Saturday, April 18, 2015

Love your Mother!

The Earth Mother, I mean. 

It's that time of year when we celebrate Earth Day.  The one day of the year when we are supposed to remember to love the earth.  This year, down in the Detroit area I will be one of the featured speakers this weekend at Seeds, Sun, and Sustainability: an Earth Day Event.

My presentation will be on sustainability in an urban or suburban environment.  I thought about printing out a handout full of resources, but it naggled me to print paper copies of something for an earth day event.  So instead I thought I'd share my annotated book list with everyone.

Happy Earth Day!

Book on nature and spirituality:

Pagan Visions for a Sustainable Future
Ed. By Ly de Angeles, Emma restall Orr and Thom van Dooren
This one has got a bunch of contributors.  I don't agree with everything they say, but it's good to think about.

Collected Poems 1957-1982
Wendell Berry
This guy was a poet in New York who went back home to his family farm in Applachia.  He is the poet of the farmer.  Check out his poem The Farmer's Manifesto. 

Connecting with the Land: Nature Relationships in Multiple Dimensions
By Adam Davis 
Adam is a pagan and ADF member of long standing who studies ecology as his life's work.  Buy this book.

Mystery Teachings from the Living Earth: an Introduction to Spiritual Ecology
By John Michael Greer
This is a lovely small primer on thinking about the intersection of ecological principles and spiritual development. The meditations are well worth it.

Listening to the Land
By Derrick Jensen
This is a compilation of a series of interviews the author conducted with a number of men and women who are doing great work to preserve and renew our earth. It's incredibly inspirational.

A Sand County Almanac
By Aldo Lopold
This is a classic in the field of ecology and environmental awareness.  Written in a time when ecological degradation was just beginning to be recognized he has a unique awareness.  Nor is he just some crazy hippy, the dude loved the wilderness but wasn't blinded by that love.

Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit
By Daniel Quinn
A thoughtful novel about a talking gorilla.  No really. Go read it anyway.

Ecopsychology: Restoring the Earth, Healing the Mind
Ed. By Theodore Roszak, Mary E. Gomes, and Allen D. Kanner
Another compilation of essays, this time on the intersection of ecology and psychology. The essay by Roszak is worth it by itself.

Homesteading Skills:

Worms Eat My Garbage
By Mary Applehof
Learn how to make stink-free compost in your apartment or small house.  For realz!

Four-Season Harvest
By Eliot Coleman
The ultimate guide to season extension, this one is for the seasoned gardener that wants to take their space to the next level.

The Garden Primer
By Barbara Damrosch
This fine lady happens to be the wife of the guy who wrote the book before this one. She's also an excellent gardener in her own right, and if you've never gardened much before, this is an excellent book to have.

The Long Descent
By John Michael Greer
This is a serious book about a serious topic, talking about peak oil and other modern issues. 

Food Not Lawns
By H. C. Flores
A great garden book for beginners and experienced gardeners it has wonderful ideas about how to think outside the box, build community, and make life better through food. 

Keeping Rabbits and Poultry on Scraps
By Claude Goodchild and Alan Thompson
This was written for Depression Era America. Cool both for the information and the cultural differences. 

Gaia’s Garden: a Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture
By Toby Hemenway
A beginner's guide to permaculture, be careful. You might just get sucked in to a totally new and wonderful way of thinking.

How To Grow More Vegetables
By John Jeavons
A radical activist who wanted to put his money where his mouth is.  His work is excellent for those who want to grow a lot of vegetables in a small space.

Designing and Maintaining Your Edible Landscape Naturally
By Robert Kourik
A dense tome of gardening and permaculture knowledge.  You will feel like a gardening wizard reading this one.

Lasagna Gardening
By Patricia Lanza
A great book for the beginner trying to turn a lawn into a garden. 

The Illustrated Guide to Chickens
By Celia Lewis
Beautiful pictures, a forward by the Prince of Wales (for real! He's a total sustainability nut) and lots of good info.

The Naturally Clean Home
By Karyn Siegel-Maier
Lots of recipes, good ideas, and gentle advice.

The Foxfire Books 1-12
By Eliot Wigginton
These are a series of books of the collected knowledge of rural Appalachia.   Some of it is fascinating, some of it is useful, and some of it is just plain weird.  You can pick them up in kindle these days so you don't have to comb the used bookstores to get the complete set like I did.


Vegetables Every Day
By Jack Bishop
This is a great book when you want to know how to cook that weird veg you found at the farmers market or got in your CSA share. 

The Revolution Will Not be Microwaved
By Sandor Ellix Katz
A manifesto of radical cooking, it will show you the edge of what is possible in sustainable cooking.

Wild Fermentation
By Sandor Ellix Katz
My bible of fermentation, where I learned to make sauerkraut and kimchee. I've tried most of the weird things in this book and his advice is sound.  It doesn't hurt that he's queer and HIV positive and using lacto-fermented foods to help himself stay healthy while he lives in a queer commune. This dude is cool.

By Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn
Worth it just to learn how to make a brine for a chicken or your own breakfast sausage. Seriously, home-made breakfast sausage is an amazing thing.

For Cod and Country: Simple Delicious Sustainable Cooking
By Barton Seaver
This is a book about how to eat fish and not feel like you're destroying the oceans doing it. Organized according to season with simple wonderful recipes, I loveses it.  

Melissa’s Great Book of Produce
By Cathy Thomas
With a name like that, how could I not love this book?  Plus it's organized by type of produce so you can just look up that crazy weird lumpy thing in the store and find out what a bitter melon or a malanga is for. 

Beyond Bacon
By Stacy Toth and Matthew McCurry
The bible of how to eat the glorious animal known as a pig.  I won't go into why the pig is such an awesome sustainable animal, when raised locally in woods eating acorns and allowed to assist in plowing and insect removal simply by rooting in garden fields, and providing high quality fats that are good for your brain and...  wait. I wasn't going to tell you all that. Oh well. 

The Joy of Pickling
By Linda Ziedrich

Another bible of pickling, this time with quick pickles and vinegar pickles included too.

Get reading and trying things out because you know you love your Mother!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Long Eye: Sight Meditation and the Future

People see what they wish to see. And in most cases, what they are told to see.”

--Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus

To see is an essential part of existence for most of humanity.  We constantly look and take in visual information, only when we close our eyes do we shut off this vast river of input.  As an artist I think a lot about what I see.  I know that much of my job  is to simplify visual input and organize it in pleasing or useful ways.  There is the saying that a picture is worth a thousand words, and I imagine there might be some writers out there who would happily argue that point.  But unfortunately, maxims and clichés exist because there is truth to them. 

So let us consider a meditation on sight.

First a bit of background:  as a druid and a farmer as well as an artist, and I think a lot about how humans interact with the non-human.  I read a fascinating book called Sight and Sensibility by Laura Sewall many years ago.  She is a researcher into cognitive psychology who has become a researcher into ecopsychology.  If you don’t recognize that term I wouldn’t be overly surprised, it’s a rather new branch of psychology that argues that human psychology evolved within a matrix of non-human input and species and that we should consider that as part of pathology and optimal development of the human psyche.  In Sewall’s book she talks about going to Africa.  In her journeys on that continent she disovers, to her shock, that she no longer needs her prescription glasses for near-sightedness.  Her long distance vision had improved vastly while she viewed the wide-open spaces of the savanna.  When she returned home to the United States her vision again deteriorated.   This drove her to think about how our environment affects our selves.   When she had the opportunity to look out on the wide vistas she could see, but when she came back to the closed in walls and cities here, she could not.

We laugh at our “first world problems” the cell phone trap at the restaurant table, the struggle to live our lives, but we downplay the significance of these things.  We are animals, just as much as a fox or an otter.  We are animals who have kenneled our selves, tied our collars tight to the side of the walls.  We walk our days seeing human things; surrounded by our own ideas like a strange variant of Being John Malkovich.   We have built ourselves a very pretty prison.  But lets face it: I’m not jumping ship and neither are you if you’re reading this on your phone or computer screen.

Here’s what I’d like you to try:

Go outside or find a window, any window.  If you can find one high up, that might be better. Take a deep breath, and another, and one more.  Look up.  Look to the sky and see if you can find a cloud. If you can’t find a cloud, pretend there’s one there.  Do your best to focus on that cloud and let all distractions fall away.  See the color of the sky and the whiteness of the cloud.  Notice how your eyes react to looking so far away.  Then after a time of looking up, slowly bring your gaze downward to the edge of the earth.  Note if the color of the sky changes or if the texture of the clouds is different there.  Focus on the horizon that you have found for a time and allow yourself to rest in that ever present moment of wondering what might be on the other side. Take a deep breath and exhale completely. Take stock of how your eyes feel, how your body feels, and how your emotions feel.

I find this kind of exercise to be so relaxing.  If you can go outside and lay in the grass to do it, by all means do so!  I’ve just given you solid reasoning for the importance of lying in the grass watching the clouds.  You can thank me later. Not only is staring off into the distance good for your overstressed eyes, it’s also good on a spiritual level.

David Abram, an eco-philosopher, argues that the horizon is the physical representation of the future:

The visible horizon, that is, a kind of gateway or threshold, joining the presence of the surrounding terrain to that which exceeds this open presence, to that which is hidden beyond the horizion.  The horizon carries the promise of something more, something other.”

When I was in high school I used to look off into the sunset through the picture window in my parent's living room.  It seemed somehow more profound than it really ought to have been.  Sometimes I had strange moments of clarity and knowing when I stared off into the horizon. If the horizon is the future rooted then it is also a representation of fate and maybe a way to access it.

Interestingly, in Lithuania the goddess of the dawn, Aušrinė and Laima, the goddess of fate are connected.  According to the scholar A. J. Greimas, Laima is seen as Aušrinė’s godmother who blesses the dawn at her birth.  The rainbow is the symbol of Laima and is likened to the colors of the dawn as well. As Aušrinė begins the day, so does Laima prophecy the fate of babies at the dawn of their lives.

So we have this idea of fate and future, dawn and the horizon that comes together from multiple sources.  It is something to think about, at least.  Maybe if you find that you need to know the future of a thing (and make sure you really need to know) you should find yourself in that liminal space between night and day and seek out the line between land and sky.  In the moment between one breath and the next you might find that you know the answer you seek.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Breaking the Cycle: Demeter

If you’ve been pagan very long or interested in classical Greek literature at all you’ve probably run across the myth of Demeter and Persophone.  You have heard how Demeter’s daughter was joyful in her youth, frolicking with the nymphs when she was abducted by Hades and dragged down into the underworld.   You may have been party to discussions about how awful abduction was, the symbolic rape themes, or the attempt to set such a thing within a cultural context where asking the father for the hand of a woman was more than enough without asking that woman’s permission.  You may have wondered, like I have wondered:  did Persophone eat those seeds on purpose?

I’m not going to talk about any of that.

I’m going to talk about breaking the cycle.  Let’s review.  First we had Gaia, the most primordial earth mother of the Greek pantheon. She gives birth to her husband, Ouranos who was the big boss, and then has a passel of children by him.  He stuffs them into the earth rather than letting them out, and she aids her youngest son Cronos, to kill his own father in order to save his siblings.

Next we had Rhea, the earth mother goddess of the next generation, who also married Cronos, the high king of this generation. She too has an entire pantheon worth of children but this time her husband eats the kids, hiding them within his own body, rather than that of his wife. I wonder if it caused him the kind of pain it caused Gaia.  In the end, due to Rhea’s intelligence and cleverness, the children are again released, and Olympians are finally born.

There’s a pattern laid out here: fear of the children of sky and earth and the attempt to escape the inevitability of the next generation where children are hid away and the youngest son, aided by his mother the earth, must do battle with his own father for the survival of his siblings

But that’s not what happened here at all.  Persephone is the Earth’s daughter in this generation.  She’s not stuffed into some cave or belly, she’s happy.  She’s frolicking with the tree spirits and picking flowers.  Demeter isn’t even married to Zeus, the earth and sky did procreate and create Persephone, but that’s it.  Zeus, as we all know, is married to Hera, Queen of Gods.  The son that was to have overthrow Zeus was in fact not Hera’s child, nor the Earth’s child at all, but Metis’s. She was  a goddess of crafty thought and wisdom.  Zeus follows in his father’s footsteps, but this time he doesn’t eat all his offspring (and a good thing he didn’t too, he had a lot of kids)  but he did eat Metis.  Athena then bursts from his skull to become the goddess of wisdom, war, and crafts, and swears to have no children herself.  She is the inheritor of Zeus and chooses the entirely end the progression of generational battle by simply not having children.

Is this a perfect outcome? Nope, at least by my standards it’s not okay to eat your siblings, it’s not okay to give your daughter to your brother in marriage, and it’s not okay to expect your other daughter to not procreate so that you can stay King-of-All-the-Things forever.  But it’s a damn sight better than what his parents did.

As much as the generational saga of the Greek Gods reminds me of Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, thankfully their tale doesn’t end with their progeny getting eaten by the jungle.  (Sorry for the spoiler!)  In the end, there is hope within it as well as all the various encodings of cultural expectations and symbology.  There are echoes of self-reliance, the complicated relationship of parent to child and husband to wife, and most of all, the power to take action and make change.  Sometimes I think change is all there is.  Every once in a while I want to go found a new sci-fi based religion on Octavia E. Butler’s Earthseed. (She’s amazing. Go read her stuff.)

That’s the thing.  We read to understand.  We learn to create a broader framework for our own ethics, values, and actions.  If the myths and the stories of the ancients don’t help us do that then they are failing.  But they do.  Each person may get a different lesson to learn, but within the macrocosm of the monumental upheavals and drama of the deities we see our own lives writ large.

Recently I came across an article about how the experiencesof our ancestors directly affects our own genetics.  Not only does this mean that the pain and success of the past truly is ours, but the choices that we make directly affect future generations.  Each of is us caught in our own generational drama, even if we don’t chose to procreate.  I hope my retelling of these tales aids you in your own thoughts about the future and the past, dear reader.

May the blessings of the Gods and Spirits be upon us all.

The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From the Tree: Rhea

Last time I told the story of Gaia, the great grandmammy of the Greek Gods.  We go around the wheel again with the next generation.  Gaia’s daughter Rhea is the big momma in this generation paired up with her patricidal brother Cronos.  The poor kid had to do in his dad to save his siblings.  Is it any wonder if he’s kinda fucked up?

The story goes a little differently this time, since Cronos one-ups his father in the Dooming-Your-Children Department.  He wises up and doesn’t stuff his kids back into his wife.  He has a better idea. You have to understand, he’s afraid. Like his father before him, he knows that his children will do better and be stronger than himself. Eventually they will take over the family business and what’s an immortal being supposed to do then? Retire?  Did they even have RV Golf Parks back then?  So naturally, given the circumstances, he eats them.  None of this stuffing your kids into the dark earth for him, thank you very much.

Clearly, the thing he learned from his father was that if you want a job done well you do it yourself.

But surprisingly, Rhea is unhappy with this. She prefers her children not to be eaten. In good mafia tradition she hatches a plan.  When her last child is born she feeds Cronos a stone instead of their youngest son.  That youngest son happens to be a god most people raised in Western culture recognize:  Zeus.

"Wait!", I hear you say, dear reader.  Isn’t this almost exactly like what happened in the last episode?  Are the names just replaced by new actors?  Is this just like the re-boot of the Spiderman franchise? Not quite.

This time, it goes a bit differently.  Rhea gives him the stone wrapped in swaddling and he swallows it down thinking he’s done the deed.  Her son is then raised in secret until he is old enough to save his siblings. There is no bloody sickle death moment.  Either Cronos barfs them up aided by an herbal mixture made by Zeus’s sister Metis, or he gets his stomach cut open like the big bad wolf.  And like that fairy story, all the Gods emerge unharmed and fully adult to become the all the Olympian Gods, along with Aphrodite, who was born of the violence of the last generation.

So the story changes a little bit in this generation.  It’s a little less gory, a little kinder.  Chronos doesn’t take it all out on his wife/sister and in return he even gets to live. Maybe a lesson is learned here?  Maybe the generations have become a little less brutal?

In my journey through the generational sagas of Grecian cosmic rulership I came across an interesting side note.  What we know of Rhea comes mostly from male writers, since most of the writers in ancient Greece and for most of history have been men.   However in this instance, we have fragments of a lyric poem written about Rhea from the perspective of a Grecian woman. I have a deep fondness for the feminine poets of the ancient world.  This particular poet was a woman named Corinna.  She may well have been the teacher of Pindar, who was a big name in Greek poetry.  Most of his poetry survives to this day.  Only two of her poems survive in complete form, and the one about Rhea was not among them.  Of the lyric poem about Rhea we only have papyrus fragments.  The thing that is wonderful about the fragment is how Corinna portrays Rhea.  She is no helpless female to be tossed about by the cruelty of fate, but takes control.  The song ends with the hiding of the baby Zeus and states that Rhea gains honor from this.  “…and great was the honor she got from the Immortals” I like that the song doesn’t end with the defeat of Chronos by Zeus.  It ends when Rhea breaks the chain of abuse.

Rhea was honored by the immortals for the intelligence and cunning that allowed her to avoid the violence of the generation before her.  She manages to save both her children and her husband, who had in fact, saved her life too.  Thinking of it that way, the story begins to become a rather desperate knife edge of love and hate, with fear driving it all. 

It is this fear that interests me. 

Cronos, who is in many ways, Father Time, is afraid of the future he is helping to create.  He is afraid of his son who will overthrow him and does his best to delay the process.  Fear of the future, of death, of the unknown, it’s something we all have to come to terms with.

Together, Cronos and Rhea navigate the difficult territory of how it is that we will pass on the world to future generations.  This seems particularly poignant to me.  In a day and age when we are more connected than we ever have been, when we know more clearly the atrocities and the pain that occur every day, we cannot in any honesty think that we are better than the ancients and their stories of the attempts of the Titans and Gods to succeed and survive.  We have too many reminders to think otherwise: police brutality and racism in our own country,  the perpetuation of violence in Israel  against the people of Palestine, the death and destruction of ISIL, everywhere the cycle of violence perpetuates. 

Cronos was right to be afraid. I am too.  But the lesson that Rhea gives us is that we can strive, in each generation, to be better than the one before.  Each of us is the inheritor of this earth, each of us gives it to the next generation.  I challenge you who read this to ponder your own intelligence and cleverness and to think about how you might apply it in order to change the cycle of violence, both against our fellow humans and against the earth herself.

Rhea’s solution wasn’t perfect, and ours won’t be either.  Maybe here again we have the lesson of permission to fail.  The Gods themselves cannot make things perfect, why would we be able to?  But they use the gifts they have to make the best decisions they can in a world where there can be overwhelming emotions and realities.

There is one more generation yet in this saga of life and death, and so next up: Demeter.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Gangster Earth Mother: Gaia

Most of us these days know the name Gaia from James Lovelock’s theory of the same name.  Later I will be talking about modern interpretations and thoughts about the earth. For now let us focus on Gaia in her ancient form.

There are ancient tales of Gaia Eurusternos, which means the broad-chested earth.  She was rarely worshipped alone and when she was it was usually with Demeter.  There were no great temples or festivals dedicated to her.  Nevertheless, She is the primordial grandmamma of the classical Greek Gods.  She’s like one of those amazing great-grandmothers who had 13 children in a one-room house and raised them all to be doctors and lawyers.  Except her kids ran the cosmos until their kids kicked their asses and shoved them into the darkest underworld known as Tartarus.  It’s a thing.  Sometimes I think the Greek deities have a bit of a gangster feel.

First, out of her own self she bore Ouranos, also known as Uranus, who is the sky.  Next she gives birth to Pontus, the sea, and then to  ourea, the hills.

This is significant.  We know that the Indo-Europeans, from which the Greeks descended, saw the world divided into threes.  One of their favorite threes was Land, Sky, and Sea.  We see this over and over again in the cosmologies of all the various cultures that emerged from that group.  So what we are saying, is that all by herself, Gaia gives birth to everything that is.  She is truly an all-mother, from within a classically IE symbology.  This is significant because some people question whether or not the Earth Mother is an essentially IE goddess.  We see clearly in this example that she is.

So after she creates the world all by herself, then she gets it on with her son, Ouranos and they have a bunch of children:

Oceanus, Coeus, Crius, Hyperion and Iapetus, Theia and Rhea, Themis and Mnemosyne, gold-crowned Phoebe and lovely Tethys. After them was born Cronos.

Then by her son Pontus, Gaia bore the sea-deities Nereus, Thaumas, Phorcys, Ceto, and Eurybia.

I told you she had a lot of kids. 

She also gave birth to the Cyclopes and the Hekatonkheires.  Those are the one eyed giants and the one hundred handed giants that you will no doubt be familiar with from Percy Jackson.  Unlike the stories told in Percy Jackson, she doesn’t seem to be the enemy of anyone, except maybe her son/husband who stuffs their children back into the womb of Gaia by hiding them underground and causing her great pain.  She is the one who tells Chronos how to set them free, by killing his own father.  Myths are violent, aren’t they?  She gives Time himself a sickle and he cuts off Sky Father’s genitals.  From the blood various deities are born, including Aphrodite, making her the oldest Olympian.  So basically Gaia was forced to choose to protect her kids and betray her husband. Who was also her kid, but incest is also a thing with Gods.

Gaia was one tough broad, broad-chested or not.

So where does that leave us then, as modern pagans?  Death and dismemberment is pretty harsh.  The thing is, in many ways the story of the Greek gods is a story of generations.  The first generation is the most violent.  Sometimes I imagine this story as the story of the angry sky and boiling seas of the beginning of our Earth. I imagine her giving birth to the very beginnings of life, the bacteria and the single celled protozoa.   We live in a gentle earth, covered and protected by the atmosphere, fed by countless millennia of stone worn down into soil and sun translated by seed into stem and leaf.  The earth and sky have not always been gentle or kind.  I live in gratitude for this place we have.  Maybe someday there will be humans on other planets and we will have to learn their names and pour offerings to them.  But for now, she’s what we’ve got.

And thusly ends the story of Gaia.

Next up: Gaia’s daughter, Rhea

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Freedom in Failure

For many years now I have done my annual offering ritual.  I do it after Yule, before the snow has left the land.  It has evolved over the years, the timing becoming more specific.  It’s almost always after Imbolc when the sun has begun to feel warm.  I do it during the day, when the sun is high.  It’s become more than just the offering now that I have a permanent sacred area outdoors. It’s now the waking of the shrine and the land, and it was surprising how well it worked.

I don’t talk to the children about rituals and offerings much, it bores them.  So the kids had no idea that I had ritually woken the land when they came to me the next day with tales of hearing the fairies all weekend.  They told me that they could hear them in the woods and could see the evidence of them, but hadn't seen them.  I was taken on a walk along with various children who were and were not mine on a sunny Sunday morning to tour the various fairy sites around the yard.  Those fairies have been busy.  I was told a war was brewing.  Most parents would just toss that news aside, with a mildly reassuring pat on the head, but I take that sort of thing as a bit of news.  It is a data point with which to understand my world more fully. 

The ritual itself was fairly simple.  I walked out with my crane bag and my staff, my cauldron, ogham and some simple offerings of milk, whiskey, and salmon.  I also had incense that I had made and my knife.

I walked to every shrine and altar and lit incense.  I follow a spiraling pattern that eventually leads back to where I started.  It is my own personal labyrinth of spirit.  I don’t always choose where and what altars are made.  People have come to the land and built shrines, some have come from many miles away.  I tend these shrines, improve upon them, and think about how to build new ones.   I give them offerings and talk to the children about them.  Our land is an anchor point for a local ley line and has a history for decades as being a place where people might be found dancing naked, at least according to the neighbors.  I wonder if they are happy or sad that the current occupants are just as odd as the previous ones.

So I lit the incense and felt myself slipping into trance.  I sat in front of the Land Spirits altar when I was done, and kindled a fire upon it.   I gave offerings and burned more incense and the piece of salmon for my bear spirit friend.   I slipped deeper into trance watching the wind whip the flame.  I took out my knife and cut the side of my hand. I let a few drops of blood drip on the white snow, made brighter by the returning sun.  Only once a year do I do this, and I’ve been doing it for a long time now. It’s primal magic, not druid, not witch, no labels.  Just the gods and I.

I saw the light and the dark and the line that divides them.  I thought about the black and the white and how they are not different and yet they were.  The shadows cast by the sun turned the thawing earth a rich dark brown, almost black. I sat and meditated as I do each year when I do this annual offering.  I held my staff and rocked and sang.   I asked for a vision for myself.  This year the vision was surprisingly simple.  No complicated instructions, no strange task to fit into my schedule. Simple words.

“You do the work. Keep doing the work. Know that you will fail and do the work anyway.”

Hard words. 

Those are not the words I would have chosen to hear.  Honestly, that’s one of the signals that I use to know when I have stepped outside of my own wisdom.  When the spirits say things I would not say I listen closer.  This is the moment when some might lead into a conversation about how dangerous it is to listen to the voices in your mind. We all know that conversation.  It is the source many fine tales told in novels and around a cup of coffee.  But it is not this conversation, because these words held wisdom.

“Know that you will fail.”

What do you do with that?  In my case, I gathered up my ritual gear, and wandered back inside, with my hound dog leading the way.  I ate the breakfast I cooked beforehand and felt a little dismal, to tell the truth.

It wasn’t until later that the wisdom unfolded like a flower in the sun.  I was talking with my husband and I shared my experience.  I told him my hard truth. He looked surprised and said, “That’s not a bad thing!” he said every time you go into a competition you have to be ready to fail.  Every time you sit down at a poker table you have to accept that you could lose it all.  Failure is part of the game.

His words spun me.  My perspective changed drastically in that moment, like that moment when a wad of folded paper becomes an origami crane.  I let that thought sink into my consciousness as I fell asleep, and I woke up with a feeling of freedom.  No longer did it matter if I succeeded at what I was doing.  That wasn’t the point.  The point was to do it.  It’s a lot easier to do a thing when you’re not afraid at the same time. 

Could that voice have said to let go of fear?  Sure.  But it wouldn’t have had the same kind of reorganizing effect on me.  I was given the gift of freedom when I was given assurance of failure.  It’s weird, I know. But when your goals are of the save the planet, live in harmony, build a new religion sort, failure is a real option.  It feels okay to say that.  We live in times of global warming, extinction, and peak oil.  That shit is real.  Accepting failure as an option is only sensible.  But it doesn’t stop me from planting my seeds, teaching my children, and writing these essays. 

The gods gave me a gift of perspective.  In return, I do the thing they ask. I do the work. 

Friday, March 20, 2015

Ostara Freebies!

For Ostara I decided to do a coloring page of Frigg, the wife of Odin and the All-Mother.  It's based on a piece I did for a friend in an art swap earlier in the year.  To get a print resolution image, click here.

I also wrote a simple chant for my grove's Ostara rite this weekend. I know it's hard to find good simple spring chants. I know this because I tried to find one. We are going to be honoring Ostara herself, and yes, I think she's a real goddess.  Jason makes a good argument that agrees with my thinking.  The nonsense refrain is inspired by English and Lithuanian folk music, both of which use nonsense words regularly to finish a line.  I sing the first verse two different ways and I found that both versions could be sung together and would sound good.  Also, the nonsense line can simply be repeated for all four lines.  Everyone should sing the second two line part together, it's not really meant to be sung with the first.  Here's a link to the audio.

Shining spring eastern light
Hey la hey la
Ostara goddess oh so bright
Hey la hey la
Greening haze all around
Hey la hey la
Flowers pushing up the ground
Hey la hey la

Thanks and praise for these days of warmth and sun
The season of the joyful child has begun

May the blessings of the land be upon all of us this equinox. I know I look forward to planting my peas and lettuces any day now, and have started seeds in my basement for when it gets warmer.  I hope you enjoy my freebies, dear reader, I give them as gifts from my heart in thanks for what my community and my pagan practice has given me over the years.


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