Tag Archives: Pagan

No Religion for Cowards

I was going to post something else this evening, but if you haven’t already read it, you should (trigger warning) go read the Wild Hunt’s post about a young woman who was, just a few months ago, tortured, raped, and murdered for being Pagan, for worshiping the old Goddesses and Gods, and for, of course, being a woman.

You can make a donation in her name to Doctors Without Borders.

Never again, the Burning Times.

Are You the Witch of Your Place?

The Witch of This Place

The Witch of This Place

If you are not the Witch of your place, who will be? Who is better suited to that job than you are?

If you are not the Witch of your place, of which place are you the Witch? What place are you waiting for? How long do you expect to wait?

If you do not arise each dawn and greet the powers, and spirits, and beings of your place, who will greet them? And how long can you stand for them to go unmet? How long do you expect to wait before you live in a place where you cannot imagine rising in the morning and not greeting the powers, and spirits, and beings of that place?

If you are not in relationship with your landbase, why not? What would it take to begin that relationship?

Picture found here.


Had a lovely chat today w/ a dear friend and one of the points I was making was that “discernment” is too seldom practiced in the Pagan community. Christians often talk about discernment, by which they mean that they spend time in prayerful contemplation in order to “discern” their god’s will for them in a given situation. As Pagans, we’re less likely to believe that our Goddesses/Gods have some specific plan for our lives and are more likely to invest ourselves with greater agency. But that doesn’t mean that we, too, don’t need discernment.

Watching (from a distance) a recent dust-up in the local Pagan community, I’ve been struck by the complete lack of discernment exercised by way too many participants, including some Big Name Pagans from way out of town who inserted themselves into the issue over, and over, and over again. This is only the most recent in a series of events where various Pagans have had issues with some group and have chosen to deal with the issues/group in the most public, confrontational manner possible. Sometimes, that’s necessary. Sometimes, that’s a good thing.

But just because you have an opinion doesn’t mean that you need to express it. Just because you have an opinion doesn’t mean that you need to express it RIGHT NOW. Just because you have an opinion doesn’t mean that you need to show up on every single Facebook page, blog, and other form of social media and express your opinion OVER AND OVER again.

I’d love to see Pagan groups make the practice of discernment a regular part of their spiritual disciplines. Meditation, trance, divination, listening to you landbase, and talking to a friend in person are all good ways to get in touch with the Universe, your Goddesses/Gods, your Higher Self and determine whether you need to jump in or to exercise the better part of valor.

How do you practice discernment? What has it helped you to do or to not do? Do you regret following it?

Picture found here.

Tuesday Night Poetry Blogging

Catechism for a Witch’s Child

~ J.L. Stanley

When they ask to see your gods
your book of prayers
show them lines
drawn delicately with veins
on the underside of a bird’s wing
tell them you believe
in giant sycamores mottled
and stark against a winter sky
and in nights so frozen
stars crack open spilling
streams of molten ice to earth
and tell them how you drink
a holy wine of honeysuckle
on a warm spring day
and of the softness
of your mother who never taught you
death was life’s reward
but who believed in the earth
and the sun
and a million, million light years
of being.

Picture found here.

hat tip: Hanging Garden.

Digging* Ditches

Here’s a wonderful article about how children develop an attachment to nature and a sense of place. The entire thing is very well worth a read.

Most environmentalists attributed their commitment to a combination of two sources, “many hours spent outdoors in a keenly remembered wild or semi-wild place in childhood or adolescence, and an adult who taught respect for nature.” Lots of time rambling in neighborhood woods and fields and a parent or teacher who cared about nature were frequently cited as causal forces in the development of their own environmental ethics. In his autobiography about growing up in Denver, lepidopterist Robert Michael Pyle describes the urban semi-wild place the inspired him.

“My own point of intimate contact with the land was a ditch. Growing up on the wrong side of Denver to reach the mountains easily and often, I resorted to the tattered edges of the Great Plains, on the back side of town. There I encountered a century-old irrigation channel known as the High Line Canal. Without a doubt, most of the elements of my life flowed from that canal.

From the time I was six, this weedy watercourse had been my sanctuary, playground and sulking walk. It was also my imaginary wilderness, escape hatch, and birthplace as a naturalist. Later, the canal served as lover’s lane, research site and holy ground of solace. Over the years, I studied its natural history, explored much of its length, watched its habitats shrink as the suburbs grew up around it, and tried to help save some of its best bits…Even when living in national parks, in exotic lands, in truly rural country side, I’ve hankered to get back to the old ditch whenever I could …

Even if they don’t know “my ditch,” most people I speak with seem to have a ditch somewhere—or a creek, meadow, wood lot or marsh—that they hold in similar regard. These are places of initiation, where the borders between ourselves and other creatures break down, where the earth gets under our nails and a sense of place gets under our skin…. It is through close and intimate contact with a particular patch of ground that we learn to respond to the earth, to see that it really matters… Everyone has a ditch, or ought to. For only the ditches—and the fields, the woods, the ravines—can teach us to care enough for the land.” (Pyle, 1993)

Did you have a ditch? I had a small creek that ran through an undeveloped area about a half a mile or so from our house. On weekends, after I finished my chores, I would walk down to the creek. It was, yes, a place for an INTJ to be alone, as I was almost never alone in my crowded home, but it was also where I developed a special relationship with nature and the first “place” with which I developed a strong relationship.

[A]nthropologist Edith Cobb reviewed the autobiographies of 300 European geniuses and found that many of them described similar kinds of experiences in childhood.

“My position is based upon the fact that the study of the child in nature, culture and society reveals that there is a special period, the little understood, pre pubertal, halcyon, middle age of childhood, approximately from five or six to eleven or twelve, between the strivings of animal infancy and the storms of adolescence—when the natural world is experienced in some highly evocative way, producing in the child a sense of some profound continuity with natural processes. . . .”

It is principally to this middle-age range in their early life that these writers say they return in memory in order to renew the power and impulse to create at its very source, a source which they describe as the experience of emerging not only into the light of consciousness but into a living sense of a dynamic relationship with the outer world. In these memories the child appears to experience a sense of discontinuity, an awareness of his own unique separateness and identity, and also a continuity, a renewal of relationship with nature as process.

As the linked article goes on to explain, such experiences aren’t limited to geniuses. Many children between the ages of 7 and 14 experience a relationship with the natural world — often with stones, trees, rivers, sunlight, etc. While children, many lack the vocabulary to describe what they experience and, to be honest, many adults struggle with this, as well.

One 40-year-old woman described her experience this way:

“When I was about eleven years old, I spent part of a summer holiday in the Wye Valley. Waking up very early one bring morning, before any of the household was about, I left my bed and went to kneel on the window-seat, to look out over the curve which the river took just below the house…The morning sunlight shimmered on the leaves of the trees and on the rippling surface of the river. The scene was very beautiful, and quite suddenly I felt myself on the verge of a great revelation. It was if I had stumbled unwittingly on a place where I was not expected, and was about to be initiated into some wonderful mystery, something of indescribable significance. Then, just as suddenly, the feeling faded. But for the brief seconds while it lasted, I had known that in some strange way I, the essential ‘me’, was a part of the trees, of the sunshine, and the river, that we all belonged to some great unity. I was left filled with exhilaration and exultation of spirit. This is one of the most memorable experiences of my life, of a quite different quality and greater intensity than the sudden lift of the spirit one may often feel when confronted with beauty in Nature.”

I’d be fascinated to see a study that compared how many Pagans had such experiences as children with members of other religions. I can’t help but think that, for many of us, the discovery of Paganism provided a language to describe what we knew to be true and a validation of experiences that, especially as they often go undiscussed or are even actively discouraged, we didn’t even know other people had.

*To dig: Understand, enjoy, really get into. It’s true, I’m old and no longer hip. But I’m happy to be in that company with Langston Hughes who wrote, “My motto, as I live and learn, is: Dig and Be Dug In Return.” I like to think that the creek dug that odd little girl as much as she dug the creek.

Picture found here.

A Ceremony for the Worms

Then the night came, like a ceremony.

~Christine Kane in “Now That You Know”

And, tonight, I sat at my altar for a ceremony of gratitude to the worms.

I came home from work in the lovely, lengthening light and planted the last of the Black Cat petunias, and datura wrightii, black hollyhock, and white foxglove seeds. More rain is promised for this evening and tomorrow, so I wanted to finish up the planting. Like the Spring, I’m early this year, although my goal is always to get everything in by Beltane. It feels good, for once, to be done ahead of schedule.

I sit down on the ground and dig the holes for my seedlings and seeds with a small hand trowel. I like that system because it brings me close to the ground and I can see exactly what’s going on. How much has the mulch from the last few seasons broken down and turned into good dirt on top of the red Virginia clay? How wet or dry is the soil? Does it smell like good loam? And, maybe most important, how are the worms? Worms do so much to make soil healthy and their presence is generally a good sign for gardeners. I’ve never seen as many as I’ve seen this year.

I’m grateful for their presence here on my Bit of Earth and I want them to know how welcome they are. I also know that I kill some when I dig into the ground with my sharp trowel. And I want them to know that I’m sorry. (Indeed, I’m sorrier than Dorothy Parker who wrote: “It costs me never a stab nor squirm to tread by chance upon a worm. ‘Aha, my little dear!’ I say, ‘Your kind will pay me back, one day.'”)

And so once my planting is done, I hold a ceremony of gratitude for the worms, sitting at my altar and sending my roots deep into their kingdom and telling them how much I appreciate them, how welcome they are here, how grateful I am for what they do. You can laugh, but my worms and I have a good, well, not talk, but a good communication. I apologize for the harm that I do to them and, in recompense, I rise and go outside to spread coffee grounds (Starbucks will give you pounds for free if you ask) all around the garden beds. Landscape Guy first told me how much worms like coffee grounds and he was right. They do. And so do the plants. I go back inside and sit again at my altar and say to the worms and all of the powers, and spirits, and beings of this place: “May we live in right relation to each other.”

And then I put lavender, rosemary, and peppermint in the hottest bath water I can run and soak my old muscles. The worms are limber and flexible. This old woman is not.

May you and your worms celebrate each other.

Picture found here.

Turn the World Around: Do You Know Who You Are?

“The way to mend the bad world is to create the right world.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

My brilliant friend, Elizabeth, has a great post about changing the world. While that may seem like an overwhelming topic, Elizabeth quickly puts it into terms that make sense.

I’ve long believed that when the same thing keeps popping up for you over and over, you should probably start paying attention, since clearly the universe is tapping you on the shoulder.

What’s been tapping me on the shoulder lately?

Diversity and inclusion.

After citing some of the recent taps on her shoulder, she says:

So that’s what I’m going to do: do what’s in my power to shine a spotlight on diversity and inclusion and where we fail and how we can pick ourselves back up and try again.

And I know that she will — on her blog, at her job, via the conference presentations that she does, throughout all of the various forms of social media that she uses to speak truth to power.

Elizabeth and I have been chatting lately about the dynamic between what I’ll call “inner” (spiritual practices, exploring your own shadow issues, developing all aspects of your Self, etc.) and “outer” (pro bono law work, volunteering to clean up the Anacostia River, working to elect good people to office, etc.) work. Sometimes, I think that we Pagans, in particular, can get too wrapped up in inner work. And, of course, it’s true that when you change yourself, you change the world. A Witch who becomes aware of her own shadow issues and works to liberate the energy bound up in shadows for productive use, moving away from the need to project, is going to change her world. But there’s no end to spiritual work — at least not if we take it seriously. And the notion that you can ignore outer work until you’ve reached some point of spiritual perfection isn’t practical. As Adrienne Rich said:

No one ever told us we had to study our lives,
make of our lives a study, as if learning natural history
or music, that we should begin
with the simple exercises first
and slowly go on trying
the hard ones, practicing till strength
and accuracy became one with the daring
to leap into transcendence, take the chance
of breaking down the wild arpeggio
or faulting the full sentence of the fugue.
–And in fact we can’t live like that: we take on
everything at once before we’ve even begun
to read or mark time, we’re forced to begin
in the midst of the hard movement,
the one already sounding as we are born.

IMHO, it’s the interplay — between doing serious inner work, going out into the world to try and change it, coming back and examining all of that at our altars, going back out into the world and trying again, coming back and applying what we’ve learned to our work on our selves, and on and on — that both helps us to continue to grow spiritually and helps to make the world a better place. And to Pagans, wise to the ways in which non-duality matters, that shouldn’t be a surprise. What we learn in the work of changing the world gives energy and impetus to our inner work and our inner work makes us more effective at changing the world. As Mr. Belafonte sings, “We are of the Spirit, only can the Spirit turn the world around.” And (as above, so below) outer work can grow the Spirit.

What’s tapped me on my shoulder for many years is the need that the land has for people who are in relationship with it. And the need that people have to be in relationship with their watershed, landbase, foodshed. And I’m going to keep working on that, in ways both magical and “mundane,” in my own garden, where I pursue my own deeper and deeper relationship with my own Bit of Earth, and in the world at large.

What’s leaving fingermarks on your shoulder?