Friday, December 24, 2010


Doing a bit of end-of-calendar-year housekeeping on the Blog List.

Now's a good time to let me know, "Hey, I haven't posted in a bit, but I'm ramping up, so don't remove me," or "Yo! I wish you wouldn't list me; I don't want to be associated with teh crazy," or "Geez, is there a reason why my fabulous blog, where I post daily, ISN'T listed?"

Just as a matter of personal preference, I'm less likely to list blogs that are mostly personal journal and more likely to list blogs that post on topics of spiritual growth/politics/art. Not that there aren't hundreds of amazing blogs that I don't list. So please don't take any decisions personally.

Picture found here.

Know What I Love? I Love How "The Shadow" Is Such a Part of This. Literally.

Flight From Embodiment from Alliance for Wild Ethics on Vimeo.

Shadows WILL show up and make themselves known, no matter how hard we try to squish them down. It's not just what they do; it's who they are.

Pagan Gift Giving

One of the things that I've been thinking about lately is gifts.

I love giving gifts, often gifts not associated at all with any recognized holiday. And I love to receive gifts from people who have spent time thinking about who I am and what I'd like. But, especially at this time of year, I can get crabby about "expected" gifts, both those that I'm "expected" to give and those that others give to me because "it's expected."

In A World Full of Gods: An Inquiry Into Polytheism, John Michael Greer talks about the act of giving gifts within the ancient Pagan world:
The principle of reciprocity provides the proper context to the much-misinterpreted Roman religious maxim do ut des, usually translated "I give that you may give." Too often, even by those alert to the complexities of Roman religion, this has been read as a commercial transaction in which Roman worshippers paid their gods in advance for some benefit.

This is unjust. What the maxim actually implies is the exchange of gifts as an expression of ancient rules of friendship and hospitality. Behind this conception lies a concept of an exchange of gifts between different orders of being as the bond that unites the universe. As Walter Burkert has pointed out, the exchange of gifts is among the foundations of human culture, and the sharing of food and the exchange of gifts remain important sources of interpersonal bonds even today.

Modern theorists of religion have wrestled with the habit of making gifts to gods, ancestors and spirits, on the assumption that there are no obvious returns on the investment. To ancient and modern Pagans alike, however, the assumption is transparently false. If such beings exist and govern the natural world, their gifts are as obvious as food and drink on the table, rain on the fields, fertility in the soil, and the fact of life itself. The gods are primarily and superlatively givers of good things, and the world in which life takes place is their gift to us.

In the same way, and for many of the same reasons, anything that is a source of benefit to human beings may be seen as a giver of gifts, and an appropriate recipient of reverence and offerings. This is the thinking behind Shinto habit . . . of worshipping the builders of irrigation systems as "water gods." The same principle underlies the Greek Pagan tradition, baffling to many modern scholars, of building temples and making offerings to abstract concepts -- Peace, Victory, Mercy, and the like. In modern India, where such ideas form one strand in the rich fabric of Hindu religion, musicians make offerings to their instruments and craftsmen to their tools in a similar spirit.

. . .

If Pagan gods are verbs, as the Christian god is sometimes said to be, the verbs in question are 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.

I love that notion: that when we give, we should do so in conscious imitation of the Goddesses and Gods.

May you always receive what you most need.

Picture found here.

No Comment

/hat tip comments at Eschaton

Friday Poetry Blogging

Dancing with Green Bees

Find your way to the third hearth
to become a woman of clay -- again.

Just when you believe you are
the definition of thirst,
have endured too many erasures
sealed inside a sere landscape,
you will whirl into the dance
of dragonflies.

Or the dance of the green bees
-- starting in the yellow sheen of morning,
of cactus bloom, of meadowlark, of the shining --
will fling you maiden-like beneath birdshadow.

The path to the third hearth
is strewn with surprises of sparkling quartzite.
You are amidst a fortress of rock, a cathedral of stone,
and the elemental particulate that has undergone
its many metamorphoses as have you.
Landscape bids you to absorb time,
breathe earth dust, the primordial.

There at the third hearth
the women of clay await you.
By their painted faces will you know them.

~Karla Linn Merrifield, printed in Crone, Issue No. 3.

Picture found here.

Staying in Love When It Snows

As regular readers know, it's important to my spiritual practice to be in active relationship with a specific piece of land, rather than just having warm feelings for the intellectual construct of "the Land" or "Earth." A large part of my daily practice involves getting in touch with and listening to the specific, small (less than a quarter acre) bit of land on which I live and garden. When I lived in an apartment with no yard, I adopted some spots near me as "mine."

Even in Winter, if it's at all possible, I'm bundled up and outside, even if only for a short time. I've learned that, as long as I can keep my hands warm (I've been known to wear mittens over gloves and one of my goals for the coming year is to learn how to knit those fingerless gloves that I could wear over full gloves), I don't really mind the cold, at least down to around 25 degrees or so. Finding out how to dress comfortably for the outside (for some people, it means fleece-lined boots, while for others it's a hat or a big warm scarf around the neck) can make it easier to maintain a relationship with your bit of Earth even in Winter. And, really, not knowing what a place is like in Winter is sort of like "knowing" a person, but being ignorant about a huge chunk of their life.

That said, as an old woman with a previously-broken-and-still-held-together-with-screws-and-plates ankle, I'm more than careful about not going outside when it's snowy or icy. When you really can't be outside, one way to deepen your relationship is to learn about your land. What do you know about the First Peoples who lived there before you? Do you know where your water comes from and where your waste goes? Can you identify the birds and other animals who live in relationship with the same bit of Earth as you do? Can you identify the trees that live with you? A lot of that information is likely available on-line. Additionally, Field Guides, which you can often get quite cheap secondhand, are a great way to get to know more about your area. A coven might want to buy a set and circulate them. I keep, for example, Birds of Virginia, on my porch so that when I see a bird I don't recognize, I can try to identify her. But in the Winter, when I can't go outside, I'll read a page or two every day in order to try and learn about local birds. And now, thanks to Margaret Roach, I'm in lust for this: The Bird Songs Bible. If you have children, all of these make good family activities on snow days and are a great way to instill a love of nature in the next generation.

If you garden, keeping a garden journal can be another way to deepen your understanding of your bit of Earth. During the year, I'll note on Facebook when each new flower first blooms. Then, on a snowy day in Winter, I'll go through and make a chronological listing in my garden journal. It's interesting to see, from year to year, the patterns and the variations. More serious gardeners additionally keep track of last frost, rainfall, hours of sunlight, and temperatures. Margaret Roach also has up an interesting podcast about the process of preparing to order seeds for next Spring, another great way to spend a snow day.

Finally, even when you can't be outside physically, you can do meditations and trance work to communicate with your bit of Earth. Let it know that you want to listen and then be willing to open up and learn what is taught. You can do art inspired by your relationship. You can raise energy and send it to, for example, the shivering animals, the roots deep under the snow, the earthworms and bees that are so necessary to the Earth's survival.

How do you keep your relationship going when it has to be, for a short time, a "long-distance" relationship?

Picture found here.

Thursday, December 23, 2010


For the last few days, we've had very strong winds, making our below-normal, cold temps feel even colder. Wind, for me, is all about the Powers of the East, Air, Dawn, New Beginnings, Swords. At our Solstice celebration, I was talking with one of my Sisters about a painting that hangs in my home, showing a woman walking into a strong wind. I have always loved the idea of walking into the wind, of letting fresh new air blow over me and all my ideas. I live a lot -- no, really, a lot -- in my head. THE big challenge for me, in this incarnation, is to integrate my oversized Talking Self with my physical body, my Younger Self, my Sacred Dove. And I've still got a long way to go. But, give me words and ideas and sentences, heck, give me footnotes and case holdings and conflicting interpretations, and I'm off to the races, riding air drafts, soaring on wind gusts, riding, like an eagle, on Boreas, Chinook, Etsian, the Mistral, Typhoons, and, well, and the Wind.

Conversely, I take such a hugely sensual pleasure in being inside, wearing a soft cotton nightgown, on my sturdy bed and firm mattress, weighted down by cotton blankets, and comforters, and woven bedspreads, balanced upon ice-cold soft pillows, newly-turned from the wall-side, and listening to the wind whistle and howl around my snug little cottage. And there's hardly been a night for the last few weeks when I haven't been awakened at some point and given the chance to snuggle down even deeper under the covers and listen to the wind sough through the branches of my ancient oaks.

May it be so for you.

Picture found here.

What He Said

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Welcome, Returning Light

And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs -
Because Sophia over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

~with apologies to Gerard Manley Hopkins

And, so, although I have lived here, on this bit of Earth, lived here Summer drought and Winter blizzard, lived here ordinary day and ecstatic night, lived here in sickness and in health, lived here, slept here, planted here, eaten here, done magic here -- solitary and with Sisters -- for nigh on a decade, and, so, and, yet, on the Winter Solstice the lovely land that owns me had a lot to show me.

The thing about mystical experiences is that -- although "I only am escaped to tell thee," -- mystical experiences cannot be told. This is why the Charge of the Goddess says: "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."

And, yet, knowing, as I start, that, at the finish, this thing cannot be told, I will try to tell it.

Every tiny plot of Earth is crammed -- crammed, I tell you, crammed -- crammed and jammed and overfilled and flowing over with Goddesses and Gods and Genius Locii and Fae and Spirits and Beings and Living Rocks and the Bright! Alive! RNA and DNA and Mitochondria of the Worms and Chipmunks who grace this place and every tiny plot of Earth is full to the brim of Consciousness in every form of incarnation and those things that de Chardin hardly dared intimate and, oh, poetry. And there is mystery and easy ecstasy in the skies and the turning of planets makes music in the spheres and as above so below and, well. And, the entire Earth is crammed with divine poetry and music and what I imagine mathematics must be for those, like G/Son, who think in such terms and, well, also, "Everything," our speaker is reduced to noting, "is Alive -- EVERYTHING." . . . .

I was right. You can not tell it.

But you can know it. And my wish for you on this day when the Light begins to return is for you to know it deep inside your cells. And to live in the truth of that knowing.

What would change immediately for you?

Io! Evoe!

Picture found here

A Modest Suggestion

Now that we've gotten rid of "Don't Ask/Don't Tell" maybe we could ratify the ERA?

Picture found here.

Solstice Celebrations

Here's a nice story about the Stonehenge Solstice celebration. Kudos to the author for understanding how to capitalize.

And, here's another nice one about Icelandic Asatru and other Pagans celebrating the returning sun. Kudos again for correct capitalization.

Sadly, not everyone seems to have gotten the message:
In their quest to bring the Christian religion to the pagan people of Western Europe, the Church cleverly incorporated existing festivals and rituals into the Christian calendar. One of the many correlations between ancient winter festivals and Christianity revolves around the older Celtic name for the festival of Alban Artuan – or the “Light of Winter”. When deciding where to put the Christian celebration of Jesus’s birth, it is little wonder that they chose this festival to herald the arrival of the “Light of the World” – a human beacon of hope and light into a time of darkness.
It is thought that pagans may have been the original “tree trimmers” as they brought greenery into the house as a symbol of life through the long dark nights. The evergreen was brought in and adorned with decorations to symbolise the various stellar objects that were important to them; the sun, the moon, the stars. These also served as gifts to the pagan gods.

Dear Caledonian Mercury, If you capitalize "Christian," then you should capitalize "Pagan." If you capitalize "Christians," you should capitalize "Druids." It's not complicated.

Picture found here.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Now That's Not Something You See Every Day

Once every several hundred years, we have a full Moon lunar eclipse on the Winter Solstice. And that's approximately how often I will ever agree with anything that Ross Douthat has to say. So it's especially amazing that both events would occur within the same 24-hour period.

But I agree 100% with Douthat that:
Thanks in part to [a] bunker mentality, American Christianity has become . . . a “weak culture” — one that mobilizes but doesn’t convert, alienates rather than seduces, and looks backward toward a lost past instead of forward to a vibrant future. In spite of their numerical strength and reserves of social capital, . . . the Christian churches are mainly influential only in the “peripheral areas” of our common life. In the commanding heights of culture, Christianity punches way below its weight. [Cute phrase, huh?]

[T]his month’s ubiquitous carols and crèches notwithstanding, believing Christians are no longer what they once were — an overwhelming majority in a self-consciously Christian nation. The question is whether they can become a creative and attractive minority in a different sort of culture, where they’re competing not only with rival faiths but with a host of pseudo-Christian spiritualities, and where the idea of a single religious truth seems increasingly passé.

Or to put it another way, Christians need to find a way to thrive in a society that looks less and less like any sort of Christendom — and more and more like the diverse and complicated Roman Empire where their religion had its beginning, 2,000 years ago this week.

Exactly. I agree completely. Perhaps you guys would like to get started on that, well, now. Now would be good.

(Douthat says, as per usual, a lot of whiny, silly stuff with which not even an easily-confused four-year old would agree. For example, he snivels that Christmas is the season "when American Christians can feel most embattled. Their piety is overshadowed by materialist ticky-tack. Their great feast is compromised by Christmukkwanzaa multiculturalism." Really? Your piety can't stand up to sales of stuff? The same sales of stuff that, if they aren't accompanied by the sales clerk wishing you a "Merry Christmas" send you into a temper tantrum? So stop watching tv and stay out of the malls; go to church instead. Stay home and pray the rosary. And your "great feast" (by which I imagine you mean Christmas Mass) is "compromised" because other people are celebrating other holidays at approximately the same time? Really? If so, your "great feast" must celebrate a rather anemic god. Maybe you shouldn't have gone around appropriating other people's holidays if you've got such delicate feefees. Then you could have had one all your own. But, hey, as noted, it's not every century that I find something Douthat says not only correct, but quotable, so let's not quibble.)

Hat tip to Chas Clifton for the info on the lunar eclipse.

Picture found here.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Have a Fantastic Solstice. No, Really.

From Strategic Sorcery:
Now you may not know this about me, but I am the mythic Yuleclipse Fairy. I need you to know a few things.

Tuesday is a lunar eclipse. It will be visible from most of North America

Tuesday is also the Winter Solstice - the longest night.

Tuesday is the first night that a lunar eclipse has occured on a Winter Solstice in 456 years.

Tuesday is the day that you will be outside doing magic.

If you don't do something I will know and I will be displeased. You don't want to piss me off. Just get your lazy ass out there and meditate, cast a spell, dance a jig, do something!

You should read the whole thing.

Picture found here.

Sunday Dance Blogging