This Life Matters*

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One of the core messages of Paganism that means the most to me is that This Life Matters.  My Body Matters.  Sex Matters.  My Relationships — with my Landbase, my Watershed, my Bit of Earth, my Goddesses, my Fae, my Family and Friends, my Livelihood, my Magical Community, my Polis — Matter.

I grew up Catholic, in a religion and a culture that discounts this life, shames female bodies and the act of being a woman, demonizes sex, and devalues relationships with any entity other than the one, true, male God.  I grew up Catholic in a religion that tells you that this world doesn’t matter; what’s important is some literal pie-in-the-sky life after death. None of which ever felt “right” to me.  So finding Paganism was a revelation .  “All acts of love and pleasure are rituals of the Goddess” shook the ground beneath my feet.  What if it were THIS life that is holy???  How would that change the way I lived?  In Mr. Frost’ words, two roads diverged in the woods, and I, I took the one less traveled by.  And that has made all the difference.

Which is, perhaps, an odd way to begin to discuss this week’s Republican convention, but it’s what kept coming back to me all week long as I observed the four-day hate fest.  The calls to kill and/or jail Hillary Clinton (and those were the polite things they said) were like nothing ever heard at any convention before.  Of course, no convention has ever faced a woman opponent before.  If you think that it isn’t dangerous to be a powerful woman in America today, well, you just aren’t paying attention.  Patriarchy has always called for the destruction of female bodies.  Of course, Patriarchy doesn’t stop at hating women.  The LGBT community, African Americans, Muslims, Hispanic people, people who aren’t Christian, anyone who doesn’t embrace unrestrained corporate capitalism, etc. all came in for their own dose of hatred.

At some point, it all begins to feel like too much.  It’s all too horrible:  all of the hatred, the deliberate ignorance, the whipped-up violence, the refusal to deal in facts, the purposeful choice to embrace lies, the senseless racism, the virulent hatred of women, the ancient divide and conquer tactics, the recognizable fascism, the candidate feeling up his own daughter . . . .  “Why bother to stay engaged?” I asked myself.  I have more work than I can handle at a job I love; my garden needs weeding; I have a lovely family and brilliant friends.  There are more good books to read than I have time left to read them.  I’d really love to learn how to knit fisherman cables.

And what brings me back is Paganism’s core message:  This Life Matters.  The polar bears in the Arctic and the mycelium being disrupted by logging in the Amazon matter.  My son’s high school friend on FaceBook trying to explain to their other friend why he’s afraid to exist while being black matters.  The poems I love matter and today’s struggling poets matter even more.  This polis matters.  People having sex all over the globe on this Friday afternoon, people holding each other, people orgasming, people becoming drowsy in each other’s arms:  they matter.  The cook serving two perfectly-poached eggs on slices of fried green tomatoes:  she matters.  People trying to patch things  back together in Orlando matter.  My own aging female body:  it matters.  The scent of the Casa Blanca lilies that perfume my front steps:  it matters.  For this one Summer, it matters.  It matters in the morning when I go to work and it matters in the hot summer afternoon when I come home.

And so I believe that it’s worth engaging in the struggle and avoiding the siren call of unawareness.  I recommit to avoiding what Ivo Dominguez has called the enchantment of forgetfulness:  the notion that any of us are separate from each other.  I think this is what Rumi meant when he said:

“The breezes at dawn have secrets to tell you
Don’t go back to sleep!
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep!
People are going back and forth
across the doorsill where the two worlds touch,
The door is round and open
Don’t go back to sleep!”

As Rumi suggested:

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other” doesn’t make any sense.

I’m headed out for that field and back into the struggle.  Back into the “mundane” and “boring” tasks of registering voters, doing pro bono projects, dealing with imperfect humans, trying to save a world that — at almost every turn — resists saving.  Back to doing magic to bend the arc of the moral universe just a bit more towards justice.

I shan’t be gone long. You come, too.  This Life Matters.

Picture found here.

* It’s likely a sign of my own white privileged that I wrote and posted this entire piece without thinking of the connection to the Black Lives Matter movement.  So, in case it wasn’t completely clear, let me simply state:  Black Lives Matter.  They matter to me.  They matter to Paganism.  They matter to America.  Black Lives Matter.

Words for Wednesday

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The Whitsun Weddings

~PHILIP LARKIN

That Whitsun, I was late getting away:
    Not till about
One-twenty on the sunlit Saturday
Did my three-quarters-empty train pull out,
All windows down, all cushions hot, all sense
Of being in a hurry gone. We ran
Behind the backs of houses, crossed a street
Of blinding windscreens, smelt the fish-dock; thence
The river’s level drifting breadth began,
Where sky and Lincolnshire and water meet.
All afternoon, through the tall heat that slept
    For miles inland,
A slow and stopping curve southwards we kept.
Wide farms went by, short-shadowed cattle, and
Canals with floatings of industrial froth;
A hothouse flashed uniquely: hedges dipped
And rose: and now and then a smell of grass
Displaced the reek of buttoned carriage-cloth
Until the next town, new and nondescript,
Approached with acres of dismantled cars.
At first, I didn’t notice what a noise
    The weddings made
Each station that we stopped at: sun destroys
The interest of what’s happening in the shade,
And down the long cool platforms whoops and skirls
I took for porters larking with the mails,
And went on reading. Once we started, though,
We passed them, grinning and pomaded, girls
In parodies of fashion, heels and veils,
All posed irresolutely, watching us go,
As if out on the end of an event
    Waving goodbye
To something that survived it. Struck, I leant
More promptly out next time, more curiously,
And saw it all again in different terms:
The fathers with broad belts under their suits
And seamy foreheads; mothers loud and fat;
An uncle shouting smut; and then the perms,
The nylon gloves and jewellery-substitutes,
The lemons, mauves, and olive-ochres that
Marked off the girls unreally from the rest.
    Yes, from cafés
And banquet-halls up yards, and bunting-dressed
Coach-party annexes, the wedding-days
Were coming to an end. All down the line
Fresh couples climbed aboard: the rest stood round;
The last confetti and advice were thrown,
And, as we moved, each face seemed to define
Just what it saw departing: children frowned
At something dull; fathers had never known
Success so huge and wholly farcical;
    The women shared
The secret like a happy funeral;
While girls, gripping their handbags tighter, stared
At a religious wounding. Free at last,
And loaded with the sum of all they saw,
We hurried towards London, shuffling gouts of steam.
Now fields were building-plots, and poplars cast
Long shadows over major roads, and for
Some fifty minutes, that in time would seem
Just long enough to settle hats and say
I nearly died,
A dozen marriages got under way.
They watched the landscape, sitting side by side
—An Odeon went past, a cooling tower,
And someone running up to bowl—and none
Thought of the others they would never meet
Or how their lives would all contain this hour.
I thought of London spread out in the sun,
Its postal districts packed like squares of wheat:
There we were aimed. And as we raced across
    Bright knots of rail
Past standing Pullmans, walls of blackened moss
Came close, and it was nearly done, this frail
Travelling coincidence; and what it held
Stood ready to be loosed with all the power
That being changed can give. We slowed again,
And as the tightened brakes took hold, there swelled
A sense of falling, like an arrow-shower
Sent out of sight, somewhere becoming rain.
********
Picture found here.

The Witch’s Bedtable

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I’m walking home from work.  It’s a bit chill, early March in Seattle, that city blessed of so much rain that only a writer can really endure its winters without complaining, the sky so close to earth.  People talk of blue skies as if ‘blue’ means clear; sodden from the perpetual dripping of rain from the city’s cavernous ceiling, I knew deeply that grey is composed of every blue.

Trudging, actually, up the tree-flanked streets.  To climb those  hills without faltering, you must step as if on stairs.  Wearing boots helps, though not to keep out of puddles, only to tone the calves upon those ascents.  I guess you could maybe drive, but cars are for people who don’t like streets or trees and so must zoom past them quickly to get away from them.

It is nothing to sit on a stone bench in the rain in such a city, if you’ve been there long enough.  This was my intention, white benches describing part of the circle-shrine where I and others sometimes prayed.  It was to the Mother of God, and she seemed sometimes almost to intercede for us for other gods, though I think this was only my hope, not the truth.  I tried to walk to the shrine, and suddenly felt a hard push to stop me.

Your Face Is a Forest by Rhyd Wildermuth

Sowell contended that there had been an unchanging  subculture going back centuries.  Relying on Grady McWhiney’s Cracker Culture (1988), a flawed historical study that turned poor whites into Celtic ethnics (Scots-Irish), Sowell claimed that the bad traits of blacks (laziness, promiscuity, violence, bad English) were passed on from their backcountry white neighbors.

White Trash.  The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America.  by Nancy Isenberg

Picture found here.

 

Monday at the Movies

Richard Louv has a new book out and it’s definitely worth a read.

I love the point he makes in this video about how, given access to  nature (a land base) a child can “bring the confusion of the world to the woods, wash it in the creek [and] , turn it over to see what lives on the unseen side of that confusion.”  The Goddess knows, that’s what my creek did for me as a child.

May it be so for you.

Sunday Ballet Blogging

Pagans Should Know

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There are so many really interesting people writing now about Paganism, that it can be difficult to stay atop all of them.  And it can be even more difficult to do important reading outside of Paganism.  Yet, I’m sometimes struck by the writers who do not consider themselves Pagan whom many Pagans do not know, but should.

If you don’t know Wendell Berry, a consummate Christian who espouses entirely Pagan values, you should know him.  You should.  It will make you a better and more powerful Pagan.

I recently mentioned to a group of Pagans Wendell Berry’s poem, The Peace of Wild Things.  One of the participants looked it up overnight and the next morning told me how wonderful she’d found it.  Berry’s poetry is, indeed, completely Pagan and completely amazing.  In addition to The Peace of Wild Things, you owe it to your wild Pagan soul to read, at least, The Mad Farmers’ Liberation Front and, one of my most favorite poems, one of the most romantic poems I know, a poem about the Sacred Wedding:  The Country of Marriage.

But Berry’s essays and talks are also very worthwhile.  Pagan astrologer and farmer Diotima recently recommended to me Berry’s deep and wonderful essay, The Unsettling of America.  It’s not that long and you should read it.  It will make your magic much stronger.    As just one out of many brilliant examples, here’s Berry’s conclusion:

Sixty years ago, in another time of crisis, Thomas Hardy wrote these stanzas:

Only a man harrowing clods

In a slow silent walk

With an old horse that stumbles and nods

Half asleep as they stalk.

Only thin smoke without flame

From the heaps of couch-grass;

Yet this will go onward the same

Though Dynasties pass.

Today most of our people are so conditioned that they do not wish to harrow clods either with an old horse or with a new tractor. Yet Hardy’s vision has come to be more urgently true than ever. The great difference these sixty years have made is that, though we feel that this work must go onward, we are not so certain that it will. But the care of the earth is our most ancient and most worthy and, after all, our most pleasing responsibility. To cherish what remains of it, and to foster its renewal, is our only legitimate hope.

You can move on to Berry’s fiction which lays out a way of life in a fictional small farming town, Port William.  Wikipedia says:

The Port William fiction attempts to portray, on a local scale, what “a human economy … conducted with reverence”looked like in the past—and what civic, domestic, and personal virtues might be evoked by such an economy were it pursued today. Social as well as seasonal changes mark the passage of time.

I don’t always agree with Mr. Berry.  (You have to be a straight, white, man to imagine that there is a “personal” that is not “political.”)

But you should listen to him.

******

 

Picture found here.

Find 2016’s Gavrilo Princip! Divert him!

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When I was a young woman in law school — and it was many and many a year ago — we used to buy these flash cards to help up to prep for exams.  (I apologize; I’ve forgotten who published them.)  The thing about law school is that you spend all semester reading cases and going to classes where the professors ask questions about the cases.  But, the professors and case books are not trying to teach you what the law is; they’re trying to teach you how to think like a lawyer when you read cases or statutes.  However, when you get to the exam, you need to know both what the law is and how to think like a lawyer to apply the law.  So these flash cards had cute hypotheticals on one side and the answers on the other side, and they would teach you what the law was so that you could answer the exam questions.  And the hypotheticals had some funny elements, mostly to help you remember what you were learning.  So, for example, to learn property law, the hypos were always about BlackAcre and WhiteAcre.  And, often, in torts, or criminal law, or civil procedure, the questions involved Gavrilo Princip doing something tortious, criminal, or procedurally incorrect.

Gavrilo Princip, as I am sure we all remember from tenth grade history, was a young person almost comically unsuited to change history.  Yet, fired up by Serbian nationalism and possessed of a gun, he managed, on June 28, 1914, to assassinate the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Duchess Sophie of Austria, thereby starting World War I, putting out the lamps all over Europe, and ensuring that our grandparents would not see them lit again in their lifetime.  Some of us are still waiting.

Who was Gavrilo Princip and why did he  matter?

The assassination of Franz-Ferdinand and Sophie set off a rapid chain of events: Austria-Hungary, like many in countries around the world, blamed the Serbian government for the attack and hoped to use the incident as justification for settling the question of Slav nationalism once and for all. As Russia supported Serbia, an Austro-Hungarian declaration of war was delayed until its leaders received assurances from German leader Kaiser Wilhelm that Germany would support their cause in the event of a Russian intervention–which would likely involve Russia’s ally, France, and possibly Britain as well. On July 28, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, and the tenuous peace between Europe’s great powers collapsed. Within a week, Russia, Belgium, France, Great Britain and Serbia had lined up against Austria-Hungary and Germany, and World War I had begun.

So this is all quaint, ancient history.  This describes the civilized world (mostly, then, Western Europe in charge of Eastern Europe) a century ago.  What does it have to do with today?

But look at us today.  The EU is imploding.  The Islamic world is imploding.  And every western power, from Columbia in Orlando to Marianne in Nice, is under attack.  And one of the candidates for president in the US is a megalomaniac who hates foreigners.

But who’s attacking us?

The attackers are domestic abusers who are angry that their wives — their property!! — have abandoned/deserted/rebelled against them.  Angry young men who cannot  believe that their dominion has been stripped away.  The very people who support Donald Trump, who want to “Make America Great Again.”

And tonight it feels as if our entire world is just one Gavrlio Princip away from blowing up.  As if we’re all just one madman away from seeing the lights going out again.

You are Witches.  You have altars.  You have poppets and black thread — black thread  spun on bone spindles, made from nettles and spiderwebs, used to bind the limbs of Patriarchy’s candidates.  You are Witches.  Your scrying mirrors show you the Gavrilos of your own land base and how to divert them with shiny things, how to stop them, how to make them stay home and drink tea when they want to be standing on street corners killing Sophia (no mistake there).  You are Witches.  You understand how fewer births benefit the planet and you know, against all that Patriarchy has to throw at you, how to bed and seal the fertility of the land base.

The full Moon will be here within a few days.  You will have to answer to your grandmothers.  What will you say to them about the full buck moon in July of 2016?

Picture found here.