Saturday, October 16, 2010

You Should Read This

You Should. If you have the gift of eyes, or if you have the gift of technology that brings computer postings to your ears or fingertips, you should "read" this.
I kneel down and peer at these tiny orbs of water. Wet-kneed, I see this world again, but tiny, upside-down, and clear, washed new for this day. Who scattered these microcosmic scrying balls amongst the grass for me today?

Oddly, the other day, I had a dream about kneeling down, wet-kneed (in an, ahem, different context) that has stayed with me all week, tugging at my awareness, whispering at odd times, "No, you're not done with me, nor I (and the dreamed-of-one, slipped beyond the now-thin veil) with you."

I'm sure there are some, but I don't know a Witch who does not love this veil-thin, death-tinged time of year.

This morning we woke up and, after dressing G/Son in cozy cotton clothing against the morning chill and setting the kettle on for a hot cup of tea to warm my old, knitting-swollen fingers, I was making breakfast; I asked G/Son (doing art at the kitchen nook table and drinking the juice from a CSA orange), "So, did you have any dreams last night?" G/Son said, "No, Nonna. I was trying to sleep. But I know you dreamed about a man who was making too much noise and about a river." And, of course, that was, at least on the surface, what I'd dreamed about.

Thin veils, in so many ways.

What about it do you love?

Picture found here.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Looks Good

More info here and, esp., here.

NPR's not-too-enthusiastic review is here. (I am still waiting for NPR to EVER like an even vaguely feminist film.) The film fares better here.

Just Pay Attention

Thursday, October 14, 2010

I Just Don't Have Much Else to Say

Thanks, Christians. Thanks for sharing your love. It's quite an eloquent testimony to your "god of love" that so many teens and grown ups feel this way.

No, it's not.

Synchronicity: You're Soaking in It

This grand show is eternal.
It is always sunrise
the dew is never all dried at once;
a shower is forever falling;
vapor is ever rising.

Eternal sunrise,
eternal sunset, eternal dawn
and gloaming, on sea
and continents and islands,
each in its turn,
as the round earth rolls.

~John Muir, quoted in Muir Woods Meditations, edited by Robert Lieber

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs --
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings

Gerard Manley Hopkins in Lyra Sacra

Picture found here.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Christine Kane:

"Ask yourself: What does 'thrive' mean to you?"

What does it mean today?

If yourself from a year from now were to visit you today, what one change would you really wish that you'd gone ahead and made?

"Thrive" is a key magic word for me. One simple spell I often do is to use it as a password for various accounts, websites, etc. I've long used the 9 of Pentacles as a meditation on this point.

But, first, you have to figure out what "thriving" means.

What does it mean to you?

Picture found here.

Post Script: I spent today at home, working w/ Landscape Guy and his crew, doing some serious practical magic in my yard. If you'd asked me some time ago what thriving would look like for me, today would have been a good examplar. I want to get Landscape Guy a really nice Greenman, either a plaque or a statue or a talisman. Not a tacky one. If anyone can suggest a source, I'd be grateful.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

See? This Is What I'm Talking About

"Were you a Christian before becoming a pagan?"

Kali Fuck, did no one's third grade teacher bother with the rules of punctuation?

Read the whole thing here.

See, here, also about not volunteering information such as:

What is a witch?

A wise woman or man. We're not the creatures people have made us out to be with pointy noses and green faces.

Imagine instead:

What is a witch?

A wise woman or man. Someone who is in touch with nature and who understands that everyone and everything is connected. A witch is someone who honors the ancestors and the seasons of the Earth. Witches are lawyers, doctors, computer programers, parents, neighbors, voters.

People keep doing it. I'm going to keep complaining about it.

Picture found here.

Eat, Pray, Love -- But, Then, I Repeat Myself

Aquila ka Hecate explains, much better than I could, what I was trying to say in the post below about how our eating relates to our religion:
I'm not even stretching the truth to make a point when I say that the weed by the roadside, the crumb of granite rolling on the pavement, the motes of illuminated air dancing in the evening streetlights, the very quarks themselves - all partake of this consciousness which builds and destroys, eats and is eaten. I'm part of the process. My body is, and will be, food. It is food right now for milliard mites and bacteria. Any woman who has born a child (and most who have not) are in no doubt that they are food, too.

When I die, I expect to be food for insects and worms and single-celled organisms. I eat animals as well as plants because I do not distinguish between their levels of consciousness - indeed, I feel that distinguishing in such a way may be only what we humans tend to do.

I'll propose two very basic ways to change your own relationship with eating: (1) Stop criticizing others for how they eat/don't eat, what they eat/don't eat, how much they eat/don't eat, etc. When you find yourself about to give voice to judgment (even internally) on this point, take a breath, ground, center, see if you can just be present for a moment with that unnoticed part of yourself that makes you care what someone else puts in their mouth. (2) Begin to practice mindfullness concerning your own food. Simply stopping for a few seconds and sending gratitude to the plant or animal that you are about to consume -- and to the people who harvested, slaughtered, prepared it -- can become a very powerful spiritual practice.

And, of course, there are poems:
Oh my brothers of the wilderness,
My little brothers,
For my necessities
I am about to kill you!
May the Master of Life who made you
In the form of the quarry
That the children may be fed,
Speedily provide you
Another house,
So there may be peace
Between me and thy spirit.

~Mary Austin, in Earth Prayers from Around the World: 365 Prayers, Poems & Invocations for Honoring the Earth, edited by Elizabeth Roberts & Elias Amidon

Picture found here.

In Relationship

Here in the district of our country dedicated to the Goddess Columbia, the wonderful Autumn weather is in full force. It's a perfect time to get outside and actually connect with nature, rather than staying inside and thinking about being a member of a nature religion.

Here's Marcellina, living and singing in Europe, who is not a Pagan, but who is developing a relationship with a bit of land that speaks to her.

The call to look out for and tend to a place, a piece of land that has magic about it, made me think immediately of the Paschberg and the trails (don't worry Mom, I'm not converting to Wicca!). The Paschberg wears some of its history on its sleeve (Tummelplatz, Battle of Bergisl just steps away, the FLAK rings on Landser Kopf) and some of it you have to look for (rocks with cup markings.) Yesterday I walked the trails, instead of my usual jog, and looked for signs. I found a few, but also a lot of tiny litter scraps, and so I began to pick them up.

A great way to develop a real relationship with a bit of land is to get out into it as often as possible (Marcellina's "usual jog"). Over time, one begins to look beyond the obvious (Tummelplatz, the Battle of Bergis) and to see what the land has been hiding (rocks with cup markings). And, then, the land begins to ask something of us ("I found . . . a lot of tiny litter scraps, and so I began to pick them up.") The relationship can go as deep as we will let it. Here's John Muir, talking about being in Yosemite:
In our best of times everything turns into religion, all the world seems a church and the mountains altars.

~Quoted in Dark Green Religion: Nature Spirituality and the Planetary Future by Bron Taylor

What's stopping you? Breathe. Go.

Picture found here.

But, of Course, It Could Never Happen Here

An atheist group in Malawi says it will ask the president to release dozens of women jailed on allegations of practicing witchcraft.

The Association of Secular Humanism wants President Bingu wa Mutharika to order the immediate release of 80 women, many of them elderly, sentenced to up to six years imprisonment with hard labor. Most of the women were accused of teaching witchcraft to children in the southern African country.

ASH spokesman George Thindwa says the women are innocent.

Witchcraft is not a crime under Malawian law. But the government has set up a committee to investigate criminalizing the practice.

Recently Mutharika pardoned Malawi's first openly gay couple after sentencing them to 14 years' imprisonment.

Story found here.

It doesn't even have to be against the law.

A Month of Contradictions

October Journey

Traveller take heed for journeys undertaken in the dark of
the year.
Go in the bright blaze of Autumn's equinox.
Carry protection against ravages of a sun-robber, a vandal,
a thief.
Cross no bright expanse of water in the full of the
Choose no dangerous summer nights;
no heavy tempting hours of spring;
October journeys are safest, brightest, and best.

I want to tell you what hills are like in October
when colors gush down mountainsides
and little streams are freighted with a caravan of leaves,
I want to tell you how they blush and turn in fiery shame
and joy,
how their love burns with flames consuming and terrible
until we wake one morning and woods are like a smoldering
a glowing caldron full of jewelled fire;
the emerald earth a dragon's eye
the poplars drenched with yellow light
and dogwoods blazing bloody red.
Travelling southward earth changes from gray rock to green
Earth changes to red clay
with green grass growing brightly
with saffron skies of evening setting dully
with muddy rivers moving sluggishly.
In the early spring when the peach tree blooms
wearing a veil like a lavender haze
and the pear and plum in their bridal hair
gently snow their petals on earth's grassy bosom below
then the soughing breeze is soothing
and the world seems bathed in tenderness,
but in October
blossoms have long since fallen.
A few red apples hang on leafless boughs;
wind whips bushes briskly
And where a blue stream sings cautiously
a barren land feeds hungrily.
An evil moon bleeds drops of death.
The earth burns brown.
Grass shrivels and dries to a yellowish mass.
Earth wears a dun-colored dress
like an old woman wooing the sun to be her lover,
be her seetheart and her husband bound in one.
Farmers heap hay in stacks and bind corn in shocks
against the biting breath of frost.
The train wheels hum, "I am going home, I am going home,
I am moving toward the South."
Soon cypress swamps and muskrat marshes
and black fields touched with cotton will appear.
I dream again of my childhood land
of a neighbor's yard with a redbud tree
the smell of pine for turpentine
an Easter dress, a Christmas eve
and winding roads from the top of a hill.
A music sings within my flesh
I feel the pulse within my throat
my heart fills up with hungry fear
while hills and flatlands stark and staring
before my dark eyes sad and haunting
appear and disappear.
Then when I touch this land again
the promise of a sun-lit hour dies.
The greeness of an apple seems
to dry and rot before my eyes.
The sullen winter rains
are tears of grief I cannot shed.
The windless days are static lives.
The clock runs down
timeless and still.
The days and nights turn hours to years
and water in a gutter marks the circle of another world
hating, resentful, and afraid,
stagnant, and green, and full of slimy things.

~Margaret Walker

Photo by the blogger; if you copy, please link back.

Monday, October 11, 2010

May the Goddess Guard Her. May She Find Her Way To The Summerlands. May Her Friends And Family Know Peace.

Carla F. Cohen


With deep sorrow, I am writing to inform our friends and neighbors that my beloved store co-owner Carla Cohen died this morning. For all of us here at Politics & Prose, it is difficult to believe that someone larger than life has died, and I will badly miss my friend and partner.

A funeral will be held at Tifereth Israel, 7701 16th Street, N.W., at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, October 13th.

The store will be closed from 12-4 p.m. on that day. We will have a memorial service in the store at a date to follow in November. (Apart from this closing, all other events will proceed as scheduled.)

Even in today's world of Borders and, there are still wonderful, local bookstores. The kind of places that a bookish person can wander for hours, sampling this, discovering that, guiltily buying more than one "should." Living in DC, I have two such redoubts: Kramer's Books and Afterwords and Politics and Prose. I am touched more than I would have expected to be by Ms. Cohen's death.

The veils between the worlds seem to me to be thinning almost hourly as the wheel turns towards Samhein, and it seems to me that there are often a number of notable deaths at this time of year. I hope Ms. Cohen slipped easily between the veils and finds Summerland on the other side.

Picture found here.

Columbus Day

In honor of Columbus Day, please go read 1491: The Americas Before Columbus.

If you've read it, please donate a copy to you local library or school.

Picture found here.

My New Name for a Blog

What Athenae Said.

Also: Patriarchy. You're Soaking In It.

Picture found here.

John Barleycorn Must Die

I've been thinking about the interview linked below in which Lierre Keith discusses her growing awareness that plants have a form of sentience, volition, and ability to communicate. She recounts how, as a vegan, she didn't want to accept this awareness because it meant that, in order to survive, she had to kill something sentient.*

We have (and Earth knows, I'm not the first to discuss this) such a shadow relationship with Death in Western culture. To a greater extent than at any other time or place in human history, our way of life is built upon and requires massive amounts of death. We spend billions of dollars on redundant weapons, even when we say that we don't have money for schools, or roads, or the green energy programs that might save the planet. We are, pace Mr. Orwell, always at war with someone. We cause the extinction of species after species. We kill forest after river after ocean and shrug it off as just a cost of doing business. We kill off native peoples whenever and wherever they "get in our way" (by which, we mean, "have been living forever in a place that we now want"). Our movies are full of death (preferably accomplished by huge explosions or major car crashes -- nope, no sexual symbolism there) and our children amuse themselves for hours with video games in which the object is to kill other people.

And, yet, Death is the great unmentionable. We have moved the harvesting of the plants we eat and the slaughter of the animals whose flesh we consume out of sight. We send our old people away to die in hospitals or nursing homes. We won't even use the word "death" -- we say that someone "passed on," or "went to their final rest." And we want, rather desperately, as Keith did, to pretend that somehow we can have the life that we have without ever causing any Death.

What happens, though, when we face up to the fact, as Keith did, that everything is alive, that everything is aware, that we must, truly, cause some death in order to live? The Randian response is to shrug, announce that only the strong survive, and to become even more willing to wreak death and destruction. After all, if even picking an apple off a tree involves taking from a sentient being, then why not take the land away from the forest, why not dump chemicals into the Danube? Why not make money selling games to children that teach them that it's fun to blow up other people? Head to McDonalds and have a triple bacon burger!

Another response, though, is to recognize the gift of the slaughtered animal, the harvested corn. That response might require, as Derrick Jensen suggests, that, when we kill a salmon, we become responsible to Salmon. It suggests that animals be raised and slaughtered humanely (to coin a phrase) and with gratitude for their sacrifice. It suggests that we not grow crops in huge monoculture factory farms and that we not drench them in pesticide and petroleum-based fertilizer. It suggests that we spend time in meditation and religious ritual, coming into right relationship with Death, with our planet, our landbase, our food. And if that interferes with the cost of doing business (aka imposing externalities), then it is business that must adjust and sacrifice.

As we head into Samhein, this area of our relationship with Death is one I'd like to see more Pagan groups incorporate into their observations. Our religion, more than any other Western religion, is at least willing to worship the relationship between life and death, as well as to focus upon the interconnectedness of all beings. We could, I think, begin to help our culture to come into a better relationship with reality, which could, in turn, help us to come into a better relationship with our planet and the other beings who share it with us.

How squeamish does Death make you? Do you still believe that you can live on this planet without causing Death? How does the traditional "Rule of Three" both recognize and obscure the truth about the relationship between our lives and death? What, realistically, can you change in order to live in better relationship with Life, Death, Earth, Food? What rituals would help you to do this?

*I am not making any judgments here about what people eat or don't eat. It's interesting to me how our culture considers eating to be such a moral issue; people feel free to judge other people for what they eat, how they eat, how much they eat or don't eat, etc. It's almost impossible to read a newspaper or magazine without finding articles about how one "should" eat and it's almost impossible to mention, say, veganism without starting a war about how people "should" eat. And yet, the deep moral questions behind our food production system go unmentioned. Good sign that there are some shadow issues involved.

Picture found here.