wore azaleas and dogwood in my hair
on Easter,

Where I learned how pine trees age
and new ones volunteer,
how pine cones open and close
with heat and rain
and why long-leaf pines
are dangerous in ice.

But it is mornings I remember most of all
waiting for the bus
outside with Talking Self so briefly still
in my first meditations.

And, in a follow-up post, she explains that:

In particular, I went outside to do devotions this morning, and I realized that a lot of my relationship with and awareness of this landbase was formed in those early morning hours of waiting for the school bus because that was one of the few times that I was outside, regularly, and being quiet and even, occasionally, observant. I didn’t know what I was doing, but in some ways, those times were when I first learned to meditate.

For me, it was a weekend walk to the nearby creek, where I could get away from my dysfunctional family for a bit and simply “be.” But of course, like Literata, I was learning to be observant, to open myself to place and the Spirits and Powers of a place, and to meditate.

Where was it for you?

And for those Pagans for whom a relationship with Mother Earth isn’t as natural as breathing, there’s nothing I can recommend better than getting outside, messing about, and then sitting down next to a tree, or a river, or a rock and opening yourself to relationship.

Sunday’s WaPo had a great article about D.C.’s guerrilla gardeners:

“Guerrilla gardening is urban gardening and food justice. It’s just this really cool mix,” says Emmy Gran, 25, who is teaching seed-bombing in a floppy sun hat at a recent Saturday morning workshop in the courtyard of Old City Green, a gardening store in Shaw. “But it’s controversial, too. If you see an abandoned, neglected lot and you decide to do something about it by planting vegetables and herbs, are you an occupier? It’s kind of radical, in some ways.”

If you’re looking for a fun way to celebrate our Ninth Great Sabbat, here’s how to make seed bombs (a bit of clay works to bind the dirt together):

Wine-Dark Sea

April is, as the poet said, the cruelest month. And, April is National Poetry Month. The connection isn’t lost upon those of us who love poetry.

I have a theory — and it’s backed by zero research — that those who love poetry were introduced to poetry as young children, sitting upon laps, dancing around flames, kneading dough. And that those who say, “I’ve never gotten [have always hated] poetry” were first exposed to poetry in school. Often by having to memorize it. Perhaps, even, by being forced to scan it.

Some of my dearest friends who “don’t get” poetry can quote you line and verse of song lyrics. And many of those song lyrics qualify as, at least, mediocre poetry. The only difference, in many cases, is whether the words are spoken or sung.

Druids, in particular, have a long relationship with poetry.

Where does the poetry come in? What little we know about the ancient Druids includes some information about the role of bards in Celtic societies. Whether or not the bards were part of the Druidic religious path I can’t say, but there is no doubt that they were an important feature of Celtic culture. For someone interested in things Celtic, and a Celt inspired spirituality, the bardic tradition therefore is an appealing one. The romantic image of the windswept wandering bard, harp slung over shoulder, is alluring. There is consensus that poetry was very much the domain of the historical bard.

But Witches, as well, have a long relationship with poetry. Auntie Doreen, for example, gave us:

Listen to the words of the Great Mother, who was of old also called Artemis; Astarte; Diana; Melusine; Aphrodite; Cerridwen; Dana; Arianrhod; Isis; Bride; and by many other names.
Whenever ye have need of anything, once in a month, and better it be when the Moon be full, then ye shall assemble in some secret place and adore the spirit of me, who am Queen of all Witcheries.
There shall ye assemble, ye who are fain to learn all sorcery, yet have not yet won its deepest secrets: to these will I teach things that are yet unknown.
And ye shall be free from slavery; and as a sign that ye are really free, ye shall be naked in your rites; and ye shall dance, sing, feast, make music and love, all in my praise.
For mine is the ecstasy of the spirit and mine also is joy on earth; for my Law is Love unto all Beings.
Keep pure your highest ideal; strive ever toward it; let naught stop you or turn you aside.
For mine is the secret door which opens upon the Land of Youth; and mine is the Cup of the Wine of Life, and the Cauldron of Cerridwen, which is the Holy Grail of Immortality.
I am the Gracious Goddess, who gives the gift of joy unto the heart. Upon earth, I give the knowledge of the spirit eternal; and beyond death, I give peace, and freedom, and reunion with those who have gone before. Nor do I demand sacrifice, for behold I am the Mother of All Living, and my love is poured out upon the earth.
Hear ye the words of the Star Goddess, she in the dust of whose feet are the hosts of heaven; whose body encircleth the Universe; I, who am the beauty of the green earth, and the white Moon among the stars, and the mystery of the waters, and the heart’s desire, call unto thy soul. Arise and come unto me.
For I am the Soul of Nature, who giveth life to the universe; from me all things proceed, and unto me must all things return; and before my face, beloved of gods and mortals, thine inmost divine self shall be unfolded in the rapture of infinite joy.
Let my worship be within the heart that rejoiceth, for behold: all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals. And therefore let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion, honour and humility, mirth and reverence within you.
And thou who thinkest to seek for me, know thy seeking and yearning shall avail thee not, unless thou know this mystery: that if that which thou seekest thou findest not within thee, thou wilt never find it without thee.
For behold, I have been with thee from the beginning; and I am that which is attained at the end of desire.

At the end of desire.

Is there a more poetic line anywhere short of “wine-dark sea”?

Poetry is a large portion of my own praxis. What role does it play in yours?

Picture by the blogger; if you copy, please link back.

What It Really Means to “Hold” Community


So, since it’s the best/only thing that I could figure out to do, I’ve been sitting every morning for a few minutes at my altar, continuing to hold Greater Paganistan in my heart. It’s interesting to me the many ways in which, once you start to pay attention to something, the Universe begins to shower you with gifts directed towards your attention. (Energy, as we Witches say, follows attention.) The other morning, the Universe sent me this post by the brilliant Joe Gerstandt. (Hat tip to my brilliant friend who turned me on to JG.) Gerstandt’s not, that I know, a Pagan, but it’s as if he were writing directly to today’s Pagans, wrapped up in the recent controversy from Pantheacon:

The word community gets thrown around a lot today. I see and hear lots of conversations about building community, managing community, [One could add: about "Holding Beloved Community."], etc.

* * *

I think that real community demands a certain amount of mutual commitment, a certain amount of relational courage. If we break it down to the basics, relationships can be built of two things, difference and commonality. Between all humans there exists difference and commonality and in healthy, generative relationships both are shared.

But that is hard to do. It is much easier (at least in the short run) to just focus on one or the other and that is what most groups do. Groups of people have very strong tendencies toward focusing just on their commonality or just on their differences. Both are problematic. (emphasis added.)

When we choose to focus only on commonality, we are subordinating individual identities to group identity. To do this we have to ignore, deny and remove difference. Highly conformist, this approach creates false, cosmetic community. When we prioritize our individual differences, we cannot come together at all. We are subordinating group identities to individual identities and this approach results in silos, segregation, borders, walls and generally some form of violence.

***

There are people that will tell you that group identities (nation, gender, political party, profession) should always take priority over individual identities. There are also plenty of people that will tell you that group identities should always be subordinate to the individual.

As usual, I think that the truth lies in the middle. Whether you are talking about an actual community, an organization, a virtual network or some other social entity, a robust and creative community demands a dynamic balance of both.

It requires that we choose to belong to each other. It does not require us to like each other or agree with each other…it requires us to be committed to both caring for the container of commonality and the individual differences inside. (emphasis added.)

It’s hard work. There is nuance and flexibility involved. It requires prioritizing and investing in relationships. It requires listening and dialogue, maturity and courage. It requires “I” and “we” language, not “them” and “they.”

It takes courage to live in paradox. Real, living community requires us to embrace both the truth that we are all different and the truth that we are all the same. It is paradoxical and it is not simple or easy, that is why it requires courage.
Be good to each other.

I couldn’t have said it better, myself. “Relational courage.” Dear Greater Paganistan: this is my wish for you today.

Picture found here.