Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve Communion Revisited: the Changing Church

I have been getting wonderful letters from friends near and far about whether or not I should take communion at church services tonight.

The most common response: What is the big deal???????????? Take communion!!!!!!!!!!

But this is a big deal. A group of devout and committed Christians at a community of faith want to offer communion to me, a witchy/pagany person with a deep love of Christian theology/thealogy. I have spent many years vaguely saying, well, no your polity doesn't permit me to participate in communion, and I've been ok - though questioning - with the national church's position. In discussions this week, however the conversation has moved significantly.

Members of East Liberty Presby are saying to me, that despite national polity, their own definitions of themselves as Christian demands they offer me - or anyone who wants to participate - communion. These church members are taking a radical stand, not a "who cares?" liberal one. Instead, these church women (so far all are women) are saying that the definition of church that they ascribe to Jesus' ministry is an open one.

This is a meaningful change.

Twenty five years ago I remember a frightened Lutheran deaconess inviting me to her home for dinner, in great trepidation. Growing up and attending Missouri Synod Lutheran church and college (Missouri Synod Lutherans still don't ordain women), she was knowingly inviting an outspoken, tarot-reading pagan to her table. She was concerned for her personal salvation, worried she was risking her life in heaven by just knowing me. At the same time, other Christian friends worried about introducing me to their church homes, worried about my polluting their services, worried about introducing me to their families. In college, professors outright rejected my participation in their classes. At the University of Edinbugh, the Dean of the Divinity School had to intervene when a professor flunked a research paper I did on Wisdom and the use of the name of Sophia for Jesus (despite many theologians doing so already).

I first volunteered at East Liberty Presbyterian Church 15 years ago. I loved the place. Homeless shelter in the basement; food bank for the neighborhood; arts programs for children; sponsors of Pittsburgh's Gay and Lesbian choir; multiracial congregation. It is a family legend that my son said, on his first day in Sunday School: "I wike this place; there are Bwown people like me." When my youngest baby cried during service, people of all races, classes and orientations cheerfully told me not to worry and stay in service and that my baby's crying bothered no one. Once that daughter hit Sunday School age, I spent two years helping in the nursery.

It is AMAZING that this same group of people are not now saying, oh, we'll give you communion through the back door."

They are Christians saying "you are welcome to communion no matter what." That is a huge change from 25 years ago, and from many Christian communities today. The women offering me communion are making a very huge assertion about ecclesiology, and what is the very nature of church. They are intentionally creating a different Christian community. And hot damn for them.



Tonight is my night with Ord Brighideach, the international community that welcomes all people of any faith to light candles regularly for Bridget. (you can define her as saint/goddess/deva/god/deity/spirit as you choose) I have for weeks been looking forward to lighting Bridget's candles and then going to Christmas eve candlelit services at East Liberty Presby.

And tonight I'm gonna take communion. Which the church is openly and knowingly offering.



And it is a big deal.



Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Holiday Dilemma: Christmas at East Liberty Presbyterian Church, The Cathedral of Hope

I have a somewhat unique holiday dilemma, oh gentle readers. As a longtime supporter, volunteer, attender and advocate at my church (video clip below!)



I have long wished I could participate in communion at this place of worship where I feel so connected. However, as a non-baptised person with a faith stance that crosses many thealogical lines, I have been careful not to cross doctrinal lines at East Liberty Presby. The National Board for the Presbyterian Church USA in its polity specifically excludes non-baptised non-Christians from communion, which is what I doctrinally am by the Presbyterian Church USA's own definitions. And so when I have asked about the "open communion" at ELPC, members have told me that ELPC follows national polity. The "open communion" is open to baptised Christians only.

well. For some of my church friends this national polity is appalling. So I have good church friends who would happily give me communion, thus creating a truly open communion table - one open to all, baptism or personal faith stance notwithstanding. I have not availed myself of this offer; yes, I believe in questioning authority. Yes, I believe in re-defining religious meaning (you, oh gentle readers, may have noticed that!) And yes, I believe in transforming the established church - again, you gentle readers may have noticed that as well.

However. Polity matters. The current ELPC position is not all that revolutionary: sort've a "we'll quietly give communion to those of you who don't fit our official polity, just don't talk about it too much" kinda response. This is hardly revolutionary or transformative. Quietly slipping around rules is what we without political power have to do, and yes, that can be important. However it is still a second class communion, perhaps politically meaningful, yet hardly a challenge to church power. And I think it funny how many leftie people have said to me an inherently conservative stance: oh, polity doesn't matter. Just take communion.

(oh laws don't matter, why do gays and lesbians need marriage. oh laws don't exist; Blacks of all gender and white(ish) women have equality. oh laws don't matter, we don't need to change them. . .)

For me this issue is intensely personal. Back in divinity school, I took most of my classes at Christian seminaries. Most of my friends were devout and committed Christians. I attended countless ordinations and installations of friends. During those years I sat in pews while ALL of my friends paraded up for communion, and I, a non-baptised non-believer, sat alone, watching. It was a really weird feeling. On some occasions, rather famous ministers specifically pulled me aside before services to make sure I knew that I was not welcome to the communion table - a situation I found laughable, in an ironic way. One very famous Lutheran minister was himself installed as one of the first openly gay ministers in the Lutheran church. Yet he found it necessary to tell me that communion was not open to me on the day one of my best friends was installed as an openly lesbian deacon in his church.

And many Christian friends have explained to me over the years the necessity of communion being a religious faith stance and affirmation of a belief in Jesus' salvation. I am not in anyway questioning the deepseated need of Christian communities to self-define around sacrament and creed. After all, I truly believe in the importance of respecting faith. Many Christians don't want to share communion with me, who they would define as non-Christian.

Yet I also think my own personal faith journey has been shaped by those many, many times of sitting alone in the pew, the only person not allowed communion in a church full of friends.

Christmas Eve I will be at church with my kids, with my wonderful church friends - who themselves embrace a motley collection of beliefs. One devout church friend says she will happily give me communion. If so, that will be literally the second time in my life I have had communion with a group of religious people with whom I feel a great commitment.

Should I go?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Back in time for Solstice/Lunar Eclipse/Full Moon!



Well, I have been off studying for my finals, some of the hardest academic work I've ever done. Friends from the computer science world tell me this is standard: multiple choice exams with tricky wording designed to trip you up and not test your knowledge. This little liberal arts girl still finds this new and uncomfortable; however, got an A and a B+ for final grades. My thanks to Bridget and all the deities who have helped me quite actively this semester.

And yesterday was a wonderful Christmas pageant at church, where dear friend and CMU grad student Ashley portrayed the best of what church should be: she wrote the Christmas pageant autobiographically, recalling the day she first ever visited East Liberty Presby - on the day of the holiday pageant, and the Sunday School teachers put her in an angel costume and threw her up on stage. Her pageant yesterday used one of the kids as a "plant" in the audience to be the new church kid thrown into the play; yet in reality a new girl did come to Sunday School and sure enough was an angel amongst the heavenly host. I will post videos on Christmas eve!

But now to a life past school and all-weekend-church-pageant-rehearsal. It is solstice tonight, with a rare full moon eclipse into the bargain. I have invites to area pagan groups for group ritual, but want to plan something tonight on my ridgetop that is just me and Bridget and Flidais and Lugh and Kali. So at the last moment, here are links and ideas for you.

For lone or group celebrations tonight, here are some last minute ideas to pull together.


Karen Tate kindly shared her wonderful article on celebrating,"Letter To Goddess. . . Working with Lunar Eclipse Energies," and I excerpt part here:

"Whether one calls it a prayer or a spell, a meditation or a positive affirmation for the coming year, writing a Letter to Goddess will be how I'm personally working with the natural universal energies brought on by the lunar eclipse, which will occur about 10PM this Monday night, if you're in California. . .

Whatever your method, perhaps you'd like to ask for prosperity or love. You might want to meet new people and be surrounded with more positive friends. Maybe you need a job or want to develop better habits, or become more positive in your own outlook. You might have prayers that go beyond your own family and community as you vision a more progressive and enlightened world. What ever it is you would like to draw toward you, simply ask. Make your offering and release your prayer to Gaia. Don't forget to give thanks for that which you do have. I am a believer there is no wrong way to speak to the Great Mother and ask her blessings. What is more important is what is in your heart and your good intentions, than the accoutrement or method you use.

As added suggestions, remember four things: 1) Your own thoughts are things that can work for you or against you. Think positively. Look for the "gift" in all situations, even ones that you are not happy with. You cannot continually be negative or toxic and expect a positive outcome. 2) What you nourish and support flourishes and what you neglect withers. If you want a plant to grow, you have to water it. If you want a job, be sure in the coming weeks and months you do not expect a job to drop into your lap without sending out resumes. If you want to meet people, you have to get out from behind the computer. You have to do the practical work along with the spell work and affirmations. 3) What you put out in the world will come back to you. Treat people with fairness, kindness, compassion and generosity and it more likely will be what you experience. That's no guarantee that ugliness will not find you, but certainly, boons will come your way in response to the energy you put out into the world. 4) Consider if your way of life is in sync with Goddess ideals. Are you contributing toward a caring culture? Or are you caught up in consumerism and policies helping to make life on the planet unsustainable? Food for thought. Be the world you want to see manifested."

As ever, Karen's advice is fabulous and very astute. And there are many ways to use her suggestions: I plan to purify some of my crystals under the full moon eclipse, have a private ritual to perform, and plan to make and burn candles to Bridget herself. I have wine to offer deities, which I will offer in my garden under the moon, with wine for Bridget and Aengus under my apple trees, beer to Lugh (of course), and brandy for Flidais deep in my woods. I will write my letter to Goddess tonight, on homemade paper. And since we expect snow and no viewing of the eclipse itself, I will add some blessings to Sedna and White Buffalo Calf woman.

So obviously whatever ideas you have, go with them!

For more on the astrological impact of the solstice/eclipse/full moon, I am happy to have found this wonderful link on using this specific eclipse's aspects in tonight's ritual:

Astrology Explored: The Solstice Full Moon Eclipse Aspect. With links to find your own free online birth chart, the article articulates what this full moon eclipse will do for your own personal chart:

"Where does this eclipse fall in your chart? To do this you will need a copy of your chart which you can get from Astrodienst and find out which doorway the zodiac sign Gemini sits on. This is the house that will be activated during the eclipse period."

Excellent for personal prayers/spellcasting/divination tonight!

(and as an aside, my own free account at Astrodienst has been really useful for my own work with astrology. No, I don't use all of the websites impersonal interpretations - and gentle readers by now should know I wouldn't use all of anyone else's interpretations ever - still the free charts are wonderfully useful!)

The last full moon eclipse on solstice was 1991; the next will be 2094. So tonight, like the many solar eclipse conjunctions last summer, will be a major event in all of our lifetimes. Eclipses are major calls for us to find what works in our life and what does not. Solar eclipses can be major upheavals in our material worlds; lunar eclipses are often signals of major turning points internally. For those of us with Capricorn and Cancer sun signs, these past year's eclipses have been especially transformative (okay, bad astrological pun).

I did some fabulous private rituals last summer during the many astrological rarities those months - including pouring huge libations on August 8 during the amazing conjunction of Mars, Saturn and Venus. The results from that wonderful event are still flowing like that gospel river of blessings through my life.

Don't underestimate the benefit of the smallest puja/prayer or spell this evening. Harness a spectacular lunar event on the turning of the wheel of the year. And Merry Solstice, everybody!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

More Christian Magic: Hex Signs and Pennsylvania Dutch Pow Wow - Exploding the lines some more




Coptic Christian spell casting, coming from a seemingly distant culture, appears like an archaic and distant Christian magical system. Ok, 4th century Egyptian Christians cast spells, so what? Yet a recent trip with family to Lancaster County reminded me of much more recent - and Protestant - magical traditions from the radical Reformation groups such as Lutherans, Reformed Christian and Moravian churches. All are commonly referred to in our culture as "Pennsylvania Dutch," a loose term for German-descent Protestants who fled to Quaker William Penn's colony, Pennsylvania. And all used the famous and much copied Hex signs for magical protection and spellcasting.

Pennsylvania Dutch Hex signs have their roots in the German word, Hexen, for witch. Painters of the Hex signs, and folk healers who use the signs, are Hexenmeisters. (Of course, nowadays, anyone can buy "Pennsylvania Dutch Hex Signs, currently made in China, and sold at convenience markets all over SE Pennsylvania. . . ) The signs themselves reflect agrarian German folk art: floral and bird designs that originally appeared in family Bibles, marriage and birth certificates. The most central and common element is a hexagonal star-like pattern. Farmers originally hand painted the signs, often on barns and buildings for luck and protection, and it was only in the 20th century that farmers' markets started to mass produce silk-screened hex signs for commercial profit.

Pennsylvania Dutch Hex signs relate to another folk tradition agrarian tradition: pow wow healing (not to be confused with Native American pow wows). Pow wow practitioners use Christian spells, hex signs and other folk symbols, and prayer to bring healing. One of the earliest - and most famous Hexenmeister and pow wow healers was "Mountain Mary," or "Barricke Mariche" in Pennsylvania German, who lived in Berks County in the turn of the 18/19th century. "Mountain Mary" used prayer and magical herbs from her garden to heal people, and a statue to her was put up by the American Daughters of the Revolution in Berks County. She remains one of the most famous of early American powwowers.

Modern powwowers still live and practice in Pennsylvania - some from traditional Christian roots, and some from more Pagan and New Age viewpoints. A typical powwower uses German Bible quotes, prayer, small hex signs, and sometimes ritual for curing. Some powwowers request payment; traditionally most did not. A traditional powwower attributes his or her healing success to God, and sees hexology as a gift from God. Hexology and powwow are both faith-based healing traditions that can be entirely Christian in perspective.

Obviously, since Pagans are using hexology as well, Pennsylvania Dutch traditions can be used outside Christian practice. However, here we have an interesting paradox: so much of Christianity is borrowed or stolen from Pagans, yet the hexology and powwow traditions are deeply Christian. Here is an opportunity for Pagans to respectfully borrow back, while acknowledging the diversity of practice that is Christianity (hey, not that Christians themselves always do this so well!!!) Pennsylvania Dutch hexology and powwow traditions are unique forms of Christian spell work, herbal lore, and prayer. Christians and Pagans (and any mix thereof) can find common ground in celebrating these marvelous traditions.

The hex signs themselves are beautiful, and easy to find online or throughout Pennsylvania. Stars for luck and good will, oak leaves for strength, distelfinks (goldfinch in English) for happiness, eagles for success, Birds of Paradise for the wonder and mystery of life: the symbols in hex signs relate to magical traditions and Christian beliefs that are easy to embrace. I have tried my hand - not too successfully - at painting my own symbols, but practice makes perfect. Hex signs and powwows are marvelous bridges for the traveller exploring boundaries of Christian and Pagan worlds.




(You can still buy a collection of hexenmeister prayers and meditations, The Long Lost Friend, by John George Hohman, originally printed in German, published in Reading, PA in 1820. An English translation is still being published, Cosimo Classics, 2007).

Saturday, November 13, 2010

New Quiz: Got Science?? Get a FREE Sticker, too!









A freebie quiz from the Union of Concerned Scientists, that doesn't tell you your totem sign, but does tell you how much you know about global climate change, and gets you a free sticker!!:

What do you know about global warming? Can you tell FACT from SCIENCE FICTION? Want a free "Got Science?" sticker?
Take the true or false quiz that pits your knowledge of global warming against public officials, media personalities, and political hacks. See if you can tell who's "Got Science" versus who's spreading propaganda that's "Not Science" about global warming.
Get a free "Got Science?" sticker -- no matter how well you do on the quiz. I did!
It's by the Union of Concerned Scientists and CREDO, so you know it's the real deal. Check it out!

Good luck on the quiz!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

VOTE TODAY




This is it! Today is the day to vote for a continued future with reform and a government for the people (Vote Democrat)

The GOP wants you to think the election is over. No way.

Get your friends and vote. Keep the rightwing and their millions of corporate dollars out of Washington.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Samhain blessings


Back in late spring I wrote about playing in the darkness of God, and the importance of play for adults as well as children.

Now here it is, Samhain, Halloween, All Hallow's Eve, or the Eve before All Soul's Day. And there is no greater day for playing - playing with the memories of one's ancestors, playing with the veil between worlds, playing with divination, prayers, and plans for the New Year.

Traveling tonight, between and among the worlds, I have watched children trick or treat, that ubiquitous Halloween activity; watched young adults work on plans for their lifetime vocation; watched friends struggle to pray and fashion a life and home for self and family. The energy of the dying year - the Celtic year ended on Halloween, is palpable on this ending October Sunday. That we are made of our ancestors and what they built for this whole world, that we are connected to children everywhere, that we can build and fashion futures no matter our age - all are possibilities on this dying night of summer.

I realize that Samhain is a sacred night for many; yet sacred need not prevent play. Whether the wonder of Charlie Brown's Halloween special, or the wonder of wandering streets at night, or the joy of celebrating a holy holiday alone or with friends, I hope everyone gets a chance for some holy playtime tonight. The past and future are here in our hands.

It is Halloween, the veil between that which is and that which might be is thin. Joyously build the future.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Action: Save the Whales (and thousands of other species)


This is an international call for immediate signatures on protecting literally thousands of species threatened by extinction due to human behavior. Please sign here:

Days left to stop mass extinction

The petition is from the international Avaaz.org, with the petition in multiple languages, and so PLEASE pass it on. The goal is to present millions of signatures to the Convention on Biodiversity currently going on in Japan.

So please act now. I have a whale totem in my life, and can't imagine this planet without whales. . . for all who follow a pagan/Christian/Hindu/UU/Jewish/Muslim/Wiccan/Celtic Recreationist/Shinto/Buddhist path, the sacredness of all life must be protected.

Sign now.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Coptic Christian Spells




One of the joys of the boundary between Pagan and Christian is seeing the way the lines between the two blend and merge. Hagiography is one wonderful example of this, with pre-Christian devas/deities popping up as saints all over Christian history (hello Bridget!) I recently picked up a book on early Christian magic spells, many citing Pagan and Christian deity, all used daily for over a thousand years in Egyptian Christianity.

The book is Ancient Christian Magic, Coptic Texts of Ritual Power by Marvin Meyer (Professor, Claremont College) and Richard Smith (Princeton University Press, 1999). The authors go to great lengths to address spells for luck, health, sex, protection and fertility within a context of a culture that swirled in the "ocean of cults and sects that flowed around the Roman Empire," before magic became antithetical to Christian belief. Gnostic sects were a major contributor to the magical beliefs of the times, and early church fathers condemned these sects often for that cause. Gnostic spells for ascending to heaven, incorporating Christian sacramental customs, abound. Likewise, to an early Christian, calling on Isis and Osiris in a love spell would be akin to our use of Romeo and Juliet as paradigms today.

These spells are a religious cacophony! The petitioners call on Mary, Gabriel, Michael, Osiris, isis, Horus, Solomon, Zeus, angels, Adam, Eve, and Egyptian deities I have never heard of from Batha to Harmozel! Such religious motley stew had meaning to the petitioners, who included herbs, oils, incantations and special signs and inscriptions with their words of petition, all to create a spell for a desired outcome. While modern Pagans/Christians try to explain their religious paradigms with great care and often little hope of understanding, the Coptic Christian calmly recited:

"Greetings to the powers!
Greetings, cheubim!
Greetings, seraphim!
Greetings to the twenty-four elders of the heavenly church
and everyone who dwells in it.
Greeting to the shining sun!
Greetings you twelve rulers in charge of the houses of the night.
Greetings Harmozel, the great ruler, gathering together the heavenly and earthly beings. . ."
(spell for a good singing voice, to be recited over a chalice, to Harmozel, with specific recipe for a magical ink to use on the properly prepared papyrus.)


No part of this spell includes an apology for using Christian and Pagan deity.

The spells for sexual attraction and love are great fun to read, and include straight and gay petitions. Here, in a particularly sweet spell, a man begs a magical oil to bring mutual love to his intended:

Oil! Oil! Oil! Holy OIl!
Oil that flows from under the throne of Yao Sabaoth! Oil with which isis anointed Osiris's bones, I call you Oil!
The Sun and Moon call you! The stars of Heaven call you. . . and you must make my love be in her heart and hers in mine (like) a brother and sister, or a bear (who) wants to suckle her young. Yea, yea, I (invoke) you, the one whose head is in heaven, whose feet are in the abyss, before whom is (what) is also under the Sheep, behind whom is (what) is also under Draco, the heaven of all darkness is hung. . .


Here the magical call is for a gay lover:

Celtatalbabal. Nnasknekie, by the power of Yao Sabaoth, ROUS ROUS ROUS ROUS ROUS ROUS ROUS

I adjiure you by your powers and your amulets and the places whre you dwell and your names, that just as I take you and place you at the door and the pathway of Phello son of Maure, (so also) you must take his heart and his mind; you must dominate his entire body:

He must seek me from town to town, from city to city,
from field to field, from regions to region,
untel he comes to me and subjects himself under my feet -
me Papapolo son of Noe
while his hand is full of all goodness,
until I satisfy with him the desire of my heart
and the demand of my soul,
with pleasant desire and love unending,
right now, right now, at once, at once! Do my work!


Sadly, there are no included spells by women to attract sex or love from a man, though the authors mention they exist! (And we girls wanna see them! The authors do not mention if lesbian spells exist; though if they do, we wanna see them, too!) However, there are spells included by women, including spells to stop unwanted male sexual advances:

O binding of the sky,
binding of the earth,
binding of the mountain,
binding of the water,
binding of the ring of the father,
binding of the ax that is in a hand of flesh,
binding with which Christ was bound upon the wood of the cross!

May the present binding be upon the male organ of N. toward N. He must not be able to release the virginity of No; hemust not become hard, he must not have an erection, he must not ejaculate. . . May the flesh of N. be like a corpse; it must not be able to get out of the tomb, yea yea at once!


Spells abound for healing, for sleep, for safe delivery in childbirth, for protection from illness and evil curses, for good luck in business. Some petitions are to silence sleeping dogs, to bring on menstruation, instructions for amulets to bring power.

To a Coptic Christian, spells were a daily part of life. The use of spells, amulets, power oils, magical inks, all sound more today like a Wicce/Pagan/Witch than a typical Christian. Yet in the early Coptic church, magic and Christian worship were interchangeable. Calling to Jesus, Mary and Osiris were common prayers. Asking the assistance of the powers of the earth and the powers of angels was normal. Trying to be a Christian and Pagan wasn't a question - everyone felt comfortable with both - and more.

Obviously I am offering this vision of Coptic spellcasting as an example of how to explore the boundaries of religious expression. Putting together a religious faith should be a path to a faith that nurtures each of us. In no way am I saying that personal religious expression is the be all and end all of faith; helping others and political action remain central. Yet having a personal faith that fits is itself central to finding the inner resources to put that political action out there.

Coptic Christian Spells offer one model of a new way to express multiple layers of faith.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Morgan Tarot: The Dream



A fun and, well, dreamy card from Morgan's Tarot. The Dream is less easy to interpret than many of the cards I've already posted. Here is Morgan's reading for the card:


THE DREAM

The waking dream is not contained in the head of a dreamer, nor is it outside of reality, nor is it in any unknowable space.




O-kay!

So what does it mean??

Well, in this case, much depends on the rest of the cards in your spread. Lots of cards about finding one's true self - quite the theme for this entire deck - and The Dream card becomes another tool for self-reflection and questing. Yet again, in a spread with many cards about future paths, this card can take on other meanings about finding one's way in the decision of life. And in a spread with cards placed as warnings, this card can itself warn against dreaming over doing.

so what you make of this card has so much to do with how it relates to the cards around it.

A good truth about dreaming, by the way. Our dreams can call, can warn, can awaken, can invoke. The Dream's meaning grows from the realities of our life.


P.S. asked for ways to meditate with these cards, I always suggest using nice coloured pencils and filling them in as you like. Enjoy!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Silly quiz time: what kind of flower are you?





Ok, fall is the time to finally get my gardens in shape for winter, and I need to post some great late summer shots of my Bridget garden. But found this quiz and am including it for the fun of all:

what kind of flower are you?

I'm a sunny and easy to care for Daffodil. Ok, I love yellow, so I can live with this!

Enjoy the quiz, and enjoy fall in your gardens!

(and while there, check out the blog: This Garden is Illegal! Great title, lots of fun information, and a great place to browse!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Why Female Deity? A Christian Perspective


Sad to say, but I still get questions as to why the Goddess matters. I continue to answer about the importance of seeing divinity from as many perspectives as possible, blah blah blah. Well here is a powerful article by Sister Joan Chittister, from her forthcoming book, Ruth Judith and the Power of Women in the Work of God. A nice cogent argument, so I put it here. Next time you are lighting your Bridget candles, and someone asks you why you do this, here is yet another explanation.

Finding role models to live by in Scripture, if you are a woman, is slim picking. I spent a fair amount of my young life looking for them, in fact. I heard a great deal in church and school about the kings, Solomon and David. They taught us about the faithful ones like Job and Joseph, for instance, who, despite their sufferings, never cursed God. But they said precious little, hardly a word, about women. Except about Delilah, of course, who had tempted Samson, leading to his ruin, and about Eve, who had tempted Adam and left us all in ruin.

Such teaching left girls with very male images of what it meant to be loved by God, or "made in the image" of God. Abraham and Moses and any number of men -- such as Noah, Jacob, Daniel, Isaac, Joshua, and Isaiah, to name a few -- had been entrusted with the work of God. But you didn't hear much about women at all, except, of course, for Mary, "the mother of God," who was clearly too exalted, too divinized to be a real model for real women. Women, it seemed, were also-rans where the work of salvation was concerned.

It takes years for a woman to realize how effective, how distorting, that exclusion can be to a woman's sense of herself before God. What had become clear to me, over the years, is that men got us to heaven; women went along. Men were the doers of God's will; women were everybody's "helpmates," but never their leaders. Women, in fact, were seldom or never the carriers of the vision. They were almost never the speaker of God's word. I admit to being disappointed by it all.

As a result, I did what most girls did. I looked to male figures and male saints and male spiritual leaders, for direction, for the interpretation of what, if anything, God expected of me in life. But somehow or other, little or none of it fit. Worse, all of it reminded me of a woman's secondary status, even where God was concerned. There was something not right about that.

Then, one day, I discovered, almost by accident, the books of Ruth and Judith -- two women who were strong leaders and committed followers of the Word of God. But these books had never been read in my church. I had never heard anyone even preach a sermon on them. I never saw any pictures of these two women hanging anywhere on sacred territory. But there were their stories, full and entire, right in the middle of the Bible. They were not pieces of religious fancy. These were, the priest told me, solemnly, "the Word of God." Suddenly, things began to change.

If anything in Scripture prepares us for the Jesus who walked with women, taught women, and commissioned women, these stories are surely it. They prepare us to see, if only we will open our eyes, the place and power of women in the Work of God. They enable us to realize the message of redemptive presence that comes through the stories of the women around Jesus -- Mary, Mary Magdalene, the Samaritan woman, the woman in the house of the Pharisees and all the women of all the house churches in the New Testament.

The books of Ruth and Judith are signs to us all. They are signs to men of the ministry, that they must share equally with women. They are signs to women of the ministry, for which they, too, must take clear and conscious responsibility, knowing, indeed, that God is with them, in them, calling them on, as witnesses, ministers and leaders -- for all our sakes.

From Joan Chittister's introduction to Ruth and Judith (Darton Longman and Todd).

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Action: Stop Child Trafficking in the US!


This cause is dear to my heart. I was homeless 4 times from childhood into my early 20,'s and I can not even now describe how terrifying homelessness is for a child. (And 9 out of 10 Americans who are homeless are children.) And though we in the U.S. like to think that child trafficking is something that happens in Asia, the truth is that the average age for a prostitute in the United States is 14. Read that again: 14.

Unfortunately, state and local law enforcement agencies rarely have the money to address child trafficking and child pornography. (This in the richest country in the world!) Now Congress is proposing funding for local agencies to combat trafficking and to support kids who escape. Clearly this is a minimum that needs to be done.

The bills before the US Congress are S. 2925 and HR 5575. Please ask your representatives to support this legislation! Or do it easily and sign a petition here:
Stop the Sex Trafficking of American Youth from Care2.com. I'm pretty sure these links work only for the US.

However for gentle readers elsewhere, there is work you can do. UNICEF has an international community working against child trafficking; read their bulletins and donate to them here. Check the data: children are at risk for trafficking everywhere on the planet.

Finally, remember that here in the US, many of the children on the streets are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered, and are on the streets because parents have kicked them out of their homes. For too long, police and other law enforcement agencies have considered these children unimportant. It is time to change that.

Please act now.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

What kind of Christian are you??!!??


Hee, hee. Ok here is another poll, and an interesting one at that! From researchers concerned that current scales of measuring Christian faith aren't inclusive enough of today's many types of Christianity, this one is somewhat inclusive of that Pagan/Christian line. Called the Religiosity Scales Project, it has questions such as How Important Is It To You (the scale on the quiz):

Not being prejudiced, or seeking to overcome my prejudices

Volunteering at non-profit organizations

Actively seeking social and economic justice

Taking care of the environment (eg., recycling, educating others about the environment)

Experiencing the presence of God in nature


Now, I admit, the word Goddess is absent. (Come on academic Christians, put on your big kid panties. . .) Still I enjoyed participating in the quiz.

And the result:

I am a Mystic! (100% scores;) I am also a Political Activist (98%)!

Ok, the test might not tell ya anything ya don't know. . . Still the research is cool, so consider participating!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Karen Tate and Politically Honorable Goddess Worship

Ok, I am in love with Karen Tate. Her weekly radio show, Voices of the Sacred Feminine (available online at her website), connects millions of women and men to feminist religion from all angles; her e-books on sacred Goddess places worldwide inspire many a pilgrimage, and now she has written the most awesome article in L.A.'s the Examiner: Reconcile Your Spirituality With Your Politics; Goddess Is A Democrat.

I love Karen's article, not because of any deep love I feel for the Democratic Party ("I don't belong to an organized party; I'm a Democrat" - Will Rogers), but because if you believe in a world of social justice for all people of all colors, sexes, orientations, classes, abilities, ages, religions, cultures, languages - well if you believe in social justice for all people, then you have no choice these days but to speak out against the right wing of the Republican Party as it exists today. Naming the Goddess - or God - as a Democrat might seem extreme, but given how Republicans are acting these days and how we ARE a two party system, well then even deities have little voting choice.

And I have Karen's permission to publish her article here, and my thanks to her. We are coming up on another election season, and the "let corporations rape the world any way they choose" Republicans hope to make gains in the November elections. No matter where you are religiously - Christian, Pagan, Hindu, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, Atheist, Humanist, Animist, Shinto - whatever you are if you've been reading this blog you need to get out and stop Republicans from winning this fall. Read Karen, and get active!


Reconcile Your Spirituality with Your Politics - Goddess is a Democrat

* August 25th, 2010 3:35 pm PT

I wrestled for sometime with whether to write this article. I almost wrote it when Sarah Palin hit the national stage and we learned her Church deemed the Queen of Heaven aka Goddess, a demon, and Evangelicals were at war with Goddess revering folk. I almost wrote this again when there was so much humbug on a previously friendly Pagan/Progressive Christian listserve I belonged to that suddenly, in the climate of Palin, became very anti-women’s rights and anti-Pagan. I almost shared these ideas again when Pagans on another listserve were more worried about what color candle to use on their altar than share political ideas that might advance our spirituality. Several asked why they should care if the Bible gives men and religions license to oppress women. (Slap hand to forehead!)

I guess I can say I was steadily getting filled up to my eyeballs with apathy, ignorance, intolerance and oppression. Then come the Tea Baggers wanting to take back their country from "big government" yet seemed to care little about corporate strangleholds on our democracy or that their movement was funded by the self interests of corporations. And more recently the ginned up controversy of the Ground Zero Mosque which is not on Ground Zero at all. Now, today, I read on the internet a cab driver got stabbed for being a Muslim and a Muslim group was prevented from renting a space for worship services based on a bogus excuse that was thinly veiled bigotry. And I suspect once this kind of intolerance and discrimination is let out of the bag, this is only the beginning.

Elders and spiritual leaders from all walks of life have been telling us we are teetering on the edge of a knife and with the right push, we’ll fall either way. Considering that, I don’t want to be complicit by my silence with those others standing mute. If by speaking out I can perhaps be that metaphoric 100th Monkey to help stem the tide from tipping toward more oppression, inequality, war, intolerance and hate, let me try. And particularly as a Pagan, a member of a fast-growing spirituality perceived to be in the religious minority in this country, with a history of being oppressed by Christians zealots, I would think other Pagans would be concerned enough to speak out too. Can you imagine the anti-Pagan hate that would be conjured up by The Right if in the near future some disturbed Pagan commits some crime in this climate of religious intolerance? We already have to suffer the discrimination of tier one versus tier two religions. I will not be one of the quiet lurking in the shadows as hate-mongers set the tone. The escalating lies and hate-filled propaganda have pushed me over the edge. My hair is on fire and the only way to put it out is let loose my sacred roar!

So, agree with me or not, here goes....Goddess is a Democrat!

I’m not alone in my views. Riane Eisler has said it. Starhawk has said it. If Goddess had to choose between the current two major political parties, she would choose voting for Democrats. Others elders and leaders too numerous to mention have supported this clear choice by either their word or deeds which reconciles our spirituality and politics. If our country, our world, is to move forward it has to break the shackles of war for economic gain, ignorance, racism, bigotry, homophobia, plutocracy, exploitation and sexism. We have to start caring if everyone’s boat floats, not just the boat rich white conservative men and women book passage on. We have to worry about The Many and not The Few. That means if you are a Goddess Advocate, an environmentalist, a feminist, if you want a caring culture, a culture free of war and one of advancement and enlightenment, societies who value science as well as spiritual freedom, where people aren’t constantly being duped to vote against their economic interests, or their rights are taken away to satisfy religious dogma - then you cast your vote for Democrats. It is really that simple.

No, the Democrats are not perfect - far from it! Especially the Blue Dog, Faux-Democrats. I’m not happy the more sweeping change I voted for has not come yet, but we can’t dig ourselves out of catastrophic circumstances over night, especially in the face of such overwhelming obstructionism, lies and propaganda working against Democrats. And as reasonable citizens, you do not throw a tantrum and get even for your disappointment and switch sides and vote for the people mostly responsible for causing the cataclysm! People tell me, " I’m not a Democrat or a Republican, I’m an Independent." Great. But given the two choices we have in our political system, you usually have to cast your vote one way or the other, Democrat or Republican, and today’s Republican leaders are a dangerous bunch. They are either ignorant and intolerant with no sense of compassion, economics and history or they are hypocrites and liars who care little for you and me and care everything for the richest 2% of the country and people making $250K annually. They talk about wanting smaller government and less interference in our lives until it comes to telling people who they can marry, what is tolerated in the bedroom and what women can and cannot do with their bodies.

And then there are the issues of social justice. If there is to be social justice in this country, it will not be promoted by Republicans. This is the party that let people die in the Superdome during Hurricane Katrina. This is the party that belongs to Fox News and vice versa. Bush broke the sacred oath of trust between himself as Commander in Chief and our armed forces by sending poor and middle class men and women into a bogus war which many believe was really an excuse to pad the pockets of the military industrial complex and oil companies. He’s been caught on tape saying the way to revive an economy is war. George Bush and his cronies gave this country a black eye around the world, making us less safe and his party is doing it again now with this Ground Zero Mosque issue. The GOP says they want to distance themselves from Bush, but the Bush policies are in their blood. It’s who they are.

In fairness, I should say, probably not all conservative Republicans are of this ilk, but if there are any Republicans wearing white hats where are they? They are letting the crazies run their party figuring the end justifies the means. They rarely, if ever, dispute outright lies spun to further polarize our country. Their silence leave people like me thinking when you do find homophobes, racists, those who would dumb down Americans to steal their vote, those who would take reproductive rights away from women, those employing fear to control, whether they’re scaring white people about those different from them, about terrorists, the French, or people of different religions, they will more than likely be Republicans. They are the ones that would balance the budget on the backs of the poor by taking away Medicaid and Social Security or privatize it so their rich cronies can find a loop-hole to steal it in another Wall Street crash - OOPs!. They are quick to say the poor are lazy rather than admit the inequity in our society that holds some people back. I’ve heard some say they think wealth is a gift from God and greed is perfectly okay while believing the flip-side of this is poverty is a punishment from God for the sins of the poor. How convenient that theory to justify subsidies for corporations and ignore people! Yet they are the ones who always vote to de-fund education - maybe because an informed electorate employing critical thinking, with a sense of fairplay, not hate and fear and a sense of white entitlement, will not vote for their vision of the future.

Bottom line. Pagan or not, do you want to be responsible for perpetuating the power and ideology of these people? People who are galvanizing a movement based on lies and non-issues used to divide people and make us hate each other. People always ready to fund a war while Americans go to bed hungry. People who are against reform of Wall Street-run-amok and demonize the idea healthcare for all. They believe in people working more and more for less and less to fund insatiable greed. Perhaps once there was a time when Republicans could sit down with Democrats and work out some equitable compromise. Not anymore. The Republicans of today are a mean, selfish, ignorant, racist and homophobic bunch. That’s not just my opinion. Just turn on the news. That’s who they have speaking for them. They won’t approve unemployment benefits for people who lost their job in the economy they helped destroy, but they can twist themselves into a pretzel to try to protect big corporations from having to follow safety and environmental regulations and help the rich get richer while the corporate and political vultures pick the meat off the bones of the poor and ever-shrinking Middle Class. The media will not say it because it’s considered politically incorrect, but let’s shine the light on this. This is a culture war. Make no mistake.

I could lament the death of the American Dream for the Middle Class. I could cite statistics about how women make 70 cents on the dollar and most retire in poverty. Or how wages of the Middle Class have been stagnant for years while the richest in the country have gotten more powerful and wealthier. How CEO’s used to make 50 times as much as their employees and now they make 350 times more than their employees who are getting less and less benefits and salary. I could cite how other countries of the West take so much better care of their people with real family values, not lip service, but corporate interests in the U.S. have convinced their sheeple this sort of social justice reflects that scary word - socialism! History, truth and statistics are not on the side of Republicans and if you aren't making $250K a year, you shouldn't be either.

To conclude, if you are a Pagan or a Goddess Advocate, I suggest you vote for people who promote ideals and laws geared toward values that run parallel with our spirituality - ideas that promote the highest good for The Many. That’s you and me. As a formerly oppressed religion and an Earth-based spirituality, you must stand for equality, balance and fairness in our legislation and for environmental and economic sustainability - not people who work against that! By Her many faces across continents and cultures, Goddess Spirituality represents diversity. Likewise, I believe Pagans should embrace diversity. I, for one, don’t want to live in a narrow little conservative box with tight corners filled with hate and fear. I want to live in a spacious, rich and diverse world where there are lots of ingredients in our cultural gumbo. It’s really so much more delicious than plain white bread.

So please, consider supporting and helping people with ideals that will help us fall from that tipping point of the knife onto the side of peace, tolerance, equal rights for all including religious freedom and human rights, which includes a woman’s right to choose what she does with her body. No church or state should legislate a women’s reproductive rights lest she is a slave to her body! You push back and speak out against those who throw these ideals under the bus. And you go out and vote for Democrats and take three people with you because the Wolf is at the door and we cannot afford to have this crop of Republicans setting the tone for what this country stands for. We are better than their ideals. We need to be raising the bar and setting the tone, direction and values for a better world. It’s really that simple.

-Karen Tate

Friday, September 10, 2010

Morgan's Tarot: Freak!




My randomly pulled Morgan's Tarot card this week is the wonderful card: Freak!

Pulled into response to my own question about how I can become a scientist my own way, the lovely Freak card returned its own answer: My own Freaky way!

The Morgan definition for the card reads:

This card may mean that it is all right to be what you are.

Or, the situation is radically different from what it normally is.

Or, despite the fact that everything is okay, it doesn't feel that way. Refreshing influences rather than draining influences may dispel your anxiety.


Well, there you go! "It is all right to be what you are" is one of my favourite messages from the universe: an anti-wrinkle cream, anti-plastic surgery, anti-tooth whitening kinda message. Also a profoundly accepting message that we are all just fine in the eyes of the universe kinda message.

And my situation is radically different from what it normally is: I'm studying a science program at Uni. (me? science? weird!) So in that respect the card is spot on.

And finally, yes, everything being okay doesn't feel that way when situations are radically new (I check my school email account daily, worried I have forgotten something, for example.) Refreshing influences in new situations, like the proverbial open door and light at Bridget's shrine for all who come, are much needed for us all.

When I get this card in a reading I encourage my client/friend to embrace their inner freakie self. We don't encourage difference enough in this post-industrial, recession driven age. So instead of freaking out, develop your inner freak. Who knows where it may lead?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Finding Mary Magdalene: the Heinz Chapel


(Mary Magdalene Picture courtesy University of Pittsburg.)



I attended an organ concert at Heinz chapel this past week, my first visit inside the famous Pittsburgh landmark at the University of Pittsburgh. Now the SW Pennsylvania area abounds in Gothic revival architecture, so I had never visited this particular chapel despite dropping my organ-loving daughter there for concerts. So I walked into this chapel rather inured to stone vaults and repeated arches and even Tiffanny windows.

However this chapel was built on a college campus with a college committee choosing the images inside: the result had me gasping and ignoring organ music. (Hey I hear a lot of Bach already. . .) A full fifty percent of the images in the Heinz chapel's stained glass were women. And not just Biblical women - though that would itself be stunning - the Heinz chapel's famous stained glass include Native women (Kapiolani, Kateri Tekawitha, Pocahontas), literary women (Emily Dickenson, Elizabeth Barret Browing), women from multiple denominations (Hannah More and Elizabeth Fry and Saint's Dymphna and Eunice and Clare),and histories (Abigail Adams, Dorothea Dix, Clara Barton, Florence Nightingale). Look carefully and find a small section of window dedicated to the Women's Christian Temperence Union:




(detail of Florence Nightingale)




What also astounded me was the huge window devoted to Saint Mary Magdalene. For many Christian women all over the world, Mary Magdalene has such important significance - as one of the apostles following Jesus. She is one of the most important examples of a woman and teacher in the Jesus movement. She was present at Jesus' death, burial and the first person to see the resurrected Christ. In apocryphal texts she is the "apostle to the apostles." I know Christian women who identify Mary Magdalene with Wisdom, Sophia, the feminine side of Christ, a symbol of women's equality in church and worship, and as an example of the female side of God. All those views are especially valid for those of us sitting in pews every Sunday hearing about God the Father and the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. (Hey I am sick of creator, redeemer, sustainer language as well. . .)

The presence of this huge window in the Heinz Chapel, dedicated to the Magdalene, just awes me. Her window stands equal with the Virgin Mary, with Joseph and with other apostles depicted. Such a physical demonstration of women's equality and the Magdalene's importance is amazing.

Years ago I took an art and religion course at the Pacific School of Religion with the fun and wonderful professor Doug Adams. With Professor Adams, we explored the art of church, what buildings tell us about religion. Professor Adams literally encouraged to explore the PSR chapel by crawling under pews and rolling in the aisles. (None of this was surprising to me as I grew up in Frank Lloyd Wright's First Unitarian Universalist Church in Madison, Wisconsin, where the UU adults left us kids alone and we literally climbed the limestone walls that Wright so carefully designed. . .) Professor Adams wanted us to understand that the visuals of a church teach as much as any sermon.

What does that say for all the churches with pictures of male apostles, male ministers in the hallway, Jesus pictures everywhere, and no women to be found? The overwhelming message is that religion and the divine are male. Whether Christian or Jewish or Muslim, those of us from the patriarchal religions grow up without images of female divine.

The Heinz chapel blew me away because, pagan or christian or Hindu or whatever type of Goddess worshiper I am, I still live unaccustomed to seeing women anywhere in religion. Yet I stood in the Heinz chapel, ignoring the music, to instead see that rarest of things: pictures of women - all types of women - as holy.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Getting Antlers: Flidais and romance revisited



Flidais Painting by Tammy Mae Moon, for sale at Moon Spiral Art

Like most tarot practitioners, (and now beginning auger), I constantly deal with the question of relationships with my clients. Women and men are seeking better relationships: better communication, better sex, better commitments, healthier patterns. All Good Stuff. And as noted before, in my post on Maman Brigitte, I try to unravel romance/pornography myths and stereotypes for my clients, to help further those healthier relationships we all desire.

And I have found another Goddess/Deva/Angel/Spirit to offer in this quest: Flidais, from the Ulster Cycle of early Irish literature. Flidais pops up in the written record of early Ireland: sometimes she owns deer she milks like cattle, and is often depicted with antlers (take that Cernunnos!), and she is variously listed as mother to a host of multiple mythological heroes and heroines. She is famous in the Ulster cycle for her affair with King Fergus Mac Roich, who needed to bed 7 women at a time to find satisfaction unless he slept with Flidais, who alone could satisfy him herself.

Hop about the web and you will find modern Pagans and Celtic Reconstructionists listing her as a patron of animals (rather an Irish Artemis), a patron of love and sexuality, and a Goddess of the wild and forests. It is her depiction with antlers and her connection to deer that piqued my interest: a Celtic deer Goddess? I needed that! My own first exploration into my own totem animals left me with one I have worked to understand, and yes you guessed it, it is deer.

Loosely, in many traditions, deer is associated with gentleness (who, me?), innocence (what?), an openness and sensitivity to loving and kindness (eek!), and conversely deer can represent an ability to gently assert one's self against the unrealistic perceptions and expectations of others (ok. I'm down with that one.) In a tarot reading, beyond totemic associations, deer usually means a need to be open, loving, gentle, with others and oneself, and often a need to connect with children, wilderness, forests. (Ahh, again, getting to areas more comfortable to yours truly).

However, despite the wildfound deer jaw I keep on my desk, I have done very little with my own relationship with deer, never knowing how to take this supposed inner gentleness and loving. I have, also, tried most carefully to explain that barrier in myself when working with animal totems and clients.

Flidais, however, had me sit up and take notice like that dog side of myself. A deer Goddess with antlers, clearly sexual, connected to wildlife and mothering and forests. Yes! I can get this. Flidais has been a huge connector for me to relate to my own totem, and as I've shared my finding with clients all summer, I have seen a respective sense of kinship for them - women and men.

For clients who are dating, or in a rough patch of a relationship, the issue of open loving (sexual and otherwise), being gentle with others, holding one's innocence after so many hurts and struggles with either dating or a partner, all of these are challenging to do. I'm not gonna tell someone who is internet dating to just go out and be trusting and loving, nor would I say this to someone struggling with a relationship. Yet Flidais, deer Goddess with antlers, offers a new strategy, and I admit I find it fun and exciting.

Be a wild Goddess, loving, sexual, mothering, open, gentle, --and carry your antlers with you as well. Outside the romance realm I am finding this advise really helpful as I return to school in a science field, where I feel out of my depth and my sister and fellow students mostly come from the "hard sciences" fields I have spent a lifetime eschewing. Hmmm, maybe I should have embraced that deer totem sooner, because in this "hard science" (do they have to keep saying that?? I have to work hard not to giggle. . .) world I am now entering, I am coming across as this warm and nurturing and out of place woman, and really I have no intention of turning myself off to fit in. I just wear my Flidais antlers and realize I can be a scientist my own way, my way.

In the dating and relationship realm this can work as well. Most the women and men I know want to be gentle and loving, want to be open and caring, and at the same time don't want to be endlessly hurt in patriarchal cycles of romance and unhealthy relationship patterns. Well Flidais antlers work here as well. On a date, struggling with a partner, all these areas are places where antlers of protection can stand with loving and gentleness. Flidais is a lovely model of that old "assertive not aggressive" feminist, with a bigger layer of wild woods, wild Celts, and wild sexuality.

If Flidais works for you, invite an antlered hind into your world today. Light a green or brown candle, watch for deer along the roads, support the Nature Conservancy or an area wildlife center. Place some deer images around your home, or in your car or bag. Sit and be still, find your inner deer, and grow some antlers on her and yourself.

If you find yourself drawn to woods and forests, just remember, it is Flidais calling.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Action: Tell Chevron Clean Up the Amazon!!



This is an Amnesty International USA call to action though I hope those of you gentle readers in other countries can participate. Sign the Petition HERE.

Texaco/Chevron dumped over 19 billion gallons of toxic waste into the Amazon region of Ecuador, and the health impact has been far reaching for Indigenous communities. Now Chevron wants to limit its clean-up operations. We can't let that happen. Multinational corporations are bankrupting local and national governments to clean up the messes the corporations made.

This isn't just a Gulf of Mexico or Amazon problem. In my own neighborhood, the creek at our neighborhood playground is so polluted the stink can be overwhelming. A chemical corporation in the 1950's contaminated the creek; since gone bankrupt, my local strapped township can't afford to pay to clean the creek. US government clean up funds are available, but our playground is not a top priority. Instead generations of children have grown up with the toxic sludge yards away from their swing sets, and yards away from neighborhood homes.

Corporations are not counting the health and clean up costs of their pollution, instead preferring to pass on their costs to us, taxpayers, parents, children. If companies know they can pollute, drag in profits, and then declare bankruptcy while running abroad with our dollars and tax incentives, - while leaving their messes behind - now that is Taxation without Representation. Corporate greed and irresponsibility are enemies of democracy - and balanced budgets.

Please take action now! Chevron, BP. . . it's all the same thing.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Women take back the smithy! (and plans for a $20 forge!)



I'm just returned from that huge Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) campfest, Pennsic. A camping trip with 11,000 of your best friends, hundreds of craftspeople, hundreds of musicians, an endless street fair, plus a re-enactment war between real live kingdoms of the world and their royalty! A gobsmacking time was had by all.

I always seek out the smiths in the SCA. Depending on the period they re-enact, the SCA smiths can teach you Viking smithing, Roman smithing, Norman or Japanese or Middle Eastern smithcraft. It is a joy to meet so many crafty and historic-minded people. This year I went to a wonderful beginner's workshop on smithing, with a Viking re-enactor. Master Bovi ran a class for absolute beginners, and despite my own forge experience I loved the class. Master Bovi has built ground fire Viking forges, but for this class he showed off his $20 forge.

Wonderful for me, more women than men turned up to try a hand in the smithy. And did this change dynamics at the forge! With 11,000 people, obviously all the men and women at Pennsic may not themselves be feminist, however the organization itself is not only in its nondiscrimination clause opposed to sexism, it is in its deepest history (the SCA was founded for Marion Zimmer Bradley's birthday some 40+ years ago) a place for women to defy gender roles. (Watch women in full suits of armor on the battlefield, and you know that women can do whatever they want!) So women in the smithy make sense, and I was delighted to see more women come explore blacksmithing.

And the numbers made a difference. All the men who came were nice, but they lapsed into the usual discussion of what they want from women, sigh, and instead of needing to snap my tongs evocatively close to tender male bits (and I am still not accomplished enuf with tongs to do this as evocatively as I should want), the ladies and I present all made eye contact, rolled said eyes, and told the men "enough," while proceeding to discuss the use of crochet on garb (garb being the SCA name for your olde medieval recreated costumes)

The result: a blacksmithing experience with fairly mainstream men that did not become uncomfortable for me or any other woman present. Numbers make a difference gentle readers, so I again encourage and implore Bridget-identified women to get out and learn smithing! It is sacred to Bridget, and it is totally fun!

And Master Bovi's forge is worthy of exploration. Concerned you can't smith due to costs? Well see Master Bovi's forge above, made from scrap parts by his own hands. Don't have an old forge blower as shown? Get a hair dryer. Don't have an anvil? Try a granite rock, or old railroad ties. Don't have old bits of metal in your garage or shed? Well hit an old scrapyard.

The important parts of the above forge are the concrete over the 2 by 4 structure, made with quickcrete, the firebricks which are cheap at any building store, and the pipes for the blower. Ask if anyone needs more pics to build their own forge. I will happily oblige.

However with this set up, I hope to be forging for Bridget this fall. I need to scrap together some parts, but look forward to hitting the flea market world. (Once you start smithing, scrap metal becomes far more interesting!) Once my own forge is built, I will post its pics!

And in the meantime, ladies, please, try your hand at the fire!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Multiracial, anti-racism, and hermeneutics



Time for a long post on delicate topics. Sitting here on my blog is the wonderful button for Caorann, Celts Against Oppression, Racism and Neo-Nazism. A wonderful group they are, and I encourage all to explore any anti-racism group, no matter their religious orientation. Anti-racism work is for all.

At the same time, I live in a decidedly multiracial world, a world still unimagined in progressive Christian and Pagan circles. In my nuclear family, we have 3 of us with African American heritage, two with First Nation heritage, two with Polynesian ancestry, 5 with Celtic/Northern European ancestry, and one with Chinese ancestry. In my extended biological family, add relatives with Asian ancestry. In my lesbigay and adoptive family, add Indian and more First Nation and African American. I am with people of every color and multiple ancestries every day - not forgetting my own African American and First Nation ancestry as well.

The reality of multiracial life is complex. My darker kids face more daily prejudice than my lighter kids. I have dreads, but don't face the discrimination my darker dreadlocked friends face. It is fun shopping with my family and friends, and watching store clerks figure out which of us is the most dangerous and needs the most watching. In a lighter skinned group, storekeepers might follow me. Or they might follow my darker children. The majority of shoplifters in America don't have dreads and aren't dark skinned, but that doesn't stop many shops from being prejudiced.

On the other hand, my lighter kids have been asked to leave monoracial support groups, as their Asian ancestry was too mixed. A local Chinese American youth orchestra refused to give my daughter any music, for example. The administrative head of the orchestra, herself with a mixed race child, apologized and explained that most of the families there looked down on kids with multiple ancestries. My daughter's then advanced Mandarin skills weren't enough to cover her hair and skin color. (For a few years after this, said daughter used to tell me, "Mom, I'll just let people think I'm white." She has moved on from this, with lots of support.)

And back to Caorann. The group does a fantastic job addressing racism and theft in the Pagan community (not that the Christian community doesn't need to listen as well), and Caorann is especially active protesting the theft of First Nation beliefs. Since every pagan magazine across America has ads for "Native American shaman will teach you secret Lakota healing ritual" types, it is especially important to look at cultural exploitation and Paganism. Caorann lists fabulous links, go explore them.

One link I want to submit to some hermeneutical discussion, however. Caorann links to the Celtic Reconstructionist Paganism movement, including it's long FAQ. And in many ways the FAQ is a wonderful document. However, Celtic Reconstructionist Pagans, like so many other groups, have not addressed multiracial families.

I copy a section of the FAQ here:

Can I be CR and still worship non-Celtic deities?

Yes, but with caveats.

Worshipping non-Celtic Deities is regarded as outside the purview of CR, and should in no way be considered a part of CR practice. While it is acceptable for people involved in the CR community to have non-CR practices in their personal lives, it should be kept firmly in mind that they are just that — non-CR practices. The cultures and rites of non-Celtic Deities should be respected, just as we expect Celtic cultures and Deities to be respected, and these rites should be kept separate from your CR practice. If you worship Deities of other cultures, separate altars should be maintained for Them, and offerings and other rites should be undertaken in the ways of that Deity’s culture.

If you feel a particular pull to Kali, for example, it is highly recommended that you worship Her through a local Hindu temple, or at least in traditional Hindu ways, rather than attempting to bring Kali into your CR practice. She is not a Celtic Goddess and would probably resent being treated as such. She already has Her own formulated and traditional rites and practices, Her own preferred offerings, and Her own holy days. To ignore those things in an attempt to fit Her into a CR practice would be doing violence to both CR and Hinduism.

The only times when it might be acceptable to worship non-Celtic Deities in a CR format would be in the cases where long-standing, historical interactions betwen related cultures created a hybrid cultural environment that traditionally included these Deities. For instance, in the cases of some Highland Scotland and coastal Irish communities that adopted some of the Norse Deities and customs. If the cultures had enough similarity, and it is clearly evident that these two cultures did meet and mingle and create an historical tradition, it is often considered acceptable to continue to include these long-standing syncretisms as part of that tradition.


Well, if you've been reading this website for awhile, ya know I've been talking of Kali and Maman Brigitte, as well as Bridget and the Morrigan. The Celtic Reconstructionist Pagans are questioning this, rightly trying to address racism, and wrongly forgetting multiracial people, families and communities.

Why shouldn't someone with African American and Irish ancestry (hmmm, like my daughter) worship Maman Brigitte, Yemaya, and Bridget - all at the same time? Why shouldn't I write of Kali and Bridget, when my own LGBT family includes men and women from India? Why can't my Christian friend, African American and First Nation, hold a shrine to Buffalo Woman and Oya? This question goes back to one of the most fundamental of human questions about self and family. It also harkens to that endless question we bisexual people get about "choosing sides," as if human race or human sexuality is a question of opposing "teams."

I have brought my kids up knowing that it is a violence should anyone ask them to divide against themselves or against their own family. My dear moon sister, African American, womanist, First Nation, proud LGBT ally, mom of an autistic child herself, has run into this "opposing teams" concept her whole life. Activist Blacks will ask her if she is first a Womanist or first an African American. We laugh together about this question (what does she do? Cut out her vagina to be Black? Erase her skin to be Womanist?) It is a violence to ask anyone to ignore their sexual identity OR their racial identity.

Likwise it is a violence to tell multiracial people to choose a team. My kids can identify anyway they so choose: as multiracial, Black, African American, Native American, Polynesian American, Chinese American, Asian American, multiethnic. . . whatever they choose. After all, it is their lives and their bodies.

And no religious tradition should divide anyone from their racial identities either. My youngest has recently decided she wants to be Muslim, Jewish, Christian and also worship Bridget. Well, that is an unusual path, but it reflects her friends and our family. No one has a right to tell her this path is wrong. What the Celtic Reconstructionist Pagans are ignoring is that, well guess what, some of us are inherently syncretic. (By the way, one of my oldest multiracial family friends is a mom in Aberystwyth, Wales, who has African Caribbean and Welsh children. The Celtic world is becoming more multiracial, too. . .)

So by all means, let's as Pagans and Christians and Hindus and Muslims and Buddhists - let's all of address and confront racism. Stealing from cultures who specifically ask us not to is itself racism - whether it's Pagan "Native American cleansing ceremonies" or Christian churches using Dream Catchers to teach vacation Bible school. Some non-Aboriginal person teaching "Aboriginal secrets to dreamtime" is suspicious, as well as some non-native Hawaiian teaching "Hawaiian rune secrets."

But for multiracial people to explore the cultural customs of all our ancestries is a reality of multiracial life. You can't call it syncretic racism, because instead multiple ancestries are our bones, our families, our lives.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Morgan's Tarot: FROM HERE ON IT'S NOTHING BUT A DOWNHILL RUN



Morgan's Tarot Time again. I finished a tough final exam this week, and here is the card I pulled: From Here On In It's Nothing But a Downhill Run! Another wonderful card, a great one in a reading. Here is Morgan's interpretation:

It is a total coast from here to enlightenment and total liberation. Cut the strain and flow into what is. Buddha will watch over the situation.

I find it really important to note to clients that this card isn't the universe creating a wonderful result; usually this card appears after someone has worked their butt off to reach a new place (job, relationship, school, new child, new home. . .) It is great to affirm the work your client (OR YOU!) put in to get to this wonderful place.

In a world of endless striving to be better - more enlightened, more spiritual, better paid, better educated, healthier. . . whatever the struggle, this card is a reminder to relax into the stream of life.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Which Animal Totem Best Suits You? QUIZ!


Ok, gentle readers, I get so many hits when I post these quizzes, so they are obviously enjoyed.

Here is one on animal totems, a subject I run into a lot in private tarot readings. Connecting with animals came to me, surprisingly really, when my youngest became the family animal lover. For her sake - at first, anyway - I kept ferrets and hedgehogs and hamsters and fish and turtles and lizards. And I found myself loving the animals, enjoying the care of them, and feeling deeply connected to every one of them - ok, except some of the guppies.

I have used Jamie Sams' Animal Tarot deck for decades, but caring for my own little mini-menagerie helped me see animal totems as far more important than I had.

so anyway, for today's quiz: What Animal Totem Best Suits You?

My answers: Dog/Wolf/Dragon, which are not at all totems I think of for myself, but hey, can't completely disagree as I seem to collect wolf spirits and well, I do have four dogs here at my feet. . .

Wanna know more about totems? Ask me!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

StoryPeople and artist Brian Andreas



I found another artist, and as far as I know NOT a Bridget's Fire blog reader, sniff, while picking my daughter up from band camp. Another mom and I were wandering about upper New York State, and found a craft shop, and then found these amazing prints by artist/poet Brian Andreas. We were both mesmerized as we looked at every single print and sculpture by the artist in that store.

I came home determined to find the artist, and to keep an eye out for his work. And, thank heaven, I did find him, on line, at the StoryPeople website. The poem and print I most admire is now down at the bottom of my blog:

There is no one who comes here that does not know this is a true map of the world, with you there in the center, making home for us all.

That poem/print is going up on my kitchen wall, since I have been the mom-at-home for 16 years now. But I also love the print for Bridget, the center and source at her holy fires in Ireland, in our hearts, in our art and hand work. Home and hearth ring as true maps of many a world, from the smallest child at a kitchen table to the Goddess in unending fires. When I first saw the print in that Rochester store, I was amazed that such a simple image and poem could capture so much wisdom.

Bridget as hearth Goddess/Saint has received much attention in the Pagan/Christian world. Lighting candles to Bridget is one of the simplest ways to pray/spellcast/puja to Her, and one of the most common. Lighting the fire of inspiration, lighting an intention or prayer, lighting a new spark for creation, all are simple acts to sacred things. Cleaning your hearth before lighting a candle (or cleaning your stove - that most modern of hearths), are more simple acts with resonance back to our earliest ancestors gathered about firepits getting ready to share a meal. Clean a stove, and light a candle, and connect with eons of humans who created the magic of fire, hearth, meals, home. Clean a stove; make the world.

I believe Pagans, however, have been more intentional about the connection between a small home space - your stove or hearth - and the map of the world. Whatever apartment, trailer, house, tent, caravan, we call home, it is in its contained self a mini-world that shapes all about it. That home, that mini-world, is central to human life. Homeless is one of the worst things a person can be. A good home for any of us, is one of life's greatest blessings. Cleaning your stove and lighting a candle - small little actions - are great when they further the building of the world of home.

So, with one simple print, I felt deeply connected to Brian Andreas and his art.

And it turns out you can get mini-poems from him in your email box every day. At his website, you can sign up for a mini Story each day, delivered to you - no purchase necessary. (Huzzah for artists/poets finding a way to bring art and poetry to people everywhere!) Thus a little mini inspiration can find its way to you, every single day!

Inspiration, art, home. Good connections to build.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Newly Published Book by a modern Bridget Worshiper (and Bridget's Fire Blog Reader!!!)





OKAY!!!!!!! This is WAY COOL!!!


Ceri Norman, who incorporates Bridget into her spirituality AND who reads Bridget's Fire (ok, I am just too tickled pink with myself), has a NEWLY PUBLISHED book out, available from Amazon: Celtic Maidens



Here is Ceri's description of her book:


"A powerful and supernatural tale of love, lives and obsession set against the dramatic scenery of the Welsh Mountains.
Celtic Maidens tells the story of Siân Derwyn whose life holds few pleasures except for her friends, her interest in local folklore and the standing stones until the day that Ryan Ackley arrives in her remote Welsh village.
Siân and Ryan are reincarnations of Celtic lovers who were slaughtered long ago. They are unaware that obsessive love, power struggles and murder have followed them down through the ages. Thwarted in ancient times, a murderous spirit has followed them through time and now, with them all reunited in the 21st century,
he plans to fulfil his malevolent vendetta.. And yes, I have snuck a few references to Brighid into the book under her Welsh name of St. Ffraid."



Now how cool is this? I love books about Wales (having lived in Aberystwyth and Lampeter, plus many months doing research in Carmarthen, and of course ubiquitous trips to the LGBT shrine of Llangollen), and I love references to Ffraid, the Bridget so often forgotten. So gentle readers, check out Ceri's book - and let everyone know whatcha think!

The reincarnation theme also strikes home with me - again through my Welsh ancestry.

My first trip to Wales, paid for with a grant from the Unitarian Universalist Association to study Welsh Unitarian history - and yup, I can say that in Welsh! - took me to West Wales. My mom and aunt, eager to know more of their Jones' ancestry, mailed me pages of family documents all with orders to find my Jones family ancestral home.

I remember the TrawsCambria bus, my first ever excursion into the Welsh country, winding away from Carmarthen to Aber. In a gorgeous June evening, I looked about the countryside near Llandysul, feeling as if I'd never seen a land so beautiful and heartrending. I hung out the bus window soaking up this landscape, feeling pulled to the ground, the land, the road, the hedgerows, the fields, the trees. My heart flew from my body on the A487!

I ended up tracing my family to county offices in Cardigan, Carmarthen and the national library in Aber, and finally found - and visited - my great grandmother's birthplace, the farm Bwlch y Fadfa, near, you guessed it, Llandysul. Somehow, I think I had memories of that gentle farming land of Ceredigion, which is not typically the famous and gobsmacking landscape of the Brecons or north Wales. Yet the Teifi river valley remains more dear to my heart than any Snowdonia.

I have also studied immersion Welsh, in west Wales, first at the University of Aberystwyth (helo Llinos! are you reading me today??), and then at St. David's University. Now any immersion language experience can scramble your brains, but for me, Welsh - and speaking for an entire month of Welsh at a time - meant finding pieces of my soul that I buried in English.

A book on reincarnation in Wales reflects so much of what I have lived. I have the book on order, and will share when I have read more.

And THANK YOU/DIOLCH YN FAWR to Ceri, for sharing her publishing. Writing is sacred to Bridget! What an honour to share Ceri's success on this blog to Her!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Crafting Magic


I have never been able to separate my craft life and my magical life.

Crafting IS magic.

Take spinning, something I learned as a girl. The first revolution in human hertory was the string revolution, the process of twisting fiber into something strong and useful, and at the age of 8 I joined that herstory with my early attempts on a spindle. Twist fibers together in your fingers, build a spindle, find a spinning wheel, and you are making a magic that is associated with Fates, Spider Woman, Loki, Bridget, Frigga, Athena, and all of your grandmothers and grandfathers stretching back through millennia. Learn to spin and you are connected to spinsters, one of the earliest - and highly esteemed - jobs for women. Learn to spin and you are creating the fates.

Weaving, something I also learned in elementary school (the better to make cloth for my barbie dolls), has its own magic. There is nothing as strong as woven cloth. Take warp and weft, and string becomes a usable fabric: the fabric of life. Fabric can be cut, re-used, patched, repaired, sewn again, and transformed into both shelter and clothing. Weaving is a magical connection to human existence, right up there with spinning fate: Feminists now re-weave the web of life. The web of life is magical.

I have already written of smithing as crafting. Take magical iron and forge it into steel, into pots and pans, into kitchen knives and votive offering. Stones become tools. Transformation is in our hands, eyes, in our arms as we hammer, and in the fire. Every strike forges a world. Magic.

And sewing is magic; patchwork is magic. I have sewn up the years of my children's lives, into quilts and clothing, into wall art and gifts and blankets. Every intentional stitch is a spell. Every spell is creating the future.

Crafting is sacred to Bridget and needs to be explored as intentional spellcrafting as well. I realize that lighting candles to Bridget is a spell, and so is cleaning one's hearth or one's stove is spellcrafting or prayer. Yet I find my greatest spells come when writing, when spinning, when weaving. Molding beeswax into candles is a spell; couching beads is a spell. Bridget wants us to create with our hands and hearts, and she wants us to shape the world. (As Christian theologians and thealogians would argue God wants us to participate in Creation. . .)

In the process of growing in devotions to Saint Bridget or Goddess Bridget, or whomever you worship, I hope you add this knowledge of crafting. Crafting with intention is a spell or prayer as strong as any ritual - and with Bridget, perhaps it is even stronger. Whatever craft you explore, every step can be worked into spells and prayers in Her name. Your final creation can add to alters, hearths, homes.

Crafting is magic. Crafting is spellmaking. Make it intentional. Spin fate; weave the web of life; mold inspiration; forge worlds; knit prayers; bead stories; carve spells. What spell is greater than creating?