Saturday, March 26, 2011

Earth Hour

At 8:30, I will turn off all of the lights in my home, shut down my computer, go off the grid.

I will go to my altar and chant for a future that conserves energy and that gets energy from clean, renewable resources, that consciously honors its sources of motive power. Is Earth Hour the complete answer? No. But any time that millions of people work together for a better world, I want to add my body, as a Witch, to the cause.

You come, too.

May the Goddess Guard Her. May She Find Her Way to the Summerlands. May Her Friends and Family Know Peace.

Geraldine Ferraro, who in 1984 became the first woman named to a major-party presidential ticket, has died.

The former three-term House member from Queens, New York, was 75 years old. She had long been suffering from multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer. A statement from her family said she died at Massachusetts General Hospital. More from the statement:

"Geraldine Anne Ferraro Zaccaro was widely known as a leader, a fighter for justice, and a tireless advocate for those without a voice. To us, she was a wife, mother, grandmother and aunt, a woman devoted to and deeply loved by her family. Her courage and generosity of spirit throughout her life waging battles big and small, public and personal, will never be forgotten and will be sorely missed."

Ferraro was an assistant district attorney in the borough of Queens when she decided to run for an open congressional seat in 1978.

When I was a young woman, struggling to make it in a world where being a woman was even more of a handicap than it is today, Ms. Ferraro's run for VP gave me hope. I thought of her when I voted for Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary. I still hope that I'll live to see a woman become President.

Picture found here.

Friday, March 25, 2011

What Does "Hope" Mean to Pagans?

Here's more from Derrick Jensen concerning hope.
Not believing the culture will undergo a voluntary transition is not the same as not having hope. The question, again, is what do I hope for? I hope that salmon survive no matter what happens, and I hope the same for grizzly bears. I do what I can to help. Most of the activists I know do not believe a voluntary transition will take place, but they are hoping--there's that word--that if lynx and bull trout can survive another forty or fifty years, until, they hope, civilization collapses, then these creatures may be able to sustain. If they do not survive till then--whether or not civilization is still standing, whether or not our culture has undergone a voluntary transition--they will not survive at all. An activist friend often says to me, "As things become increasingly chaotic, I want to make sure that some doors are open, and some doors are shut."

He and I both, for example, want to make sure the "door" representing the evolutionary potential of salmon remains open. Two weeks ago I watched wild coho salmon spawning, albeit in a stream clogged with sediment from logging. Coho--and these particular fish were two and a half to three and a half feet of muscle, beautiful gray sides and white bellies, fins frayed from their journeys home--have survived for hundreds of thousands of years, swimming out to the ocean, gliding on deep cold currents, smelling the faintest traces of the places they were born, then following these traces home to spawn and die. They will almost undoubtedly be extinct in the continental United States within the next decade or two. Mine will probably be the last generation of humans ever to witness them cleaning algae off rocks of their redd--their spawning bed--scooping out spaces for eggs, cleaning away sediment with their powerful tails. But I do not want--will not allow--that door to close during my lifetime, on my watch, as it were.

There are intellectual, emotional, and perceptual doors, too, I fight to keep open. For example, the understanding that alternatives exist to industrial capitalism. The knowledge that cultures have existed (and still exist) where women aren’t treated as inferiors. The capacity to feel wonder and to experience beauty in encounters with others--human and otherwise--who are wild and free and different not only from us but from what we expect them to be. And most especially the ability to envision and live relationships (with humans and nonhumans alike) based not on bending others to our wills but on cooperation and mutually-beneficial sharing.

To eliminate false hope is not to eliminate hope altogether, it is merely to remove barriers that blind us to real possibilities, and bind us to unlivable situations. For example, my father was violent, and it was the false hope that my father's violence would miraculously cease that allowed my mother to remain so long married. Early in her marriage, back in the 50s and through the 60s, when battered women's shelters did not exist, perhaps that hope--that false hope--allowed her, and us, to survive. Because we were essentially at the mercy of someone else, with few options for meaningful change--because we were powerless or perceived ourselves as powerless--false hopes saved our lives by helping us to emotionally survive in otherwise untenable circumstances. But what if your life is not immediately threatened? What if you do not merely wish to survive, to get along day after day? What if you strive for something else? What if you wish to live fully?

Do you have hope for the future? What does your response have to do with your Paganism?

Derrick Jensen is one of the very few people on the planet named in my will. He won't get my Hermes scarves, but he could get most of the rest.


Thanks to Hraefna, in Canada, for alerting me to this in Comments. The other day, some of my friends from the Madison protests sent me an Ian's Pizza t-shirt. I really treasure it.

The Madison Protests (along with the brave actions of the Madison 14, who will never buy their own drinks when I'm in the room) did something that Saul Alinsky (my parents pushed me read exactly 3 books in my entire life. One, via my mom, was Kon Tikki, which I refused to read. One, via my dad, was Great Expectations, and one, also via my dad, was Rules for Radicals. So you can see, I come by it honestly) said good political action can do: it forced Walker to act precipitously, and it showed his actions for exactly what they were. Forcing a tyrant to act as a tyrant is a powerful political act. And it was effective here.

Now, a judge has stayed the implementation of Walker' act, based on the precipitous manner in which it was enacted and the likelihood that those challenging the act will succeed on the merits of the case once it comes to trial. There's a huge campaign (already halfway there) to recall the Republicans who supported Walker, and Walker, who is entitled by Wisconsin law to one year recall-free, is dead in the water come next year. Yeah, he'll go on to wingnut welfare on Fox or at the Heritage foundation, but he'll never eat lunch in this town again. As I've been chanting most of my life, sometimes on marches and sometimes at my altar, "The people, united, can never be defeated."

I am more proud than I can say of my friends who were there and of other friends who supported them. For a while, following the massive, and massively ignored, anti-war protests, there was a lot of buzz about how protests were old school and could never be effective in the modern world. Well, Egypt showed that for the lie it was, and so did Madison. Never doubt the power of people-powered political action. Never doubt that, as Margaret Meade said, "A small group of thoughtful people c[an] change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."

Pagans were involved in the Madison protest, both as simple people occupying the beautiful Wisconsin State Capitol, as clergy, and now, via Sharon Knight's participation in this stirring video, as performers.

On, Wisconsin!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Jensen on Hope

So Easy

I keep hearing that the inventory of unsold homes is going to last for years. I would love to see communities begin clearing lots and turning them into community gardens.

What This Witch Is For

A while back, John Michael Greer wrote, "The good times aren't coming back." He was talking about the good economic and lifestyle times that were fueled by the amazingly rapid use of Gaia's petroleum reserves -- a resource that took Mamma Earth thousands of years to make and us only a few years to use up. Those words struck me at the time and have stayed with me, and I've recalled them as we've watched disasters exacerbated by global climate change and overpopulation. I've recalled them as we've watched America's economy consume the middle class and as we've seen the beginnings of political unrest fueled by high food prices (which, in turn, are fueled by global climate change and overpopulation). I recalled them the other day at work, during a discussion of the "new normal" for law firms, mere days after another DC powerhouse firm collapsed, dumping more lawyers into an already overcrowded job market.

And I recall them whenever I'm in a crowd of people, as, boundary-poor Pisces that I am, I can feel the worry, tension, and free-floating fear just below the surface in almost everyone around me.

And those words cause me to mediate again upon a deep question that Sia once asked: What are Witches for? The Talmud says that every blade of grass has its own angel that bends over it and says, "Grow! Grow!" And I believe that every place needs a "Witch of This Place," and every time needs many who will be a "Witch of This Time."

And sometimes, being the Witch of a place means doing deep trance and connecting with the tree roots, substrata rocks, water table, ancestors, fireflies, foxes, crows, and land spirits of a place. And sometimes, like this evening, it means being outside in the cold and wet and covering up tender plants to protect them from the coming frost.

And sometimes, being the Witch of a time, especially a liminal time such as this one, means doing strong, persistent, and serious magic to protect demonstrators in Wisconsin or nuclear plant workers risking their own lives to save Japan. And sometimes it means bringing some hot biscuits to the homeless vet who stands at the TR Bridge. And sometimes, it means being extra kind to everyone you meet, because you are aware that they're worried, coping as well as they can, frightened.

More and more, I think that, in the next couple of generations, we're going to see priestesses called to do the specific work of serving the species and groups of humans going extinct as global climate change speeds up. I'm starting to spend some time each week in trance on that issue and I'm planning, by Lughnasadah, to begin sending magical energy into the future to them. That's not going to be easy work for anyone, sitting by the bedside of and doing funeral rites for so many beings.

And, yet, at the same time (and here's the beauty part about moving beyond the either/or of the patriarchy), each of my cells cries out the words of Holly Near's song: "I am open and I am willing, for to be hopeless* would seem so strange. It dishonors those who go before us, so lift me up to the light of change." I am open and willing and hopeful for the tender plants of this Place and I am open and willing and hopeful for those of us beings incarnate at this immense crossroads of a Time. I've been called to be the Witch of This Place and a Witch of This Time, and I am going to meet those callings, as often as I can, with grace, courage, good humor, and tenderness.

To what place and time are you called?

*(I am aware of, and appreciate, Derrick Jensen's distinction between hoping for something (over which one has no control) and doing something (over which one does have control) and the need to be clear about the difference. I think that here, though, Near uses the word in the sense of "optimism" -- but "hopeful" works more poetically and, me, I will always side with the poet.)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

How Do You Get to Carnegie Hall?

Here's a fascinating article about Media Matters for America doing some intense training in how to handle the media. Their particular focus is how to handle being on tv talk shows, but much of the advice is relevant for dealing with all forms of media. One of the weaknesses that MMFA identifies for lots of liberals is shared by many Witches and other Pagans:
The problem for the soldiers of the left, according to Media Matters instructors, is that they are just too smart for their own good. The traditional dependence on facts and figures, on being right, is no longer germane. Too often these wonks disappear into the policy weeds or fall through the cracks of nuance.

This is where, as I've discussed before, knowing your objectives for the interview and having your simple, short, well-thought-out statement makes a lot of difference. You can always add details and more information if asked. And a pithy, planned close is good, as well:
Shuster asked how Brenner could advocate foreign aid during a budget crisis.

“Well, David,” he replied evenly, “I understand everyone is hurting” and went on to calmly explain that foreign aid pays for medicines for children and early warning systems for tsunamis. In a second round, Shuster hammed it up as an aggressive Fox host and asked Brenner, “Why do you love the children of Africa more than the children of Alabama?”

“I want it to say ‘Made in America’ on medicines rather than bombs,” Brenner replied coolly.

“Ooooh,” the participants in the control room hummed approvingly. “Did he have that in the can?” one asked.

“He did,” nodded Kohut.

I get that, with a few exceptions, most Witches and other Pagans aren't going to spend time on national news shows, nor will they have access to the level of training described in the WaPo article. But everyone who talks to the media can spend some time practicing, and even a few sessions with a friend, videoed on an iPhone, can make a big difference.

Here's a great example of a Pagan doing it right. Note that Reverend McCollum had three clear, positive goals (none of which were "and I want people to know that we don't worship Satan or eat babies").
I had set out with three main goals to accomplish for our community which was the real focus of my trip. My first goal was to have us seen by others as a community with valuable things to contribute to the world. My second goal was to make alliances with other world spiritualities to join together to become a more formidable force for positive change in the world. And my third goal, was to include Pagan ideals into the mix as world leaders strive to construct a plan to achieve world peace and a sustainable planet.

Clear. Simple. Positive.

And, as an exercise, see if you can re-write this closing sentence in an otherwise outstanding media presentation concerning recent (and wildly successful) Pagan efforts to raise money for relief efforts in Japan: "And we are getting rid of the myth that Pagans cannot act together." (Remember Lakoff's point: When you attempt to negate a frame, you invoke it.)

Picture found here.

Things That Make This Urban Witch Smile

Mark Bittman:
We’re not just buying, we’re growing | Urban agriculture is on the rise. If you’re smirking, let me remind you that in 1943, 20 million households (three-fifths of the population at that point) grew more than 40 percent of all the vegetables we ate. City governments are catching on, changing zoning codes and policies to make them more ag-friendly, and even planting edible landscaping on city hall properties. Detroit, where the world’s largest urban farm is under development, has warmly and enthusiastically embraced urban agriculture. Other cities, including Pittsburgh, Philadelphia (more on Philly in a week or two), New York, Toronto, Seattle, Syracuse, Milwaukee and many more, have begun efforts to cultivate urban farming movements. And if local food, grown ethically, can become more popular and widespread, and can help in the greening of cities — well, what’s wrong with that?

More, including a great Wendell Berry quote, here.

It occurs to me that Beltane would be a great time for Witches and other Pagans to do blessings for local, community, and urban gardens and farmers' markets. (Although performing the Great Rite at the farmers' market could be dicey. ;) )

Picture found here.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Here, Have a Hellebore

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

Monday, March 21, 2011

What Cenk Said

Monday Poetry Blogging

What to Eat, What to Drink, and What to Leave for Poison


Only now, in spring, can the place be named:
tulip poplar, daffodil, crab apple,
dogwood, budding pink-green, white-green, yellow
on my knowing. All winter I was lost.
Fall, I found myself here, with no texture
my fingers know. Then, worse, the white longing
that downed us deep three months. No flower heat.
That was winter. But now, in spring, the buds
flock our trees. Ten million exquisite buds,
tiny and loud, flaring their petalled wings,
bellowing from ashen branches vibrant
keys, the chords of spring’s triumph: fisted heart,
dogwood; grail, poplar; wine spray, crab apple.
The song is drink, is color. Come. Now. Taste.

The song is drink, is color. Come now, taste
what the world has to offer. When you eat
you will know that music comes in guises—
bold of crepe myrtle, sweet of daffodil—
beyond sound, guises they never told you
could be true. And they aren’t. Except they are
so real now, this spring, you know them, taste them.
Green as kale, the songs of spring, bright as wine,
the music. Faces of this season grin
with clobbering wantonness—see the smiles
open on each branch?—until you, too, smile.
Wide carnival of color, carnival
of scent. We’re all lurching down streets, drunk now
from the poplar’s grail. Wine spray: crab apple.

From the poplar’s grail, wine spray. Crab apple
brightens jealously to compete. But by
the crab apple’s deep stain, the tulip tree
learns modesty. Only blush, poplar learns,
lightly. Never burn such a dark-hued fire
to the core. Tulip poplar wants herself
light under leaf, never, like crab apple,
heavy under tart fruit. Never laden.
So the poplar pours just a hint of wine
in her cup, while the crab apple, wild one,
acts as if her body were a fountain.
She would pour wine onto you, just let her.
Shameless, she plants herself, and delivers,
down anyone’s street, bright invitations.

Down anyone’s street-bright invitations.
Suck ‘em. Swallow ‘em. Eat them whole. That’s right,
be greedy about it. The brightness calls
and you follow because you want to taste,
because you want to be welcomed inside
the code of that color: red for thirst; green
for hunger; pink, a kiss; and white, stain me
now. Soil me with touching. Is that right?
No? That’s not, you say, what you meant. Not what
you meant at all? Pardon. Excuse me, please.
Your hand was reaching, tugging at this shirt
of flowers and I thought, I guess I thought
you were hungry for something beautiful.
Come now. The brightness here might fill you up.

Come. Now the brightness here might fill you up,
but tomorrow? Who can know what the next
day will bring. It is like that, here, in spring.
Four days ago, the dogwood was a fist
in protest. Now look. Even she unfurls
to the pleasure of the season. Don’t be
ashamed of yourself. Don’t be. This happens
to us all. We have thrown back the blanket.
We’re naked and we’ve grown to love ourselves.
I tell you, do not be ashamed. Who is
more wanton than the dancing crepe myrtle?
Is she ashamed? Why, even the dogwood,
that righteous tree of God’s, is full of lust
exploding into brightness every spring.

Exploding into brightness every spring,
I draw you close. I wonder, do you know
how long I’ve wanted to be here? Each year
you grasp me, lift me, carry me inside.
Glee is the body of the daffodil
reaching tubed fingers through the day, feeling
her own trumpeted passion choiring air
with hot, colored song. This is a texture
I love. This is life. And, too, you love me,
inhale my whole being every spring. Gone
winter, heavy clod whose icy body
fell into my bed. I must leave you, but
I’ll wait through heat, fall, freeze to hear you cry:
Daffodils are up. My God, what beauty!

Daffodils are up, my God! What beauty
concerted down on us last night. And if
I sleep again, I’ll wake to a louder
blossoming, the symphony smashing down
hothouse walls, and into the world: music.
Something like the birds’ return, each morning’s
crescendo rising toward its brightest pitch,
colors unfurling, petals alluring.
The song, the color, the rising ecstasy
of spring. My God. This beauty. This, this
is what I’ve hoped for. All my life is here
in the unnamed core—dogwood, daffodil,
tulip poplar, crab apple, crepe myrtle—
only now, in spring, can the place be named.

Picture found here.

Thou Shalt Not

I'm often baffled at Christians who insist that every single word in the Bible is a literal truth and that everyone has to follow rules developed thousands of years ago for people who lived in a nomadic society, want their 10 commandments inscribed on every square inch of government property not taken up with nativity scenes, but feel that it's ok to, for example, kill abortion providers or, in this story, steal signs from stores selling Pagan supplies. It's not as if those bits are ambiguous; "Thou Shalt Not Kill," and "Thou Shalt Not Steal" are pretty clear-cut. No exemptions for situational ethics or in service to some higher good. After all, "'Vengence is mine,' sayeth the Lord."

Speeding to get away from the police, ok, you can argue about whether that falls under "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's," but the not stealing bit seems fairly unambiguous.

And, as always, if you're going, as this story does, to capitalize "Christian," then you should, as this story fails to do, capitalize "Pagan." Both are umbrella terms for a variety of religions.

Picture found here.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Ivo! Evoe! Hail, Kore! Ivo! Evoe!

One of the morning prayers that I say is, "Mother, Wash away from my eyes the enchantment of forgetfulness. Allow me, as much as I can know, as much as I can see, to realize that we are all connected. Remind me Mother, that it's all just You pouring You into You." A bit of this prayer is based upon a quote from J. D. Salinger and I forget the source from which I borrowed the rest of it, but I'm grateful to that person for helping me to articulate how I feel about those times when we allow ourselves to be ensorcelled by the Overculture into thinking that the world can be divided into the Sacred and the Mundane, that there are "muggles," that magic and mystery and connection to the Ineffable is what happens only inside a sacred circle, censed with sage and inscribed with occult symbols. And I work hard most days, I do, to keep my eyes open, to see with True Sight, to remember that it's all one immense and breathtakingly beautiful and dangerous and perfect and safe and glittering Web and that I'm a node on that Web, but also that I am the Web and the Web is me. I work at it and some days I do better than others.

And then some days, Grace comes flooding through some phloem in the Universe and I'm synchronistically, randomly, at the right corner, on the right street, at the right moment and there's no work involved at all. The Web is so real and visible and crystal clear that I can't imagine, literally can't imagine, how it can ever seem otherwise. And then I'm the Web wondering how that node ever imagined itself anything but a part of the whole. And then even that is part, a perfect part, of the Web.

I had to go to my office this morning, Sabbat or no, but I left at 2:00 to head home, do some errands, and make ready for Ostara. Sitting at the light, I caught a glimpse of her: a girl at that exact age after her childhood and before her teens. She was reedy and thin, not self-conscious, but unconsciously conscious of herself in the way that no child can ever be. She carried some kind of a book or folder, up flat against her chest, and was skip-running a bit to catch up to her father. I looked away, waiting for the light to turn green, thinking of what needed to be done when I got home. I glanced back; she and her father were now at the corner, waiting for the same light to change. She said something to her father, I could see her braces.

And, then, it happened. All in a moment, all of the enchantment washed away from my eyes, and my body and all my senses were simply, perfectly, by Grace, a mechanism for perceiving the Web from inside the Web, the Web's own unconscious self-consciousness of itself. The sun got inside the girl's hair, which was that heart-wrenchingly beautiful color of carroty-red that is not replicated anywhere else in nature. Her hair was simply, perfectly, by Grace, a mechanism for the Sun to make itself manifest and to show its beauty; without that hair, that color, at that moment, on that girl, at that corner, the Sun could never have been all that it was born to be, and the Sun knew it and I knew it and we were both awed by it.

And there, sitting at the red light, surrounded by the city, headed for the Teddy Roosevelt bridge, there, I was -- and best of all, knew myself to be -- in the presence of The Kore, in the sunlight, on the day of Osara. Not, symbolically, not metaphorically, not in any of the ways that it would make sense to say that I was, just a few feet North of that girl, in the presence of The Kore, but, simply, in the presence of The Kore. Not that The Kore "rode" her or that she somehow pulled The Kore down into her. Not that she stopped being a flesh-and-blood girl with a history and a future and braces. Not that she had ever not been The Kore and not that . . . . Well, that is why the Goddess says, "And you who seek to know Me, know that the seeking and yearning will avail you not, unless you know the Mystery: for if that which you seek, you find not within yourself, you will never find it without. For behold, I have been with you from the beginning, and I am That which is attained at the end of desire." Words stop working.

And the light changed and I turned my eyes, full of tears and light, back to the road and, shaking, drove on, deeper into the Web.

May your Ostara be blessed, may all that is good and healthy and fresh bloom into your life, and may you have reason to exclaim, "Hail, Kore! Ivo Evoe!"

Picture found here.

Sunday Ballet Blogging