Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Maman Brigitte and the quest for love

In general, when you work as a spiritual counselor, one of the most frequent questions is the one for romance. Whether tarot cards or past life readings, astrology or alter building, my friends and clients want to know how to find romance. And sure enough, that was the second question for Bridget's Fire. How to find love, Onnen?

Well, we have to do some hermeneutics before approaching love. Romanticized love is one the cornerstones of a racist and heteropatriarchy. Can't get equal pay for equal work? Well, fall in lu-uve. Can't find decent childcare at an affordable price? Fall in lu-uve. Have no health care? Losing your home? Harassed by your boss at work? Fall in lu-uve. Love, that heterosexual construct of capitalism, is offered as a cure-all for all sexist and racist and homophobic and poverty ills of our society.

Yet, love as a force of revolution, acknowledged as such in most tarot decks anyway, is also an important reality. Strip the ideology of white, sexy hunks and wealthy Mr. Darcy's, and you are left with a force that moves mountains.

My friend, seeking advice on romance, has left abusive husbands and fought for her two autistic children. She has stormed through courts protecting her children, and the force of love has pushed her from teenage mom to amazing African American career woman with two master's degrees. Now she wants to try a romance without violence, and wants to know how to find it. And good for her.

Here is where hermeneutics again is useful. I am as fond of the pornography-named-romance novels as anyone, but like watching television, I tread the genre carefully. Yes sexy werewolves fall into heroines' laps in my favorite books, yet in real life full moons do not werewolf romance make. And for all the fun interspecies orgies in the hotter female pornography genre out there, hot sex isn't always as easy as dancing naked under a full moon.

Indeed, I would suggest that "romance" is another word for female pornography, and as my guy friends (gay and straight) point out, they don't confuse porn with real world relationships. One dude stated that he does not expect hot babes to lust after him like the porn he enjoys, and so why do women expect their romances to imitate Twilight and that ilk?

Hmmmm. Good question.

I am going to suggest thinking about and questioning "love" as an important, indeed essential element, of finding right relationships. Given the sexist mess that love-as-ideology is in our culture, I want to push wise women and men to use more thinking time for establishing relationships, and less feeling. My friend is an admirable case in point. That brilliant mind of hers needs to establish as many guidelines and rules for her dating life as she does for her wonderful children, and for her own professional life.

My friend, however, had others object when I pushed her to write down minimum standards and guidelines for romantic relationships. Sure, what I suggest isn't pretty, romantic, or being swept away - and good for that. Instead I want to encourage sweeping away dangerous ideas that keep women and men hurting more than I want what I have called female porn/romance. Real life, including witchcraft, Christianity, paganism, and any other religious endeavor, requires work.

Which leads me to Maman Brigitte. More than Saint Bridget, or the Irish Goddess Bridget so often depicted with flowing blonde hair by new age pagans, Maman Brigitte is a patron voudou saint of graveyards. Go to Maman Brigitte and you are calling on endings, on deaths, on passing. She is a perfect deva for chopping away heterosexist and racist ideas about love. Yet, Maman Brigitte is also a guardian and protector. For my friend and others starting out into the world of dating, a strong protector can't hurt.

Now my devoutly Christian friend worries about creating alters to a voudou orishe. That is fine.

To call on Maman Brigitte one doesn't have to follow voudou, Catholocism or any other pagan/new age path. I urged my friend to create a meditation space, and to offer the spirit of Maman Brigitte's protection a daily cup of tea, or some written dedications and guidelines for the guys she wants to date. A few coins never hurt. A picture of her current crush is good.

In no way does an alter of meditation take away from church or prayer time. In general, I have never found saints, Goddesses, orishes, devas, spirits, or deities at all upset about meditating. And meditating on putting sexism into any graveyard, while calling for a spirit of protection, is a great daily practice.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

A Hermeneutics of my Grandmother

Hermeneutics is teasing out the meanings in history.

The process of passing on history conveys meaning in and of itself, adding a layer to the original story. When we tell our history, we are creating ourselves. Creating ourselves is the ultimate in religious action. Whether we embrace Mary, Mother of God, or Bridget Saint or Goddess, or Durga, or Judith, or Kali or a Raven deva, we are participating in, passing on, and continuing story.

I am going to offer a hermeneutics of my grandmother, who died one year ago today at the age of 101. Her life offers so many stories, and what I tease out to share will say as much about me as her own life said about her. She was never much for talk, my grandma, but I think she would be pleased I tell her stories.

My grandmother, pictured above, was one of the meanest women I have ever known.

She was overtly mean, saying nasty things about others behind their backs, and nasty things to their faces. She said awful things to her grandchildren. High on the list were her endless insults about any of our looks: I was too fat, my nose was too "indian" as was my straight as nails hair (she actually preferred my dreadlocks by the end of her life), I should have worn make up and shorter skirts, and my skin was too dark and "tawny." She pointed out every pimple to my brother and sister, who had severe acne, often pushing them to tears. She called my redheaded cousins "carrot top," also reducing them to tears.

To others she would flat out say, "that dress makes you look ugly," or "you have gotten far too fat since having a baby." She, of course, couched her mean mouth in terms of Christian piety: "I am just telling the truth as all good Christians should." That piety caused adults to cry.

Grandmother was a buttress of her Presbyterian church, a Sunday school teacher for over 50 years, a head of the women's committee, a famous cake baker for church bake sales (her coconut cream cake was justly famous). Her nasty mouth was accepted, as are many traits in the south, with shakes of the head, tsk's, and the ubiquitous "bless her heart."

Partly my grandmother was tolerated due to her very hard life. My grandfather was known for his violence throughout 3 counties. Neighbors and relatives used to tell stories of my grandfather's temper, not with Christian indulgence, but with worry and horror. Such an attitude says much in and of itself. When I complained of my grandmother, my many aunts and uncles and adult cousins (and this being the south, second cousins and cousins once and twice removed) often told me to be kind to her, given how hard her life was, and how much she did.

Ultimately, most people came to admire my grandmother. I sure did. The picture above was taken in 1930, one year after marriage and the birth of my father and the purchase of a family farm that required a mortgage just 6 months before the depression began. My aunt and my father grew up in a house with no electricity, no running water, and replacement shingles for the roof were made with tin cans. The mortgage would be a chain on the family until 1936, when by selling every possible scrap of food from the farm, my grandmother paid the mortgage off out of her "pin money." That pin money then went into a jar, where it grew alongside my grandmother's profits from sewing for neighbors and family. She would send both her son and daughter to college, the first in her family to ever do so.

By the time I was born, my grandmother had pulled her family by the skin of her teeth and sweat of her brow into the middle class. Plumbing arrived during WWII and electricity before my birth. My grandmother, who hated the farm and farming and rural America, continued her sewing business, something she loved. Her own dream, to someday own a small dress shop in a neighboring town, was replaced with a small sewing business from home. Despite her mouth, 3 generations of East Tennessee girls grew up with my grandmother's Easter dresses, prom dresses, and wedding dresses.

She taught me to sew when I was 12, and my own ETSY craft business owes everything to her. Growing up and hating visits to that austere and oppressive home, I had escaped to the barn (also pictured above) or back porch, and had taught myself both spinning and weaving on the old "junk" grandma had left from her own childhood. (Grandma eventually burned both spinning wheel, c. 1840, and barnloom, c. 1820, for firewood. My aunt and I had to rescue Grandma's home sewn quilts from the fire as well.) The tools my grandmother hated as part of a rural past she never escaped, were for me windows into a historical world of women spinners and weavers. I started using spinning spells by the time I was eight.

My grandmother, stern and stalwart member of her church, hated folk religion. Her mother, always called Mamaw to my generation, had run an illicit liquor business selling homemade brandies from the herbs in her garden, and embarrassing my grandmother throughout prohibition. No one, by the way, ever tried to close down my great grandmother's wines and brandies! For my grandmother, having a famous mother who used herbs, alcohol, bread and folk midwifery to maintain a home business (and her own bank account), had been a source of great shame. My great grandmother, also a staunch Presbyterian - and temperance worker, used the name witch as a Christian without compunction. My own grandmother, with her famous sewing business, refused having her own bank account throughout her life.

Of course I am made of them both, and their lives were ever focused on building, creating, saving what they could, finding their own strength and independence wherever they could, and in their hands they created and passed down all that love and strength to me. I did not attend my grandmother's funeral last year. My daughter was receiving an award for her piano playing the same day as the funeral, and every single member of my family told me quite sternly to go to the award ceremony with my daughter. "That is what your grandmother would have done," they all said. I believe they are right.

So who is my grandmother? A battered woman with a horrific and violent husband? A fervent and loving Christian wife? A devoted and selfless mother? An impoverished proletarian worker? A strong and courageous woman who wrestled what she wanted from life as best she could? She herself, by the way, would pooh pooh such questions and this article. "There is work to be done," was one of the many things she said, over and over, every day, and of all that anyone remembers of her, that is probably the one thing she said most. For 101 years she was up at dawn, and in bed by 10:00. Not a day went by without her washing a floor, feeding the barn cats, or baking biscuits.

The stories told about my grandmother represent alternate religious paths. Her funeral, at the Presbyterian church in Fall Branch, Tennessee, included a fairly normal sermon about my grandmother and her work in the church. No mention of my violent grandfather, my grandmother's lifelong business and efforts to put her children through college, no mention of her lifelong dream to own a dress shop. The sermon did include her Sunday school teaching and works in the church. The minister didn't mention her coconut cake.

My father, who loves his mother still, often tells of her hard work, especially the gardening that kept him alive during the depression. He will not discuss his own father at all. When my aunt talks of my grandfather's violence, my dad will ever try to shut her up. Not interested in women and sewing, my dad never mentions my grandmother's creativity. He was, however, proud of her work before she married, when my grandmother for a few short years had lived in Elizabethton and worked for a textile mill.

A seed collector, my dad still grows plants from his mother's garden.

I tell about my grandfather's violence. I grew up under strict orders to never allow my sister or any other grandchild near him alone. I also tell of my grandmother's sewing business, though I am the only one of her grandchildren to learn to sew, to later work in a textile mill myself, and to have my own quilting/spinning/weaving business. I'm also the only one of my family to talk of my grandmother and great grandmother as businesswomen, as artists, as fiercely religious women. I am the only one in my family to keep that picture above.

We can approach religious puja, and worship as women, the way I have approached my grandmother. To put it mildly, my grandmother's endless comments about my looks were hurtful. I could have left my relationship to her with those undeniably cruel stories. Teasing out religion as women, we - whether pagan, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Islamic, Wiccan, Buddhist, Celtic, New Age, - have to weed through equally hurtful stories of oppression.

However, if I had kept to the surface stories about her, the stories from her own church and from my dad, I would have lost my grandmother who saved the family farm and sent her kids to school, and I would have lost the grandmother who dreamed of a dress shop, and who dreamed of design. If I had kept to my grandmother's own words, I would have lost her completely as well, since her own words were often cruel or cliche. If we let others choose our stories and the meanings there, we lose our grandmothers and we lose ourselves.

Instead I am blessed. I am a talker, and I ask questions. I taped my many relatives' stories when I was younger, hearing about my grandmother from the many women who wore her clothes. I questioned my grandmother as well, taped her, too, and when I was older told her she was too often cruel. (She was surprised. I now wonder if she had no idea how others heard her mean insults.)

I had my grandmother show me her treasure box one day, which had her wedding ring grown too small, some pearl earrings, and the canceled mortgage from 1936. She never threw that mortgage away. I was 14 when she showed it to me, and even then I understood it was a paper of deep importance.

So there you have a hermeneutics of my grandmother. I encourage everyone to go hermeneutic their own family stories. You may find scraps of paper with the essence of your relative. In the finding we are all richer.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Which Saint Are You?

Ok here is a silly poll. But polls are fun. I love taking them! This one asks, Which Saint Are You???

No matter how I answer, unless I really lie big time, I come out as Julian of Norwich! Well, who knew?? I was hoping for Pelagius. . . oh well, I guess they are close! I want to point out to my Protestant and UU friends, that universalism means universal salvation.

Just wanted to clear that up.

First Bridget's Fire request!

I already have two requests for Bridget's Fire. So let's put hermeneutics aside for a bit, but only a bit, to answer questions! COOL, though. Please feel free to ask questions, post comments or make recommendations. I love finding mail and comments. . .

So the request was for an angry female Saint, akin to the Morrigan. I went to my favourite feminist hagiographer MB, and forwarded the request to her. (Surprisingly, google "angry female saint" and there are few listings! We all need to get on that!)

MB recommends: Catherine of Siena, one of the patrons of Italy! Famous for walking to Avignon to yell at the then schismed Pope, MB suggested I look for a lovely icon of the saint that portrays her carrying the entire Church as an arc on her back. (Found it and see it above!) In addition to regularly yelling at popes and bishops, Catherine is famous for her letters, many of which call to task the royalty of her day (1347 - 1380)!

So there you have it, for puja and worship and reflection and meditation or some fun political action, Catherine of Siena, a wordy and angry female saint.

You can find many of her letters online. Read Catherine's letters at Project Gutenberg, in English and Italian.

Maybe for a devotional in her name, write a letter to your favourite politicians and give them a piece of YOUR mind. . .

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Hermeneutics for Pagan folk

Let's be honest. Every religion has its fuzzy wuzzy nutcases.

I have Christian relatives who have homes bedecked in lovingly cross stritched pictures of a very white Jesus, and plaques with Biblical quotes on every wall. The Protestant version tends to cute savings about putting Christ back into Christmas, and finding ways to prove that Halloween is really a holiday about Jesus. There is a Catholic version, as well. My ex-mother-in-law kept a crucifix on every surface of her home, and paintings of a very white Mary gazing at her infant son in every room. Clearly there is a new age equivalent.

However, the Christian community is less embarrassed by its fuzzy side. After all, it has theological schools, scholarly journals, endowed chairs and entire libraries to point toward a more intellectual vision. Pagans, with their new age, blond goddess-worshiping and fairy-loving side, have less scholarship to invoke. I know of no endowed chairs in Pagan theology in the US. So in general, pagans gets touchy about historical proof and orthodoxy, trying to show it has its own brainy side just like more established religions.

You can find this online and in pagan communities. I remember Issac Bonewits calling for pagans to learn Irish and Welsh in order to further pagan scholarship back when he wrote for neo-pagan journals in the 1980's. (I probably still have some of those magazines floating about!) Bonewit's group, Ár nDraíocht Fein, has a path to ministerial ordination. Other groups have "experts" who read extensively in Celtic studies and Indo European mythologies, in an effort to separate from the "fairies are everywhere and they are love" contingent.

Interesting things come from this sudden and unthinking embrace of "scholarship."

Explore pagan sites that urge scholarship, and suddenly you will find Goddesses and women-as-deity missing - again! Hey, God the mother is scary to pagans, too!

Bonewit's group doesn't have a Goddess in sight; Deiuokara, with a link right here on Bridget's Fire, does include Goddesses, but takes great pain to show that real Celts saw Bridget as "the energy and force necessary for Lugus to accomplish his work on behalf of the community." In other parts of their website they compare Goddess energy to Shakti energy: women's divine energy "energizes" God energy. Here is a great quote: "Because in Celtic thought goddesses are primarily seen as sources of energy (equivalent to the Hindu concept of 'shakti'), the distinctions between them tend to blur and to be less clear-cut than in the case of the gods, as many writers on the subject have remarked."


So feminist friends, guys and gals, whatta ya think of that? All over the Celtic world, celebrants chucked their swords and shields into pools named for Celtic female devas/Goddesses/spirits, buy hey, we really are just "blurry" and indistinct energy sources for the boys. The Morrigan, surviving to Christian times to be inscribed by monks, flew about battlefields with their horses and ravens, but they really were just "sources of energy." And hey, women all seem a lot alike, anyway, right?

Clearly what is lacking here is any questioning of scholarship and its purposes. Hey, if an academic says it, it must be true, correct? Especially if that academic is white, straight, male, and "objective." That "scholarship" can further prejudice and inequality in the pagan community is of no interest to the Bonewits of the pagan world. In this regard, pagans start to sound like Unitarian Universalists - hey, we ordain women, so there can't be a sexism problem here. And racism in the pagan community? "Not an issue," even though many pagan groups remain all white.

Christians, thank heaven, can't get away with this so explicitly anymore. 40 years of feminist, Mujerista, Womanist, Latin American, Black, African, Minjung, Eco-feminist, and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered theologies have challenged the idea that "objective" religious scholarship is possible. Biblical scholarship now routinely explores the realities of inequity that permeates sacred texts.

And no one has done more from opening up scholarship than my other favourite feminist Christian, Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza. Chair of Biblical studies at Harvard University, no one is more legitimate than Schussler Fiorenza. And no one, pagan or Christian, is more radical. (yes, I love Mary Daly, and I consider them equally rad. Bite me.)

Here is Fiorenza on textual religious scholarship:

"A politics of discourse seeks to investigate the links between feminist... articulations and those theoretical, historical, cultural, and political conceptual frameworks that shape biblical as well as feminist christological discourses. Bible, history, and theology are important not only for religious communities. Rather, as "master narratives" of Western cultures, they are always implicated in and collude with the production and maintenance of systems of knowledge that either foster exploitation and oppression or contribute to a praxis and vision of liberation."
-"Jesus, Miriam's Child, Sophia's Prophet, (1995).

Hmmm, quoting boys that say female Celtic deities were mostly "energzing forces for Gods" hardly seems like an objective scholarship, but more a discounting of the realities of sexism in Celtic culture, and an absolute denial of the sexism in the early Christian recordings of centuries older stories. And even should the Christian monks who wrote down what some Celts thought about their own worship practices centuries before be close to accurate, how does that mean an authentic paganism today should relegate women to animating men in modern Paganism? Huh?

I stand with the Christian Schussler Fiorenza: I want a religious practice that fosters liberation. Modern Indo European groups hoping to prove their legitimacy through unquestioned "scholarship" are instead colluding with our culture of sexism, racism, homophobia and every other oppressive practice.

In other words, boys in dresses, pagan or Christian, need to quit perpetuating oppression, even if they ordain women, too. In that sense, the fuzzy wuzzy religious folk, with their commitment to love and fairies and white Jesuses and blond Goddesses, come off as better human beings who at least care about the relationships we humans create than the scholarly pagans do!

I don't care who the god is. Religion should be about freedom and not shackles.

And I talked to Bridget today. She says to tell all the druid groupies, "naughty, naughty." I promise to continue writing about feminist hermeneutics in future days. . .

Monday, March 22, 2010

Puja and the Pagan/Christian/Hindu boundary

Many years ago, one of my Hindu students, Saheli, asked me quietly and confidentially "why Westerners care so much about which God to worship?" I had to laugh and admit that I was, probably, not the best person to ask about this! I tried to explain that really most Christians say they believe in one God, and that however much I might not really understand, that I had to accept that my friends saw their religious beliefs that way.

Saheli was not stopped. "Then why, professor, do their Gods all sound so different?" Since we were in the UK at the time, I didn't tell her that in the States, the God of the Southern Baptist Church also sounded quite a bit different than the God in the Church of England, but I didn't go there. I again explained, that despite how it might seem to outsiders, Christians believe there is only one God. (I hope, Christians reading here, that I explained that correctly).

I have been lucky over the years to have many Hindu/Christian friends, both in the United States and in the UK. Since I have also watched many, many, many (did I say lots and lots?) of Pagan/Christian fighting, especially in LGBT and women's groups, the ease with which my Hindu friends flit from seemingly disparate religious systems has long intrigued me.

Another friend, here in the States, explains to me that it is the focus of puja that defines her as a Hindu, and that puja to Jesus is utterly allowed in her traditions. Now I love puja, the ceremony of honoring a deity, guest or distinguished person, often with food, candles, water, prayers, incense, and flowers. I attended my first puja, a Durga puja, years ago at the Center for Women and Religion. From the Hindu perspective of my friends, the Christian God and Jesus, as well as Saints and the Holy Spirit, are all just one more deity in a wide smorgasbord of worship possibilities.

That extends to paganism as well. In the UK I attended the best Celtic myth classes at the University of Birmingham. My professor, Prof. Jindal, spoke very openly as a scholar coming to myth from her Hindu background. She never used the term "god" or "goddess" to talk about beings in Celtic myth, instead preferring the Hindu term "deva." She, like Saheli, wondered why this preoccupation with deities in Western religious thought. So much of Celtic worship centered around tossing things into pools, springs, wells, lakes and rivers, Prof. Jindal questioned why Westerners didn't see Celtic belief in the context of puja! Excellent question!

What this means for women and men exploring the Pagan/Christian borderland is fascinating. To my Hindu friends, to be Wiccan and to keep puja to Jesus is by no means a contradiction. Nor is worship to the Morrigan and to Bridget - Goddess, saint or deva. Nor is puja to a Trinitarian God and a Celtic Goddess. Puja is an action, a making of reverence, so in no way contradicts one's religious beliefs.

And the actions of puja, saying prayers, lighting candles and incense, offering food and libation, all can be incorporated into many, many traditions. I use Catholic holy cards on my shrine to the deva Brid, for example. Pagan candles can focus a prayer to Jesus. Within the context of puja, there is no contradiction.

Many times now, I answer questions about my own beliefs with a new Americanized word. I puja to Bridget.

So who do you puja to????

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Bridget? Brigit? Bride? Ffraid? Brighideach?

Bridget? Brigit? Bride? Ffraid? Brighideach?

I have Protestant friends asking, Onnen, what is this blog of yours? What is Bridget/Bride/Ffraid, and what is Brighideach??

So a little backtracking into ancient times here, for a little explaining.

Go back to the world before the common era, when Romans had some writing going on, but much of Europe was in the dark ages. All across Europe a group of peoples spoke an early form of language that would eventually become old Welsh, and from there you will get the Gaelics - Irish and Scots, Manx is in there with Gaelic, and old Welsh divides into Cornish, Breton over in France, and modern Welsh. Yup I speak some of all those languages!

So back in that soup of early Celtic languages you have these pagan peoples, joined by some common language elements, common crafts, similar burial traditions, and into the written era, a common antipathy to the Roman Empire. Ok, everyone calls it the Celts. Yup you can argue with that name. (It can be another post, ok?) But in that soup of peoples there was one very common thread: lots and lots of worship of maybe deity like thingies, many called something similar to Brid or Brig. You get Brigantia in Britain (which is where the name Britain comes from - an entire modern nation named after a Celtic deity), Brighid in Ireland, Bridghe in Scotland, Ffraid in Wales, Brigandu over in old Gaul, Bricta in eastern France, Brigindo in Switzerland, and through colonization you end of up with Maman Brigitte in Caribbean voudou and Bridang in the Philippines.

Brid or Brig perhaps meant "exalted one," some translations say "fiery one." With Christianity and the beginnings of writing you find stories of Bridghid, where she becomes a patron of hill forts and mountains, and lofty intellectual things like poetry and healing, plus the highest echelon of crafting, blacksmithing. Monks writing down older Irish tales from before Christianity leave Brighid as the daughter of the Dagda (the good one), and daughter of a poet. (A most auspicious child then!) However, the Christians have their own Brighid, now a common era Christian daughter of druids, who claims land in Kildare for a great monastery where flames to Bridget still burn today. Historical pictures of the Saint always show her with a Bishop's staff, a wonderful point showing the historical ordination and status of women in the early church.

So there you have Bridget. Goddess or Saint, or both. Well worth worship, for inspiration or for crafting, for women's aspirations in the church or for healing, for fire or for hilltops. Bridget is a nice bridge between and among pagan and Christian women, who can find something in her famous mantle for everyone.

Bridget's fire, a woven crossroads of women's religious agency.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Morrigan and Beverly Harrison

I have been worshipping the Morrigan for, oh most of my life. The Irish patron over battlefields, war, prophecy, warriors, crows, and cattle, whether a triple Goddess in Bedb, Macha and Nemain,or single deva, the Morrigan are wonderful inspiration against injustice. They are wild womyn, with wild energies, and if you call them to you expect chaos and change. (Cool!)

In general, I have a lifelong commitment to encouraging anger. Worshiping the Morrigan is a wonderful expression of my own anger, now wonderfully honed over decades of practice. I can, with the help of the Morrigan, aim my anger and explode it where and when I will. Yet for so many people I meet, moms and dads, kids in school, friends in church and coven, just approaching anger is still so difficult.

However, I don't usually go trotting out my connection to the wild ladies unless I am talking to really good friends. Anger is still too scary for many, and heaven knows part of my relationship with the Morrigan has been to bank my own fires to a comfortable level for others. So I have found other resources for trotting out anger.

The best Christian connection I have found is ethicist Beverly Harrison. More than any Christian writer, I quote Harrison's "The Power of Anger in the Work of Love," indeed, I quote her more than any other religious work.

So here is the best quote: "Anger is not the opposite of love. It is better understood as a feeling-signal that all is not well in our relation to other persons or groups or the world around us. . . [This] is a critical first step in understanding the power of anger in the work of love. Where anger arises, the energy to act is present. . . We must never lose touch with the fact that all serious human moral activity, especially action for social change, takes its bearings from the rising power of human anger."

There, more than the Bible, more than any pagan thealogian, more than any fiction author or any other writer, that quote from Harrison is the one I find most useful to help my friends, colleagues and sister volunteers and social activists remember that anger is the power.

Struggling to get insurance coverage for your autistic child? Get angry! Struggling to find an affordable education for yourself or your kids? Get angry! Tired of your racist boss expecting you to do twice as much work as any white guy at your job? Get angry! Sick of schools that won't keep your children physically safe, let alone emotionally? Get angry!

Ok, so those are just my conversations from the last 24 hours.

That doesn't touch on current politics, the environment, and larger issues of justice and equity in a world of advancing capitalism. And certainly I spend time calming my Republican neighbors, stirred to mob level frenzy, with worries that government is going to "take over" their medicare. Yet our own anger is the energy to deal - endlessly - with GOP friends and family. (I rather enjoy staying calm in the face of my Republican friends' frenzy. They either calm down and listen, or they get so crazy they make little sense, which is fun to watch.There are many people who can't ride their anger.)

Because getting in touch with the power of anger in the work of love does mean getting control and riding YOUR anger. Back to the Morrigan. These ladies sailed over battlefields, decided the fates of armies, created pools and stole cows. (Stealing cows in old Ireland was a big deal. Major mojo.) They lived their anger and changed the shape of kingdoms. I rather imagine these ladies floating over Ireland on surfboards of anger, but hey, that is my image. Finding your own image can be good. And if you need the Morrigan to be Christian angels for your own cosmology, well, go for it.

Case in point? My good radical Catholic friend, Amanda. When struggling to find programs or services for her children, or just trying to protect them on the playground, she endlessly cried about her tendency to be "too nice." She decided she'd had enough, and then decided, crazily, to start imitating me! "I just pretend to be you, Onnen," she laughs, "and then I have no trouble getting angry." Amanda isn't interested in the Morrigan for herself, but is willing to channel my own devas when needed. Cool. I know I encouraged Amanda to go find some good saint for her worship (any suggestions on a nice angry, preferably female, saint for Amanda? Please let me know!).

The important thing is adding anger to one's worship. Add anger to your prayer, (Job did), to your spells or your candle lightings, to alters and holy charms. Make room for anger in your home (leave some tea out to the morrigan or offer them some good beer), in your religious group (set aside time to learn how to use anger), in your heart.

The world will be healthier for it.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

What kind of environmental nerd are you?

Ok, ok, enough social justice and church pics?

Here is a fun poll. Because, yes, including social justice, part of religion is discovering oneself.

Take this poll and find out what kind of environmental nerd you are, and then get active. I, no surprise, am a wildlife nerd. (Nope the WWF button and my articles for said organization are not clues. . .) so go here:

click here

From Pagan to Christian

From Pagan to Christian

I grew up Pagan, a rare thing in this culture. I came to Christianity in Div. School, through the intense sexism in the Pagan community. At the time I was studying with both Starhawk and Z. Budapest, (no I was not a groupie of either, and I am sure neither remember me), was totally sick of the guys with horns at many Celtic events (there are other deities besides Cerrunos guys), and went to the Center for Women and Religion at the Graduate Theological Union in self-defense. There I met the most wonderful womyn/wommen/wimmin/women: MB, Paula, Kalli, Pat, Sandy - all committed to liberation theology. All welcoming me, crazy little Appalachian pagan girl.

My favorite memory at the Center for Women and Religion? (CWR) The first open house where women met to tell their religious stories. The many Christian women there told stories of how awful CWR would be, as told to them by their Christian classmates, due to the "rampant paganism" of the Center. I told my story, warned by the pagan community of the "dangerous Christians" at CWR, I had gone there totally frightened of what I might encounter. (Those scary feminist Christians!) The whole group of women, Christian, pagan, Wiccan, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish and Moslem, laughed that still every religion is afraid of WOMEN MEETING TOGETHER.

I started taking wonderful, intense, scholarly classes in liberation theology. I studied at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, the Pacific School of Religion, the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, and Starr King School for the Ministry. I taught classes at CWR. I wrote a master's thesis on soteriology. I was blessed beyond measure to receive two years worth of grants to study in the UK.

Today I attend a fabulous, social justice oriented Presbyterian church, committed to equality before God.

Now do I believe in that Presbyterian God? Hmmm, well since I wasn't reared Christian, I always say: Who cares? Let the Protestants worry about belief. . .

I sat with a table full of church volunteers and staff last night, discussing our wonderful church home, it's commitment to the poor, children, political change, LGBT rights, new definitions of Christianity, yet a group of women and two men, we all laughed that even so, you never hear of God the Mother at our church home. I laughed about my own experience: a member of two Celtic worship groups and a member of a Presbyterian church, I find the only true way to follow a religious path is to stay to the boundaries of the Pagan and Christian worlds. Everyone agreed with me, especially the LBGT contingent there. At the same time, the head of our church's inner city afterschool arts program showed me her new blog, encouraging me to start my own.

Voila: Bridget's Fire is born, from a church room discussion and my own worship in the Celtic pantheon, from scholarly classes in theology and Celtic mythology, to the wilds of pagans dancing around the full moon, to the social justice work embodied by the progressive church.

This is Bridget's Fire!