Saturday, March 13, 2010

Friday, March 12, 2010

Thursday, March 11, 2010

It's Really Not Complicated

There's some awfully good writing on the web today concerning abortion. First, GWPDA, in comments at Eschaton, pointed me to this:

It’s not my role to judge the patients. I’m not God. My patients have rights.
My patients have feelings. My patients have needs, and I need to listen to
them. We live in a world where we don’t have a fail-proof method of birth
control. We don’t have a school system that allows us to teach young
children where babies come from. We don’t have a police system that
prevents rape and incest. We don’t have a scientific community that can
guarantee every woman, when she's pregnant, that the fetus is normal. As
long as we live in this imperfect society, women have to have the right to be
able to terminate a pregnancy. If we could guarantee every woman that
she’s only pregnant when she wants to be, we wouldn’t have to have
abortions any more.”
—Robert Tamis, MD
Paradise Valley, AZ

And T. Thorn Coyle has a two-part post that includes this very profound bit of wisdom:

Let me say this, clearly: An adult woman’s life is more valuable to me than the life of a fetus. A fetus is potential. An adult is action. Both are part of the sacred flow, yes, but if a choice must be made, I know where I stand. I eat things in order to live, are these things not a part of sacred flow? They are. Every time I breathe, I’m harming and killing microbes of all sorts. Are they not part of sacred flow? They are. These things are sacred, and still, I choose to live, and hope to contribute something to this cosmosphere that is worthy of all the little lives I take each day. I would not be living this life if I had a 20 year old whom I had raised. For some, parenting is a powerful, gracious act that feeds their lives. For me, this was not to be so.
. . .

One man who joined us yesterday was there because he had friends who had died from botched, illegal abortions. Even with limited and dangerous options, those women still needed to choose. May we honor life by honoring our ability to personally make strong and difficult choices, in order to best support the unfolding of life’s path. May the sacred move through us, informing our decisions. May we act with an impulse toward life in all its varied glory. May we make choices, like adults, with full consciousness of our acts and the risk of their consequences. May we live fully, honorably, and contribute our very best to give back to the fabric of all.

I'd add something, except for the fact that I think those two posts pretty much say it all.

Picture found here.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Spring Cleaning The Ritual Room

One of the things that attracted me to Witchcraft was the notion that this was a practical religion, based upon experience. Witches were the people who did what needed doing: grew herbs to heal the sick, helped women give birth, assisted Mother Earth in the Turning of the Wheel.

But you know, oh my Sisters and oh my Brothers, I am beginning to lose faith in us. Because it occurred to me today that, while there are spells to attract partners, spells to bring prosperity, spells to summon otherworldly beings and ask them to assist us, and spells to unjam paper printers, there do not appear to be, in spite of centuries and centuries of practice, not in any ancient Grimoire, nor in any arcane Book of Shadows, nor in any secret oral tradition, any spells for getting rid of candle wax.

And, you know, if we were truly a practical, real-world, experience-based religion, I figure that, as much as we use candles, some bright Witch, somewhere along the line, would have come up with a spell to make candle wax simply disappear.

I am just saying.

Picture found here.

Voyage of Bran

A hawk today, a boar yesterday.
Wonderful instability!
Dearer to me every day
Too, the friend who choses my shape . . . .

Among heros of boars I was.
Though today I am among bird flocks.
I know what will come it.
I shall still be in another shape.

More here.


Many Witches have a "favorite" divination tool, the one that they reach for regularly. For me, that's tarot, which is odd, given my almost complete lack of what are generally called "right-brained" skills. But almost from the first Rider Waite deck I bought and began to work with (which consistently, for years, showed me the 5 of Pents, the 9 of Pents, and the Chariot, until I acted on the message), the cards tell me the truth in a way that I can understand.

I own a couple (fewer than ten) tarot decks. I think that I realized early on that if I weren't careful, I'd be about tarot decks the way that I am about books or Hermes. And so I frequently see a deck that I'd like, get ready to buy it, and then invoke Fire, exercise my "Capital-W-Will," and tell myself, "No." (An even half-way-reasonably priced Greenwood Tarot deck, will, I freely admit, make me break my own rule, but I've yet to find one of those. And I sprung for the iPhone Goddess Tarot "app" (I'm an old woman, but I am so hip), which I find to be incredibly precise and predictive. And, you know, always in your pocket.)

However, I'm definitely planning to make an exception this Fall when Joanna Colbert's Gaian Tarot deck comes out. The imagery is just too beautiful and the cards are just too full of meaning. I've really enjoyed following the creation of the deck on Joanna's blog. Now, Joanna is presenting a series of videos that explain the deck. It's as if you could dial Pamela Colman Smith and Arthur Waite up on YouTube. (OK, I'm revealing my age. It's as if you could click on Colman Smith and Waite on YouTube. Or pull them up on your Blackberry.)

I was particularly impressed to hear her discussion of how her spiritual practice deepened over the years, as she prepared to create the Gaian Tarot deck. Starhawk once said something like: "the Earth is our sacred text, like the Bible, or the Koran, or the Torah, and most of us are illiterate in it. Well, I really took that to heart. And it was about this time that I moved to a small island. I began to spend a lot more time outside than I ever had before. I enrolled in a course where I could learn wilderness awareness techniques and I started studying the native plants and the birds in the place where I live[d] and I just fell absolutely and completely in love with the place where I was living."

I think that for many of us, and I include myself here, more or less, we love the Earth the way that illiterate medieval serfs loved the illuminated texts of the xian Gospels that they were allowed to see, maybe, a few times a year lifted up at Mass on the high holy days. That devotion can be intense and lovely and meaningful, but there is something deeper. There is the relationship that the learned monks who illustrated the texts had for their holy book. There is the relationship that comes from actually spending time with your beloved and learning all that can be learned about Her. There's the devotion that comes from reading, and re-reading, and spending time really considering the meaning of the text, from reading not just the text, but also the commentaries, the concordances, the Talmud.

What would that kind of thirst for deep literacy of the Earth look like? What does it look life in your own life, in your own landbase, in March 2010? What does it look like in urban areas, which is where most Pagans (irony of etymology) live today? What does it look like in areas beset by global climate change? What would you have to give up to acquire that literacy? What would you gain?

Picture found here.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Wild Roots And Woodlore

Here's another Omega offering that seems to me to be an even better course for a Witch than one more workshop on (not that there's anything wrong with that!) The Magical Uses of an Athame or Which Goddess Type Are You?

Wild Roots, Woodslore
& Wildwoods Wisdom
A Hands-On Workshop

The natural world is our source of life—not only of food, clothing, and shelter—but also of mythic lessons and universal truths. Guided by one of America’s most beloved naturalists, Doug Elliott, we take a weekend journey to roam the woods, swamps, and fields of Omega’s Rhinebeck campus and rekindle our mythic connection to the great web of life.

Together, we hunt edible wild roots and plants, healing medicinal herbs, and savory wild mushrooms. As we move along, Elliott shows us how to make medicine out of common wild plants and explains the virtues of poison ivy and what might happen to you if you eat it. We discover ancient plant lore, solve plant riddles, and are entertained by songs about weeds and berries.

We also observe birds, mammals, insects, and other critters, listening to their calls and following their tracks. And, we learn lots of natural history through the stories, legends, and lore of the native wildwoods of New York’s Hudson Valley.

Doug Elliott’s enthusiasm, humor, and reverence for the earth is infectious. For many years, he made his living gathering and selling herbs. Elliott now teaches worldwide, including programs at the American Museum of Natural History, and has been a featured storyteller at the National Storytelling Festival. He is the author of five books including Wild Roots and Swarm Tree.
Doug Elliott.

Could you eat off your landbase, if you needed to? Could you heal using native plants? How deep is your relationship to your landbase if you don't even know what grows there?

Now if Omega would just offer the same course based in large urban areas, rather than the woods of Rhinebeck. . . .

Picture found here.

The Waiting Moment Of Grace

Cabbing back from an appointment to my office this morning, I had one of those moments that only happen in (and that keep me in love with) Washington, DC. The street was blocked by some protestors in green shirts, carrying signs that said, "Congress! Listen to Us!" My cabbie took a detour, only to be stopped by a motorcade with two black SUVs, several limos, and a bunch of police. I always ground and send a strong, "Repair the Web" vibe when I get that close to a motorcade in DC; it's bound to be someone powerful. Biden's out of town; Obama gets more SUVs; I'm not sure who this was.

Trying yet another route, the cabbie was apologetic. It was a crazy traffic morning: Gay people were lined up outside the court house to get married, protestors were protesting, crews were filling in pot holes, and now, a government official was moving around the city. I assured him that I wasn't in a hurry, I'm delighted that gay people are getting married on a fine Spring morning and, even when I don't agree with protestors, I love the fact that people care enough about their government to protest. We stopped at a light and -- just like that -- there was what I've come to recognize as "the waiting moment of grace" -- the reason that the Universe brought you this way. Sunlight shining through the tiny, tender, green leaves of a tree in a protected court yard. Something I haven't seen in the months and months and months since Summer ended and Autumn began. Dappled sunlight, one of the great loves of my life.

I love this city, this one, on the banks of the Potomac, with this particular tree standing in the late-morning sunshine. With these protestors and this motorcade and these police cars and this cabbie. I just do. I understand that I'm simple and silly and foolish, but, well, hell, this landbase needs someone to love it. I'll have to do until someone better comes along.

Picture found here.

Monday, March 08, 2010

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

When I was a girl, stories such as hers meant the world to me. Women could, it turned out, do more than sleep in a glass casket and wait for the kiss of a Handsome Prince.

A French resistance heroine who saved more than 100 lives and survived a Nazi death squad has died at the age of 105.

Known as Agent Rose, Andree Peel helped dozens of British and US pilots escape from occupied Europe. She lived near Bristol after marrying an Englishman.

Mrs Peel, who lived at Long Ashton, was awarded a second Legion d'Honneur in 2009 to mark her bravery.

. . .

She also received the Croix de Guerre and the American Medal of Freedom.

She was being lined up to be shot by a firing squad at the Buchenwald concentration camp when the US Army arrived to liberate the prisoners.

A former hairdresser from Brittany, Mrs Peel began her involvement with the resistance modestly, by handing out underground newspapers.

Later she tracked troop movements and went on to head an under-section of the movement. Her network allowed Allied pilots to escape German captivity, hiding them and - where possible - smuggling them away from France in submarines and on small boats.

She recounted her wartime experiences in her autobiography Miracles Do Happen, which was published in 1999.

After the war she moved to Paris and met her future husband John Peel.

Mr Peel, an academic, died some years ago and in recent years she formed a partnership with Brian Westaway, a fellow resident at Lambton House retirement home.

Commenting on her death, Dr Liam Fox, Conservative MP for Woodspring, said: "Mrs Peel was an iconic figure who showed phenomenal courage in the most difficult circumstances.

"Her selfless bravery saved many lives and she stands as a monument to the triumph of the human spirit, which will set an example for many generations to come."

The HeraldSun website notes, additionally, that: Peel once said her wartime rescue efforts were driven by a belief she was doing the right thing and all thoughts of her own safety were put aside.

"You don't know what freedom is if you have never lost it," she told the Bristol Evening Post newspaper.

"Everybody was ready to contribute to the fight and to risk their lives.

"The only fear we had was of being tortured and of speaking under torture - I rarely thought of my personal safety, I just acted and did what I believed was the right thing."

British wartime leader Winston Churchill wrote her a personal letter of congratulation - which had to be destroyed once she had read it for security reasons.

And her achievements were honoured with a string of awards. She received a second Legion d'Honneur last year in recognition of her bravery.

She owned a beauty salon in Brest, northwest France, when the Nazis invaded. She joined the resistance movement and as Agent Rose she guided Allied planes to secret landing strips by torchlight.

Thank you, Andree Peel. I will call your name at Samhein. What is remembered, we Witches say, does not die.


Almost all of the snow from the terrible winter of 2009/2010 is melted and it's possible to look around and assess the damage. Many of the trees here in the D.C. area, including lots of really ancient ones, took a terrible pounding from the snow. Trees such as hollies and magnolias, that keep their not-needle-like leaves and, thus, catch a lot of snow, were particularly hard hit, but they certainly weren't the only ones. Leyland Cypress, which were quite popular 15 to 20 ago as wind screens and privacy fences, fell over by the score. It's heartbreaking to see old friends with missing limbs, disfigured, broken. Yes, it's possible to see this winter's events as the same sort of "periodically necessary" pruning that forest fires perform out West. But that doesn't make my heart bleed much less for the five-story-high magnolia just down the street from my office that lost great big branches.

Here's one local witch's way of attempting to heal the hurt.

I stopped for a visit to Sligo Creek Park. I hadn’t visited in so long, and the bright sun reminded me of why I love that park. I walked to the bridge and paused to listen to the waters. I breathed deeply as I crossed the bridge; it felt like coming home.

And that is when I noticed all the damage. Several of the trees had lost branches; some had lost major limbs. It was devastating. One poor young tree had been split in two, exposing her delicate inner structure to the wind and the rain.

I paused at each wounded tree and expressed my deep sympathy and grief for its loss. Touching my hands where I could over the open wounds, connecting to the still living trunks, I expressed my hopes and prayers for recovery.

At the poor tree ripped asunder, I expressed my sorrow and I could feel her respond. I reminded her that her life was not over, as long as she could still feel her roots in the soil and take in nourishment from the sun and rain, she could still grow and thrive. I asked the older trees, especially those who themselves were wounded to tell this young tree about how life could continue. And to tell her especially that she would live not in spite of her wounding, but now more because of her wounds.

As I sat down to rest a bit before returning to my car, something broke apart inside of me. I suddenly felt all that had been wrenched away from me. I could see all my inner preciousness and vulnerabilities exposed to the elements. And just as suddenly I began sobbing. My poor shoulders were trembling with each wave of tears. As I sat in my misery, I suddenly heard voices. It was the trees repeating back to me all I said to comfort the youngest of them.

“You will live on not in spite of your wounding, but because of [it].”

Now a new wave of sobs erupted shaking my entire frame. I cried and cried until I didn’t even care who saw it. I cried until I no longer could hide my sadness or repress my grief.

Yeah, there was something going on in my heart. This wounded warrior was carrying a lot of unexpressed grief. Grief I now know that must be expressed and cared for in the now and not stored in my body.

As I left the park, I expressed my deep gratitude to the trees. And to all my healers and teachers, I say Namaste.

That's part of what we Witches mean when we talk about "being in relationship" with things like trees. It's not just a one-way transfer of energy; it's a, well, a relationship.

I see that Omega Center is offering a timely workshop on entering into relationship with trees.

Trees are generous beings. We appreciate their gifts of oxygen, inspiration, and healing. Let’s return the favor by becoming their healers and protectors.

When Tree Whispering™ experts Jim Conroy and Basia Alexander put their hands on trees, they feel bark, and also a bio-energy field of information and wonder. This weekend, they lead us to touch the majestic trees of Omega, experience growth energy, and take meditative journeys into trees’ inner dimensions.

We learn permission-based Green Centrics™ holistic energy healing methods from integrative medicine, ancient wisdom, faerie folklore, and new sciences in our approach to trees. We enjoy “coming from the tree’s point of view,” listening for messages with our intuition, and hands-on procedures.

In mindful—even sacred—ways, our interconnectedness deepens. While tree whispering, we shift and grow our very being in harmony with global transformations. In practical ways, garden chores become a respectful and cooperative partnership. Our trees at home will become healthier, and expectations for improving forest health multiply.

. . .

Jim Conroy, PhD in plant pathology from Purdue University, is The Tree Whisperer™. As founder of the Green Centrics™ system and president of Plant Health Alternatives, he heals, saves, and protects trees. A speaker, teacher, and certified organic land care professional, he has more than 25 years’ experience as a corporate executive.

Basia Alexander is an author, teacher, coach, and cocreative innovator
[/Sigh]. As founder of the Institute for Co-Creative Cooperation with NATURE, she advances widespread adoption of NATURE-Partnership concepts and practices.

If you're looking to deepen your relationship with the trees in your landbase, you could do worse than to pick one or two, spend time with them, learn about them, listen to what they whisper, and begin to whisper back.

Picture found here.

Sunday, March 07, 2010