Saturday, October 30, 2010

What Is Remembered Does Not Die


May perpetual light shine upon
The faces of all who rest here.
May the lives they lived
Unfold further in spirit.
May the remembering earth
Mind every memory they brought.
May the rains from the heavens
Fall gently upon them.
May the wildflowers and grasses
Whisper their wishes into the light.
May we reverence the village of presence
In the stillness of this silent field.

— John O Donohue

Picture found here

Hymn to Hekate

Swathed in red is Hekate.
Hooded in red is Hekate.
Red-hemmed Artemis, lift aloft your burning torch,
And bring the trumpet of the nocturnal hunt.
The flow of life is in the hands of Hekate,
And her burning light guides the way.
Terror-ridden roar of the bull is the trumpets blast,
And the hounds bay in search of their prey.
The beasts of the woods shudder in their homes,
And a scream fills the night air.
None is safe from the nocturnal hunt,
And Hekate guides the host of souls to their new abode.
The light of Hekate does not flicker,
But illuminates the halls of the dead,
And exalts in the company of fair Persephone.
Bloodied-red Hekate, we leave your monthly feast,
At the site of your throne.
Red-swathed Hekate has all roads lain before her,
And the merciful Goddess greets those unfortunates who share her plate.
The touch of Hekate is merciful, and in her embrace we depart.

~Lykeia in Bearing Torches: A Devotional Anthology for Hekate, pub. by Bibliotheca Alexandrina

PIcture found here.

Blessed Samhein to You and Yours.

The longer we are together
the larger death grows around us.
How many we know by now who are dead! We, who were young,
now count the cost of having been.
And yet as we know the dead
we grow familiar with the world.
We, who were young and loved each other
ignorantly now come to know
each other in love, married
by what we have done, as much
as by what we intend. Our hair
turns white with our ripening
as though to fly away in some
coming wind, bearing the seed
of what we know. It was bitter to learn
that we come to death as we come to love,
bitter to face
the just and solving welcome
that death prepares. But that is bitter
only to the ignorant, who pray it will not happen. Having come
the bitter way to better prayer, we have
the sweetness of ripening. How sweet
to know you by the signs of the world!

~Wendell Berry

Picture found here.

As Long As It Talks, I Am Going to Listen

What a thing it is to sit absolutely alone,
in the forest, at night, cherished by this
wonderful, unintelligible,
perfectly innocent speech,
the most comforting speech in the world,
the talk that rain makes by itself all over the ridges,
and the talk of the watercourses everywhere in the hollows!
Nobody started it, nobody is going to stop it.
It will talk as long as it wants, this rain.
As long as it talks I am going to listen.

Thomas Merton

Have you listened, lately? What have you heard?

PIcture found here.

An Excerpt from Robbie Burns

May Your Samhein Be No Less Full Blyhte

Now over a waterfall the steam plays,
As through the glen it meandered;
Sometimes round a rocky cliff it strays,
Sometimes in a eddy it dimpled it;
Sometimes glittered to the nightly rays,
With bickering, dancing dazzle;
Sometimes hid underneath the hill sides,
Below the spreading hazel
Unseen that night.

Among the ferns, on the hillside,
Between her and the moon,
The Devil, or else a young cow in the open,
Got up and gave a croon:
Poor Leezie's heart almost leaped the sheath;
Near lark high she jumped,
But missed a foot, and in the pool
Out over the ears she plumped
With a plunge that night.

In order, on the clean hearth-stone,
The small wooden vessel three are ranged;
And every time great care is taken
To see them duly changed:
Old uncle John, who wedlock's joys
Since Mar's-year (1715) did desire,
Because he got the empty dish three times,
He heaved them on the fire
In wrath that night.

With merry songs, and friendly talk,
I wager they did not weary;
And wondrous tales, and funny jokes -
Their sports were cheap and cheery:
Till buttered sows, with fragrant smoke,
Set all their tongues a wagging;
Then, with a social glass of liquor,
They parted off careering
Full blythe that night.


May you dance the Spiral Dance and may the veils part gently for you.

Picture found here.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Tam Lin

People Keep Doing It; I'm Going to Keep Complaining About It


We were very excited to be asked to do the invocation," Childers told the Patch. "A lot of people think pagans go out and kill goats; they don't even understand what paganism really is. Although contemporary society is taught to believe it's a bad thing, we're just like everyone else."

"I don't know why the city chose to go with pagans, but we're honored," she told the Patch,

"We have also had Native American 'Medicine Men,' Islamic Imams, Buddhist Monks, Falong Gong, Rabbi's, Hindu's and a couple of religious persons that I couldn't even figure out what they were," Santee Mayor Randy Voepel told the Patch in an email. He said the city council invocations are about half-and-half Christian and non-Christian, according to the Patch.

Here's a nice story about a Pagan being asked to give the invocation to open the meeting of the Santee City, California City Council. (I'd rather see government functions not open with a prayer, but if they're going to do so, having a Pagan give the invocation is nice.) It's even nice to see the local Catholic priest be welcoming, although we'll see how happy Father Casey is once the Goddess, vs. his god, is invoked.

"I think religious values should be everywhere," Jesuit Fr. Kevin Casey, associate pastor at Guardian Angels Catholic Church in Santee, told the Patch, noting that he performed an invocation in November 2009. "I always welcome the opportunity for there to be a mention of God at the beginning of a City Council meeting."

But it's the same old problem. Don't use your 15 minutes of fame to say say that Pagans (with a capital "P" please) don't "go out and kill goats." First, by trying to negate a frame, you invoke it. Second, some Pagans do sacrifice animals. So why lie? Much better to use the real estate in the paper to say that you're honored, especially this close to a major Pagan holiday, to be asked to offer the invocation and that you'll be, for example, asking the beloved Ancestors to guide and give wisdom to the members of the City Council, as this is a time of year when Pagans give special honor to the Ancestors.

Come on, Pagans. Stop it.

One of my hopes is that, by highlighting how often this happens, we can convince people that they don't need to keep doing it. Hasn't the stereotype received enough reinforcement?

Picture found here.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

What It Cost

You know what? I hate the current crop of Dems. I hate the Conciliator in Chief who lives in the WH, the cool young guy who took the job away from the experienced older woman who could have actually done the job. And you know what else? My old, tired, disillusioned, broken body is going to show up on November 2nd and vote for the lesser of two evils.

And, if you stay home, if some effete "enthusiasm gap" keeps you away from the polls, well, then, with all due respect, fuck you.

I will never not vote. It cost my foremothers too much to win this right for me.

Now, get your sweet round ass to the polls. Get out there and Vote Like a Girl.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Don't Think of a Satanist

Yesterday, I posted one in a (sadly) growing series of posts begging Pagans to stop announcing to the press that their Pagan Pride Day/Samhein celebration/etc. is devoted to "dispelling common misperceptions about [P]agans and [P]aganism." I keep posting about this very common problem because I really believe that it matters. (I'm not someone who wants more people to "convert" to Paganism. While I realize those days are gone forever, I honestly liked it a lot better when people had to really search and work in order to find other Pagans and "become" a Pagan. But I do want those who are members of our religion to receive the same amount of respect that members of other religions receive. And I'm unaware of any other religion that begins interviews with the press by listing misperceptions about their religion. Look, most people I know think that any given Catholic priest is likely to abuse little boys. And that's, at least, based on some facts about Catholic priests. But I've never read an article about a Catholic holiday that began with a priest asserting that there are, in fact, a whole lot of them who have never abused an altar boy. Why do you imagine that is so?)

Here's a quote from George Lakoff's Don't Think of an Elephant to explain my concern:

When I teach the study of framing at Berkeley, in Cognitive Science 101, the first thing I do is I give my students an exercise. The exercise is: Don't think of an elephant! Whatever you do, do not think of an elephant. I've never found a student who is able to do this. Every word, [such as] elephant, evokes a frame, which can be an image or other kinds of knowledge. Elephants are large, have floppy years and a trunk, are associated with circuses, and so on. The word is defined relative to that frame. When we negate a frame, we evoke the frame.

Richard Nixon found this out the hard way. While under pressure to resign during the Watergate scandal, Nixon addressed the nation on TV. He stood before the nation and said, "I am not a crook." And everybody thought about him as a crook.

[Think for a moment about Christine O'Donnell telling the world, "I'm not a Witch. I'm you." It led to nothing but replies further defining her in the public's mind as a Witch and, definitely, not "us."]

This gives us a basic principle of framing, for when you are arguing against the other side: Do not use their language. Their language pickes out a frame -- and it won't be the frame you want.
(emphasis added).

Lakoff goes on to explain how Bush II adopted the framing of "tax relief."

[I]t is [not just on Fox, it is] on CNN, it is on NBC, it is on every station because it is "the president's tax relief plan." And soon the Democrats are using tax relief and shooting themselves in the foot.

It is remarkable. I was asked by the Democratic senators to visit their caucus just before the president's tax plan was to come up in the Senate. They had their version of the tax plan, and it was their version of tax relief. They were accepting the conservative frame [that taxes, rather than being a patriotic duty, that one should be proud to pay, were a burden from which one needed relief]. The conservatives had set a trap. The words draw you into their world view.

We're Witches. I think we understand the concept that, "When we negate" something, we "evoke" that same thing. How many times have you read that affirmations and spells should be phrased to evoke what you want to have become manifest in the world rather than the thing that you want to see decrease and disappear?

When you get your 15 minutes of media attention and you use that time saying that Pagans are not Satanists/evil/ugly/dangerous/etc., by negating that frame about us, you actually evoke it and give it strength. The next time people hear "Pagan" or "Witch," they think, "Oh, yeah, those folks who say that they're not Satanists, just as O'Donnell said she wasn't a Witch, just as Nixon went around trying to convince us that he wasn't a crook."

I've listed my suggestions for how to deal with the press. In comments to several of my posts, Teacats, Makarios, and Literata have suggested developing a media guide for Pagans. I think it's a great idea, but I don't, given my work commitments, have the time to devote to it. However a few smart Pagans could coordinate over the internet and do so. I'd first suggest, a la Teacat's suggestion, a survey of the literature, to figure out if someone (Lady Liberty League? Cherry Hill Seminary? A presentation at a Pagan conference? Green Egg?) hasn't already put together at least a beginning guide. I'd then move on beyond Pagan sources to look at general media guides and discussions of framing. It would be fantastic if every Pagan sponsoring a Pagan Pride event or being interviewed for Samhein had a guide to refer to before meeting the press.

I'm really tired of writing the same damn post over and over.

Picture found here.

Monday, October 25, 2010

People Keep Doing It; I'm Going to Keep Complaining About It

It's pretty darn amazing that, even when the two words are in the very same sentence, people ignore the rules of capitalization:
Green added that just like Christianity, which has thousands of denominations, there are many diverse traditions under the umbrella term "paganism."

(Don't even get me started on the pointless quotation marks. )

When you're making the precise point that Paganism, like Christianity, is a broad term that includes many different subgroups, then it seems only logical, not to mention polite, to capitalize either both or neither of the two broad category names.

And, then of course, there's the usual problem:
Novello and fellow event coordinators Sabine Green and Mahonri Telles said they would like to dispel common misconceptions about pagans and paganism. Too often, they said, and especially in the media, pagans are depicted as witches running around in heavy eye makeup.
"Paganism - some people prefer the term 'neo-paganism' - refers to a group of related ancient religions," said Green, a college instructor. "We are nature-based, we honor the elements Pagans
live a very seasonal life, we're very agricultural."

Green said Las Cruces Pagan Pride Day is one of the ways local pagans work to "dispel the myths, one person at a time."

"It's true that there are some people, mostly young people, who think 'it's cool to be a pagan or a witch' and they like the shock value," she said. "We'd like to help people move beyond the spirit of novelty to a more mature understanding of paganism."

I've dealt with this self-defeating behavior over and over and over and over again. Please stop.

Finally, please don't say things that are not true, that are misleading, or that buy into the dominant paradigm's framing. Saying that modern Pagans are "very agricultural" is misleading, at best, absent further explanation. Most modern Pagans live in urban areas and do not grow their own food. "Neo-Paganism" doesn't refer to a "group of related ancient religions" -- that's why it's called "neo." I don't like the term, but it does have a specific meaning. And, why adopt the framing that there's something "wrong" with Witches who wear heavy eye make-up? You know, a lot of Witches do. So do a lot of Christians, but they don't run around disclaiming it.

People, quit doing this kind of stuff.

Picture found here.

Bird's Lament

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Honoring The (Sometimes Dysfunctional) Ancestors

Just a few days now until Samhein. I sit in a shaft of weak sunlight in my leaf-strewn garden and wonder, as, I guess, all old people do: "How did another year slip by so quickly?

Maybe more than any other holiday, Samhein has a huge component of fun, generally related to the coincident secular holiday. Scratch a Pagan and you'll likely find someone who loves costumes, the dark, all things "spooky." And, a large part of showing up for Samhein, being fully present in the holy day, involves our relationship with "The Ancestors." For many Pagans, that part is fun, as well. Lovingly-crafted ancestor altars, with pictures and mementos of the beloved dead, are artfully arranged. Food and music and stories that remind us of our parents, grandparents, and other now-dead relatives make up a large part of many Samhein rituals and divination and other forms of communication are used, here while the veils are thin.

Yet, for some Pagans, those of us who grew up in dysfunctional families, these practices can become fraught, rather than fun. One coping strategy that I've adopted is to broaden my definition of the term "Ancestors." I've done this in two different ways, over time.

First, through trance work,I've gotten to know some Ancestors from my deep past, especially one old, old woman who survived a lot of very cold winters inside a cave. I can draw strength and inspiration from those ancestors that I'm not able to find in my immediate predecessors. When I call upon the Element of Earth, I remember that Earth contains the bones of my ancestors, all of whom were survivors. When I ground, I can feel the layers of life under my feet; I twist my own roots deep around the roots of my own past.

Second, I've come to realize that I have any number of "Ancestors of the Heart" to whom I am not genetically related (any more than we are all, of course, Sons and Daughters of African Eve). Primary among these, I count Dorothy Parker, for her deep romanticism and idealism which she defended with her deep cynicism. She was one of my first models for how to be a smart aleck in this world and began my love affair with poetry. I count here, too, fictional characters: Susan Sowerby from The Secret Garden, Dorothy Sayers' Harriet Vane, Meg Murray and Mrs. Who from a Wrinkle in Time.

And, so when I sit on Samhein to honor The Ancestors, I will honor my own version. And, as I've written before, I hope to be:

reminded of one of my favorite passages, ever, from Ursula LeGuin. A woman importunes her ancestors for help. "Oh, it's That One. In trouble, again," the Ancestors chuckle to each other. It's what I imagine some Viking thrall saying to some settler from ancient Rus and to the barefoot old crone, the one who died lighting fires at the edge of the cave to keep the winter wolves away from the smell of placenta and mother's milk. "Oh, it's That One. In trouble, again."
But I think they'll say it with a friendly chuckle.

And I will renew my own pledge to do as Katrina Messenger once told me Jung taught that we must do: I will continue to know, dance with, and release the energy of my own shadows so that, to the best of my abilities, I do not project them onto the next generations. Some bits of my family's heritage will hopefully die with me. It's one way that I can honor those with whom I prefer not to spend time, across the veils.

Here's Angela Raincatcher and Thalia Took dealing with some of their own ancestral issues. How do you deal with yours? Who are your Ancestors of the Heart? What would an altar to them look like?

Picture found here.

Sunday Poetry Blogging

By what miracle
does this cracker
made from Kansas wheat,
this cheese ripened in French caves, this fig, grown and dried near Ephesus,
turn into Me?
My eyes,
My hands,
My cells, organs, juices, thoughts?

Am I not then Kansas wheat
and French cheese
and Smyrna figs?
Figs, no doubt,
the ancient Prophets ate?

~Judith Morley in Earth Prayers from Around the World: 365 Prayers, Poems, and Invocations for Honoring the Earth, ed. by Elizabeth Roberts & Elias Amidon

Picture found here.

Sunday Dance Blogging