Saturday, July 10, 2010

Saturday Poetry Blogging/Rain Spell

We overcome this wind.
We desire the rain to fall,
that it be poured in showers quickly.
Ah, thou rain, I adjure thee fall.
If thou rainest, it is well.
A drizzling confusion.
If it rains and our food ripes, it is well.
If the young men sing, it is well.
A drizzing confusion.
If our grain ripens, it is well.
If our women rejoice,
If the children rejoice, if the young men sing,
If the aged rejoice,
An overflowing in the granary.
A torent in flow.
If the wind veers to the south, it is well.
If the rain veers to the south, it is well.

~John S. Mbiti in Earth Prayers from Around the World, edited by Elizabeth Roberts and Elias Amidon

Picture found here.

Friday, July 09, 2010

The Craft Of Craft

In The Knitting Sutra: Craft as a Spiritual Practice, feminist author Susan G. Lydon writes that:

Knitting grounds me in the realness of the physical world. The feel of the yarn in my fingers, the steady growth of the fabric, the soothing click of the needles, the attention required to stay on course all help to hold me close to terra firma. Though mind and spirit travel in the cosmos, beyond the moon and stars, my body stays rooted in comforting solidity. I've come to appreciate solidity in these last few years, to value strength, an unshakable core.

Some days, I luxuriate in solitude like a cat basking in the sun. I've fallen in love with the whole of creation, the redwood trees, the fingers of fog, raptors tracing circles in the sky. I'm living a life I always imagined but never knew how to find.

I've been thinking a bit lately (often while knitting -- a beloved friend is having a baby, I'm finishing up an Autumn-colored sweater for G/Son, I'm starting to think about holiday knitting (last year, I made hats for the men in my family and scarves for the women; this year, I'm thinking of cowls for the men and hats for the women)) about the relationship between craft (which, in my case is knitting, but in yours might be beading or basket weaving or crafting amazing cocktails or macrame -- does anyone still do macrame?) and my spirituality. And, of course, Wicca is sometimes known as the Craft of the Wise.

I like the way that knitting weaves me into a many-thousand-year-old circle of women, women who, even when they could sit down and "relax," kept their hands busy making things to keep their family warm. Knitting is generally passed literally and physically from woman to woman: mother to daughter, aunt to niece, teacher to student.* I suppose it's theoretically possible to learn to knit by reading a book or watching a video, but I don't know anyone who learned it that way.

I learned to knit, when I was in my early teens, from an old woman in our church named Mrs. Williams. She was an amazing knitter! When Son was born, she made him a cardigan and beret that I passed on to G/Son. I don't know who taught her to knit, but I like to send my gratitude back through that line, from me to Mrs. Williams, to whoever taught her, to whoever taught her . . . whenever I pick up my projects. If women had been taught to value their own skills, maybe knitters would be required to recite their lineage when they learned their craft, honoring the names of productive craftswomen long gone. My grandma crocheted, and I treasure an afghan she made for me. Her craft links me back to her and reminds me of her love every time I snuggle under her handiwork.

In Sacred Circles: A Guide to Creating Your Own Women's Spirituality Group, Robin Deen Carnes and Sally Craig note that women's spirituality:

is rooted in the daily experience of being a woman, whether we are cultivating herbs or cooking with them, diapering a baby, giving a presentation, or dressing for a formal dance.

I think that's right, or, at least, that women's spirituality should be rooted in our daily experiences. Knitting is part of my (almost) daily experience and so it makes sense for it to play a role in my spirituality.

I also practice a simple form of protection spell whenever I knit something. I weave my intention for safety and warmth (for whoever will wear my knitting) directly into the ribbing, the knitting and purling, the twisting cables, the oh-so-time-consuming seed stitches. I cast on repeating the spell I've made and focus on a visual picture of my intention each time I turn a row (or hit the marker on circular needles).

What's your craft? Who taught it to you? What role does it play in your spiritual life?

*I do know that some men knit and that's great. But it is, still, a craft practiced overwhelmingly by women.

Hail Kupala

Here's a charming article about Ivana Kupala, a Ukrainian holiday celebrated with bonfires and flower wreaths, after the summer solstice, usually on the night of July 6.

The name Kupala refers to the god of fruits of the earth. His holiday is considered to be one of the most magical ones in the Ukrainian calendar. Fortune-telling, jumping over cleansing fires and other mystical rituals have traditionally been part of it. . . . Olena Didiuk, who had done a bachelor degree paper on pagan holidays assimilated by the Christian tradition, explained how the name Ivan merged with the holiday. “Christianity was brought on the Ukrainian land against the will of pagan people, and the church needed to set new holidays on top of the old ones. So today people have a choice whether to celebrate Ivan the Baptist’s day, or the day of Kupala,” she said.

Picture from the article; there are several really lovely ones.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Finding Our Missing Pieces

Which, of course, reminds me of this:

Let The Annual War To Enforce Xmas Commence!

Here's an interesting article about Leesburg, Virginia, struggling amidst the Summer heat over what to do about displays on government property, come next December.

When the Courthouse Ground and Facilities Committee voted last November to prohibit all displays on the lawn of the courts complex in Leesburg it sparked an outrage from a number of residents and community groups, spurring the Board of Supervisors to quickly reverse that action during a special meeting only weeks before the December holidays.

As a result, several traditional Christmas displays, along with a couple aimed at testing the boundaries of free speech demonstrations, were erected in Courthouse Square.

While dormant, the controversy has not been settled.

This week, the courthouse committee urged supervisors to reinstate its prohibition on displays so that government leaders won't be in the position of determining which requests are for "appropriate" use of the grounds and which are not.

. . .

The board's compromise policy that has been in place since December allows 10 display areas on the courthouse grounds, with one display per area, and applications are reviewed on a first-come, first-serve basis.

By changing the committee's policy, supervisors allowed the annual placement of a Christmas tree and creche in the square, as well as a display by Loudoun Interfaith Bridges that included a Menorah, crescent, and Sikh display, a banner from the Freedom From Religion Foundation and [a] mocking of the "12 Days of Christmas" from Sugarland Run resident Edward R. Myers.

. . .

[Some] supervisors were not happy that the committee was pushing for the same policy that had caused residents to get upset in the first place. Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling) said a lot of work already had gone into examining the role of citizen advisory committees by an ad hoc board committee in the board's first year in office.

"I am not against discussing the policy change, but frankly we've already done a lot of work," Delgaudio said. "These citizens are really truly devoted to something that we are truly devoted to in an opposite direction. They are acting in a way that I think is contrary to our position."

By consensus, a majority of the board agreed to take up the recommended policy changes at its next business meeting.

Honest to Goddess. With all the budget shortfalls and other problems we've got here in the Old Dominion, I wish our government officials would quit wasting time and just announce that government facilities are not an appropriate place for religious displays. People who want to erect religious displays in their yards, on their church grounds, on their privately-owned shopping malls, etc., knock your socks off. The more the merrier. Let a million flowers bloom. Government property has a different purpose.

However, as long as this nonsense goes on, I hope the Leesburg Pagans get in an early application for a Yule display

Even If We're Just Dancing In The Dark

In Kissing the Hag: The Dark Goddess & the Unacceptable Nature of Woman, Druid priest Emma Restall Orr writes:

[D]arkness is not evil; it is simply the not knowing. Throughout the history of our people, as far back as stories allow we see evidence that some have explored the power of the dark. In the long barrows and passage graves of Britain and Ireland, five to eight thousand years old, we find clues as to how peoples reached out to understand the forces of darknesss and death that loomed over them. . . . [I]t isn't just courage that is needed. Courage often comes with limited sensitivity. It takes a mindset that is willing to perceive and accept the unknown, the unknowable, that which is almot unthinkable, and find a language to explain [that] to those who can't.

Looking into our own dark places (part of the work of a Witch) is, I think similar. Courage is needed, but also an ability to come back and translate and explain to our Talking Selves -- our active-in-the-world rational selves -- what it is that we've discovered in the dark. And then to figure out what to do about it. I find that, when trying to help my Talking Self to use what I've learned in the dark, sitting in meditation helps. Journaling helps. And then, letting the images, dreams, odd phrases and feelings just sit (maybe my grandma would have said "letting them gell") is what really helps.

Picture found here.

How do you help all of your "selves" to integrate wisdom about your dark spaces?

Summer In The City

Every Winter, I work to try and appreciate that season for what it is. I admit, I still have a ways to go. Generally, by February, I'm so hungry for the sight of something green and growing, for the feel of sunshine on my skin, for the ability to go outside w/o layers and layers of clothing that I could scream. But I try, every year I try.

The intense heat we've been experiencing (coughglobalclimatechangecough) here in the MidAtlantic is something else. Here is my list of things I enjoy about a heat wave:

1. Iced tea tastes even more wonderful.

2. The birds and chipmunks are so happy when I turn on the sprinkler that I can't help but be happy with them (even as I contemplate the water bill that I'll be getting this quarter).

3. Deep shade.

4. Fruit smoothies for dinner because it's too hot to cook.

5. Since I have to be inside, I've been watching things to keep me cool: several episodes of Dark Shadows (That mansion always seemed to me to be icy cold in spite of the constant fires in the fireplaces. Also Quentin Collins always gives me the chills.), Dr. Zhivago, Heidi, Dark Victory.

6. Instant topic for elevator chat; people never get tired of talking about the weather.

7. Watching the rosemary plants go, "Ah, yesssssssss!"

8. The way it feels at about 5:00 am, before the "real" heat starts, when I step outside to water, and the serious joggers, walkers, dog owners are out and about.

9. Long, cool baths with pineapple sage leaves. Drying off in front of the fan afterwards.

10. And, when all else fails: coffee ice cream.

What do you do to enjoy hot weather?

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Spells For Democracy

A sad note from Phaedra Bonewits to the Spells for Democracy group:

As you all know (or I hope you know), this group was founded by Isaac Bonewits as a way of coordinating major spellcastings in the service of the democratic process.

As you also all know (or I hope you know), Isaac is now gravely ill. He is no longer online, nor is he likely to be again.

As of July 13, 2010, Phaedra is converting the Spells for Democracy list to "read only"; current members may set up a new group with a similar name.

Isaac has been such an important force in modern Paganism. May his final days be a blessing.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Sunday Dance Blogging

Talks With G/Son

The anniversary of my mother's death occurred a few weeks ago, and I think G/Son had heard his 'rents mention it. He and Son were over eating crabs on my porch while DiL was at a conference, and G/Son asked me about it, saying, "Nonna, were you there in the hospital when my great grandma died, before I was born?" And I said, "No, I wasn't there." G/Son said, "My Mommy was there, instead, holding her hand." I said, "She was. Your Mommy is very kind, isn't she?" and G/Son nodded seriously.

A few days later, I was driving him home and he said, "Nonna, is your Nonna dead?" and I said, "Yes, my Nonna lived to be almost a hundred, but then her heart got tired out and quit beating, so she went to the Summerlands." G/Son said, "The same Summerlands as your cat?" and I had to laugh because my grandma really hated cats. But Miss Thing always reminded me a lot of my grandma.

Somehow, I started telling G/Son what I remember about my grandma: that she cut out tons of paper dolls for me when I was little, played the organ for her Methodist church, grew African violets like nobody's business, made delicious lemon meringue pie and a kind of candy called divinity, taught me how to sew, and sewed me a flannel nightgown every year for xmas, to keep me warm.

G/Son said, "Just like you make me sweaters to keep me warm."

I said, "That's right. I think it just makes Nonnas feel good to think about our grandchildren being warm." Then, I said, "What I believe is that whatever is remembered, does not die, so I like to get a chance to remember my Nonna with you. Maybe even after I've gone to the Summerlands, you can remember my Nonna wanting to keep me warm."

G/Son said, "Why you think what is remembered does not die?" and I said, "Well, it feels to me as if, as long as people remember some good things about you, in some way, you are still here. When I remember my Nonna making pies and growing violets and making me nightgowns, it feels to me a little bit as if part of her is still alive in my memory."

I have a lot of good times with this kid. He's got an old, old soul.

Picture found here.

Sunday Garden Blogging

This is the "blackest" of the black day lilies in my garden.

Info on black plants here, here, and here.

Photo by the author. If you copy, please link back.

Independence Day Poetry Blogging



America I’ve given you all and now I’m nothing.
America two dollars and twentyseven cents January 17, 1956.
I can’t stand my own mind.
America when will we end the human war?
Go fuck yourself with your atom bomb.
I don’t feel good don’t bother me.
I won’t write my poem till I’m in my right mind.
America when will you be angelic?
When will you take off your clothes?
When will you look at yourself through the grave?
When will you be worthy of your million Trotskyites?
America why are your libraries full of tears?
America when will you send your eggs to India?
I’m sick of your insane demands.
When can I go into the supermarket and buy what I need with my good looks?
America after all it is you and I who are perfect not the next world.
Your machinery is too much for me.
You made me want to be a saint.
There must be some other way to settle this argument.
Burroughs is in Tangiers I don’t think he’ll come back it’s sinister.
Are you being sinister or is this some form of practical joke?
I’m trying to come to the point.
I refuse to give up my obsession.
America stop pushing I know what I’m doing.
America the plum blossoms are falling.
I haven’t read the newspapers for months, everyday somebody goes on trial for murder.
America I feel sentimental about the Wobblies.
America I used to be a communist when I was a kid I’m not sorry.
I smoke marijuana every chance I get.
I sit in my house for days on end and stare at the roses in the closet.
When I go to Chinatown I get drunk and never get laid.
My mind is made up there’s going to be trouble.
You should have seen me reading Marx.
My psychoanalyst thinks I’m perfectly right.
I won’t say the Lord’s Prayer.
I have mystical visions and cosmic vibrations.
America I still haven’t told you what you did to Uncle Max after he came over from Russia.
I’m addressing you.
Are you going to let your emotional life be run by Time Magazine?
I’m obsessed by Time Magazine.
I read it every week.
Its cover stares at me every time I slink past the corner candystore.
I read it in the basement of the Berkeley Public Library.
It’s always telling me about responsibility. Businessmen are serious. Movie producers are serious. Everybody’s serious but me.
It occurs to me that I am America.
I am talking to myself again.

Asia is rising against me.
I haven’t got a chinaman’s chance.
I’d better consider my national resources.
My national resources consist of two joints of marijuana millions of genitals an unpublishable private literature that jetplanes 1400 miles an hour and twentyfive-thousand mental institutions.
I say nothing about my prisons nor the millions of underprivileged who live in my flowerpots under the light of five hundred suns.
I have abolished the whorehouses of France, Tangiers is the next to go.
My ambition is to be President despite the fact that I’m a Catholic.

America how can I write a holy litany in your silly mood?
I will continue like Henry Ford my strophes are as individual as his automobiles more so they’re all different sexes.
America I will sell you strophes $2500 apiece $500 down on your old strophe
America free Tom Mooney
America save the Spanish Loyalists
America Sacco & Vanzetti must not die
America I am the Scottsboro boys.
America when I was seven momma took me to Communist Cell meetings they sold us garbanzos a handful per ticket a ticket costs a nickel and the speeches were free everybody was angelic and sentimental about the workers it was all so sincere you have no idea what a good thing the party was in 1835 Scott Nearing was a grand old man a real mensch Mother Bloor the Silk-strikers’ Ewig-Weibliche made me cry I once saw the Yiddish orator Israel Amter plain. Everybody must have been a spy.
America you don’t really want to go to war.
America its them bad Russians.
Them Russians them Russians and them Chinamen. And them Russians.
The Russia wants to eat us alive. The Russia’s power mad. She wants to take our cars from out our garages.
Her wants to grab Chicago. Her needs a Red Reader’s Digest. Her wants our auto plants in Siberia. Him big bureaucracy running our fillingstations.
That no good. Ugh. Him make Indians learn read. Him need big black niggers. Hah. Her make us all work sixteen hours a day. Help.
America this is quite serious.
America this is the impression I get from looking in the television set.
America is this correct?
I’d better get right down to the job.
It’s true I don’t want to join the Army or turn lathes in precision parts factories, I’m nearsighted and psychopathic anyway.
America I’m putting my queer shoulder to the wheel.

Berkeley, January 17, 1956

Picture found here.