Sunday, May 27, 2018

In Sickness and in Health

Having pets can give you practice for having relationships with people. We have three pets. We did the thing that veterinarians tell you not to do: they are all about the same age. Two are rescues. Two are pets that became part of my life through marriage.

The Menagerie

Invader Zim, the beagle, is a running-away dog. Good thing he's cute! He needed a lot of remedial training to just have the dog basics. I'm reminded of the judgmental thoughts I had about an acquaintance who had a beagle. I quickly grew tired of her calling her dog, over and over. "Derby, come! Derrrrrbyyyyyyy COME! DERBY Come!" became a bit of a joke... But it turns out that this is pretty common with beagles. They can't hear you when the nose is engaged. And the nose is OFTEN engaged! Other than filling in the holes under the fence, chasing him down the block, and bailing him out of doggie jail, he's been a soft-eared delight to live with.
Annie Cat joined our household about 5 years ago and she does an excellent job job: being soft. She helped me heal during chemotherapy by snuggling on my lap during the day and by my side at night. She will lay in wait on the foot-board of the bed, then reach out and put her paws around your neck as you pass so that you'll pick her up for a cuddle. (In the photo to the left, you see that Annie likes soft things. She found the comforter that was on its way from the dryer to the bed and decided it made a good cat bed.)

Isabella Dona Pugellini, the pug, is super smart, and is very much an elder dog. My spouse enjoyed teaching her lots of tricks and showing off her obedience and agility skills. Now she's stone deaf and nearly blind. We are very grateful that knows hand signs so we can still communicate with her a bit. She is bossy, inquisitive, and spreads garbage around the house if it isn't locked down. Our household shared custody of her until the last couple years so I never really developed a relationship with her, but she's a member of the family, so she gets my loving care just like the others.

Clean Floors

They are aging. Slowly we've been adjusting our living around their needs. Getting garbage pails with lids and putting bricks at the bottom edge of the fencing worked when they were younger. Now our geriatric pets need more accommodations. Baby gates prevent accidents in areas of the house that are hard to clean up. The mop is kept handy. We have invested in doggie diapers and specialty enzyme cleansers. Ironically, the floors are cleaner now than ever because they get mopped sometimes twice a day. They are let out into the back yard frequently, and the pug needs to be rescued when she gets lost around a corner. The already inattentive beagle has started to go deaf so he has to be watched carefully or hooked to a line. Medication refills keep them moving and a special ramp helps the pug get in the house.

Aurgh

Sometimes I am frustrated. Sometimes I hear the voice inside that is at its wits end saying: "when they die we won't have to be embarrassed to have people over, we won't be cleaning so often, we won't be spending so much on meds..." When that happens I know I'm moving too quickly. The beings we commit to (whether they are furry family or human family) deserve our care through both health and sickness. They did their job, and paid into their "social security." It will be our responsibility to help our pets move out of life when it is time, and we'll be faced with the impossible responsibility to determine when that time is. Until then, it is our responsibility to give them a safe life, free from want.

Everything I learned

Just like pets, people come with hardships and messiness and complications. We don't get to shop for the perfect family members, but we can learn how to deal with that messiness by looking at how we deal with our pets.

Our pets, our children, and all our loved ones depend on us. The relationship between dogs and humans evolved many thousands of years ago and now we rely on them as they rely on us. This is also true not only with families but in society. The fact that we have the ability to care for them, and that they cannot survive without us, morally obligates us to pay attention to how we care for them. All of them! We, as a community, are responsible for the strays and the lost, those who have been displaced or abused, and those who are neglected or broken.

Facebook and Youtube videos of kindness to animals - wild animals and pets, injured animals, homeless animals, and disabled animals - abound. They get shared and "liked" and they seem to make people feel good. It is good to be reminded that we humans can act on compassion.

We can learn from them.

We can learn that displaced human children deserve just as much compassion as a baby squirrel.

We can learn that disabled people deserve just as much compassion and accessibility as a cat.

We can learn that we can feel good about saving the life of a person living on the street just like we can feel good about saving the life of a dog that has gotten into danger.

Having pets can give you practice for having relationships with people. It feels really good to make a difference in another life. May we each find the lives that we will bless. We have much to give, and there is much need out there.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Spiritual Growth through "Moon Forest Bone"


Moon*Forest*Bone Wisdom- for healers, givers, and change-makers. who are adrift and yearning to conspire with divine love to learn and live your gifts.

https://www.nasa.gov/image-feature/
goddard/lro-earthrise-2015

Moon

Our Spiritual Development emerges from our relationship with the celestial, because the tides affect us all, the majesty of the Sun and Moon and Stars inspire us and the mystery of the universe gives us humility and wisdom. Deities move between, among, around and through us.

by @OregonGirlRebecca

Forest

Our Spiritual Development emerges from our relationship with the place we occupy because we are each a tree, drawing nourishment from the earth and giving the fruit of our living, our gifts. Because the forest we are in forms us and supports us and is our tribe. The wisdom of the land we are rooted in fills us and the wisdom of the people around us creates us. Indeed, your relationship with the place where you are planted is sacred.

Bone

Our Spiritual Development emerges from our relationship with our identity because we have wisdom in our bones and bodies, wisdom that comes from our biological heritage, our family, our ancestors of body, culture and and spirit. We grow from the wisdom passed down to use from teachers of many traditions.

Saturday, May 05, 2018

Lusty May

Lusty May

On the calendar the lusty month of May begins with May Day, In Slavic countries it begins with Green Week. Astronomically the midpoint between Spring Equinox and Summer Solstice is around May 5. And all around the world May begins with International Worker's day.

A day and a week of celebrating Spring, emerging growth, fertility, love and joy. And a day, throughout the world, of acknowledging the labor of the workers: International Worker's Day. A time to recommit to our community and our solidarity…to promote the legal establishment of safe and fair working conditions, and to act for a world of love and justice.

The worker day and the flower day, occur on the same date and even though they are different, we can celebrate them together: a celebration of the renewal of spring and a celebration of the work we all do, and the people who labor. We celebrate renewal of the self and soul so that we can enter into the work with new energy. We glorify our work, “whistle while we work,” let our lives be songs, and do the work that must be done.

Appreciating the work that the land does to create food and shelter and beauty to sustain all that lives need not be separate from appreciating the work that the people do to create food and shelter and beauty to care for the earth and the people on it.

My May Heritage

"Love has no Labels" credit Brian Emerson
In my pre-Christian Celtic, Norse, Gaulish, and Slovak cultures May Day was all about the joy of young love and human sensuality and sexuality. It is written that in Great Britain, France, and parts of the American colonies on the first day of May young men and women would go out into the fields to celebrate spring with acts of love and pleasure. In so doing, they would bless the crops, and be blessed with fertility by the land.

This tradition has continued in some areas as a sort of day-of-rule-breaking. That fits the tradition well. The immigrant Americans of the early 1600’s who celebrated with may dances and costumes were the hippies of their day. They wanted peace with their Native American neighbors, not war. And they weren’t interested in the uptight rules followed by their puritan neighbors. The most famous group settled in merrymount, which is quincy MA now. The stories of that settlement make great reading!

Morena and Vesna


Morena doll
In Slovakia girls of the village carry a straw effigy of the goddess of death and winter: Morena, to a local stream. To banish winter they set it on fire and throw it in a defrosting stream. This symbolises the end of winter and the arrival of spring, the end of the domain of the death Goddess and the beginning of the love goddess: Vesna.

Lots of cultures burn straw figures to banish something. I've personally attended many rituals that included burning slips of paper. We first would write something we wanted to get rid of on the piece of paper, and then we'd each throw our paper into the fire.

May was traditionally called the month of love in Slovakia. In this period, a maypole tree was the most important of all plants. The maypole was usually a spruce without bark, whose top the boys had decorated with coloured ribbons. On Mayday, people still erect maypoles, usually on the square or in the middle of the village. In the past young boys erected maypoles for young girls whom they wished to court, or all young boys erected a maypole in honour of all young girls in the village. Throughout Europe, the May Pole has been one common way to celebrate May Day for centuries.

In Scottish Gaelic, Latha Bealtainn (pronounced "laah Bahl-tinnuh”) or “Beltane” is celebrated at the beginning of the month of May. Bel-Tinne was a time for blessing livestock. Great bonfires were lit and the cattle were driven between them from the winter pasture to the freedom of the summer pastures.

Fire and Dancing


Slovak Green Week, Fire Leaping
Jumping over the fire is a custom that existed in all parts of Europe and its purpose was to ensure fertility as well as to protect people and cattle from evil forces. The fires, the maypole, Jack-in-the-Green parades, May Baskets and crowning of the May Queen are Beltane/May customs that survive today in the United Kingdom and have been embraced by many Neo-Pagans around the world; celebrating Spring, purifying and ensuring fertility.

These celebrations are snatching life out of the jaws of death. When we lose someone we want to hold those who we love even closer. When we come to the other side of pain or privation we want to dance and sing. Even when we are still just barely defrosting from hardship, fear or sadness, we want to light a fire, to remind us of what warm and joyful feels like! And always, we need community.

Slovak, Walking with the Copse/Queen
I went through this daily when I was a chaplain at a hospital. After a day of visiting with the sick and dying, fearful and despairing, I’d stop by the new babies window and smile at the sweetness of new life. Those babies cast a magic spell that conjured renewal so I could return and give again.

Slovakia has their own version of May Day baskets. It’s called Walking with the Queen. pine branches, twigs or even entire small trees– adorned with ribbons, handmade ornaments, egg shells or flowers – are carried from house to house. The copse is usually carried by girls, who walk from house to house, dance, sing and extend best wishes to the hosts. In this ritual they are casting a spell, or conjuring up blessings and relationships in the community.

These rituals announce the coming of spring, a time of joy and song, a time when the Earth bears new fruit. And they connect the community.

Lust as Thirst


The lust of May is a lust for life, a thirst for life, a love for life. This thirst to live fully and joyfully, and this love of living things, is what gets me up in the morning willing to do the work I must do.

The love we have for our own children, our friends, our pets, and the land where we live motivates us to care for them. We as humans, universally, feel responsibility for the whole web of life.

The workers in U.S. factories of the turn of the century reached across their different languages and cultures to fight together because they didn’t want their children, or their neighbors’ children to have to labor in dangerous factories.

International Workers Day, or Labor Day was initially called for at the international Socialist Congress in Amsterdam in 1904. They called for demonstrations to push for the legal establishment of the 8 hour day, for the class demands of the proletariat, and for universal peace. and they instructed all workers to stop work on the first of May. - to take a holiday.

Let’s celebrate May Day


From MayWorks
One of the chants used by strikers and demonstrators of that time was “Give us bread AND Roses”. They wanted both bread (wages) and roses (time for the activities that nourished the mind and soul.) They knew that time for community, for story, for joy was just as important as the time for work.

Let us remember that, particularly now. Let us hold back the tide that is sweeping away the protections that so many worked so hard to get. We need one another to make it. We need renewal, community, joy, and roses.

Let's celebrate May Day by bringing one another bread AND roses.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

May Day is the Great Day

Spring Goddesses


Freya, Artwork by Kris Waldherr
Love of life, a lust for life, is beautifully symbolized by Spring/Fertility Deities all over the world. Unsurprisingly, most of them are women.
What did the Spring Deities do for the folks who celebrated and worked with and studied with them?
There are LOTS of answers to this question but I've got three favorites:

  • Story: moral tales and lessons. Telling a story about a fertility God or Goddess changes emotion and belief so much more effectively than saying "Be proud of how you look" or "You don't need to be ashamed of your sexuality"
  • Practicing Presence: Acknowledging the changing of the seasons, tuning in to the world around you. being present to what is true now and what could be. a sense of companionship when all human companions are absent. 
  • Community connections: coming together for feast days and rituals that strengthen the bonds of community.

Finding your Spring Deity

Vesna: Art courtesy of JankaLart on etsy
So, who is your lust-for-life deity? What stories can give you insight and what practices can give you self awareness, agency, and build community

Bone Forest Moon 

I use the structure of "Moon/Forest/Bone" to define my relationship with the sacred.

  • Bone: What images of the divine, what stories and mysteries and lessons, what beliefs and practices have been (or SHOULD have been) passed down to me through my tribe, ancestors, and family?
  • Forest: What does the place where I am ask of me? Knowing that holyness and divinity often comes from direct experience of a place, what has relating to the divine looked like in this place in the past?
  • Moon: What universal human truths and experiences are available to me to work with? What is the cosmic view in which the earth is a blue marble floating in space and the scientific view that seeks to find ways to describe and relate to reality that hold up across many experimenters, many experience-ers.
Flora (Spring), from the villa of Varano in Stabiae
I can tell you about my Spring Deities. I invite you to find who or what might be yours.

Bone

This includes the deities my father's Slovak mother would have known if she hadn't been brought to the U.S. so young. Vesna for the first breaking of Spring and Lada for the fertility, love and warmth of Summer. There are also the deities of my mother's French/Gaulish and Scottish ancestors and my father's English ancestors. Artio from Gaul, Celtic Olwen, and depending on which historical period of the British Isles you want to focus on, Freya from the Anglo-Saxons or Flora from the Romans. your heritage might lead you to Oshun: The Yoruba Orisha of rivers and beauty and sensuality, Or Ishtar from the ancient near east and Sumeria, Kono-Hana-Sakuya-Hime from the far east. or Atabey, the Taino Goddess from the Caribbean.
heritage isnt the only place to seek for symbol and sacred meaning, you can also open your awareness to the here and now.



Forest

Gaulish Muri Statuette: Artio

I live in the green Willamette valley at the confluence of two great rivers. Spring begins with flowers in March and by May we have planted our gardens and are cleaning up from the muddy month of April. My deities of place are Mount Hood, known as Wy’east, the Willamette river, and the hazelnut trees. Take a moment to reflect on the sacred places and things right here.

Then you can also seek among the Universal.These images of the most holy will resonate across place and time and culture.

Moon

Kano-Hana-Sakuya-Hime
The cycle of the earth around the sun, the tilt of the earth, the changes of the temperature and day length... All these things are experienced by human beings in all parts of the planet. The experience of falling in love, of birth, of losing and regaining health are all experiences shared by human beings everywhere. My deities of the cosmos are Love, Birth, and Joy. They are the Sun and Heat and Fire. You might share some of mine or have a few others that especially resonate for you.

----------------
Reverend Amy invites you to find your own spiritual direction through a relationship with the sacred in the domain of Bone, Forest or Moon.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Earth Day 2018

Concept: Ian Ridell, Art: Kimberly Debus

Seventh Principle of Unitarian Universalism



Art by Mare Cromwell
RESPECT FOR THE INTERDEPENDENT WEB OF ALL EXISTENCE OF WHICH WE ARE A PART

What did you do today that connected you to the earth?
What did you do today that you can point to and say: “That was the seventh principle at work in me”?

Gaia


When I think of my relationship with the earth I think of Gaia. Gaia is the Greek word for the goddess who is the earth, but what I’m talking about is Gaia as the idea, put forth in the 70’s, that the entire ecosystem of earth is one being. A being that is made up of rock and plant and animal. A being that breathes and lives. And we humans are a part of that being.

Process theology tells us that everything is made up of many other things. And that all of these things aren’t even things, they are processes. The planet is a collection of many processes, just as each person is a collection of many processes. And there is really not much distinction between the process that is one of my cells and the process that is the earth or even the solar system. We are all containers of many other things. The chalice of the earth contains us, just as we contain myriad forms of life. The earth is a green growing container, a chalice, if you will. And so are each one of us.

Have you seen the video going around the internet that is narrated by Julia Roberts? The visual is fly-bys of these spectacular places on our planet: orange and brown desert canyon; frothy white jungle waterfall framed in deep green; stark pale blue arctic ice floe in endless sea… In it Julia is the voice of Gaia, and Gaia is reminding us that she has existed before us, and will exist after us. She doesn’t much care if humans make ourselves extinct. She doesn’t need us. She is so much bigger, so much more, than an earth lifeboat for humans. We need her.

This can come as a bit of a shock. Or it can help us to feel our dependence, and our connection, with the natural world. Indeed, our oneness with the natural world and all that makes up the earth.

Viriditas


The other concept I think of when thinking of our relationship to our earth lifeboat is the idea of viriditas. That idea that the divine is the greening life-five was articulated by Hildegard von Bingen. “Hildegard of Bingen”, also known as "Saint Hildegard" and "the Sibyl of the Rhine" lived from 1098, to 1179, in Germany. She was a Benedictine abbess, writer, composer, philosopher, mystic, and visionary who wrote theological, botanical, and medicinal texts, as well as letters, liturgical songs, and poems. She is considered to be the founder of scientific natural history in Germany.

A cornerstone of Hildegard's spirituality was Viriditas, or greening power, her revelation of the animating life force manifest in the natural world that infuses all creation with moisture and vitality. To her, the divine was manifest in every leaf and blade of grass. Just as a ray of sunlight is the sun, Hildegard believed that a flower or a stone was God, though not the whole of God. Hildegard celebrated the sacred in nature, something highly relevant for us in this age of climate change and the destruction of natural habitats. - The definition of viriditas or "greenness" is an earthly expression of the heavenly in an integrity that unites dualisms.

Mandalas


One of Hildegard’s spiritual practices was to draw her visions. We, in this modern world, call them mandalas. Just like the mandalas created in India and Tibet, her mandalas were visual patterns that represent the cosmos metaphysically, spiritually, or symbolically.

When you truly believe in and value your relationship with the earth, or God (and for Hildegard those were the same) you act on your spiritual connection. The Church of her era was rife with corruption and sexual misconduct. While many men held back from protesting, fearing the repercussions, Hildegard decided that she would take on the mantle of reformer. Although St. Paul had forbidden women to preach, Hildegard embarked on four preaching tours in which she delivered apocalyptic sermons to her male superiors, warning them that if they did not mend their ways, they would fall from grace and be toppled from their seats of power.

Nor did Hildegard enjoy a quiet retirement. She took in and nursed a man who had run away from fighting in the crusades, and when he died she buried him in the churchyard. It is hard for us UUs to imagine, but giving this Christian burial to someone who rejected the command to fight in the crusades didn’t sit well with the powers-that-be and she and her nuns were collectively excommunicated. The excommunication was only lifted a few months before Hildegard's death in 1179.

Acting on Your Spiritual Direction


Hildegard didn’t just pray with words. She lived her belief that every person was sacred, that her love of Viriditas must be expressed, that the church, her communities, and yes, the whole world was worth her time and energy, risk, and commitment. What does your relationship with the earth, or the divine ask of you? We need to listen to our heart songs, our earth songs, the voice of viriditas, the sacred, and we each need to find our own spiritual direction, a direction that lives our love for our world.

Hildegard speaks for God, saying: "I, the fiery life of divine essence, am aflame beyond the beauty of the meadows, I gleam in the waters, and I burn in the sun, moon and stars ... I awaken everything to life." -- Hildegard von Bingen, Liber Divinorum (Book of Divine Works)

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Planning Programming for your Community?

Planning programming for the coming year? Here's three reasons you want me to visit your civic group, religious community, meditation or study group, grove, or coven.

Message

We can each find our soul's way to create love and justice. We are faced with a shrill political atmosphere, painful despair about our environment, and suffering, loss of rights and dislocation of values. We need the reminder that each of us is a gift, what we do matters, and there is merciful nourishment available to us.

Earth-relating Spirituality

Help your community with exploring gifts of Moon, Forest, and Bone: cosmic and scientific truths, insights from interaction with your place on this earth, and knowledge from heritage and personal experience. Strengthen the Earth-relating gifts already present among the community. I bring the joy of myth and the arts of song, storytelling, imagery, and ritual.

Praise

My presentations, worship services, learning experiences, and consultations are consistently appreciated. Leaders of religious communities value the opportunity to turn a time slot over to someone they trust, or to request a one-off or "pop-up" interim ministry. Women's groups experience connection and transformation. (See testimonials on my web site! amybeltaine.info)

How does it work?

West of the Rockies, I bring my own housing. I am available on site for several days for retreats, workshops, preaching, presentations, and individual or small group appointments.

I have an extensive catalog arranged by theme or by liturgical year. I invite your Programming, Worship, and Adult Ed teams to browse for what resonates! amybeltaine.info

Honorarium: Worship service or 20 minute-1 hour Presentation: $250 (+$50 for a repeat the same day) Learning experience: One hour ($150), Half-day ($350), full day ($550) Alternatively: $20 per person per hour. $25 at the door.  Housing: West of Rockies - Hospitality of your parking lot or a congregant's driveway for our little house. East of Rockies - home hospitality welcome. Travel: IRS rate from my last location. (negotiable) CUUPS consultations are free (travel/housing waived if already on site)

Who?


Rev. Amy Beltine, Spiritual Mentor: Inviting those who feel adrift to learn and live your gift. As a Spiritual Director, Amy witnesses the way for givers and justice seekers who dread getting out of bed to find their soil to root and thrive in, and their fruit to offer. Meetings are over Skype and in person using Physio-divina (Tarot, body prayer, etc.) She visits communities West of the Rockies offering presentations, retreats, and Sunday Services such as "Green Chalice", "Inanna Journey" and "Sacred Fool." Amy served as the president of continental CUUPS (Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans) and is on the steering committee of UU Spiritual Directors' Network. Learn more at http://lAmyBeltaine.info.

Did you know?

I also offer Spiritual Accompaniment: helping people learn and live their soul's way.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Way-Finding and Physiodivina - The Fool

Wildwood Tarot

Happy Fools Day and Happy Easter!

This year Easter falls on the same day as April 1, also known as Fool's Day. I've been watching the conversation among the minister's I'm friended with on Facebook as they explore ways to address this odd combination. I'm not sure I see a big challenge. The way that Jesus taught involved commentary in the Stoic tradition which were designed to puzzle the listener and challenge them to think differently about something. 

This opportunity to look at life through fresh eyes is a function of the fool. The return of Jesus from the dead is both deeply meaningful in the vein of renewal, faith, new growth, and hope and a bit of a "fooled you!" joke on his followers. Again, not incompatible with the lessons imparted by the sacred fool. 

I posted last year about many kinds of sacred fools in cultures throughout history and how they can provide wisdom and help to us now. Right now I'd like to delve specifically into the concept of the fool as represented in phsyiodivina: objects such as runes, Tarot cards, and the natural world that invite us into wisdom from the divine. 


The First Fool



The oldest recognizable Tarot cards are the Visconti-Sforza deck. The "miser" or "poor man" card is the first card in the "trump" cards. Trump cards evolved from pageants and parades in medieval times. These parades included people dressed as popular concepts of the time and often represented a series of life conditions or the challenges of a hero's journey. 

The cards that evolved from that community pageantry begin with the fool card. The fool card carries many meanings and is depicted many ways in the decks that emerged after that first one. The sense of the person who has nothing but the (minimal) clothes on their back is often a part of the meaning of the card. 

The hero's journey begins, ultimately, when we are born, and at birth we own nothing and have little idea what will unfold in our lives. Pure potential, innocence, and surprise... Over the years the idea of the fool or the beginning of the journey has been depicted various way by various artists.


The Court Jester


Renaissance images of the fool card in the Tarot, from France, depict the court jester. This fool was responsible for speaking truth to power and keeping the ruler he served honest. Sometimes I wish that there was an official court jester at work in American politics. Perhaps comedians such as Stephen Colbert and Samantha Bee are the modern Jester. 

During this period the Tarot was used as playing cards (the modern playing card deck began to be used.) and the traveling Roma began to offer divination services that included use of the Tarot.


The Golden Youth


In the 40s and 50s individuals and organizations in England doing research into occult and symbol systems developed Tarot decks. The most well known decks are the Rider-Waite and the Thoth decks. The Rider-Waite deck was adopted by many as a definitive interpretation and in a way it stalled creativity with the images used in Tarot.

Perhaps this codification by members of the Order of the Golden Dawn is where the ideas of Tarot being related with devil worship got started. Some of these people were engaging in what they called witchcraft or kabbalah or other practices that were frowned on by the church. 


"Book of Thoth" by
Aleister Crowley and
Lady Frieda Harris


For me that doesn't invalidate the interesting things they did with symbolism. The poor jester became a young person with no possessions about to step off a cliff. 

The fool as a leap of faith is a great metaphor for every person who is about the embark on a new venture. We have hope and trust, and we move out into a new landscape. Often we select certain items to take with us that we think will help for the projects ahead, sometimes we feel woefully unprepared. 

I'm reminded of the photo of my niece on her first day of grade school. She has a brave smile, a small backpack and is about to embark on a new adventure. 


Rune of Self

The rune "Mannaz" from proto-Germanic old anglo-saxon means "man" or "humankind." The rune represents the self and self awareness. When working with this rune you are advised to know yourself and be aware of your place in the world. You are also advised to look to your relationship with the divine: the divine within and the divine as encountered in the world. 

Mannaz resonates with the fool concept: we come into this world naked and without tools or knowledge. We just have our selves, alone. We carry this self as the most important tool for the journey. I am reminded of the wisdom that 'you are sacred, you are a blessing to this world when you are born. You only need to exist to be of worth.' You do not need to do anything more than "be." 


Revival and Renewal



The late 60's and 70's saw an explosion of people working in interesting ways with archetypal images and mythological symbols. Tarot was re-imagined and artistically played with to reflect feminist, new age, Jungian, and other new ways of understanding the world and our selves. 

Interpretation of the symbols on cards broke away from the old Rider-Waite depictions and meanings. Psychedelic cards and esoteric cards competed with animal cards and angel cards.

The idea of using the Tarot for personal psychological and spiritual exploration became more common. Though many who describe themselves as psychics did Tarot readings as a part of their psychic readings, there was a new understanding of how we, as human beings, respond to imagery with insight and even transformation. You don't have to be psychic to find meanings in the images and stories contained in the cards, just like you don't have to be psychic to find meanings from a Rorschach inkblot test. 

This time of renewal in society, of openness and transformation was a sort of "fools" time. Experimentation, hope, trust, and adventure were the rule of the day. 


A Feminist Fool



Thea's Tarot (Papercuts)
The New Amazon Tarot
As people became more focused on personal development in the 80s Tarot became one of many tools used by gurus, self help advisers, therapists, and supportive friends. At the same time, more creative decks continued to be developed. 

During the 80's I was coming out as a Lesbian, discovering the long history of women's community and encountering the divine feminine. Tarot cards helped me to more deeply explore the wisdom available from spiritual teachers and traditions that had been suppressed by centuries of patriarchal hegemony. 


Not only did these decks re-imagine ways of presenting evocative images, but they even changed the shape of the cards. Round cards allow the interpreter to imagine more nuance in a reading. My favorite interpretation of the "Fool" card is "Trusting OnesElf" which is a wonderful play on words. Trust, trusting your self, and trusting the playfulness within are all great interpretations. 

The Mother Peace deck's fool card emphasizes this playfulness and trust. 

The fool card invites us to trust the divine and surrender to the flow of our lives. 


The Fool's Year


There are many times when my life went through a "fool" period. One year my grandmother died, my spouse asked or a divorce, my eyesight almost failed, I lost my job, I graduated from grad school, my mom was diagnosed with cancer, and I moved across the country. 

The fool cards from all my Tarot decks provided me with help to make sense of the many things I had no control over. I felt like I had stepped off a cliff (maybe, pushed?) and was just amazed that I was still there after months of feeling like I was in free-fall. 

The only way I got through it was by surrendering to the events around me and continuing to bring my full self to the joyful and the painful changes in my life.


Nature



Rumi Card
Goddess Card
As I move through the world there are many things that also teach me the lessons of the fool. My soft-eared beagle, cajoling me for a treat by being silly and cute is a manifestation of the trickster God. The tiny bird in the bush outside the window, braving the coastal storm is a representation of  surrender to what is. The polar bears remind me that each thing is sacred, just because it is what it is. The young people leading #BlackLivesMatter and #NeverAgain movements show me what stepping off of a cliff to follow a dream looks like. They inspire me to do the same. 

As I find my way by living it, I look to myths, symbols, images, and stories to help me stay nourished, in flow, and connected to the sacred. Physiodivina helps me. How are you in a time of the fool? And what can the fool offer to you right now?

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Reverend Amy helps those who feel adrift, or dread getting out of bed, to learn and live their gifts. Learn how Amy can help you find your way at amybeltaine.info.


Sunday, March 18, 2018

Ostara: The Vernal Equinox

Folklore connects egg balancing to the 
lunar new year in China, the Dragon Boat Festival
 in Taiwan 
and vernal equinox in the US. 

Egg balancing can be done throughout the year
What do Carl Sagan, Merlin, and the March Hare have in common? What can the egg balancing trick teach us about living in this world?

"Ahhhh, Spring: a heart lifting in hope and a shoe squishy with mud."

On St. Patrick’s day I think about the wisdom contributions of Celtic people. One of the most famous Celtic sages was the Welsh wizard, Merlin.


Merlin

During WW I, T.H. White, an English author and Naturalist living in Ireland decided that war is one of the worst evils human beings visit upon one another. He wrote “The Once and Future King”, the story of King Arthur. In the book the bumbling wizard named Merlyn advises the young Arthur and teaches him about using strength and wisdom in service to peace.

Merlyn turns Arthur into an ant, and then into a goose. As an ant he experiences life in the totalitarian state, obeying orders. As a goose he feels the wind in his face and the mud under his webbed feet. He feels the camraderie of the whole flock flying together. Merlyn is teaching him ethics, and politics. He learns that structure is important but so is freedom. Both/and.

The Vernal Equinox

We are creatures of the land we live on. All during the short days of winter our rational minds know that the sun will return. But there is something deeper that despairs, yearns, and suffers in the dark. At its worst it is diagnosed as Seasonal Affective Disorder. It’s cure: the return of the sun. Our climate, the land we live on, tempers the way we think of what is holy. It determines, even in cities, many of our habits and rituals. The natural cycles are in us.

March 21 is the Vernal Equinox. The mid-point between Winter and Summer, and the official first day of spring. This is the time of the emergence of green. We are tipping over, from the fallow death of winter into the exuberant spring. This is a time when we see the holy in nature. As Hildegard of Bingen said: “God is Rich and Green and Juicy!”

Photo by Hawthorne Post

In New York, each year when the cold snow had ended and the first gentle spring rain began to fall, I would set down my computer and run out into the street. I’d breath in the fresh scent. FEEL the warm rain. And LAUGH! This spring I’m watching my beagle roll in the grass, four paws waving in the air, with a grin on his face. And I find myself transfixed by the sun on the camellia buds and the tiny green leaves just emerging from the plum tree branches that just a day ago looked dead.


Ostara

The March Hare. 
Illustration by John Tenniel
Throughout history we gratefully celebrate Earth's annual resurrection. Spring equinox is a time for joy, fertility and sowing seeds. In medieval societies in Europe, the March Hare was a fertility symbol -- this is a rabbit that is usually nocturnal, but in March when mating season begins, there are bunnies everywhere all day long. As if that wasn't enough, the males tend to get frustrated when rebuffed by their mates, so they bounce and run around like mad.

Ostara (1884) by Johannes Gehrts
Many modern Pagans use the word Ostara for the celebration of the spring equinox. Ostara is from the name of a Germanic goddess. Eostre was the goddess of the land, and farm, so she was celebrated as the days became longer, the chickens began laying eggs, and the cows started giving more milk. The depictions of Eostre are like the European paintings of maiden Spring. She’s a joyous woman, with flowers in her hair, carrying a basket of eggs and a bunny rabbit.

It‘s no surprise to find that the bunny brings Easter baskets full of eggs for children! It is no surprise the Christian resurrection story takes place in March or April and in the Jewish faith, Passover takes place as well. Passover, the celebration of the gift of life in the midst of horror and death. This is the season to celebrate the victory of life over death
.

Resurrection

Martin Luther noticed the connection: “Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime.” Each tree, bush, and plant that looked dead all winter, has completed its hero’s journey and returns to the land of the living. Indeed, the whole earth is re-emerging from the harrowing adventure of winter.

Tajikistani Girls celebrating Novruz with wheatgrass sprouts
All over the world, people are celebrating the transformation into spring. Naw-Rúz is an ancient Persian and modern Bahai festival which occurs on March 21st. It is celebrated with many symbols indicating re-growth and renewal. The purpose is to celebrate the messages that spiritual teachers, such as Mohamed and Jesus, proclaim. Messages which bring us spiritual springtime. Some celebrations of Naw-Ruz include floating new sprouts of plants down a stream and doing Spring cleaning.

Earth and Sky

Merlin and the earth-based traditions advise us to look to nature and the behavior of the wild creatures for insights into our own nature. How we can become our best selves. I hear that same message from those who look UP, beyond our earth as well.

Earth and sky. Both/And.

Neil Degrasse Tyson says “We are all connected, to each other biologically, to the earth chemically, to the Universe atomically.”

And Carl Sagen: "The world is so exquisite with so much love and moral depth, that there is no reason to deceive ourselves with pretty stories for which there's little good evidence. Far better it seems to me, in our vulnerability, is to look death in the eye and to be grateful every day for the brief but magnificent opportunity that life provides.”

Beauty and love on the one hand, death on the other, skepticism on one side, openness on the other: an exquisite balance.

Kraslica is the art, in Slovakia, of painting eggs,
more commonly known by the Ukrainian name:
Pysanki. In memory of my Slovak grandma.
Photo by Luba Petrusha

Translated literally, equinox means "equal night." It is an astronomical term. Equal day and equal night. Both/And. We can’t have one without the other.


I imagine my grandparents on their farm in Upstate NY. Checking the root cellar and seeing that the jars and boxes of precious food are depleted… worrying. Checking the seeds stored and waiting… ready to plant to grow more food: the end, and the beginning, both together. Those seeds came from the death of the plants. Life can only return after the descent into death: Life and death. These opposites are both present at this time of year. Both/And.

Balance and Harmony

If we practiced this embrace of both/and, perhaps things that seem to be irreconcilable could co-exist with one another. We would appreciate the value each side brings. Western and Eastern healing modalities, both Muslim and Christian wisdom, both activists and mystics, both Black kids facing death and proclaiming #blacklivesmatter and White kids putting shoes on the capital lawn to represent those killed in school shootings... both/and.

Taking up both/and as a spiritual practice means taking the time to pay attention to how our lives are in or out of balance. It means paying attention to what is present and what is absent. It means welcoming the fallow time, and then welcoming the green growing times as well.


Tauʻolunga - Own work
I invite you to breathe with me. Breath deep.

Feel the polarities in this moment – Earth as our home is poised in relationship with the Sun. Feel for your own embrace of day-light and night-dark within, your own balance of old and new – this fertile dynamic of tensions. Both/And. Reach out and wrap your arms around it.

Release your breath into it. Breathe in the light, swell with it. Breath out. Let your breath go into the dark, stay with it. Shift on your seat, from left to right, forward, back, feel your centre…breathe it in.


1st day of Falgun in Bangladesh Photo by Ibrahim Husain Meraj

In my part of the Earth, the cycle is about to tip into new growth, into the light. In the southern hemisphere the same balancing moment is about the tip toward dark. Feel the shift within you, see in your mind’s eye the energy ahead, the light expanding and contracting. Feel the warmth of it. Breathe it in.

Ahhhh. Spring: a heart full of hope and a shoe full of mud.

Come, Yet again, Come!



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Blessed be.