Saturday, December 04, 2010

Marvelous Truth, Confront Us at Every Turn




The authentic! Shadows of it
sweep past in dreams, one could say imprecisely,
evoking the almost-silent
ripping apart of giant
sheets of cellophane. No.
It thrusts up close. Exactly in dreams
it has you off-guard, you
recognize it before you have time.
For a second before waking
the alarm bell is a red conical hat, it
takes form.


The authentic! I said
rising from the toilet seat.
The radiator in rhythmic knockings
spoke of the rising steam.
The authentic, I said
breaking the handle of my hairbrush as I
brushed my hair in
rhythmic strokes: That’s it,
that’s joy, it’s always
a recognition, the known
appearing fully itself, and
more itself than one knew.


The new day rises
as heat rises,
knocking in the pipes
with rhythms it seizes for its own
to speak of its invention—
the real, the new-laid
egg whose speckled shell
the poet fondles and must break
if he will be nourished.


A shadow painted where
yes, a shadow must fall.
The cow’s breath
not forgotten in the mist, in the
words. Yes,
verisimilitude draws up
heat in us, zest
to follow through,
follow through,
transformations of day
in its turning, in its becoming.


Stir the holy grains, set
the bowls on the table and
call the child to eat.

While we eat we think,
as we think an undercurrent
of dream runs through us
faster than thought
towards recognition.

Call the child to eat,
send him off, his mouth
tasting of toothpaste, to go down
into the ground, into a roaring train
and to school.

His cheeks are pink
his black eyes hold his dreams, he has left
forgetting his glasses.

Follow down the stairs at a clatter
to give them to him and save
his clear sight.

Cold air
comes in at the street door.


The authentic! It rolls
just out of reach, beyond
running feet and
stretching fingers, down
the green slope and into
the black waves of the sea.
Speak to me, little horse, beloved,
tell me
how to follow the iron ball,
how to follow through to the country
beneath the waves
to the place where I must kill you and you step out
of your bones and flystrewn meat
tall, smiling, renewed,
formed in your own likeness.


Marvelous Truth, confront us
at every turn,
in every guise, iron ball,
egg, dark horse, shadow,
of breath on the air,

in our crowded hearts
our steaming bathrooms, kitchens full of
things to be done, the
ordinary streets.

Thrust close your smile
that we know you, terrible joy.

Photo by the blogger; if you copy, please link back.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

The War Over Xmas

As I've said before, it's my own humble opinion that the world would go round a good deal faster if we'd all act like adults and acknowledge that, at this time of year, there are BOTH a number of different religious holidays and a secular holiday related to giving gifts, getting together w/ friends and family, making snowmen, exchanging cookies, etc. For historical reasons, there's some overlap, both between the holidays of some of the newer (cough*Christian*cough) religions and some of the older (Pagan) ones. And there's some overlap between the practices of some religious groups and some of the practices of the secular holiday. But most thinking adults can figure those things out and go on about their business.

For an odd group of xian Dominionists, however, no December can be allowed to pass without an attempt to blur the lines and create a sense of persecution among their faithful. The problem is, sadly, not limited to America.
Will you be wearing a crucifix to work this morning? Have you pinned your "Not Ashamed" badge to your lapel to show the world you're proud to be a Christian? Have you noticed the concerted campaign of anti-Christian bias all over the nation? No, I hadn't either – but that may be more evidence of the attack on religion that's secretly under way, like the Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Or so some leading churchmen would have you believe.

The "Not Ashamed" campaign is the work of Christian Concern, a pressure group whose most vocal spokesman is the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey. He has been sketching out an alarming, totalitarian scenario in which Christmas cards are "censored" because some don't feature mangers and oxen, school Nativity plays are "watered down" because they dramatise festive mice and squabbling baubles as well as baby Jesus, and Christmas lights have become rubbishy "winter lights" with no angels anywhere.

"Christmas has become something of which some are ashamed," Carey thunders. "A new climate hostile to our country's tradition and history is developing." Gosh, how nostalgic the ex-Archbish makes me feel. I'm pitched back years to when, as a tiny child, I listened to our local priest, Fr Smith, smiting the pulpit and declaring to his Battersea flock that the "real meaning" of Christmas had been lost in a haze of Morecambe & Wise TV specials and the American way of calling Yuletide "the holidays".

. . .

Not even Lord Carey's own people believe in his awful warnings about anti-Christian discrimination, the censorship, the undermining. The heads of the Christian think-tank Ekklesia say they can find no evidence to back up the "Not Ashamed" campaign, although "we have found consistent evidence, however, of Christians misleading people and exaggerating what is really going on, as well as treating other Christians, those of other faith and those of no faith in discriminatory ways".

John Walsh proposes a possible reason that the xian Dominionists are so worried:
The sad truth, Lord Carey, is that people aren't hostile to religion or passionately devout about it; just increasingly indifferent. They may send religious cards, sing carols, attend Mass, inspect the crib, as they've always done – but more as a style choice than an expression of devotion. They haven't been nobbled by Christianophobes. They just don't feel any atavistic twitch of veneration any more.

When the philosopher AC Grayling was introduced on a recent radio show as "a devout atheist", he corrected his host: "That's like calling me a devout non-stamp collector." What bothers Christian Concern, and the like, is that many people just aren't disposed to collect the stamps any more.

And I can't say that I believe that acting like a petulant child who can't understand the concept of overlapping holidays is one likely to make many people likely to WANT to start collecting your stamps, but, you know, whatever works. Me, I like the quoted bit of Dickens, describing the way I like to think of the secular holiday:
"a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of in the long calendar of the year when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely..."

Picture found here.

In Love with the Land

In Medicine for the Earth, shaman Sandra Ingerman says:
To heal the [E]arth . . . you must connect with the elements, the plants, the animals, and all forces of nature. You must reestablish your connection with the web of life, seeing that you are not separate from the rest of life, and you must see the beauty in all things.

. . .

Intention You must set a strong intention to return to living in accordance with the laws of nature, remembering [that] you are part of the web of life and are ruled by, and a part of, the cycles of nature. You must set an intention to open the lines of communiation with the spirit that lives in all things.

Love As you open to the wisdom of the trees, the plants, the animals, the insects, the sun, the moon, the stars, and the elements, you learn that all life thrives on love, and love is a key to creating harmony.

Harmony If you return harmony to yourself by aligning yourself with the river of life, the river of life will bring harmony back to you and the planet.

Union When you remember your connection to the web of life, and the spirit that lives in all things, you are once again in union with yourself, the rest of life, and the divine.

Focus You must focus on your intention to open the lines of communication with the spirits of nature.

Concentration You must concentrate on intentionally changing your way of life to once again return to harmony with yourself and the natural world.

Imagination You must be able to imagine the spirits and forces of nature that live around you, the forces of nature that live in you, and a world in harmony and balance again. You must be able to use your imagination to see the beauty in all things.

In comments to my post this week on living in relationship with nature, Literata says, inter alia:
I think this concept of relationship with the land is the idea some people are oversimplifying when they talk about grounding with a local tree or observing the seasons.

. . .

I just about jumped up and down when I saw the photo [used to illustrate the post] - I recognize that area, because my personal connection is with Teddy Roosevelt Island. Building my relationship with the land there is based on observing the seasons, but not just as an abstraction: it's about noticing what's going on, what the changes reflect, what the spirit of the place feels like and how that changes. It's a deep kind of knowing, and I think the idea of relationship captures it better than anything else I've seen. Being in love takes effort - but it has the most rewarding results.

I think that Literata is right. Some people imagine that, if they sit next to a tree and ground, they've done it all. Of course, sitting and grounding with a tree is a great way to begin a relationship with that tree. And, if it's all that you ever do, that's still about a thousand times better than not doing it. But it's only a start. Similarly, if you want to get to know someone, meeting them for coffee and a chat can be a great way to start, but it's not the same as having a deep and abiding relationship with them. As Literata notes, being in love takes work. And, as Ingerman says:
You must focus on your intention to open the lines of communication with the spirits of nature. . . . You must concentrate on intentionally changing your way of life to once again return to harmony with yourself and the natural world.

I think that the daily practice of being in relationship with The Land is as important as the daily practice we do when we sit at our altars and meditate, vision, do spiritual practices, make magic. Both are necessary, but alone, it's difficult for me to see how either is sufficient. And I find that, in order to be a Witch, I need to be in relationship with a specific and particular landbase, specific trees and plants, specific running waters, a specific fox, a specific bossy cardinal. Otherwise, it's like someone who "loves humanity," but doesn't really know or care for any specific people. And while it's certainly a good thing to "love humanity," it's difficult for that sort of relationship to translate into the sort of medicine that Ingerman references. And, IMHO, that sort of medicine is partly what Witches are for.

Photo by the blogger; if you copy, please link back.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Thank You, Miss Parks. I Kiss Your Feet

Wiki says: On December 1, 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, Parks, age 42, refused to obey bus driver James Blake's order that she give up her seat to make room for a white passenger. Her action was not the first of its kind. Irene Morgan in 1946, and Sarah Louise Keys in 1955, had won rulings before the U.S. Supreme Court, and the Interstate Commerce Commission, respectively, in the area of interstate bus travel. Nine months before Parks refused to give up her seat, 15-year-old Claudette Colvin refused to move from her seat on the same bus system. In New York City, in 1854, Lizzie Jennings engaged in similar activity, leading to the desegregation of the horsecars and horse-drawn omnibuses of that city. But unlike these previous individual actions of civil disobedience, Parks' action sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

Parks' act of defiance became an important symbol of the modern Civil Rights Movement and Parks became an international icon of resistance to racial segregation. She organized and collaborated with civil rights leaders, including boycott leader Martin Luther King, Jr., helping to launch him to national prominence in the civil rights movement.

At the time of her action, Parks was secretary of the Montgomery chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and had recently attended the Highlander Folk School, a Tennessee center for workers' rights and racial equality. Nonetheless, she took her action as a private citizen "tired of giving in". Although widely honored in later years for her action, she suffered for it, losing her job as a seamstress in a local department store.

I massage your seamstress hands with thyme-infused beeswax. I send reiki to the tired muscles of your calves. I ground and send courage to your frightened center. I whisper the thanks of many daughters into your ringing ears. I bring you hot soup (full of astragolus, garlic, mushrooms, and chicken broth), in jail. I bring you clean hair in the court-room, fresh underwear when you face the police, and the warmth of magic when you try to go to sleep, afraid of what they will do to you. I bring you the scent of lavender and rosemary from my garden and the warmth of all the wool that passes through my knitting hands.

I was not born when you refused to give up your seat on the bus. But I will bless you always. Thank you for making my world a bit more just. Thank you for the example that you set. May we, who come behind you, imbibe a bit of your courage.

First of the Month Bazooms Blogging

Ladies! Listen up! Detecting breast cancer early is the key to surviving it! Breast Self Exams (BSEs) can help you to detect breast cancer in its earlier stages. So, on the first of every month, give yourself a breast self-exam. It's easy to do. Here's how. If you prefer to do your BSE at a particular time in your cycle, calendar it now. But, don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

And, once a year, get yourself a mammogram. Mammograms cost between $150 and $300. If you have to take a temp job one weekend a year, if you have to sell something on e-Bay, if you have to go cash in all the change in various jars all over the house, if you have to work the holiday season wrapping gifts at Macy's, for the love of the Goddess, please go get a mammogram once a year.

Or: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention pays all or some of the cost of breast cancer screening services through its National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program. This program provides mammograms and breast exams by a health professional to low-income, underinsured, and underserved women in all 50 states, six U.S. territories, the District of Columbia, and 14 American Indian/Alaska Native organizations. For more information, contact your state health department or call the Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER.

I know that a recent study indicated that early detection via breast self exams might not be "cost effective." I'm not a scientist, but when I read those studies, they appear to be saying that sometimes women find a lump during the BSE that turns out not to be cancer. Those women have caused some expense and have gone through some discomfort in order to find out that the lump wasn't cancer. I don't know about you, but when that happens to me, as it has a few times since my first mammogram found a small, curable, cancerous lump, I go out and buy a new scarf, take myself out for a decadent lunch, call everyone I know, and declare it a good day.

Send me an email after you get your mammogram and I will do an annual free tarot reading for you. Just, please, examine your own breasts once a month and get your sweet, round ass to a mammogram once a year. If you have a deck, pick three cards and e-mail me at I'll email you back your reading. If you don't have a deck, go to Lunea's tarot listed on the right-hand side in my blog links. Pick three cards from her free, on-line tarot and email me at I'll email you back your reading.

Picture found here (NSfW).


All of my life, I've loved these animals. There's something both awful and lovely about them. Or lovely about how they inspire awe, or awe-ful about how much I love them, or lovely about how they fill me with awe, or awe-inspiring about how lovely they are or . . . .

Well, foxes and ravens, I guess I'm just and old Wiccan stereotype.

There's a fox who lives on the hill just behind my yard, in an old woody thicket up there. I'm deeply in love and in awe of her. She came out into the yard early this morning, during a short break in our heavy rains, sniffed the space around my altar and my fire pit, turned, looked for the longest time at me standing, coffee mug in hand, on the screen porch, and then decided, I surmise: "Neither food nor foe." I keep thinking about putting out dogfood in the Winter, but I bet a naturalist would tell me it's a bad idea. But, if birdseed is good . . . .

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Nature Is My Book

In Relationship

In the world of child development, attachment theory posits that the creation of a deep bond between child and parent is a complex psychological, biological, and spiritual process, and that that without this attachment a child is lost, vulnerable to all manner of later pathologies. I believe that a similar process can bind adults to a place and give them a sense of belonging and meaning. Without a deep attachment to a place, an adult can also feel lost.

. . .

Attachment to Land is not only good for the child, but good for the land as well. As naturalist Robert Finch asserts: "There is a point . . . in our relationship with a place, when, in spite of ourselves, we realize we do not care so much anymore, when we begin to be convinced, against our very wills, that our neighborhood, our town, or the land as a whole is already lost." At this point, he argues, the local landscape is no longer perceived as "a living, breathing, beautiful counterpart to human existence, but something that has suffered irreversible brain death. . . . "[I]t no longer moves, or if it does, it is not with a will of its own."


Passion does not arrive on videotape or on a CD; passion is personal. Passion is lifted from the [E]arth itself by the muddy hands of the young; it travels along grass-stained sleeves to the heart. If we are going to save environmentalism and the environment, we must also save an endangered indicator species: the child in nature.

~Richard Louv in Last Child in the Woods.

I'm in relationship with two running waters. One is Spout Run and one is the Potomac River, into which Spout Run, well, runs. I follow Spout Run on my way to work every morning and join the Potomac just where it does, right near the Three Sisters and a broad, open curve in the river. And then I drive along beside the river until I cross over it, just beside the Teddy Roosevelt Island, where I've seen eagles, ravens, foxes, squirrels. This time of year, the leaves are nearly gone, and both Spout Run and the Potomac are easier to see. This morning, there was a gentle rain falling, making the dead leaves look slippery and the rocks look like they'd been polished all night.

I want G/Son to have this sort of relationship with Land. He's already developed a few favorite places to go hiking, one the things that Son and DiL do to help him grow into living on this Earth. What did your parents do for you? What do you do for the child(ren) in your life? What do you do for yourself?

Picture found here.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Almost Winter

Calling the Elements

I've been thinking a lot lately (well, it's sad; you get old, your mind wanders down strange pathways, but at least I've been thinking about this in between v practical issues for a rather demanding appellate brief; my job does do wonderful things for me) about the role that Calling the Elements really plays in Wiccan ritual. Coming, generally, at the beginning of the ritual, I think that Calling the Elements serves a role greater than the sum of its parts.

By that, I mean that Calling the Elements (Earth, Air, Fire and Water! Come be with me; I'm your daughter. Air, Fire, Water, Earth! To my better self now give birth. Fire, Water, Earth, and Air! Bring me now the power to dare. Water, Earth, Air, and Fire! I call you now with all my desire.) is one of the parts of ritual that speaks most clearly to Younger Child and, as a result, can, when well-done, lead us quickly into that space between the worlds where magic is, indeed, possible. And when done perfunctorily, or as an afterthought, or as an Oh-Shit-I-Volunteered-to-Call-Water-and-then-Forgot-about-It-Well-Let-Me-Start-Babbling-About-Flow-and-Drops-Coming-Together-and-Hope-this-Works (I've been totally guilty of this), it can put a damper on the entire ritual, can make it that much more difficult for the magic to happen.

Younger Child, at least as I conceive of Her, is that part of us that responds to poetic language, to symbol, to things just below the level of language and conscious thought. It's funny (well, funny-strange, not funny-ha-ha, except in the sense that the Universe and I have, for almost 55 years, been having grand jokes on each other and then, of course, it's also funny-ha-ha) that, for many years after reading and understanding (intellectually) the concept of Younger Child, what I said to myself was: "But I'm deficient in this area. I'm too left-brained to have much of a Younger Child. If I see a sigil, I translate it into words and turn that task over to Talking Self, so, really, I don't have much of a Younger Child."

And, then, somehow, I remembered the first time that, as a child, I somehow wound up in a v nice section of a v nice restaurant. My memory is foggy about how this happened: I was the oldest of five kids in a working-class family and we didn't spend much time in any restaurant, much less one that wasn't (a special treat) a McDonald's. But I have this vague sensory impression of being in such a place, of reveling in the way that sounds were muffled there and that empty space provided room for one's being to expand. Once I made the association between that impression and the way that it made me feel as if maybe I could be who I'd always meant to be (this is shallow, I know; so is Younger Child), dozens of similar impressions came flooding back to me.

The way that great architecture has always made me feel. The way that fountains instantly make joy bubble up within me. The way that wearing elegant, well-fitting clothes has always changed the way that I move, the things that I say, the way that I feel towards others. The feelings of both groundedness and airiness that the scent of lilacs can induce in me. Copeland's Fanfare for the Common Man. The way that a man's cologne can make me weak in the knees. Poetry.

So, I'm a slow learner; it took me a long time to get in touch with my own Younger Self; the one who didn't get much validation from my writer-father or my left-brained, Vatican II Catholic education. And, yet, once I did, I quit worrying about whether or not a sigil or rune induced anything within me and began to focus on the many ways that my Younger Self could be induced to feel comfortable, expand, do magic, invoke what I needed.

And, so. Here's Margaret Roach, in A Way to Garden, discussing the element of Air:
Where I live, I’d have to count wind—not cold, despite my Zone 5-ish climate—as the most destructive force in the garden, bringing down or splitting apart woody plants when it roars, and desiccating evergreens in winter. Particularly when it combines with or follows drought, as it is this year, it’s a force to be reckoned with.

For now, all that means is a few stray sycamore leaves (Platanus occidentalis). We’ll see what . . . other tricks it has in mind this winter. Batten down the hatches, won’t you?

Can you invoke Air more powerfully for your next ritual? I'd love to see it in comments.

Picture found here.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Taking Allies Wherever They Are Found

Still Enough to Get You Burned to Death

And it's still usually women getting burned.
The fear of witchcraft in Ghana has been traced back to the 15th century when the nation was introduced to Christianity. It was through the churches teaching that raised the anxiety of locals about the destructive influences of witches. Women named as witches were accused of drinking human blood and eating the flesh.
More here, here, here, and here.

Sunday Dance Blogging