Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Keeping Your Feet On The Ground

When I think about grounding, a part of that concept is what most witches would recognize as daily practice: sitting at my altar, sending my roots deep into Mother Earth, breathing through those roots, achieving a deep sense of groundedness to carry me through my day. And another part of what I think of as grounding looks more like living a well-grounded existence: taking care of my physical body, living in a clean, organized space, managing my finances, arranging my personal situation so that I can live with integrity, getting where I'm supposed to get when I'm supposed to get there, doing what I say I'll do, being able to remain grounded, rather than scattered. That kind of integrity is important for a witch because, if your word and intention aren't any good, as someone once said, in this world, how can you expect them to count for much between the worlds?

I'm often surprised how many people who would never think of disregarding the laws of magic are willing to disregard the other laws of reality. You're disregarding the laws of reality if you live beyond your means, ignore your health, fail to manage the details of your days with at least some measure of grace and courage. I'm not talking about obsessive control; in fact, I'm talking about the opposite. I'm talking about mastery over enough of your situation that you're able to achieve what you want to achieve, rather than spending most of your time reacting to forces beyond your control.

I think it was Thomas Merton who explained that the highly-disciplined day of many religious monastics is actually a springboard to the freedom needed to achieve serious spiritual progress. Few of us will ever engage in that much structure, but I think the point's still well-taken: it's difficult to do serious magic, to grow spiritually, to help to turn the Wheel if you arrive harried and late for the ritual (do not get me started on "Pagan Standard Time" -- ha ha -- rude is rude, and those of us who have been wasting our time sitting around waiting for you aren't amused; just saying), if you're worried about being evicted, if you didn't get enough sleep the night before because you stayed up way too late (again) watching Buffy or playing Wii.

In D.C. Pagan circles, I frequently bump into a lovely young woman who clearly really wants to live a magical life and grow as a witch. She signs up for classes that she then regularly misses because (pick one) she's sick with another bad cold, she's out of money for gas for her car and can't get to class, her dysfunctional SO needs her to bail him out, she just lost another entry-level job because she doesn't show up there very regularly, either, she just got evicted because she had 15 cats living in her apartment even though she signed a lease agreeing not to have more than one, . . . . She volunteers for responsibilities that she then regularly has to dump, at the last minute, onto someone else because she . . . you know. Anyone who's been active in the Pagan community knows people from the same mold. It's not really surprising, when you think about it; people are attracted to ecstatic, magical religions for a reason. But you want to just pull a witch like this aside and suggest that what she really needs to do -- in order to live as a witch, in order to do magic -- is to get her "mundane" life in order before she takes another class, buys another Tarot deck, heads to another festival.

Engaging in the daily practice of grounding, the first kind of grounding that I described above, provides a really good example of what I'm talking about. It, or some intentional practice quite like it, is really the foundation of any magical practice. But it's almost impossible to engage in that practice if you haven't set aside a space and time to do it, if you can't find your altar for all the clutter, if you oversleep, again, and have to charge out of the house in a frantic dash in order to catch the last bus, etc. What it takes varies for each of us, and one witch's well-lived life might look like chaos to another witch. A good test is integrity: are you able to do what you say you'll do, are you able to meet your "mundane" responsibilities, or do you go through your days caught up in a whirlwind that blows you here and there?

No, you don't have to be a black belt martial artist who eats only wheatgrass and tofu. But you have to take care of the physical body that is your vessel for magic on this planet. No, you don't have to have a high-powered job and make a million dollars a year. But you have to live within your means. No, you don't have to live in a palace, or a magical woodland cottage, or a temple by the sea. But you have to live in a safe-enough, clean-enough, organized-enough, comfortable place to which you can retreat and from which you can go forth and do what you want to do in the world. And, no, you don't have to devote yourself to only one activity, but you can't be so over-committed that you never really "do" anything deeply enough for it to change you.

If you don't regularly do this sort of work as Samhein approaches, now, at the end of the secular year, is as good a time as any to take a grounding inventory. What areas of your life are well-grounded? How'd you do that? What areas of your life could stand to be placed upon more solid ground? How will you make that happen?

~Picture found here.

Update: Just to add: I'm completely in favor of living less-than-conventional lives, but it's often even more important to be grounded in those situations. If you choose not to have a "regular nine-to-five" job, good! But it will be even more important for you to manage your finances, to live within your means, to find other ways to provide structure for your days. You might spend lots of time traveling and living away from "home." Great! It will be even more important for you to figure out where, in each new place, you'll ground, to keep your stuff organized enough that you can pick up and go, to pay attention to what you eat, when you sleep, where you can exercise. It's kind of similar to what I say about polyamory. It's great, but it's often even more work than a standard "couple" relationship. At the very least, the work is different enough from what we're "used to" that it can seem like more work. The test, again, is whether or not you're living a life of integrity.

Death Is The Mother of Beauty, Mystical

One of the things I love about Wicca is its celebration of death and decay. Wallace Stevens, in his poem Sunday Morning, wrote:

Is there no change of death in paradise?
Does ripe fruit never fall? Or do the boughs
Hang always heavy in that perfect sky,
Unchanging, yet so like our perishing earth,
With rivers like our own that seek for seas
They never find, the same receding shores
That never touch with inarticulate pang?
Why set the pear upon those river-banks
Or spice the shores with odors of the plum?
Alas, that they should wear our colors there,
The silken weavings of our afternoons,
And pick the strings of our insipid lutes!
Death is the mother of beauty, mystical,
Within whose burning bosom we devise
Our earthly mothers waiting, sleeplessly.

(The Collected Poems, 69)

~Reprinted in Gardens, An Essay on the Human Condition by Robert Pogue Harrison

Photo found here.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Garden & Cosmos

If you live anywhere near DC, go see this exhibit now, before it goes away. No, really.

Picture found here.

Sunday, December 28, 2008


If it were of any use, every day the gardener would fall on [her] knees and pray somehow like this: "O [Lady], grant that in some way it may rain every day, say from about midnight until three o'clock in the morning, but you see, it must be gentle and warm so that it can soak in, grant that at the same time it would not rain on campion, alyssum, helianthemum, lavender, and the others which you in your infinite wisdom know are drought-loving plants -- I will write their names on a bit of paper if you like -- and grant that the sun may shine the whole day long, but not everywhere (not, for instance, on spirea, or on gentian, plantain lily, and rhododendron), and not too much; that there may be plenty of dew and little wind, enough worms, no plant-lice and snails, no mildew, and that once a week thin liquid manure and guano may fall from heaven. [So mote it be.]" For so it was in the garden of Eden, otherwise things would not have grown in it so well as they did, how could they?

~From The Gardener's Year by Karel Capek, reprinted in Gardens, An Essay on the Human Condition by Robert Pogue Harrison.

~Picture found here.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Lie Down In That Grass

Via e-mail, a couple of readers have responded with dismay to my post on calendar magic. "That's not magic; that's basic How to Function 101 with some allusions to the elements thrown in!" And, "Liminal spaces are magical spaces, not dead time at the end of the mundane year!"

Which reminds me of one of Hecate's famous Wiccan distinctions: Some people practice witchcraft. And some people are witches. Neither is any better than the other, but there is a difference.

IMHO, Wicca always was, and hopefully always will be, a religion of the people. And as Medusa recently noted to Thorn Coyle, many, if not most, people have a limited need in their lives for connection with the divine. So for many people, Wicca will always be about a tumble in the Spring clover on Beltane, the enjoyment of mead at Mabon, a moment to remember ancestors at Samhein, a spell for a new job or a new love, and the odd connection with "something else" felt almost by random at a full moon or on a beach at sunrise. A good time at a festival. An 8-times-a-year experience. And that's good. That's practicing witchcraft.

Other people have a much stronger need to spend as much of their time as possible living in connection with the Divine, inhabiting their Goddess-selves, walking around aware that it's all just god pouring god into god. My own shorthand for this is "living as a witch." And what I want to do, what I try to write about on this blog, is not so much practicing witchcraft (there are lots of good blogs about that), but living as a witch. I want to explore how to live as a witch every possible moment in this modern world. I don't, no matter how much some part of me may long for it, live in a Ren Faire forest or a Goddess temple or in a cave on an island. I live in a modern urban center, with congested traffic and Starbucks and homeless people on the streets next to the v rich and the v powerful. I work at a large law firm. I get mammograms and colonoscopies in major modern medical centers. I buy my groceries at Whole Foods. My circle does magic to influence political events in the modern world and I spend most of my day -- almost every single day -- on a computer. And I need to know how to live THAT life as a witch, how to dance THAT dance as fully aware as possible of my connection to everything that is, of the fact that I am a manifestation of the Goddess, of the fact that it's all real, it's all metaphor, there's always more.

And, sure, sometimes, I find liminal spaces by fasting, taking a ritual bath in a tub filled with rose petals picked on the dark moon from my own rose bushes, lighting incense in my ritual room, casting a circle deosil with a silver athame whose handle is sealed with a celtic knot made of gold, and traveling along the astral plane to a spot prepared for me both by my own ritual workings and by my Patroness, a serious-eyed Lady with three heads and a large black dog. I go there for a purpose, to change consciousness/reality/myself/the world at will, to work pre-planned magic in a place where all things are in flux and where change is not only possible, but likely. It's hard work, it's exhilarating, it's serious business.

But I don't do that kind of magic every day. Even if I didn't have to get up, put on a suit, and show up on time at work, I couldn't do that kind of working every day. But I still need to live every day as a witch. Sure, I know I'm a witch when I'm wearing ritual robes and burning incense on charged coals inside a circle of spring-green light. But I need to know how to live as a witch when I'm stuck in traffic on the Roosevelt Bridge, when I'm taking a client to lunch at the Palm, when I'd dropping off drycleaning, when I'm firing up my Apple computer to read blogs, when I'm mowing my lawn, when I'm on my iPhone with Son, when I'm calculating whether or not to refinance my home, when I'm trying to talk myself into just five more minutes on the treadmill.

And, thus, for me, the world, the world that we dare to call "mundane," is full of liminal spaces, many of them as yet undiscovered. It's full of serendipity. It's full of elementals and dryads and pixies and Goddesses and genii locii. It's full of metaphor. It's full of magic. Liminal spaces don't only exist upon the astral; adolescence is a liminal space, menopause is a liminal space, pregnancy is a liminal space, being out of a job is a liminal space, living in a country longing for an evil leader to go away and a new inspiring leader to assume his job is a liminal space, every corner that I turn all day, every intersection through which I drive my car is -- you guessed it -- a liminal space. Being aware of the liminality of each of those situations is a big part of what it means, for me, to live as a witch. And looking for ways to use such "mundane" liminality -- figuring out a magical way to use downtime at the end of the secular year -- is probably, IMHO, a more important part of living as a witch than the limited number of times each year when I dress up in ritual robes and do high magic. If I had, Goddess forfend, to give up one or the other, I'd trade my most ecstatic high ritual experiences for a lifetime of everyday magic. So I balance my checkbook with magical intent, I cook and freeze cabbage lentil soup with magical intent, and I organize my calendar with magical intent, and I call upon the elements for aid, and I ground before I pick up my pen.

Rumi said: Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I'll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about. Ideas, language, even the phrase "each other" doesn't make any sense. That's a liminal space and it doesn't matter where you find it: inside a circle inscribed with the names of seraphim and demons or beneath a full moon on a frosty field or at your desk with your new calendar before you. The important thing is to lie down in that grass.

~Art found here.

How Many Of The World's Goods Are Measured In Birds' Nests? How Many Should Be?

Talking to Carolyn Raffensperger, Derrick Jensen asks: Wouldn't the precautionary principle then destroy competitive advantage?

Raffensperger answers: I want to turn that sentence around and suggest that competitive advantage destroys. The idea that we can outcompete, that we can compete by lowering dollar costs destroys. The idea that we measure goods in dollars destroys. How many of the world's goods are measured in U.S. dollars and not, for example, in the number of bird's nests? If we measured all of our economy in the number of hatchlings of migratory birds, we would figure competitive advantage in an entirely different way. But competitive advantage drives lower and lower dollar costs on things, and increases the probability that we're going to externalize costs.

Janine Benyus has pointed out, nature favors cooperation over competition. And that sense of mutualism and reciprocity is undermined with competitive advantage.

The whole question of competitive advantage leads to some absurdities. There are some things that are just plain stupid to trade. Why are we moving water around the planet using fossil fuels? Why does France have a competitive advantage with Perrier over some other bottled water in the United States, or over drinking your tap water? That is not rational.

So to worry that the precautionary principle is going to destroy competitive advantage is to worry about precisely the wrong thing.

~Picture found here.

On Reading Garden Porn (aka All The Gardening Catalogs That Start Showing Up In Mailboxes Now)

Ode to a Woman Gardening

by Pablo Neruda

Yes, I knew that your hands were
a budding sprout, a lily
of silver:
you had something to do
with the soil,
with the flowering of the earth,
I saw you digging, digging,
pushing pebbles apart
and guiding roots
I knew at once,
my dear cultivator,
not only
your hands
but also your heart
were of earth,
and that there
you were
your things,
through which

So in this way
from one plant
to the other
planted one,
with your face
with a kiss
from the clay,
you went
and came back
you went
and from your hand
the stem
of the astromeria
raised its solitary elegance,
the jasmine
the mist on your brow
with stars of dew and fragrance.

grew from you
into the earth
and becoming
green light,
foliage and power
you communicated
your seeds to it,
my beloved,
red gardening woman:
your hand
on familiar terms
with the earth
and the bright growing
was instantaneous.
Love, thus also
your hand
of water,
your heart of earth,
and strength to my songs
you touch
my chest
while I sleep
and trees blossom
from my dreaming.
I wake up, open my eyes,
and you have
inside me
stars in the shadows
which will rise and shine
in my song.

That’s how it is, gardening woman:
our love
your mouth is a plant of light, a corolla,
my heart works among the roots.

~Picture found here.

Friday, December 26, 2008

My New Name For A Blog

What Holly Said.

For that matter, if you really do believe that God has a plan and that it’s possible to stray away from it, I’m not sure why that’s automatically a bad thing either. We’re talking about God in capacity as Creator of the universe. In an infinitely lesser way, I am also in the business of creating universes and designing the way things work, as are many other artists, designers, and authors. Perhaps unlike an omnipotent creator, it is very easy for human beings to create things that grow to be larger than ourselves, to create the unpredictable. I know that for me personally, one of the chief joys of creation is in watching the creation get away from me — watching things happen that I didn’t predict.

This is especially probable when you are creating complex and unpredictable systems like games, and then letting players with their own agency run amok in them. It’s certainly true of many technological creations (hacking, modding, hybridizing) and it’s how many new creations emerge. But I’ve certainly heard authors talk about this phenomenon as well — the moment when characters come to life. If we are really made in God’s image, and this is such a moment of joy and wonder that’s part of the creative act, why should we think that God feels so differently? Do theists really believe that God is the kind of unimaginative, joyless Creator who frowns on anyone who doesn’t follow the Original Equipment Manufacturer instructions and guidelines?

That’s a pretty silly form of religion, if you ask me.

Go read the whole thing and then write Ratzi the Nazi a letter.

~Photo found here.

At The Crossroads Of The Year

This time of the year -- the space on the calendar from December 24th or so until January 2nd (and, this year, really, until January 5th) -- is special to me because it's always seemed to me to be almost the very definition of liminal time. And liminal times are when it's easiest for change to happen. That's what makes them scary to some people, but it's also what makes them special and, even, fun. They're the times when a small shove, be it magical and/or mundane, can make a big difference in ultimate outcomes.

Even when I was a good catholic girl who'd never heard of Wicca, or magic, or a Goddess of the Crossroads, I liked to inhabit and really use this time between semesters, between seasons, between years. It's the perfect time, especially when everyone else is in a food coma and slumped in front of the tv, to make changes, to, in fact, change consciousness at will. (Yes, it's natural to want to hibernate about now, and a reasonable amount of hibernation is a good thing. But it's interesting to me how often magical workers are those who are out and DOING (even if the out is in and the DOING is internal) during those times when everyone else is asleep. Night is the most obvious example; everyone knows that night is when the witches gather, the sorcerers work, the fairies dance. The dark Moon is another example. Too dark for most people to be out, but it's when serious magic can happen. And, wow, just your luck; there's a dark moon TONIGHT! Twilight, when most people put down their tools and head for home is a lovely liminal time.) For many of us this time of year is, at the least, a slow time at work, if not actual time off. The overcommitment of the holiday season, which hits women hardest of all as they bake, give parties, go to parties, shop, clean, etc., comes to a sudden stop and there's often some open time on our calendars. Open, liminal, waiting for us to work magic and move things in a new direction.

And calendars are part of what can make this liminal time so productive. IMHO, there are few magical tools as powerful as a calendar, be it the lovely new WeMoon calendar (I was gifted mine by my wonderful DiL), the calendar on your iPhone or Blackberry, or a plain old FiloFax. If it's got the phases of the Moon and plenty of room to write stuff, you can work magic with it (and starting today, you can usually find a lovely one on sale for half off). If magic is a way of being in control of your life, a calendar is possibly the most basic magical tool there is. (And don't just take my word for it. The Druids, the Mayan priests, the ancient Egyptians: they all understood that keeping track of time, knowing what's coming and when it's coming, being aware of precisely "when" you are, was magical.)

First, as with any magical working, you need to Ground. You need to get the basics of your life down onto the calendar. Birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays that matter to you. Dates when important financial things occur: car insurance due, taxes due, CDs need to be renewed. Important medical information; you can calendar monthly breast self-exams, write a note reminding you to call X number of months in advance to schedule your annual physical, your Pap smear, your dental check-ups. (Better yet, use some of this down time to actually schedule as many of those appointments as you can. Some doctors will let you schedule stuff like this up to six months in advance.) Stuff that needs to get done every year around your home: check batteries in smoke detectors, get the rain gutters cleaned, have the furnace and the air conditioning checked, etc. It's amazing how much grief you can avoid, not to mention how much control and power it gives you, just by taking a half an hour or so and getting all that stuff organized into your calendar.

Second, you need to do some Air work. Dream. Plan. Strategize. Have a conversation with your Higher Self, your ancestors, your Younger Self. Read tarot, cast runes, journal. What do you need to accomplish this year? What do you want to include in this year? Project yourself into the future, a year from now, looking back at 2009; what challenges would you feel really happy to see that you'd met? One year, I calendared one day a month to visit art museums. I calendar time every other month to get off into nature and spend at least half a day alone. You can calendar days to go to the gym, days to clean out closets, days to work on writing your dissertation, days to spend with people you love. You can write down the amount of debt that you will have paid off by the end of each month, the number of miles you will have jogged by the end of each week, the magical work that you will do each Moon.

Third, add some Fire to the mix. Get yourself excited about what you want to do. (Here's a hint: if you can't get excited about any of it, you need to go back to Air. What do you really WANT to get done this year?) Dance your year. Drum your goals. Chant your accomplishments as if they'd already (as indeed, somewhere on the Web, they already have) been achieved. Go for a walk and find a talisman to carry with you throughout the year: a rock, a feather, a scene captured on your cell phone camera. Charge it with your intent and wear it, put it on your altar, tuck it into your calendar. Draw yourself a year from now. Make a magical collage. Can you calendar some periodic Fire workings to help you to stay fired up about your goals as the year goes on? I lack Fire in my chart and this part of the process is often the most difficult for me. But I find that I can use some of my strong Earth tendencies to help. If I use this liminal week or so on the calendar to start actually doing the things that I've picked as goals, I develop a lot of enthusiasm for finishing, I convince myself that it's not really so difficult/scary/painful as I thought it might be. If I'm going to need supplies, I go get them. If I'm going to need to read information, I get it printed out, lined up, organized into folders or notebooks or bookshelves. If I'll need to be out late in order to accomplish a goal, I might make and freeze soups so that I'll have something good to defrost when I do get home. By the time the new year starts, I've already got a running start and a bit of momentum.

Fourth, add some Water. One of Water's most amazing qualities is its ability to cleanse. And you've got to wash away old stuff if you're going to start on an amazing new adventure. Use some of this liminal time to clean house, literally. Get rid of old stuff; give it to charity, give it to a friend, recycle it, throw it away. Clean out and organize your files, your ritual supplies, your checkbook, your purse. Actually take all those coins to the bank and deposit them. Clean all the old stuff out of your refrigerator and wipe the shelves down with white apple cider vinegar (charge it first, if you like!). Take a ritual bath or shower and chant the things you want to wash out of your life, your heart, your days. Start the year with every bit of laundry done, ironed, folded, mended, back from the dry cleaner, put away in an organized closet. Visualize water washing away the old year, falling like warm gentle rain on your calendar to grow your lovely new year, full of accomplishments and fun.

Finally, you want to add the Fifth Sacred Thing: Spirit. I can't tell anyone else how to do that. I can only remind you of the Charge of the Goddess: 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.

(A final note. Nowadays, I go through this process in the days leading up to Samehein, as that's the beginning and end of my spiritual and magical year. Luckily, you can now buy a calendar for the next year anytime from about August on, especially if you go on line. That means that I've already got the Grounding and Air portions of this process pretty well completed by October 31st. That allows me to focus even more on the Fire, Water, and Spirit portions of this process during the liminal days at the end of the secular calendar. Either way works; it's just a question of what works best for you.)

Picture found here.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Father Christmas' Home

G/Son and I have been reading The Father Christmas Letters by Tolkein and G/Son esp. likes the story about how the North Polar Bear tried to carry all the presents downstairs to load them into Father Christmas' sled. Father Christmas told him not to carry the presents on his head, but the silly north polar bear did it anyway. And then he fell and dropped all the presents on the stairs inside Father Christmas' wonderful home. He even smushed some. (Each time, G/Son assures me (himself) that Father Christmas won't bring US any smushed presents.)

I made him this replica of Father Christmas' home at the North Pole. He was just entranced.

For the first time ever, tonight, G/Son "read" me a story from one of his picture books. He's memorized enough of it to turn the pages and tell me the story. I love this kid.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

What Kind Of Blog Are You?

Turns out, I blog mostly from my Moon Sign, Taurus, and partly from my Rising Sing, Geminii.

Who knew?

Those fish, the ones who swim in the opposite directions, they must not show up here, too often.

Hat tip to my beloved friend, E.

Picture found here.

And So Do We

What She Said.

Festivus == A Holiday For The Rest Of Us

Festivus is not one of the Pagan holy days and, yet, how could I pass up a holiday that involves the scared Airing of the Grievances? And, thus, here we Air Hecate's Grievances:

1. Rick Warren. If Rick Warren were, indeed, a Man of a god, instead of, as is, in fact, the fact, a Huckster Extrodinaire, he would realize that, having given scandal to the Body of Christ in the World, he should withdraw from Obama's Inauguration and go do penance for his grave insult to many of a god's children, aka All Women and Gay People. I'd like to throw a shoe at him. Bite me, Warren.

2. Barack Obama. Thanks for turning what should have been the first Inauguration devoted to inclusion into a hate fest v women and gay people. Way to fuck it up, Dude. Bite me.

3. Michelle Obama. Don't send me an e-mail telling me to use the holiday season to donate to good causes. I don't need you to do that. Go talk to your husband about his upcoming festival of hate on the women and the gay people. I am capable of donating to good causes w/o your prompting, believe it or not. I think I'll donate to a group devoted to fighting Warren's Prop 8. Bite me.

4. Liberals. Kerry and Edwards were for the war in Iraq. That was ok. Obama's for the war in Afghanistan. That's ok. Biden is for every war. That's ok. But Hillary can't be president because "she was for the war in Iraq." Wake up. It's called unrecognized sexism and you've got a bad case of it. Turns out, it's ok for anyone to be for wars, as long as they have penii. And, oddly, all objections to Hillary's evil foreign policies disappear the minute we're looking at her for, duh, Secretary of State, a position previously held by women. You may think you're not a sexist. But, you are. Bite me.

5. Asshole male posters who think it's "funny" to cite "iconic" films to make the point that it's actually quite funny to kill (of course) ugly, old women and to mock feminist religions. They think it's still ok to use "witch" as a slur, although they'd never do the same with "Jew" or "Moslem". Ditto the same posters who label all Hillary supporters fat, dumb, southerners, who sit on their porches and read bibles. Bite me.

6. George Bush, Dick Cheney, every American who voted for them, Sandra Day O'Connor (who knew better), and the completely complicit American media. Hague, bitches. Bite me.

7. My wingnut neighbor who kept bothering the stone masons who worked in my yard this summer because they dared to play Spanish radio while they were working. Get over it, Dude, and, of course, bite me.

8. Comcast. You know. Bite me.

9. Robin Givhan. Quit writing. You're not good at it. And, you've nothing to say. And, you wouldn't know style if you, you know, bit it. Bite me.

10. The people who fosited blue-and-brown upon us as a color combination. And don't think that I don't see what you're trying to do with pink and brown. Brown's a lovely color. Leave it the fuck alone. Bite me.

11. Netflix. You fucked up this summer and never quite managed to get unfucked. Now I spend half my time trying to trick you into sending me what I really want. Bite me.

12. Bindweed. Sweet Mother, don't you know when you're not wanted? Also, ivy. Bite me.

13. The really ugly unsold McMansion up the street. Since no one wants to buy your piece of crap, smashed-together-amalgam-of-every-building-style-that-ever-sucked, could you please turn the spot lights off at night? Please? Someone's going to have to knock that piece of shit down sooner or later. I hope it's sooner. Bite me.

14. The v aged hipster who showed up at my hair salon today, shortly after I gave Hair Guy a nice bottle of wine, carrying a ginormous gift basket for her hair guy. And made a huge fucking deal about it. OK. We get it. You are in love w your hair guy. Shut up. You make him bleach your hair out until it's ugly. And the rest of us don't like you. Bite me.

15. The idiot woman who was ahead of me at the dentist earlier this week. Who apparently gets all the affirmation she needs as a human being from the fact that, every year, she brings fudge to the dentist. Spent 20 minutes listening to her describe to a dental assistant how she makes the damn fudge. Then had the misfortune to get behind her in the line to make appointments for next year. After she took for fucking ever to enter her appointment into what was, apparently, to her, a newly-discovered tool, the Blackberry, she had to turn around and tell me -- a total stranger who, here's a clue, does not fucking care -- "They always schedule me for December so I'll bring them fudge." Hecate: "That's nice. Are you done? I'm late for a meeting?" Bite me.

16. The people who sold me the French Thyme seeds. Approximately four of them sprouted. Bite me.

17. Co-workers who can't bother to inform the rest of the world of their schedule. You know who you are. Bite me.

18. Arlington County, Virginia for running out of biodegradable leaf bags. Bite me.

19. The Bush Administration, for refusing to make housing available for the Obama family so that the two little Obama girls could start school on Jan. 2nd at Sidwell. Petty. Crass. Low-class to the end. Bite me.

20. My 401(k). Bite me.

On the other hand, Jeff Skilling both woke up this morning and went to bed this evening in jail. So, there's that. I will not die a failure.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Hey! What's Up?

Mine, Mine, Mine

My Short Skirt
(from The Vagina Monologues)

My short skirt
is not an invitation
a provocation
an indication
that I want it
or give it
or that I hook

My short skirt
is not begging for it
it does not want you
to rip it off me
or pull it down.

My short skirt
is not a legal reason
for raping me
although it has been before
it will not hold up
in the new court.

My short skirt, believe it or not
has nothing to do with you.

My short skirt
is about discovering
the power of my lower calves
about cool autumn air traveling
up my inner thighs
about allowing everything I see
or pass or feel to live inside.

My short skirt is not proof
that I am stupid
or undecided
or a malleable little girl.

My short skirt is my defiance
I will not let you make me afraid
My short skirt is not showing off
this is who I am
before you made me cover it
or tone it down.
Get used to it.

My short skirt is happiness
I can feel myself on the ground.
I am here. I am hot.

My short skirt is a liberation
flag in the women’s army
I declare these streets, any streets
my vagina’s country.

My short skirt
is turquoise water
with swimming colored fish
a summery festival
in the starry dark
a bird calling
a train arriving in a foreign town
my short skirt is a wild spin
a full breath
a tango dip
my short skirt is

But mainly my short skirt
and everything under it
is Mine.

—Eve Ensler, 2001

Short skirt found here.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Light Returns

We woke to icy rain and slippery outdoor surfaces. By ten o'clock, the sun was breaking through the clouds after days and days of rain. This afternoon, as if in celebration of the returning light, the hellebore was looking lovely and the tiny tips of the daffodils were pushing even higher.

Sunday Trakl Blogging


In the spirit’s solitary hours
It is lovely to walk in the sun
Along the yellow walls of summer.
Quietly whisper the steps in the grass; yet the son of Pa;
always sleeps in the grey marble.

At eventide on the terrace we got drunk on brown wine.
The red peach glows under the foliage.
Tender sonata, joyous laughter.

Lovely is this silence of the night.
On the dark plains
We gather with shepherds and the white stars.

When autumn rises,
The grove is a sight of sober clarity.
Along the red walls we loiter at ease
And our round eyes follow the flight of birds.
In the evening, pale water gathers in the dregs of burial urns.

Heaven celebrates, sitting in bare branches.
In hallowed hands, the yeoman carries bread and wine.
And fruit ripens in the peace of a sunny chamber.

Oh how stern are the faces of the beloved who have taken their passage.
Yet the soul is comforted in righteous meditation.

Overwhelming is the desolated garden‘s secrecy,
As the young novice has wreathed his brow with brown leaves,
His breath inhales icy gold.

The hands touch the antiquity of blueish water
Or, in a cold night, the sister's white cheeks.

In quiet and harmony we walk along a suite of hospitable rooms
Into solitude and the rustling of maple trees,
Where, perhaps, the thrush still sings.

Beautiful is man and emerging from the dark.
He marvels as he moves his arms and legs,
And his eyes quietly roll in purple cavities.

At suppertime ,a stranger loses himself in November’s black destitution;
Under brittle branches, he follows a wall covered under leprosy.
Once the holy brother went here,
Engrossed in the tender music of his madness.

Oh how lonely settles the evening-wind.
Dying away, a man‘s head droops in the dark of the olive tree.

How shattering is the decline of a family.
This is the hour when the seer’s eyes are filled
With gold as he beholds the stars.

The evening’s descent has muffled the belfry‘s knell in silence;
Among black walls in the public place,
A dead soldier calls for a prayer.

Like a pale angel
The son enters his ancestor’s empty house.

The sisters have traveled far to the pale ancients.
At night, returned from their mournful pilgrimage,
He found them asleep under the columns of the hallway.

Oh hair stained with dung and worms
As his silver feet stepped on it
And on those who died in echoing rooms.

Oh you palms under midnight’s burning rain,
When the servants flogged those tender eyes with nettles,
The hollyhock’s early fruit
Beheld your empty grave in wonder.

Fading moons sail quietly
Over the sheets of the feverish lad,
Into the silence of winter.

At the bank of Kidron a great mind is lost in musing,
Under a tree, the tender cedar,
Stretched out under the father’s blue eyebrows,
Where a shepherd drives his flock to pastures at night.

Or there are screams which escape the sleep;
When an iron angel approaches man in the grove,
The holy man’s flesh melts over burning coals.

Purple wine climbs about the mud-cottage,
Sheaves of faded corn sing;
The buzz of bees; the crane’s flight.
In the evening the souls of the resurrected gather on rocky paths.

Lepers behold their image in dark water;
Or they lift the hemp of their dung soiled attire,
And weep to the soothing wind, as it drifts down from the rosy hill.

Slender maidens grope their way through the narrow lanes of night;
They hope for the gracious shepherd.
Tenderly, songs ring out from the huts on weekend.

Let the song pay homage to the boy,
To his madness to his white eyebrows and to his passage,
To the decaying corpse, who opened his blue eyes.
Oh how sad is this reunion.

The stairs of madness in black apartments –
The matriarch’s shadow emerged under the open door
When Helian’s soul beheld his image in a rosy mirror;
And from his brow bled snow and leprosy.

The walls extinguished the stars
And the white effigies of light.

From the carpet rise skeletons, escaping their graves,
Fallen crosses sit silent on the hill,
The night’s purple wind is sweet with frankincense.

Oh ye broken eyes over black gaping jaws,
When the grandson in the solitude
Of his tender madness muses over a darker ending,
The blue eyelids of the silent god sink upon him.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


It's grey today and there's a chilling cold. My neighbor's black cat is meowing outside my back door and, in the naked, twisty branches of the oak tree, three (of course it's three) of THE largest and blackest crows I have ever seen are making mournful crow song, trying to scare off the cat.

Darkness reigns; I can't imagine anything moodier and more evocative.

May the darkness bless you and fascinate you.

Picture found here.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday Cat Blogging

Miss Thing owns the bed.

Sleet On Solstice: Doan Want

The chief problem with Nature Religions is: Nature. I can't remember even once, since I began practicing magic with my wonderful circle of witchy women, when Nature has stopped us from being outside -- either at a wooded lakefront, or in my oak grove backyard, or on Capitol Hill, in the v shadow of power -- and banging drums, blowing whistles, beating pots, and shaking tambourines to wake up the sleepy Sun after the longest night of the year. But this year, when we've some, er, special magic planned for the, er, v powerful, the weather is threatening to keep old witches w broken ankles confined. I'll be spending some time this evening trying to push back the sleet.

Someone, and I apologize for forgetting who, once said that people are fearful of witches because witches aren't afraid of the Dark. I'm not sure if that's true; there are times in my life when the Dark has terrified me, but that's also true for me vis a vis the Light. What I do know about the Dark is that it's mostly comforting to me, these days. A lovely witch once asked me which room in my home was the darkest. Unless I go down into the basement, my guest room, tucked into the oak grove in my back yard and away from the street lights, is the darkest room in my home. If it weren't so much smaller than the master bedroom, I'd have picked that room for my bedroom, for that reason alone. As it is, I walk into the room two or three times an evening and just stand there, absorbing the comforting Dark. Scientists think that sleeping in deep Dark may help to prevent breast cancer; our attempts to light up the Dark have had so many pernicious effects, in addition to making it impossible to see the Milky Way, which, honestly, we were meant to see almost every night. I love the fogs we've been having for the same reason that I love the Dark: comfort. With only a small bit of practice, you can wrap the Dark around you the way that you can wrap fog around you, like a comforting cloak with a magical buckle on the front.

I wrapped up in my blue wool cloak yesterday morning and walked out barefoot in the fog and there were daffodil sprouts coming up out of the deep brown Earth, saying, "We love the Dark, the Dark underneath the ground, the deep Dark of winter. We'll see you soon when the days get long enough to warm the ground." And my hellebore, known as the Advent Rose, would be about to bloom, had Landscape Guy and I not transplanted it this year. It may bloom, yet.

My wonderful circle of magical women -- old, young, sexual, pregnant, menopausal, living with husbands, leaving husbands, leaving jobs, nurturing children, nurturing grandchildren, nurturing news agencies, nurturing federal agencies, nurturing film companies, nurturing non-profits, nurturing aged mothers-in-law, competing internationally in bridge, blogging, learning witchcraft, becoming political, rejuvinating after an annus horribilis, becoming devotees of specific Goddesses, learning to lead ritual -- will gather to celebrate the longest night, to appreciate how long the Dark can last when the Dark sets its mind to lasting. We'll eat, do magic, dance, read tarot, exchange small gifts, dance, tell secrets, dance, tell the truth, dance, sleep, and wake up to drink magically-prepared liqueur from shot glasses made of ice (I know some one's going to ask: Here), do magic to protect women's rights, and go eat brunch. (What? You didn't think witches eat brunch? We invented second breakfast.) And I will know, once again, that I am blessed beyond anything that I ever deserved, blessed to live within this college of priestesses.

And so, on into the growing Light. I think that we can do this. Bhride, wait for me on the other side. Witches are also not too terribly afraid of the Light.

May the Darkness bless you, bless yours, and bring you Her Dark Gifts.

Picture found here.

My New Name For A Blog

What Athenea said.

Surprisingly, no one's mentioning that, in addition to being a disgusting homophobe of the worst, slimiest, most disgusting sort, Warren also sucks the big wazoo on women's rights.

Bite me, Barack Obama.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

At The End Of All Desire -- Just Because

Charge of the Goddess

Traditional by Doreen Valiente, as adapted by Starhawk:

Listen to the words of the Great Mother, Who of old was called Artemis, Astarte, Dione, Melusine, Aphrodite, Cerridwen, Diana, Arionrhod, Brigid, and by many other names:

Whenever you have need of anything, once a month, and better it be when the moon is full, you shall assemble in some secret place and adore the spirit of Me Who is Queen of all the Wise.

You shall be free from slavery, and as a sign that you be free you shall be naked in your rites.

Sing, feast, dance, make music and love, all in My Presence, for Mine is the ecstasy of the spirit and Mine also is joy on earth.

For My law is love is unto all beings. Mine is the secret that opens the door of youth, and Mine is the cup of wine of life that is the cauldron of Cerridwen, that is the holy grail of immortality.

I give the knowledge of the spirit eternal, and beyond death I give peace and freedom and reunion with those that have gone before.

Nor do I demand aught of sacrifice, for behold, I am the Mother of all things and My love is poured out upon the earth.

Hear the words of the Star Goddess, the dust of Whose feet are the hosts of Heaven, whose body encircles the universe:

I Who am the beauty of the green earth and the white moon among the stars and the mysteries of the waters,

I call upon your soul to arise and come unto me.

For I am the soul of nature that gives life to the universe.

From Me all things proceed and unto Me they must return.

Let My worship be in the heart that rejoices, for behold, all acts of love and pleasure are My rituals.

Let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion, honor and humility, mirth and reverence within you.

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.

Picture found here.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

An opportunity to consider how public or communal pressures on a writer can dramatically affect the choices he or she makes

Hecate says "Jump!" and Obama says "How high?" Not really. In all honesty, I had almost nothing to do with this, but I am delighted to learn that Obama will, as Democratic presidents have before him, have a poet at his inauguration.

Poetry is important. One of my favorite t-shirts bears a quote from Victor Anderson: "White magic is poetry. Black magic is anything that actually works." To which I always amend: "Poetry does work. Poetry induces ecstacy, which is what poetry is supposed to do and ecstacy IS magic." Great nations need poetry and in extremis -- which, let's face it, pretty well describes our current situation -- they need it most of all.

Obama's chosen Elizabeth Alexander, a professor of African American studies, . . . a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2005, and winner of the Jackson Poetry Prize last year.

She is the daughter of former secretary of the Army Clifford Alexander, who made appearances on Obama's behalf during the campaign. She grew up on Capitol Hill and attended Sidwell Friends School, which Obama's children will attend. She is also a former neighbor of Obama's in Chicago.

She said she was overjoyed at the inaugural honor.

"I am obviously profoundly honored and thrilled," she said today. "Not only to have a chance to have some small part of this extraordinary moment in American history. . . . This incoming president of ours has shown in every act that words matter, that words carry meaning, that words carry power that words are the medium with which we communicate across difference, and that words have tremendous possibilities and those possibilities are not empty."

Alexander, a v good choice, IMHO, is, perhaps, best known for her poem, Venus Hottentot:

The Venus Hottentot (1825)

1. Cuvier

Science, science, science!
Everything is beautiful

blown up beneath my glass.
Colors dazzle insect wings.

A drop of water swirls
like marble. Ordinary

crumbs become stalactites
set in perfect angles

of geometry I’d thought
impossible. Few will

ever see what I see
through this microscope..

Cranial measurements
crowd my notebook pages,

and I am moving close,
close to how these numbers

signify aspects of
national character.

Her genitalia
will float inside a labeled

pickling jar in the Musee
de l’Homme on a shelf

above Broca’s brain:
“The Venus Hottentot.”

Elegant facts await me.
Small things in this world are mine.


There is unexpected sun today
in London, and the clouds that
most days sift into this cage
where I am working have dispersed.
I am a black cutout against
a captive blue sky, pivoting
nude so the paying audience
can view my naked buttocks.

I am called “Venus Hottentot.”
I left Capetown with a promise
of revenue: half the profits
and my passage home: a boon!
Master’s brother proposed the trip;
the magistrate granted me leave.
I would return to my family
a duchess, with watered-silk

dresses and money to grow food,
rouge and powder in glass pots,
silver scissors, a lorgnette,
voile and tulle instead of flax,
cerulean blue instead
of indigo. My bother would
devour sugar-studded non-
pareils, pale taffy, damask plums.

That was years ago. London’s
circuses are florid and filthy,
swarming with cabbage-smelling
citizens who stare and query,
“Is it muscle? Bone? Or fat?”
My neighbor to the left is
The Sapient Pig, “The Only
Scholar of His Race.” He plays

at cards, tells time and fortunes
by scraping his hooves. Behind
me is Prince Kar-mi, who arches
like a rubber tree and stares back
at the crowd from under the crook
of his knee. A professional
animal trainer shouts my cues.
There are singing mice here.

“The Ball of Duchess DuBarry”:
In the engraving I lurch
towards the belles dames, mad-eyed, and
they swoon. Men in capes and pince-nez
shield them. Tassels dance at my hips.
In this newspaper lithograph
my buttocks are shown swollen
and luminous as a planet.

Monsieur Cuvier investigates
between my legs, poking, prodding,
sure of his hypothesis.
I half expect him to pull silk
scarves from inside me, paper poppies,
then a rabbit! He complains
at my scent and does not think
I comprehend, but I speak

English. I speak Dutch. I speak
a little French as well, and
languages Monsieur Cuvier
will never know have names.
Now I am bitter and now
I am sick. I eat brown bread,
drink rancid brother. I miss good sun,
miss Mother’s sadza. My stomach

is frequently queasy from mutton
chops, pale potatoes, blood sausage.
I was certain that this would be
better than farm life. I am
the family entrepreneur!
But there are hours in every day
to conjure my imaginary
daughters, in banana skirts

and ostrich-feather fans.
Since my own genitals are public
I have made other parts private.
In my silence, I possess
mouth, larynx, brain, in a single
gesture. I rub my hair
with lanolin, and pose in profile
like a painted Nubian

archer, imagining gold leaf
woven through my hair, and diamonds.
Observe the wordless Odalisque.
I have not forgotten my Xhosa
clicks. My flexible tongue
and healthy mouth bewilder
this man with his rotting teeth.
If he were to let me rise up

from this table, I’d spirit
his knives and cut out his black heart,
seal it with science fluid inside
a bell jar, place it on a low
shelf in a white man’s museum
so the whole world could see
it was shriveled and hard,
geometric, deformed, unnatural.

Alexander has explained her theory of poetry:

Ars Poetica #100: I Believe

Poetry, I tell my students,
is idiosyncratic. Poetry

is where we are ourselves,
(though Sterling Brown said

“Every ‘I’ is a dramatic ‘I’”)
digging in the clam flats

for the shell that snaps,
emptying the proverbial pocketbook.

Poetry is what you find
in the dirt in the corner,

overhear on the bus, God
in the details, the only way

to get from here to there.
Poetry (and now my voice is rising)

is not all love, love, love,
and I’m sorry the dog died.

Poetry (here I hear myself loudest)
is the human voice,

and are we not of interest to each other?

Ars Poetica #28: African Leave-Taking Disorder

The talk is good. The two friends linger
at the door. Urban crickets sing with them.

There is no after the supper and talk.
The talk is good. These two friends linger

at the door, half in, half out, ‘til one
decides to walk the other home. And so

they walk, more talk, the new doorstep, the
nightgowned wife who shakes her head and smiles

from the bedroom window as the men talk
in love and the crickets sing along.

The joke would be if the one now home
walked the other one home, where they started,

to keep talking, and so on: “African
Leave-Taking Disorder,” which names her children

everywhere trying to come back together and talk.

Go, Elizabeth!

*Title of the post from an essay by Alexander on Gwendolyn Brooks

Be Honest

I think that people underestimate the power of somebody willing to tell the truth, because in fact very few people are. How will I pay the rent? How will I eat? Where will I publish it? But the universe is more magical than that. People think they have to identify a market, what people want -- even radicals do this -- but that's exactly wrong. What is true? What really inspires me, excites me? What will really help people, really take away their confusion and suffering? Write about those things and to hell with what people are supposed to want. It's sort of a funny, crazy, bloody-minded way, but I think it's the only way to bring water to the Wasteland . . . . When I read something truthful, something real, I breathe a deep sigh and say, "Thank you so much -- I wasn't mad or alone in thinking that after all!" So often we are left to our own devices, struggling in the dark with this whole external framing system and internalized propaganda system, and then for someone to tell us the truth is such a gift. In a world where people are bull-shitting all around us, confusing us -- and confusion is a cause of huge suffering -- it's a great kindness to be honest.

David Edwards, interviewed by Derrick Jensen on Jan. 11, 2000. Reprinted in How Shall I Live My Life by Derrick Jensen

Picture of Diogenes found here

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Getting To Know The Ground

If you're going to practice grounding, it helps to be familiar with the ground. Garden, even if you've only got a tiny spot or a few window pots. Pull weeds for a friend or volunteer to do it anyplace with a garden: a hospice, a library, a park, a nursing home. I do a lot of weeding, it's one of THE most oddly calming meditative devices that I know. And when I weed, I spend some time examining the roots of the plants that I'm pulling out of the ground. Different plants have different kinds of roots and I find it helpful to have a visual library of lots of different roots inside my head when it's time for me to sink my roots down into the ground. Over time, I've learned that I usually have two sets of roots. A very energetic set of roots, clear and glassy and filled with blue and gold swirls. (Didn't say it made sense. That's just how they appear to me when I begin sinking them into the ground.) And, a second set that's like some young trees that I've pulled out of the ground. Woody and tough as hell, even if a bit thin, with lots of small "hairy" rootlets shooting off the larger "branches".

Go outside and sit on the ground. At a park, near a river, in the mountains, beside a tree. How does it feel to your ass, to your legs, to your back, to your hands? Stretch out on the ground. How does it feel to your belly? Is it sun-warmed, or still damp and chilly from the last rain? What is it saying to you? What do you want to say to it? If you're going to have a relationship with it, you might want to introduce yourself and become familiar with it. Before you go, you know, invading it with your roots.

When you ground and drop your roots into the Earth, I find that it helps to be aware of how the ground is really feeling these days. It's hard and cold in winter, here where I live. Lately, the top layer is squishy from the wealth of recent rain that we've had. Some mornings, the first few inches are frosty. Come Spring, it will likely be wet, as well, but it will warm gradually. In Summer, the ground here can get parched and, especially in the afternoon, the first half an inch or so can be warm from the sun.

When I ground sitting at my altar, as I sink my roots into the ground, I note the top layer of rich soil, the lower layers of red Virginia clay. I note worms and bugs and moles and the roots of the deep old oaks that surround my home, whose roots form a network of protection around this cottage and its grounds. I sink my roots deeper, noting the bones of my ancestors, becoming one again with the Earth, welcoming my roots, grounding me. I sink my roots lower, past the aquifer, through layers of solid rock that nourish me, down deep enough that the ground begins to warm, lower and deeper -- and spreading out wider and wider all the time -- to the very molten core of Mother Earth, the part of my Mother most full of energy. And then, I begin to draw that warmth and energy up.

With practice, you'll likely find that the ground "feels" different when you ground in different places. My circle of wonderful women often does magic on Capitol Hill and, there, the ground feels more marshy to me, a bit less solid, easier to penetrate and more apt to move around a bit. The ground beneath my office feels even marshyer, and more oppressed, burdened by too many buildings and too much concrete. I have to work harder to get grounded there. When I was in the mountains of Vermont recently, the ground was cold, full of tiny rocks, and it "tasted" mineral-ly, like mineral water with a strong taste.

You can approach grounding as an abstract task, a magical practice that doesn't require you to get your hands, well, dirty. And that may work for some people. But, for me, grounding is about developing a real relationship with the ground, with Mother Earth, the kind of familiarity that allows sudden access when necessary: Let me in old friend, I need this and I need it now.

Picture found here.

Lunaea's Done It Again

If you're going to spend money on gifts, make it count. Damn, she finds the best pictures.

My New Name For A Blog

What Innana Said.

Picture found here.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sunday Trakl Blogging


Flown away is the gold of days,
The evening's brown and blue colors:
The shepherd's soft flutes have died,
The evening's blue and brown colors;
Flown away is the gold of days.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Even If We're Just Dancing In The Dark

Matrifocus just keeps getting better and better. They've got up a great poem by Starhawk, perfect for these times.

Maenad Prophecy
by Starhawk

When kings wage unjust war,
When poison fills the skies,
When the rich prey on the poor,
When hope for justice dies

When a spell lies o’er the land,
Of malice and of lies,
Then a wild and fearless band
Of women shall arise

Crazy saints, yoginis,
Peering through the gloom,
Maenads and dakinis
Witches grab your brooms!

Sweep away the stench
Sweep away the sneers!
Sweep away the clench
Of hunger and of fears

Dance to feel the passion
Dance to wake the wild,
To honor deep compassion,
For the forest and the child,

Dance to keep the Arctic cool,
To keep the jungle green,
Dance for every holy fool,
For every wound unseen.

Dance for justice, dance for peace
Dance for life to thrive,
May beauty, health and joy increase
For every being alive

Dance in love, dance in wrath,
For chains to fall apart,
Dance to choose a better path,
Dance for strength of heart,

All across the nation,
Bankers quail and glower,
Cracked is the foundation
Of the bastions of power

Strong walls crumble,
Kings face their final hour,
An angry earth shall rumble,
Down shall fall the Tower.

And through its stones shall weave the roots
Of a living tree
That offers us its shining fruits
Of truth and liberty

Fruit to fill each empty hand
With sweet gifts of the earth
Dance to heal this bleeding land —
A new world comes to birth.

© 2008 Starhawk. All rights reserved. Starhawk wrote this piece for the Dance for Life and Regime Change, a Ritual Magic Action scheduled for Halloween night in San Francisco, 2008.

Starhawk's poem seems to me to be a partial answer to a question that Anne's asking:

So here’s the dilemma: any serious reading of the day’s financial news—just pick a day, it doesn’t really matter which—can make the average person feel [haunted with worry about the economy, wary of any conversation for fear of more bad news, eager to do something about the problem]. But when I do that, when I lift my gaze and really study the situation, I become practically incapacitated with fear and am no good for anything, least of all working to improve my financial situation.

Staying lucid in this dream—or nightmare, really—for any length of time is beyond my skill level. I can manage it for a little while, calming myself down from the shock of what is happening long enough to write more, and work more. But this is big and getting worse, and it’s only a matter of time before I slip back into shock about what is going on in the world.

Magically speaking, this is a tremendous opportunity to increase our ability to stay present in both worlds simultaneously. When I get seriously off-center, I have a few tried-and-true ways to re-center myself and carry on. What I would love to hear are all the ways the rest of you have for doing this. Because surely there are some great techniques I don’t know about, and this is the sort of time when we can all use as many good suggestions as possible.

Starhawk's suggestion:

Witches grab your brooms!

Sweep away the stench
Sweep away the sneers!
Sweep away the clench
Of hunger and of fears

Dance to feel the passion
Dance to wake the wild,
To honor deep compassion,
For the forest and the child,

Dance to keep the Arctic cool,
To keep the jungle green,
Dance for every holy fool,
For every wound unseen.

Dance for justice, dance for peace
Dance for life to thrive,
May beauty, health and joy increase
For every being alive

Dance in love, dance in wrath,
For chains to fall apart,
Dance to choose a better path,
Dance for strength of heart,

is a good one. We're witches. The times call out for magical action. Take some. Do magic for yourself and do magic for your world. I feel better every time that I do.

At times when we seem, as, Goddess knows, we do now, at an uncertain crossroads, I tend to invoke -- no surprise! -- my patron Goddess, the three-headed Goddess of the crossroads, Hecate. (Here's a really fun site that's, at least nominally, devoted to her.) She reminds me that liminal times carry as much opportunity as danger, and occasionally, she lifts a finger and points down one road or another.

I also follow Wendell Berry's good advice for times such as these:

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

— Wendell Berry

Part of what's terrifying about the present economic situation is the awareness that we can do all the "right" things (pay off debt, build up savings, set aside emergency supplies, work hard at our jobs, network, take care of health issues now while we have insurance, etc., etc., etc. -- and we definitely should be doing those things) and STILL get caught in the tsunami of layoffs, inflation, etc. That's actually true all the time; our illusions of control are just that: illusions. But the current situation makes us face that fact. As Anne notes, that makes it an excellent time to grow magically, to increase our ability to stay present in both worlds simultaneously.

And so -- you knew that I was going to say this -- I ground.

Grounding is, for me, the first step in the process of remaining present in all worlds. When fear is getting in the way of being present (you know what the Bene Gesserit witches say: I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.),I add a step to my grounding. When I've sunk my roots down very deep into Mother Earth, I begin to breathe regularly and with awareness. When I exhale, I send my fear down through my roots into the Mother, where it can be transformed. When I inhale, I pull up peace, stability, clarity. I do that until I can truly say the words of Mary Oliver's wonderful poem:

And, therefore, let the immeasurable come.
Let the unknowable touch the buckle of my spine.
Let the wind turn in the trees,
and the mystery hidden in the dirt

swing through the air.
How could I look at anything in this world
and tremble, and grip my hands over my heart?
What should I fear?

One morning
in the leafy green ocean
the honeycomb of the corn's beautiful body
is sure to be there.

From West Wind: Poems and Prose Poems, by Mary Oliver. Published by Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston. Copyright 1997 by Mary Oliver.

And when you feel like that, it's a great time to dance the dance that Starhawk calls for. Last night's full moon, was one of the brightest ever. It's power is only beginning to wane this evening. Ground. Do one practical thing to make yourself safer (put some money in savings, pay a debt, exercise, clean up and clear out junk). Ground. Do one practical thing to make our world better (recycle, take old clothes to a homeless shelter, call your Senator about an important cause, read to a child). Ground. Do some magic to insure prosperity for you and those you love. Ground. And, dance.

Dance to feel the passion
Dance to wake the wild,
To honor deep compassion,
For the forest and the child,

Dance to keep the Arctic cool,
To keep the jungle green,
Dance for every holy fool,
For every wound unseen.

Dance for justice, dance for peace
Dance for life to thrive,
May beauty, health and joy increase
For every being alive

Dance in love, dance in wrath,
For chains to fall apart,
Dance to choose a better path,
Dance for strength of heart

Picture of Hecate found here.