Landbase

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I’ve been thinking tonight about discernment, especially concerning the act of political magic.  More and more, I find that what’s mostly needed for this is a relationship with your landbase — with the Powers, and Spirits, and Beings of your land.  The land cares about politics because it cares about us, it cares about how our politics affect it.  If you are already in relationship with the land, the land will tell you what to do and how to do it.  It’s old and wise and has eyes and ears everywhere.

Do you have a relationship with the land?  How did it develop?  How do you maintain it?

Picture found here.

A Poem for Senator Sanders Concerning His Failure to Endorse

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Parable for a Certain Virgin

~ Dorothy Parker

Oh, ponder, friend, the porcupine;
Refresh your recollection,
And sit a moment, to define
His means of self-protection.

How truly fortified is he!
Where is the beast his double
In forethought of emergency
And readiness for trouble?

Recall his figure, and his shade-
How deftly planned and clearly
For slithering through the dappled glade
Unseen, or pretty nearly.

Yet should an alien eye discern
His presence in the woodland,
How little has he left to learn
Of self-defense! My good land!

For he can run, as swift as sound,
To where his goose may hang high-
Or thrust his head against the ground
And tunnel half to Shanghai;

Or he can climb the dizziest bough-
Unhesitant, mechanic-
And, resting, dash from off his brow
The bitter beads of panic;

Or should pursuers press him hot,
One scarcely needs to mention
His quick and cruel barbs, that got
Shakespearean attention;

Or driven to his final ditch,
To his extremest thicket,
He’ll fight with claws and molars (which
Is not considered cricket).

How amply armored, he, to fend
The fear of chase that haunts him!
How well prepared our little friend!-
And who the devil wants him?

Monday at the Movies

This summer escape series (“White” is for the white rose of the House of York), loosely based on the War of the Roses, is on Amazon and I’m enjoying it.  It incorporates a bit of the Old Religion rather undramatically into the story line.  The queen and her mother are descended from the river Goddess Melusina and they use magic when and as needed.  There’s a lovely scene mid-way through the series where the queen begins to blow on a bowl of water to stir up a wind.  Her mother joins her and then, softly, the princess sitting on her grandmother’s knee.  It’s the way we all would have liked to have learned magic, I think.

Sunday Ballet Blogging

What Jayshree Recorded

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So, what happened was, it just stopped raining.  Or, to be more precise, the monsoons just stopped coming.

Uncle Vihaan, who spent all day pacing, sipping tea, and working on his solar-powered computer on the veranda, said this had happened many times before, but Daadee said that, this time, it was worse.  This was lasting longer and was having much less water than ever before.  Regardless, right now, there was no water for the bitter gourds, the cucumbers, the cow peas.  No water for the limes, the pomegranates, the papayas, the mangoes.  Amma went to the garden every morning and came back later in tears.  No water meant no crops and it meant that any food that anyone ate had to be transported in from far away, costing very much more than anyone, especially farmers with no crops to sell, could afford.

What Jayshree noticed first was that the old people were dying.  Of course, old people die.  They’re old.  That’s what they do.  But when there’s not enough food, the old women eat last.  And the old men, well, men always die first, and the old men couldn’t stand the dry heat, the lack of water, the barely-boiled food that everyone ate when the monsoons didn’t come.  And so, soon, the village had no old people who remembered the old ways, who’d lived through drought, who had time to light ghee at the ancestral altar.

What Jayshree noticed next was that the babies were dying.  Their mothers couldn’t get enough water and food to nurse them.  They were born too early because their mothers ate after everyone else and there wasn’t enough food left over.  The dry river bed meant that the nurses from New Dehli couldn’t get to the village to give the shots and dispense the vitamins.  And so, the village had no babies to delight the old people, keep their sisters and brothers busy watching them, give their parents hope.  And no old people to light ghee at the altars.

What Jayshree noticed last was that the women were disappearing.  For decades, without discussion and while everyone pretended not to notice, India and China had produced generations of mostly boys.  Those mostly-boys grew up to meet no-women.  No-women to  inspire.  No-women to court.  No-women to marry.  China had always planned to use the surplus men in a war, but no one else was interested in war and that was hard for China.  India began to sell its surplus women off, brides to men in rainy places such as Russia, West Virginia, northern China.  And no old people to light ghee at the altars.

What Jayshree did, from the time when she was a young girl who had never known her menses, until she was an old woman who had stopped bleeding on the dark moons, was to  record the rain every week on her iPad.  It just seemed to Jayshree as if it mattered.  And if there were no old people to light ghee at the altars, well, Jayshree would make her record anyway.

Uncle Vihaan charged her iPad every week on his solar panel and she parsed out her time on the internet to make sure that she could record her observations, imagining herself an 18th Century Natural Scientist, while she picked her way across the cracked earth, between the non-existent fields.  Even if only a few drops fell, Jayshree recorded it.  And, when no rain fell, Jayshree recorded that, too.  She grew ancient, caring for her Uncle Vihaan and her Daadee, long after her parents had died and her siblings had moved away, the girls to China and the boys to the mountains of the Eastern United States, medical degrees in hand.  Jayshree collected even the tiniest bits of water, often in a pit-style solar still, and often while eating only a handful of desert insects.   Once, her sister-in-law, Parvati, visited from West Virginia, where the floods climbed yearly up the ancient mountains, and Parvati brought Jayshree tea, and rice, and dried peaches, and lavender soap, and sliced ginger, and a radio, and 4 yards of silk, and pyrethreum, which kept the mosquitoes from giving Zika to pregnant women.

In the end, Jayshree died old and alone.  Her uncle and her grandfather had been dead for years and years.  She had eked out her existence alone on a river plain cracked and dried by too many people and not enough planet.  But her last act was to record, save, and send her records — the records of a lifetime — of moisture on the plains of India.

When Sushi, Mycelium Magistra of the Twenty-Third Century, came across Jayshree’s records, she sankdown onto silk-covered orange and pink cushions, sipped a tisane from her small gold-glued, pottery cup, and settled in for a long read.  Sushi knew that information was power.  And someone needed to explain how the Indian sub-continent had become desert.

Picture found here

Bernie Who?

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Magic workers know this:  events have tides.  They have an ebb and flow — and magic works best when you learn to ride the waves, harness the momentum, marry your magic to the movement of the mystery.

Some of this is mechanical:  plant above-ground crops when the Moon waxes, below-ground crops while it wanes.  Emotions rule when the Moon is in watery Pisces; people may act hastily when it is in fiery Aires.  Don’t expect action when the Tarot card comes up  Four of Swords.

But some of it is intuition, experience, a feel for the winds.

Skilled negotiators know the same thing that Witches know.  There is a time to apply pressure, a time to stand firm, a time to negotiate, and a time when it’s too late.

For Senator Sanders, it’s now too late.  His ego blinded him to the moment when he could have done something, could have won some concession from Secretary Clinton.  Now, he’s stubbornly refused to endorse her and the numbers show she can win without his endorsement — and without those few of his supporters who won’t vote for her now but would have voted for her with his endorsement.  He has no leverage left.

The group of his supporters who only would have voted for her if he’d endorsed is a small crowd.  The polls show that most of his supporters will, with or without his endorsement, vote for her in order to defeat Donald Trump.  There’s a group of Sanders supporters who never would have voted for Secretary Clinton; they’ll stay home, or will vote for Dr. Jill Stein, or for the Libertarian, or for Donald Trump.  So that leaves a very small group who would vote for her, but only with his endorsement.  And, if they live in safely blue states, she doesn’t need their vote.  If they live in safely red states, their votes won’t do her any good.  That makes the relevant group even smaller.  Too small to matter.  And after New Jersey, that group is pretty much all the bargaining power he has left.

More and more, he looks like nothing so much as a bitter old man, desperately trying to stay relevant.

Too bad he didn’t ask a Witch.

Picture found here.

Words for Wednesday

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And, so, here we are, just a few hours into the slowly shrinking light, and, yet, here in the Magical MidAtlantic, it still feels — and will for another 90 days or so — like High Summer.  And, so, here’s another of my favorite Summer poems, followed by the poem of which it always reminds me.

The Chance To Love Everything

~ Mary Oliver

All summer I made friends

with the creatures nearby —
they flowed through the fields
and under the tent walls,
or padded through the door,
grinning through their many teeth,
looking for seeds,
suet, sugar; muttering and humming,
opening the breadbox, happiest when
there was milk and music. But once
in the night I heard a sound
outside the door, the canvas
bulged slightly —something
was pressing inward at eye level.
I watched, trembling, sure I had heard
the click of claws, the smack of lips
outside my gauzy house —
I imagined the red eyes,
the broad tongue, the enormous lap.
Would it be friendly too?
Fear defeated me. And yet,
not in faith and not in madness
but with the courage I thought
my dream deserved,
I stepped outside. It was gone.
Then I whirled at the sound of some
shambling tonnage.
Did I see a black haunch slipping
back through the trees? Did I see
the moonlight shining on it?
Did I actually reach out my arms
toward it, toward paradise falling, like
the fading of the dearest, wildest hope —
the dark heart of the story that is all
the reason for its telling?

***

I have always loved the lines:

not in faith and not in madness 
but with the courage I thought
my dream deserved,
I stepped outside.

Sometimes when I have been terrified, when, as Wendell Berry says:

despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be

***

those lines have spurred me on to be brave enough, to honor the “courage” that I hoped “my dreams deserved,” and to get me to “step outside.”  I have seldom been sorry.

But reaching out for the chance to love everything is not without its costs and Ms. Oliver’s wonderful poem always reminds me of Mr. Hieron’s:

 

Sometimes a Wild God

Sometimes a wild god comes to the table.
He is awkward and does not know the ways
Of porcelain, of fork and mustard and silver.
His voice makes vinegar from wine.When the wild god arrives at the door,
You will probably fear him.
He reminds you of something dark
That you might have dreamt,
Or the secret you do not wish to be shared.He will not ring the doorbell;
Instead he scrapes with his fingers
Leaving blood on the paintwork,
Though primroses grow
In circles round his feet.

You do not want to let him in.
You are very busy.
It is late, or early, and besides…
You cannot look at him straight
Because he makes you want to cry.

The dog barks.
The wild god smiles,
Holds out his hand.
The dog licks his wounds
And leads him inside.

The wild god stands in your kitchen.
Ivy is taking over your sideboard;
Mistletoe has moved into the lampshades
And wrens have begun to sing
An old song in the mouth of your kettle.

‘I haven’t much,’ you say
And give him the worst of your food.
He sits at the table, bleeding.
He coughs up foxes.
There are otters in his eyes.

When your wife calls down,
You close the door and
Tell her it’s fine.
You will not let her see
The strange guest at your table.

The wild god asks for whiskey
And you pour a glass for him,
Then a glass for yourself.
Three snakes are beginning to nest
In your voicebox. You cough.

Oh, limitless space.
Oh, eternal mystery.
Oh, endless cycles of death and birth.
Oh, miracle of life.
Oh, the wondrous dance of it all.

You cough again,
Expectorate the snakes and
Water down the whiskey,
Wondering how you got so old
And where your passion went.

The wild god reaches into a bag
Made of moles and nightingale-skin.
He pulls out a two-reeded pipe,
Raises an eyebrow
And all the birds begin to sing.

The fox leaps into your eyes.
Otters rush from the darkness.
The snakes pour through your body.
Your dog howls and upstairs
Your wife both exults and weeps at once.

The wild god dances with your dog.
You dance with the sparrows.
A white stag pulls up a stool
And bellows hymns to enchantments.
A pelican leaps from chair to chair.

In the distance, warriors pour from their tombs.
Ancient gold grows like grass in the fields.
Everyone dreams the words to long-forgotten songs.
The hills echo and the grey stones ring
With laughter and madness and pain.

In the middle of the dance,
The house takes off from the ground.
Clouds climb through the windows;
Lightning pounds its fists on the table.
The moon leans in through the window.

The wild god points to your side.
You are bleeding heavily.
You have been bleeding for a long time,
Possibly since you were born.
There is a bear in the wound.

‘Why did you leave me to die?’
Asks the wild god and you say:
‘I was busy surviving.
The shops were all closed;
I didn’t know how. I’m sorry.’

Listen to them:

The fox in your neck and
The snakes in your arms and
The wren and the sparrow and the deer…
The great un-nameable beasts
In your liver and your kidneys and your heart…

There is a symphony of howling.
A cacophony of dissent.
The wild god nods his head and
You wake on the floor holding a knife,
A bottle and a handful of black fur.

Your dog is asleep on the table.
Your wife is stirring, far above.
Your cheeks are wet with tears;
Your mouth aches from laughter or shouting.
A black bear is sitting by the fire.

Sometimes a wild god comes to the table.
He is awkward and does not know the ways
Of porcelain, of fork and mustard and silver.
His voice makes vinegar from wine
And brings the dead to life.

************

 

 

Picture (of a Virginia black bear) found here.