So when Comstock and his fellow inspectors showed up at her cramped residence on West 23rd Street with a warrant for her arrest, Craddock steeled herself anew. "I wish to fight right through to a finish," she wrote her lawyer shortly afterward. "All I ask is that you use me in the most effective way possible." As an unabashed sex reformer and a mystic founder of her own Church of Yoga, Craddock was to Comstock a twice-damned purveyor of obscenity and blasphemy. He wanted to shut down her whole operation—the distribution of her pamphlets, the delivery of her lectures, even her face-to-face counseling sessions. "I am taking my stand on the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States," Craddock countered, "guaranteeing me religious freedom, freedom of speech and freedom of the press."
Craddock could do little more than watch as Comstock conducted his raid. Scanning the shelves of her private library, he found sixty-one books and 536 circulars worthy of removal, all of which he could use as evidence against her before once again pulping such filth. A heavy-set man with mutton-chop sideburns and creased blue eyes, Comstock had been at this for a while, having led the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice since its incorporation in 1873. For three decades now he had been frustrating the designs of shady booksellers, sketchy impresarios, dime novelists, condom distributors, abortion providers, birth-control advocates, and taboo-breaking artists. Imbued with a strong sense of Christian discipline from his Connecticut youth, he had further honed his self-control through prayerfully resisting the temptations of army life during the Civil War—the whiskey drinking, coarse language, and tobacco chewing that marked the camaraderie of his fellow soldiers. "Boys got very drunk," Comstock noted of his army mates at one point in his diary. "I did not drink a drop. . . . Touch not. Taste not. Handle not."
"She thought her only option at that point was suicide," Schmidt says. "That that was the only way she was going to die a free woman."
That oddly keeps on being the only choice they leave us.
I'll just add that having my carefully-collected and painstakingly-archived books rifled by a fundie would pretty much do me in, as well.
I can almost feel Imbolc stirring itself from deep inside my Mother and beginning to rise through the root-chilling red clay and rock-hard frozen surface of my tiny bit of Earth. I am longing like a thirsty woman for a taste of that icy water of inspiration, for all that I know that Imbolc is often considered a fire festival. Imbolc is a time to honor inspiration and the plain old hard work of forging new tools, as well as a time to commit to a warming that we can, often, only believe, rather than sense. I am willing, even if it makes me a foolish old woman, to commit to the warming. (My broken ankle, which simply FEELS itself more this time of year, and my too-cold-even-in-socks-toes, and my full-of-pain-even-in-gloves-fingertips are all ready to commit, as well.)
By Imbolc, I will have made my selections -- limited this year, as I'm really serious about upping my already-quite-healthy level of savings -- from the many issues of garden porn seed catalogues that arrive this time of year, and will start some seedlings -- always one of my favorite acts as a priestess. (My nomination for the best seed catalogue cover in years: this year's Seed Savers cover. Who knew that deep purple, deep red, and bright yellow were so gorgeous together?) Also, can I just say that the picture in this year's catalogue of their seed-drying barn, (go here and click through 24 times) is number two on my list of places in which I'd almost kill to, but likely never will, do ritual? (Number 1 is (after dark on the night of a full Moon, when the park is closed) the old Capitol pillars at the National Arboretum.) I want to dance through that barnfull of heirloom DNA in the worst kind of way; I've been there in my dreams almost every night since I've seen it. Seed Savers, I don't suppose you'd like some Witches to come bless your crops?
An accomplished storyteller and sleight-of-hand magician who has lived and traded magic with indigenous sorcerers in Indonesia, Nepal, and the Americas . . . .
and he's certainly studied and written about magic. Becoming Animal is, in any event, a Pagan book, in the true sense of the word. The Politics and Prose write-up says:
The shapeshifting of ravens, the erotic nature of gravity, the eloquence of thunder, the pleasures of being edible: all have their place in Abram’s investigation. He shows that from the awakened perspective of the human animal, awareness (or mind) is not an exclusive possession of our species but a lucid quality of the biosphere itself—a quality in which we, along with the oaks and the spiders, steadily participate.
I'm particularly struck by Abram's discussion of shadows. Having worked with James Hillman, it's not surprising that Abram writes about shadows in ways that have multiple meanings. Although he's ostensibly talking about the kind of shadows we cast upon the ground when the sun is shining, I find some of his passages to be equally applicable (and I can't believe Abram isn't aware of what he's doing) to Jungian shadows, as well. Here's a small example:
One of the marks of our obliviousness, one of the countless signs that our thinking minds have grown estranged from the intelligence of our sensing bodies, is that today a great many people seem to believe that shadows are flat. . . . We identify our shadow, in other words, with that visible shape we see projected on the pavement or the whitewashed wall. Since what we glimpse there is a being without depth [heh], we naturally assume that shadows themselves are basically flat -- and if we are asked by a curious child about the life of shadows [again, heh] we are apt to reply that their lives exist in only two dimensions [ok, I'll stop with the "heh"s, but I think you see my point].
. . .
[M]y actual shadow is an enigma more substantial than that flat shape on the ground. That silhouette is only my shadow's outermost surface. . . . [The] apparent gap between myself and that flat swath of darkness is what prompts me, now and then, to accept its invitation to dance, the two of us then strutting and ducking in an improvised pas de deux wherein it's never very clear which one of us is leading [heh; can't help myself] and which is following. It is now obvious, however, that that shape slinking along on the pavement is merely the outermost edge of a thick volume of shade, an umbral depth that extends from the pavement right on up to my knees, torso, and head -- a shadow touching me not just at my feet, but at every point of my person.
Or maybe I'm completely wrong and Abram, trying heroically to get us back in actual touch with the physical shadows cast by our bodies, would berate me for needing to find verbal twists and psychological constructs literally breaking through his words. Indeed, in the essay on magic, linked above, Abram says:
For it is likely that the "inner world" of our Western psychological experience, like the supernatural heaven of Christian belief, originated in the loss of our ancestral reciprocity with the living landscape. When the animate presences with whom we have evolved over several million years are suddenly construed as having less significance than ourselves, when the generative earth that gave birth to us is defined as a soulless or determinate object devoid of sensitivity and sentience, then that wild otherness with which human life had always been entwined must migrate, either into a supersensory heaven beyond the natural world, or else into the human skull itself--the only allowable refuge, in this world, for what is ineffable and unfathomable.
At any rate, it's a meaty book (odd choice of words, perhaps, for a book entitled "Becoming Animal") and one full of the Pagan understanding that EVERYTHING is alive and longing to be in communion, that, "it's all real; it's all [heh] metaphor; there's always more."
Update: As the stumbling oral reading above makes clear, this is a book written to be read, not spoken. The language is lush, almost rococo, and one needs to remain fully present to read it. I'm reading it, as a result, as a series of amuses-gueule, and not in one or two "swell foops," as my grandma used to say.
More and more, I look back at the Sixties -- Summer of Love, Selma, Consciousness Raising Groups, and Woodstock -- as a kind of Brigadoon, that settles down unnoticed on our Moors, gives us an example, and then goes back off into the clouds to stay pure for another time when it's needed. I was, pace Mr. Dylan, so much younger then; I'm older (better funded, more grounded, smarter, more focused, and more committed) than that, now.
And, I agree with Joan. We shall overcome, someday.
All my life, they've been shooting the heroes down. All my life, easy access to guns has taken down those who tried to lead us forward. I think it's time to get to the root of the problem. Let's get a "well-regulated" militia under regulation.
You know, now that I'm an old woman, and not a little girl of 12, when I look at Dr. King, I can see how he is just carrying the weight of the whole world on his shoulders. And although it's not nearly enough, what I want to say, from this distance of 43 years, is, "Thank you. Thank you for the better world that I have lived in. And, most of all, thank you for the better world in which my G/Son will live all the days of his life. Thank you, Dr. King."
Maybe we all need, certainly I need, to pick up a little bit more of the world's weight, so that no one person ever has to bear so much all alone. I won't, pace Mr. Frost, be gone long; you come too.
I'm a woman, a Witch, a mother, a grandmother, an eco-feminist, a gardener, a reader, a writer, and a priestess of the Great Mother Earth. Hecate appears in the
Homeric Ode to Demeter, which tells of Hades who caught Persophone
"up reluctant on his golden car and bare her away lamenting. . . . But no one, either of the deathless gods or of mortal men, heard her voice, nor yet the olive-trees bearing rich fruit: only tenderhearted Hecate, bright-coiffed, the daughter of Persaeus, heard the girl from her cave . . . ."