As a child, they could not keep me from wells And old pumps with buckets and windlasses. I loved the dark drop, the trapped sky, the smells Of waterweed, fungus and dank moss. One, in a brickyard, with a rotted board top. I savoured the rich crash when a bucket Plummeted down at the end of a rope. So deep you saw no reflection in it. A shallow one under a dry stone ditch Fructified like any aquarium. When you dragged out long roots from the soft mulch A white face hovered over the bottom. Others had echoes, gave back your own call With a clean new music in it. And one Was scaresome, for there, out of ferns and tall Foxgloves, a rat slapped across my reflection. Now, to pry into roots, to finger slime, To stare, big-eyed Narcissus, into some spring Is beneath all adult dignity. I rhyme To see myself, to set the darkness echoing.
There are already a number of quite amazing posts in response to my suggestion that we make September "Blog About Raising Power" Month. If I've missed yours, please let me know and I'll try once a week or so to collect them and link to them.
I woke up this morning, for some reason, thinking of Seamus Heaney's poetry. I don't know why I've never read it before, but I found and read his lecture upon the occasion of being awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature: for works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past. The lecture, entitled Crediting Poetry is too long to post in its entirety on a blog, but well, well, well worth reading in its entirety. Or, even better, you can click on the link and listen to Heaney read it outloud and still be through in less than an hour.
Heaney says: I credit [poetry] ultimately because poetry can make an order as true to the impact of external reality and as sensitive to the inner laws of the poet's being as the ripples that rippled in and rippled out across the water in that scullery bucket fifty years ago. An order where we can at last grow up to that which we stored up as we grew. An order which satisfies all that is appetitive in the intelligence and prehensile in the affections. I credit poetry, in other words, both for being itself and for being a help, for making possible a fluid and restorative relationship between the mind's centre and its circumference, between the child gazing at the word "Stockholm" on the face of the radio dial and the man facing the faces that he meets in Stockholm at this most privileged moment. I credit it because credit is due to it, in our time and in all time, for its truth to life, in every sense of that phrase. * To begin with, I wanted that truth to life to possess a concrete reliability, and rejoiced most when the poem seemed most direct, an upfront representation of the world it stood in for or stood up for or stood its ground against.
Later in the lecture, Heaney explains what poetry, when it really works, can do: In one of the poems best known to students in my generation, a poem which could be said to have taken the nutrients of the symbolist movement and made them available in capsule form, the American poet Archibald MacLeish affirmed that "A poem should be equal to/not true." As a defiant statement of poetry's gift for telling truth but telling it slant, this is both cogent and corrective. Yet there are times when a deeper need enters, when we want the poem to be not only pleasurably right but compellingly wise, not only a surprising variation played upon the world, but a re-tuning of the world itself. We want the surprise to be transitive like the impatient thump which unexpectedly restores the picture to the television set, or the electric shock which sets the fibrillating heart back to its proper rhythm. We want what the woman wanted in the prison queue in Leningrad, standing there blue with cold and whispering for fear, enduring the terror of Stalin's regime and asking the poet Anna Akhmatova if she could describe it all, if her art could be equal to it.
Heaney concludes: Poetic form is both the ship and the anchor. It is at once a buoyancy and a steadying, allowing for the simultaneous gratification of whatever is centrifugal and whatever is centripetal in mind and body. And it is by such means that Yeats's work does what the necessary poetry always does, which is to touch the base of our sympathetic nature while taking in at the same time the unsympathetic nature of the world to which that nature is constantly exposed. The form of the poem, in other words, is crucial to poetry's power to do the thing which always is and always will be to poetry's credit: the power to persuade that vulnerable part of our consciousness of its rightness in spite of the evidence of wrongness all around it, the power to remind us that we are hunters and gatherers of values, that our very solitudes and distresses are creditable, in so far as they, too, are an earnest of our veritable human being.
I know people who say that they don't "get" poetry, but I can't understand how one can live without poetry, how one can grow, how one can survive w/o that jolt that "persuades the vulnerable part of our consciousness of its rightness in spite of the evidence of wrongness all around it." Really, go read the whole thing, even if you think that you don't like poetry.
Innumerable devotees thronged the Sri Durga Temple located at Kunjarugiri, near Kurkalu here on Friday September 4, to offer ‘puja’ to Goddess Durga on the third Friday of ‘Sona’ month of the Tulunadu calendar.
Follow the link for lots of great photos.
Somehow, a half a century or so ago, I grew up, v well-read and interested in international news without ever learning that there were cultures NOW, HERE, TODAY, that worshipped Goddesses. That was wrong of them to do that to me.
OK, yeah, fine, whatever. I missed the first of the month. My job was kicking my ass. My circle had its annual retreat. My garden seriously needed weeding. Whatever. Go get your damn mammograms anyway.
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. If you have a deck, pick three cards and e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll email you back your reading. If you don't have a deck, go to Lunea's tarot listed on the right-hand side in my blog links. Pick three cards from her free, on-line tarot and email me at email@example.com. I'll email you back your reading.
I believe that I have yet to fail anyone wanting a post-masectomy tarot reading. I'm good for it.
I posted this a while back, and I still think that it goes to one of the great unaddressed issues in Paganism:
The purpose of ritual is to change the mind of the human being. It's a sacred drama in which you are the audience as well as the participant, and the purpose of it is to activate parts of the mind that are not activated by everyday activity. We are talking about the parts of the mind that produce psychokinetic, telekinetic power, whatever you want to call it -- the connection between the eternal power and yourself. As for why ritual, I think that human beings have a need for art and [that] art is ritual [and ritual is art]. . . . It has seemed to me that much of the modern Craft and the Neo-Pagan movement lacks real music and real dance, in comparison to indigeneous Pagan religious movements. . . . I attribute this [lack of authentic experience] to our loss of skill in the use of music, rhythm, dance, and psychogenetic drugs. In the Irish tradition, music was essential to the success of the rites. . . . Another thing that was essential to the rites in ancient times was ritual drunkenness and sex. And I find this also lacking. We have to create those ecstatic states again. We have to offer people an energy source and a theological alternative, and we can only do this by offering real experience. We have to introduce real sacraments. . . . Much of Neo-Paganism lacks the same content [that] I've described before. The raising of power is an accidental occurrence among most of us at the present time. I find that difficult for my own self-esteem. It makes it difficult to work with people. I don't like going through empty ritual with anybody, especially my closest friends. [A]nyone who calls themselves a Witch should have the capability to deal with different ecstatic states.
Sharon Devlin, as quoted in~Drawing Down the Moon by Margot Adler
I had to go pull Adler's book off the shelf and re-read this interview because so much of what I've been reading in Barbara Ehrenreich's new book, Dancing in the Streets, reminds me of points that Devlin makes in this interview. It also hinges on an issue that we work on in my own circle: doing magic, rather than just doing ritual. As Devlin says, the purpose of doing ritual (by which I think she means doing magic) is to change the mind of the human being. That's more commonly expressed in the definition of magic as the ability to change consciousness at will.
It seems to me that one of the largest barriers to the sort of sacrament that Devlin describes is the lack of time set aside for holiday and ecstacy in our modern lives. Ehrenreich makes the point that, prior to the Industrial Revolution, people worked hard, but they also had many more days out of the year set aside for holidays. It would be easier to have truly ecstatic rituals if you had three days, for example, around Samhein. A day to prepare, looking forward and beginning to focus on your ritual intent. A day for the holiday, including the ritual itself, but also time to put aside the concerns of day-to-day life, to relax into a magical state, to spend real time listening to music, dancing, etc. in order to be able to induce ecstatic states. And, a day to recover, clean up, gently pick back up the other threads of your life, although hopefully somewhat transformed.
Recovery from magic is important and I think it's one of the main reasons that we sometimes don't drink as deeply as we'd like from magic's well. Many of the most effective methods for raising ecstasy take a toll on the physical body, at the same time that they can be quite useful for overall health. Staying up all night dancing and drumming to raise real energy means that you need to sleep in the next day. (At least, it does at my age!) But far too often -- far, far, far too often -- the Sabbat or Moon falls on a week night; preparation for it is squeezed into already overbooked lives; the ritual and accompanying meal have to be over in time for people to get up in the morning and head for work, where they need to be able to function at the top of their game. Even weekends don't really provide adequate time; for most of us, they also serve as the only real time that we have to spend time with family, go to the grocery store, do other chores, pursue other interests.
I don't have an answer to this problem. Capitalism, and its demon-child, Corporate Globalization, are the cause of this problem and neither of them is likely going to go away very soon. Being conscious of the issue can help to some degree, as can a spiritual practice that is difficult for many Pagans: learning to say no. By this I mean that making room in your life for serious participation in a Pagan community, for working magic, means that you are probably going to have to say no to other things. You may not be able to do everything else that interests you. You may have to use a chunk of your vacation time for Sabbats and Moons rather than a trip to Aruba. You may have to not go out with friends the night before ritual in order to cabin your energy for the ritual. Somehow, we wouldn't find it odd for someone who was, for example, training for a marathon or working on a second degree to make those kind of sacrifices, but we imagine that we shouldn't have to do so in order to be practice witchcraft. But the lack of time for holiday and ritual in our culture remains the real problem.
How do you address this problem?
From time to time, various Pagan bloggers have declared certain months to be devoted to various topics: Pagan Values was a recent one. I'd like to suggest that the Paganii of Blogistan devote September to discussions of : How do we offer real sacraments? Real experience? Raise real cones of real power?
Doreen Valiente died ten years ago today, just as the idea of forming my own wonderful circle of women was percolating in the mind of our lovely founder. The African Alchemist has a lovely tribute up that chronicles Doreen's life as both a witch and a feminist.
‘We’re beginning to see now how a lot of the persecution of Witches in historic records was really very much concerned with the persecution of women and putting them in their place, as they regarded it. Uppity women were regarded as being Witches and suspected of being Witches, and a lot of the women healers were degraded to being regarded as Witches simply because they were women. Only men could practice medicine. Nowadays, we’re beginning to see how the connection between feminism and Witchcraft is not something that’s new. It’s something that’s been there all along. In fact, it’s something that’s vital at the foundation of it.’
It's fitting, I suppose, that our circle reads Valiente's Charge of the Goddess at every Sabbat and our annual retreat.
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.
This weekend, my circle of amazing women met, as is our wont, for our once-a-year, day-long retreat. We're an odd bunch of Pagans, more likely to appear in Jimmy Choo shoes, Hermes scarves, antique kimonoes, and suits than in bad-art-bespeckled t shirts showing wolf packs and caftans. More likely to talk about our work on national cases, the cover article in Bloomberg news, and housing values than the latest DC witch war.
I love these women.
One thing that we do each year at our annual retreat is to select a Goddess upon whom we will focus for the coming year. It's a bit of art, a bit of science, a bit of left-brain logic, a bit of divination, a bit of serendipity. This circle of women has been doing magic in DC, in the shadow of the Capitol, a stone's throw from the Supreme Court, the White House, the Executive Office Building, Eastern Market for just a few months shy of a decade. We are urban witches, we do political magic, we create community in the absolute shadow of power.
One thing that struck me this weekend was just how much variety from which we have to choose, how many, many Goddesses there are, what a huge gift it is, especially as a woman in this culture, to have MULTIPLE examples of female empowerment from which to choose. We discussed, and this is a short list, so those of you who were there should feel free to add: Hecate, Aphrodite, Bast, Oshun, Columbia, an African Goddess who gave birth riding on an elephant, a northern Goddess who rode a swan, The Mother, Shakti, Innana, Lillith, and Minerva.
if covering up is the way to dignity, responsibility and self-respect, why not advocate it for all the wingnut men, including Christopher Caldwell?
But I forgot. Of course women are different from men and of course the topic of how women should behave is a legitimate one, because the future of the Western culture depends on it! The topic of men's behavior is not a legitimate one, and men may behave as they wish, in Caldwell's world. They may even do their utmost to persuade women off the glorious street of chastity! And if they succeed in that, it's the women's fault.
More generally, I love the circularity of the anti-feminist wingnut theme in the wider story of why Yurp Will Fall To Islamic Extremists:
The licentious and irreligious Europeans are what will cause the end of Europe As We Know It. In particular, European women, selfish creatures as they are, refuse to breed in adequate numbers, because that would hamper their enjoyment of nasty infertile sex, foreign vacations, BMWs and other such incredibly common aspects of European life. The evil European women also refuse to stay at home with the children they have not produced.
These are the reason why Islamo-Fascists will win! The New Europe will be a place where women will be forced to breed, to stay at home and to cover up! And the European women deserve all this, because they have refused to breed, to stay at home and to cover up to prevent it!
Get back to me when women can parade down the street shirtless and men get arrested for the same behavior.
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 . . . ."