Saturday, August 21, 2010

Measurable Impacts of Having a Transcendent Experience in Nature as a Child


Gardening with the Goddesses

Discussing how an experienced gardener isn't afraid to admit a mistake, pull out a plant, pitch it, move it, and start all over again, Michael Pollan compares the gardener's method to evolution.
[However, e]volution has a double rhythm: only after nature, in her promiscuous creativity, throws up countless new possibilities and combinations does natural selection (her critical impulse, if you will) step in to determine which work best under the circumstances. . . . Nature creates without an end in view; fitness is but an afterthought. The gardener in his own little world, like the artist in his, performs both functions, hatching the trials and then culling the errors. [Hint to Pollan, women exist.]

But as much as he seems like a god in his garden, practicing his own local brand of natural selection, the green thumb entertains no illusions of omniscience or omnipotence. If he's any kind of god it's a Greek god, one whose power is sharply circumscribed by the willfulness of men and other gods. Unlike Yahweh, Athena bargains, cajoles, even loses one now and then; mortals can keep secrets from her. [The experienced gardener] suspects that the garden over which he exerted absolute mastery would be a pallid, thin, uninteresting place.

~Michael Pollan in Second Nature: A Gardener's Education.

I think that's right, both about gardening and about the Goddesses/Gods. I'm lucky to work w/ the v patient Landscape Guy who never scowls when I say, "Well, I think we should dig up all those day lilies and all those ostrich ferns and switch them into each others' spot, now that I've had a year to watch them where they are." I'm still learning and still listening to the plants. When the day lilies don't bloom well and the ostrich ferns look a bit parched, they're telling me: "We need more sun," and "We need more shade."

In A World Full of Gods: An Inquiry into Polytheism, John Michael Greer says that, for polytheists:

The distinction between divine and human is real, but both exist in a common world defined by mutual relationships.

From this difference-in-relatedness unfolds the central concept of polytheist religious practice, which is reciprocity. Religion in the Pagan sense is a matter of exchange. While the gods are greater than human beings, they are not infinitely so, and humanity thus has the potential to bring something of its own to a relationship with divinity. Each participates in the relationship in a manner proportioned to their relative place in the cosmos, but the relationship is never merely one-sided. . . . If Pagan gods are verbs, as the Christian god is sometimes said to be, the verbs in question are some conjugation of "to give." Yet human beings and, indeed, all other entities have the capacity to give as well, and in giving, to imitate the gods. Once again, hard and fast lines become difficult to draw.

I think that Greer's point is similar to one that Pollan tries to make throughout his writing: Humans are part of nature. A garden is nature in interaction with a human. Sometimes, the plants control us and get us to do their bidding; sometimes we cajole the plants into doing what we want. When it works right, there's an exchange of gifts. The interaction, I think even Pollan would admit, can sometimes be that of his interactive, Greek god gardener and can sometimes be that of a destroying, I-Know-Best-Pesticide-Wielding Yahweh, but it's an interaction.

All of which argues, in my mind, and heart, and sore-from-weeding fingers, for the notion that you can come to know the Goddesses/Gods through gardening and that, through the Goddesses/Gods, you can become a gardener. How does your relationship with divinity influence your gardening? How does your experience as a gardener influence your relationship with the Goddesses and Gods?

Picture found here.

People Keep Doing It. I'm Going To Keep Complaining.

This isn't complicated. If you're going to capitalize "Jews" and "Judaism" then you should capitalize "Witch" and "Pagan. Did these people skip third grade?

Once you get past the inability to punctuate, though, the article itself, about attempts to foster worship of the divine feminine in modern Judaism, is interesting.

Picture found here.

A Separate Peace

If, when we were young, we tramped through forests of Nebraska cottonwoods, or raised pigeons on a rooftop in Queens, or fished for Ozark bluegills, or felt the swell of a wave that traveled a thousand miles before lifting our boat, then we were bound to a natural world and remain so today. Nature still informs our years -- lifts us, carries us.

For children, nature comes in many forms . . . whatever shape nature takes it offers each child an older, larger world separate from parents. Unlike television, nature does not steal time; it amplifies it. . . . Given a chance, a child will bring the confusion of the world to the woods, wash it in the creek, turn it over to see what lives on the unseen side of that confusion. Nature can frighten a child, too, and this fright serves a purpose. In nature, a child finds freedom, fantasy, and privacy; a place distant from the adult world, a separate peace.

~Richard Louv in Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder.

Were you in active relationship with Nature as a child? What form did it take? A pet, a woods, a view of the sea, a giant forsythia bush under which you crawled to play make-believe?

Are you in active relationship with Nature now? What form does it take? What form would you like for it to take?

Picture found here.

Friday, August 20, 2010

My New Name for a Blog

So that makes twice this week that I've stolen from Dependable Renegade, which I check a few times a day, but this shit is fucked up, yo.

On May 13, 2010, about eighty soldiers, stationed at Fort Eustis while attending a training course, were punished for opting out of attending one of these Christian concerts. The headliner at this concert was a Christian rock band called BarlowGirl, a band that describes itself as taking “an aggressive, almost warrior-like stance when it comes to spreading the gospel and serving God.”

The Commanding General’s Spiritual Fitness Concert Series was the brainchild of Maj. Gen. James E. Chambers, who, according to an article on the website, “was reborn as a Christian” at the age of sixteen. According to the article, Chambers held the first concert at Fort Lee within a month of becoming the commanding general of the Combined Arms Support Command and Fort Lee in June 2008. But he had already started the series at Fort Eustis, as the previous commanding general there. The concerts have continued at Fort Eustis under the new commanding general, as well as spreading to Fort Lee under Maj. Gen. Chambers. The concerts are also promoted to the airmen on Langley Air Force Base, which is now part of Joint Base Langley-Eustis.

In the article, Maj. Gen. Chambers was quoted as saying, “The idea is not to be a proponent for any one religion. It’s to have a mix of different performers with different religious backgrounds.” But there has been no “mix of different performers with different religious backgrounds” at these concerts. Every one of them has had evangelical Christian performers, who typically not only perform their music but give their Christian testimony and read from the Bible in between songs.

I'm sure if we had a Democratic president, he'd get right on this shit.

The First Amendment was a really good idea. Too bad we've given up on it.

Picture found here.


The brilliant Medusa (aka Judith Laura), Goddess spirituality expert, Tarot Goddess, and, as I have reason to know, orderer of v. good pizza lunches, is releasing a third edition of:

She Lives! The Return of Our Great Mother, which explores the return of the divine personified as female through myth-like stories, rituals for both personal and seasonal celebrations with songs and dances, and a variety of meditations. . . . [The book] describes how female divinity might return to people on diverse paths, and addresses a variety of issues in a number of different religions and in secular settings. Its seasonal rituals contain aspects of Pagan, Jewish, Christian and other traditions. What is commonly called belly dance, as well as other folk dance forms, are included the rituals and there is one individual meditation devoted to belly dance, which I call the "Dance of the Womb." The personal rituals for women and for men focus on sex-related life milestones.

The Women's Spirituality Book Review says of the book: "Judith's myths are gentle, but powerful. They make you smile.
They give you goose bumps."

Judith Laura donates
at least a third of her royalties from all her books to charities benefiting women

I plan to add the Third Edition to my library. As we move towards gift-giving season in Yule, you should consider not just your own library, but those of your friends, as well. As Medusa Coils says on her website, linked above,
[f]or more complete information about She Lives! The Return of Our Great Mother, including reviews, table of contents with links to excerpts, and also links to booksellers, please visit

Picture found here.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Oh, Shiny Things!

"Summer honey infused with medicinal herbs and gently cloaked by French lavender."

Sounds lovely.

The thing about Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab is that their perfumes always smell exactly like their descriptions.

Picture found here.

OK, the Calling in Sick Part Was Pretty Dumb

More on the "professional Witch" of Wookey Hole.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Ninety Years Young

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

The Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution was ratified on August 18, 1920. Ninety years later, no woman has ever served as President or Vice President.

PIcture found here.

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.

~Charge of the Goddess

On Pruning Trees

Discussing how an experienced gardener prunes back the limbs of a new tree, Michael Pollan says:

Sympathy allows the green thumb to cut the tree's limbs back hard -- that, and a sense of where a plant's "being" resides that is very different, I think, from the novice gardener's. The inexperienced gardener is loath to chop away at his new tree (indeed, to prune in general) because he assumes that the tree is indistinguishable from its limbs. This is probably because he looks at a plant more or less anthropomorphically -- by means of a mode that, though useful in some respects, fails to take account of those parts of the plant that don't, like [people] stand on the surface. Later, if he gardens attentively and sympathetically, he'll develop a more complicated and less anthropomorphic understanding of how, and where, a tree lives. He'll probably come to think of the tree as having something akin to a soul that is distinct from its parts, and for which the limbs sometimes (at transplanting, for instance) represent a burden it might be glad to be rid of. If "soul" seems too mystical a term, think of it as simply the tree's life force, or the wellspring of its growth, what Dylan Thomas called its "green fuse." Imagine this as the fulcrum of the tree's roots and its visible parts, something located maybe just below ground level, and pruning will no longer seem cruel, but beneficent, a form of relief and a spur to fresh growth.

Now, I have no idea if there is any "scientific" basis for these notions of plant identity, but I can't say [that] I really care. It is enough to know that since I have begun to imagine my plants in this way I have had more success with them. The successful gardener, I've found, approaches science and folk wisdom, even magic, with like amounts of skepticism and curiosity. If it works, then it's "true." Good gardeners tend to be flat-out pragmatists not particularly impressed with science.

~Second Nature: A Gardener's Education

I think that's about right. It's true not just for successful gardeners, but also for successful Witches and other magic workers. If it works, then it's "true."

I love this passage for the way that it shows how difficult it can be for anyone to really be in relationship with nature and not turn into a Pagan. Pollan starts out pragmatically talking about how a gardener should prune a transplanted tree -- and then the struggle starts. He resorts to words like "soul," realizes that sounds "woo-woo," tries to step back, and walks straight into words such as "life forces," "wellspring," and the language of mystical poetry. Finally, he gives up and says it: magic.

In what way(s) has your relationship with nature been an active one today? What do you know to be true because it works?

Picture found here.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

G/Son's Going to Like This

Go Hermonie!

I've always longed for the sequel in which Hermonie discovers Wicca, applies all that she learned at Hogwarts, and does, indeed, become "quite the brightest Witch of her generation."

Picture found here.

Not Again. Please, Goddess, Not Again

Listen, my Pagan brothers and my Pagan sisters. I have, mild-mannered and gentle old crone that I am, a simple request.


About 300 people came to City Park on Saturday to see what Pagan Pride was all about.

"We want people to know we're not devil worshippers," coordinator Betty Jane Ware said.

I mean it. Catholics don't start discussions about their Feast of St. Anthony Mass, Carnival, and Fundraising Day explaining that, no, not every priest molests children. The Jews don't send out press releases about their high holy days explaining that, no, matzo is not made from the blood of xian children. Mormons don't begin every event explaining that, no, they no longer engage in polygamy.

Could Pagans please quit perpetrating obnoxious myths about Paganism? It's one thing if the author of the article is so stupid as to ask the question. But too many Pagans run around answering this question even when it isn't asked. It's time, and past time, for us to stop shooting our own damn selves in our own damn collective foot.

Samhein's fast approaching, when we always get a rash of articles about Witches and Pagans. Let's make it a "no we're not Satanists" free season.

Kudos to the author of the article for understanding how the rules of punctuation work. And, to his 3rd grade teacher.

Picture found here.

All Acts of Love and Pleasure

are rituals of the Goddess.

I totally stole this from Dependable Renegade, the funniest site on the internet.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Somewhere in America, maybe even in your town, there is Earth that I consider even-more-sacred-than-normal-sacred-ground. It is where women go to make sacred and important decisions about their own lives. It is sacred ground where women go to sacrifice flesh and potentiality to their own, sacred determinations about how they will lives the lives that the Goddess has given them. Where they go to sacrifice the product of sex, love, and the Great Rite when even life's longing after itself has gone awry. To me, that is Sacred.

It is a sacred place where the women should be cared for, nurtured, renewed, blessed for their bravery, given a chance to start over again.

And, yet, yet, yet, the First Amendment to our Constitution allows a group of wild-eyed religious fanatics, fanatics bent upon the destruction and domination of women, to show up and perpetrate their fanatically evil notions about women. To show up, scream at the women, and wave around signs showing bloody fetuses.

Yes, I'm talking about how the First Amendment allows whack-job xians to demonstrate outside abortion clinics, making the women who come there to make sacrifices feel horrible.

And, you know, if the First Amendment allows that, I guess the xians can get over a community center blocks from where the World Trade Towers (a cathedral to modern greed) went down.

Or, we can start banning any religious expression that "upsets" someone else, in which case, I can get upset all over the goddamn place. Seriously. I hope you don't worship at St. Bridget's. Or want to build a Catholic church near an elementary school, full of sacred children who could be abused by the Catholic priests. I hope that you don't want to build an evangelical church within miles of an abused women's shelter or a library where people go to enjoy the free expression of ideas.

Cuz, if so, you're fucked.

Picture found here.

Love It

Course, (1) I haven't been to Target since DiL told me they let pharmacists refuse to fill birth control prescriptions and, (2) I also love Giant Puppets at demonstrations. But, still.

Like This

Spent wonderful time Sunday evening with some of my magical women. Nothing else restores me like that.

Radio-Free Hekate
(written to be read aloud, as a prayer)

Not with your ears. They will lead you astray.
Listen with your feet.
Nestle them naked
down deep into the tangles of the roots and grass,
burrow your toes under the warm soil, investigate,
tune into the right station,
let the ground rise up into your arches, fill up your base
surround your heels with the movement.

Listen with your skin.

Pull the sound up through every muscle in your legs,
the earth is playing you like a harp, you are being strummed,
softly, strongly, an insistent tune,
a pinnacle point of pitch and vibration
as the space where all your strings come together

let this sound, this calling from the earth,
fill up the hollows of your sacrum,
course it's winding way up your backbone,
chime up each rib like a xylophone, catch
and keep the rhythm of your beating heart.

Tha-Bump. Tha-Bump.
Sound growing
and moving
and expanding
exploding into all its potential
as it blasts from your
fingers and mouth and eyes,
through your every cell

the incredible, undeniable,
untamable sound of living
that your ears, alone,
would never understand.

~Victoria Day 2002, reprinted in We'Moon 2010: Reinvent the Wheel We'Moon says that Victoria Day lives in Columbia, MO and is a "priestess, dancer, and activist who creates from her deep connection with the Divine and her belief that it is essentially important to work for peace."

We were planning to discuss a book we'd all read and our daily practice. We got caught up in the book and didn't get to daily practice . (And, come on, that's happened to you, too, right?) A large part of my daily practice is deep grounding. I love how this poem describes that process. How does it work for you?

Picture found here.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sunday Poetry Blogging

Elegy: In Coherent Light


In memory of two English poets, Matt Simpson and Michael Murphy, d. 2009

Teach-cheap, teach-cheap, teach-cheap, teach-cheap—
Sparrows are plying their chisels in the summer ivy,
Chipping the seconds spark by spark out of the hours.
I read in each whistling chip the sun’s holography.
My brain’s a film, I’m made of timed exposures,
And pounding my ears and eyes with waves of light—
These animate flakes, these pictures I call sight.

But now you’re out of the picture, no one can keep
Coherent sightings of you, except in language.
All the warm rhetoric is wrong. Death isn’t sleep.
Faith in eternal love is love’s indulgence.
I prize what you wrote and meet you in what I write.
We still keep house in a living tenement of words.
Pull down their walls of ivy, and you kill the birds.


I love the lines: I prize what you wrote and meet you in what I write. We still keep house in a living tenement of words.

More and more, in this internet world, I meet people in what they write, live with them in the tenement of words we create. And, I like it. Left-brained, too-porous Pisces that I am, it's a good way for me to meet people. And I love this notion of poets, talking to each other through the glass-bead game of their poetry, even across time.

Witchvox, of all places, has up a profound and poetic essay about the role that poetry can play in spiritual practice. It's well worth the read, especially if you think that you don't like poetry.

Picture found here.

Some Days, It's Melange. Some Days, Bitter Spice

I had to work this weekend (I know, what's new?). I asked the young lawyer working with me what she was going to be doing on Saturday evening and she said that she and some friends were going to see Eat, Pray, Love. Then she sighed: "It'll probably just make me feel terrible, that I'm working all weekend instead of doing something spiritual with my life." I don't proselytize. I joked back, "It would make me feel terrible that I'm going home to eat leftovers instead of great Italian food." But her comment stuck with me.

Taking time off and going on a spiritual journey around the world is a lovely idea. If you can afford it. If you don't have obligations that preclude it (Children come to mind. Aged parents come to mind. Providing for my old age, so that Son doesn't have to, comes to mind. Putting in the time to become expert at your chosen craft, as my young friend is doing, comes to mind.) And there's something about going for broke and throwing yourself into one foreign situation after another that grows you in amazing ways.

But, you know, most of us aren't going to take that trip. Our spiritual growth will have to come from the daily practice of Chop Wood, Carry Water, from those moments when we look up from [scrubbing the floor, reading the cases, planning the webinar, putting out the fire] and see the ordinary in a new light, from that hundredth time we get up in the dark to get on the treadmill and suddenly see that it doesn't take you away from The Work; it IS The Work.

Here's a delightful article about how to Eat, Pray, and Love in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Extra credit to the author for understanding how the rules of capitalization work.

If you wrote the same story about your town, what would it say?

In DC, it would say: Otello (not i Ricci, trust me on this), the Space Window at the National Cathedral, and, well, you know.

In comments, Jan says:

I do not plan on seeing this movie! I too find the whole concept shallow beyond measure! To run off to find such ideas -- what nonsense! Find those qualities in your own home (paint, clean, and create your own genuine space that gives pleasure every single day -- fill it with objects and artworks that make your heart sing); till your own earth or garden in whatever space you can or support your local farmer's market and support initiatives in your community that will support earth-bound projects; try different cusines at home and around your area; entertain your circles of friends and family; maintain and widen your own deep Magical practices. Craft in all ways. Read. Find out about the issues in the news.

I think that about sums it up.

Sunday Dance Blogging

You have to click here. It's worth it.