I went to sit this afternoon near one of my favorite spots along the beautiful Potomac River, the river that both flows through and brings flow to Washington, D.C. I go to this spot often and was looking forward to going there today, to allowing peace to seep through me while I was seeing the bleached-bone bodies of the beech trees and the grey waters of the wintry river.
I could only stay for a few minutes and those by force of will. The magic of the place was so loud, the message so demanding, the feeling so strong: Change!
Change is coming to my beautiful city on a swamp.
The only way that I can describe the feeling is to say that the land was flowing much faster than the water, that everything is moving, moving, moving quickly along.
[H]appiness is contagious -- and . . . people pass on their good cheer even to total strangers.
. . . "Whether you're happy depends not just on your own actions and behaviors and thoughts, but on those of people you don't even know."
I was thinking about how much it amuses me to have confirmed by science what mystics and witches have always known: we are one. It's all just god pouring god into god. That fact explains what's been fundamentally mistaken with so much of what what's been going on in America since the days of Ronald Reagan: the odd notion that I can be happy while others are suffering and homeless, the Gordon Gecko, "greed is good," I've got mine, if I'm off in my McMansion or my Esclade I'll be happy no matter what's going on in your life ethos. And, yet, surprisingly, the people in the McMansion with the steam shower and the granite counters and the wine cellar are often -- unhappy. And we wonder why that is, how that could possibly be.
If happiness is "contagious" what do you think misery is? Only connect.
Then this morning I was listening to this podcast by Thorn Coyle and Medusa. It concerns the very human need to grieve when we are confronted with death. The whole podcast is worth listening to, but beginning at about 49:25, Medusa explains an image that she received during the Loma Prieta earthquake, of the Dead being able to use the tears of the grievers as the River Styx upon which their souls must travel. She says it's difficult for us to "hold the grief of a large number of people passing. . . . It does affect all of us. It is a disturbance in the force, Luke, when a lot of people pass at the same time and it is hard for them to be grieved because there are so many of them . . . . It's important that we hold that and we try and help in that process and I don't know exactly what that looks like, but I'm aware of it." Medusa and Thorn describe how grief can crack us open and give us compassion for the whole world.
And I thought immediately of Quan Yin, the Bodhisattva/Goddess who "hears" the cries of the world. (One of the Goddesses who has visited my dreams, Quan Yin came to me as an incredibly hip older woman with a younger lover/adept when my beautiful DiL was carrying G/Son. Quan Yin, in her house built like an indoor garden, assured me that a child of compassion would be born and then I pulled the tarot card that told me he'd come a bit earlier than the doctors predicted. The universe often laughs both at and with me. I return the favor.) Com-passion -- feeling the passions of others in common with them -- doesn't necessarily mean that we "fix" another's problems. It means that we acknowledge that we have a connection with everyone else, with those who are grieving, and with those, even those now "gone," who need to be grieved. It's so important to hear, to listen, to acknowledge the tears of the whole, entire world. (It's overwhelming work, but it's important work.) I cannot be separate from you. You are not separate from me, not even in your grief. Your happiness will ribbon into my life and light it up and your grief will affect me and season the flavor of my days.
A witch's job is to help to turn the wheel. Each of us finds our own way of putting our shoulder to the wheel. Certainly, not everyone is called to the work of Quan Yin, the work that Medusa has not yet envisioned, but is aware needs doing, the grieving for strangers who pass in numbers so large that they do, in fact, cause a disturbance in the force. And yet, it is work that needs to be done.
As our planet goes through Her death throes, that work is going to need doing with increasing strength and increasing frequency. And someone must grieve for the plants, the species, the planet Her Ownself. Where will we find the professional mourners that Thorn discusses? What would their training look like? How will these doulas of the second birth sustain themselves? How must we all change our practices at Sahmein and the Winter Solstice to do this work?
Tonight, I am v happy. And that, in itself, it turns out according to science, is important work.
It's all real. It's all metaphor. There's always more.
And then there's the grounding that you really (really!) should do before working any serious magic, whether alone or with a group. For me, this is where "big" magic begins. (There's "big" magic: I need a new job, the country needs a new president, my really sick friend needs strength, the river needs healing. And then there's the equally-important, but more frequent, magic you do on the spot w/o much oppt'y to prepare: Don't let me hit that squirrel! This e-mail will be effective. This orgasm will strengthen my rosemary. The judge will be open to my arguments. I'm casting a bit of glamour as I walk into this room.) Rule of thumb: if you made up a rhyme for it, mixed herbs for it, lit a candle for it, danced and drummed for it, did it with a reasonably large group of other people, performed the great rite for it, it was big magic.
I spend a bit more time on this big magic grounding than I do for my morning grounding or my throughout-the-day grounding.
I relax my whole body, that place near my right jaw where I almost always tense, my scalp, the soles of my feet, my belly, my sex, my earlobes. I run my roots down deep into the Earth with attention to the specific location. Gravel? Water? Leaf mold? Clay? (I've almost gotten good at grounding in clay.) Animal bones? Acorn debris? (Not for the next few years. Virginia's oak this year were bereft of acorns. No one knows why.)
I work with a group of women and, by now, I know how their roots feel, whether they're still too tense to have truly grounded or whether their roots are strong, deep, entwined with mine. This only comes, IMHO, from long and regular practice together. Who's still so tense that her monkey mind is keeping her from grounding? What will call her back to the task at hand? Who's the most relaxed tonight, the most aware, the most intense? How can I encourage other roots to entwine with hers?
It can take time to know when you're grounded enough to work magic and the stronger the magic, the more thoroughly you need to ground. If you feel weak after the magic, headachy, seriously in need of carbohydrates, too spacey, out of touch, wrapped in cotton, disoriented -- you didn't ground deeply enough, If you do effective magic and feel tired but good, you were grounded.
There are really (at least) two kinds of grounding. There's the grounding that you do every day as a part of your spiritual practice. This is to prepare you for the rest of your spiritual practice, to bring you into touch with Earth, one of the Five Sacred Things, to help you to face your day.
And then there's the grounding that, if your days are like mine, you do a number of times throughout the day in order to help you to cope. Walk out to the car across frosty grass, down a bit of a slope. Worry about slipping on frosty leaves in work shoes. Ground, Drive to work over big bridge, in rush-hour traffic. Ground. Walk into office and confront blinking voice mail light. Ground. Prioritize. Ground. Meet colleagues for lunch at Italian place. Ground. Get call from opposing counsel. Ground. Head home at twilight. Ground. Read tarot for a bunch of strange people. Ground.
Maybe there are things that each of us, dead, might prefer to hear said about us. I don't know what they would be.
I stand here today: a priestess, a Pagan, a woman who loves men, women, and transpeople, a twin-spirit, a nerd, a bibliophile, a polyphile, a dancer, a poet, an activist, someone who feels weak and someone who feels strong... Harvey, my closet doors are so wide open, they are yawning, sometimes. People like you have helped me in my quest for honesty and I'm glad to count you among my ancestors of spirit. We chanted your name during the candlelight AIDS marches in the '80s. We have named LGBT centers after you. You and George were ever in our minds. The party continues, as does the work against hate.
Thorn has more, here about the movie Milk, which is getting excellent reviews.
All acts of love and pleasure are rituals of the Goddess.
(Of course, Milk asserted that all "men" are created equal. Fuck that shit.)
Ladies! Listen up! Detecting breast cancer early is the key to surviving it! Breast Self Exams (BSEs) can help you to detect breast cancer in its earlier stages. So, on the first of every month, give yourself a breast self-exam. It's easy to do. Here's how. If you prefer to do your BSE at a particular time in your cycle, calendar it now. But, don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
And, once a year, get yourself a mammogram. Mammograms cost between $150 and $300. If you have to take a temp job one weekend a year, if you have to sell something on e-Bay, if you have to go cash in all the change in various jars all over the house, if you have to work the holiday season wrapping gifts at Macy's, for the love of the Goddess, please go get a mammogram once a year.
Or: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention pays all or some of the cost of breast cancer screening services through its National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program. This program provides mammograms and breast exams by a health professional to low-income, underinsured, and underserved women in all 50 states, six U.S. territories, the District of Columbia, and 14 American Indian/Alaska Native organizations. For more information, contact your state health department or call the Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER.
Send me an email after you get your mammogram and I will do an annual free tarot reading for you. Just, please, examine your own breasts once a month and get your sweet, round ass to a mammogram once a year.
Oh the nighttime beating of the soul’s wings: Herders of sheep once, we walked along the forests that were growing dark, And the red deer, the green ﬂower and the speaking river followed us In humility. Oh the old old note of the cricket, Blood blooming on the altarstone, And the cry of the lonely bird over the green silence of the pool.
And you Crusades, and glowing punishment Of the ﬂesh, purple fruits that fell to earth In the garden at dusk, where young and holy men walked, Enlisted men of war now, waking up out of wounds and dreams about stars. Oh the soft cornﬂowers of the night.
And you long ages of tranquillity and golden harvests, When as peaceful monks we pressed out the purple grapes; And around us the hill and forest shone strangely. The hunts for wild beasts, the castles, and at night, the rest, When man in his room sat thinking justice, And in noiseless prayer fought for the living head of God.
And this bitter hour of defeat, When we behold a stony face in the black waters. But radiating light, the lovers lift their silver eyelids: They are one body. Incense streams from rose- colored pillows And the sweet song of those risen from the dead.
I'm a woman, a Witch, a mother, a grandmother, an eco-feminist, a gardener, a reader, a writer, and a priestess of the Great Mother Earth. Hecate appears in the
Homeric Ode to Demeter, which tells of Hades who caught Persophone
"up reluctant on his golden car and bare her away lamenting. . . . But no one, either of the deathless gods or of mortal men, heard her voice, nor yet the olive-trees bearing rich fruit: only tenderhearted Hecate, bright-coiffed, the daughter of Persaeus, heard the girl from her cave . . . ."