Sunday, November 25, 2018

I See Dead People

We decided to cram all 15 family and extended family members into the family time-share at the beach this year. It was crowded, but full of good humor and friendly participation. Each person contributed something, what they could. Vegan dishes were available for one brother-in-law. Smoked oysters, a favorite contribution from Thanksgivings past were provided by another. One 15-year-old brought a diorama of his Great Grandfather.  A Dungeons and Dragons game was offered after dinner... we made room for everyone to be with us.

Family on the Beach

Everyone 

Great Grandpa Harry had a place of honor with the diorama, and the presentation that came with it. Grandma Laura was very present, since we brought an oil painting by her, depicting the scene outside the beach house from 1984, and hung it up, along with sharing of memories. The blessing before the meal included memories of my sister's father-in-law. The smoked oysters reminded my spouse and his brother of their mom and her love of seafood. Of course, my Mom was present: this beach house holds many childhood memories for my sister and me. It is the only residence still in the family, almost 50 years later.  Everywhere I turn, I see dead people.


An Unbroken Line

I can see the people and their stories, stretching back to the 19th Century, and further. A curious thing happens when I pay attention to that vision. I also see the heritage stretching into the 21st century. My son paints, just as my grandmother did. His son looks forward to fishing just as my sister's father-in-law did. I imagine my niece's daughter (some day, I'm not rushing her!) loving to sing, or play an instrument, like great Grandpa Harry or my Mom.  They are not related by blood or even direct lineage, but they are related to one another through love, memory, and hopes for the future.

"untitled" by Corey Post

Invitation

Then I wonder, am I the living embodiment of love and hope from my forebears? Will I be a memory that offers joy or inspiration or at the least, connection, for those who come after me? That could be a big responsibility to carry. In fact, learning every day how to be a better person is hard work! But right now, I'm finding it comforting. My life is not insignificant and there is an invitation always waiting, from the divine, to become the fulfillment of the best hopes and the embodiment of treasured memory. I'm saying "yes" to this invitation, today, and every day.



"Fairy" painting by Corey Post in my home office

Bone Deep

Our people are a part of us, like our bones and our blood. Our people who are no longer with us in body are with us in the ways they have changed the world, and how their memories live in us. I see dead people when I look in the mirror or look at the work that I do. Right now, that's a good thing.
-------------------------
Reverend Amy invites you to explore how you say yes. Stop worrying about what you are supposed to do and start doing it! Click Here.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Your Gift

I’ve been talking with folks about how it often feels like our gifts are pointless. I question my calling. I struggle with the demons of self-doubt, fear, imposter-syndrome, and distraction. I tell myself that I did more good when I was an activist. I affected more people, created more good, even when I worked in higher education. 


The Struggle

Part of the struggle is with the myth that Spiritual work should be unpaid and an unpaid profession isn't a "real" profession. No, money is not a valid measure of value. How much you are paid is not a reflection of what your work is worth any more than how much you have is a reflection of what you are worth. 


I wrestle also with feeling responsible for doing something about the political, human rights, and survival crisis that is present all around me. Spiritual work and personal transformation work feels so indulgent when the world is burning. I feel urgency to get out there and put out the fire, to tend the burned, to warn people and recruit people for the bucket brigade... 

We Need ALL our Gifts

And yet. I can’t do all the things. I can't even carry ALL the buckets of water. Maybe it is okay that my role is to feed the souls of the people on the bucket brigade. 

  • Your poetry can be (and already is) a nourishment for the laborer in the work for justice. 
  • Your testimony is transformative for the reluctant. 
  • Your hospice work is making a difference one life, one family, one community at a time. 
  • Your teaching is transforming young people into leaders of tomorrow. 
  • Your book is going to have ripple effects.

What you do is your gift and you kinda have to give it... 

Kumquat by Ninjiangstar CC3.0

Living Like a Tree

I think of people as trees: We all have roots that need to take up nourishment and branches that bear fruit. Your gift, your kumquats, are a thirsty someone else’s water. I know this because I’ve seen and experienced it. That doesn't make it easy to produce your precious kumquat gift... but it does make it necessary.

-
Amy offers spiritual mentoring to dispirited givers: Helping you find your flow, your gifts, and your nourishment. Click here to book.

Sunday, October 07, 2018

Losing the battle, Reflections on Monday's Holiday

Fighting the Capitalist, Colonialist, Racist, Hetero-patriarchy

Starting in 1550, the Mapuche of South America began their fight against a colonizing, hetero-partiarchal, capitalist invader. We in North America, and other countries around the world, are resisting fascism that is home-grown, right now. The process of placing a right wing puppet onto the supreme court of the USA can be seen as yet another move toward fascism by the right wing, and a kind of disfigurement, or maiming of our democracy.

"Contemplation of Justice" by James Earle Fraser, US Supreme Court, Washington, DC, USA (Public Domain)

On Monday, the calendar tells me, my country should be celebrating a man who furthered empire. He was instrumental in the genocide of the Taino and the Arawak of modern day Puerto Rico. He brought Spanish attention to the Americas which eventually led to the colonization and destruction of the empires and nations from Louisiana through Argentina and Chile... And English and French attention to the Americas which brought destruction to the empires and nations of North America.


I'm Not Dead Yet!

Not all nations were defeated easily, and not all nations were ever truly defeated. For instance, the Mapuche of Chile/Argentina. One warrior, early in the conflict with the conquistadors, is famous for his bad-assery. Galvarino, as he is known in story and history, was captured in one of the early battles. The Spanish, with horses, guns, armor and crossbows, had the advantage over the Mapuche with their strong bodies, courage and spears. The captured Mapuche were "sentenced" to have their noses and one hand cut off. Galvarino ended up with both his hands cut off. Then the Mapuche were sent back to show their people what danger they were in.

Mapuche Warrior: Glavarino, illustration from "La Araucana" (Public Domain)


Galvarino remained defiant and was put in charge of a force of warriors to carry the battle back to the Spanish. In a particularly bad-ass move, he strapped knives to his stumps so that he could still fight. His force lost that battle in 1557, but the Mapuche remained independent (not without additional conflicts when they had to defend their territory and independence) until 1883. They continue to fight for the protection of their forests and rights for their people.


Finding a Reason to Keep On

My friend and colleague Theresa pointed me to the story of Galvarino when we were discussing how to find hope in the face of political and social shifts toward fascism. How to keep building the world of compassion, dignity, and justice that we dream of despite the confirmation of an opponent to that dream to the US Supreme Court.

The "arc of justice" quote on the southern granite wall of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C. Photo by Tim Evanson (CC 2.0)

The story of Galvarino tells me that you can still fight even when it feels like your hands have been removed. The story of Galvarino reminds me that even when you are losing, sometimes you are providing the inspiration for others to continue the fight. The story of Galvarino reminds me that though I'm afraid for myself and my loved ones, we are not in the extreme circumstances others have faced. They faced oppression, destruction, and pain with strength, solidarity, and courage.


Finding Your Own Inspiration

Last week I wrote about calling on the power of the Furies to fuel our work. This week I'm calling on the spirit of the ancestors who fought and the ancestors who lost. Galvarino is not my direct ancestor and may not be yours, but his story is still a reminder that the fight for the worth and dignity of the oppressed is worth giving your money, time, energy, and love.

Juraj Jánošík, A Slovak "Robin Hood"

Who are YOUR ancestors who fought? Who will be the ancestors our descendants look up to in the coming years? Will you make the list of Honored Ancestor? Will you be on the list of those who worked to make the world a better place for our great-grandchildren?

Indigenous People's Day

A Poem by Rev. Jeremy Rutledge

I am not
Hawai'ian
but I was
born in
the islands.

I am not
Kiowa
but I was
raised on
the plains.

I am not
Sewee
but I am
living near
the salt marsh.

And I am not
an admirer
of Columbus
that lucky
sailor.

He found
what had
not been lost
and named
what was
already known
which doesn’t
seem a feat
if you ask me.

But don’t
ask me
ask any
Sewee
Kiowa
or Hawai'ian
this Indigenous
Peoples’ Day
how it feels
to be from
a place
that pauses
once a year
to remember
and commences
every other day
to forget.
x

Let us persist
We are mad. We are full of rage for the insult to women and democracy. Let us use that rage as FUEL for our actions. Let us get out the vote, hold our politicians accountable, change things at the local level, prepare for the worst, and persist, persist, persist!

 
Dr. E. Faye Williams, National President/CEO of the National Congress of Black Women, speaking outside Mitch McConnell's house on Capitol Hill,  Photo by Lorie Shaull (CC 2.0)


Sunday, September 30, 2018

Furious Justice

Furies

I chose to put the furies as my profile picture on Facebook today.

The furies are deities of the underworld that came into the Greek pantheon from something much older. I learned about them when I was attending college in the 80’s. When we read the Iliad, the Odyssey, and the Oresteia, we also discussed the morality of the series of deaths… each one, after the first, vengeance for the previous.

  • Agamemnon murdered his daughter Iphigenia, 
  • Clytemnestra avenged her daughter by killing Agamemnon, her husband, 
  • Orestes killed Clytemnestra, his mother, to avenge his father’s murder. 
In each case, the furies heard the curses and prayers of the wronged, and came to mete out justice.
The Remorse of Orestes by William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1862) from Wikimedia

Super interesting deities! The furies or “Erinyes”, were created by the blood from patricide falling on Gaeia/Mother Earth. That makes me think that they are natures’ way of responding to crimes against family and love and the natural order.

I Believe Survivors

Just as the furies heard the injured and the wronged, I believe survivors. (If you do not believe Christine Blasey Ford and the too many women (and men) who have spoken about their experiences during the #metoo movement and more recently, then this is not for you. I’ll redirect you to this excellent article.)

This week the internet has been full of Fury. So much fury! Women’s fury may be one key ingredient of the saving of the race. Women on my Facebook feed are posting images of women’s power: Gloria Steinem, Angela Davis, themselves looking stern, saying "no".
Shirley Chisholm for president poster, 1972 (public domain)

In college I was learning about the furies. And I was comforting the women in my dorm who had been assaulted, raped, or sexually harassed. I wanted to see the perpetrators brought to justice but we all hesitated. The law was complex, and we were taught to be nice girls. But we did pass the names of the perpetrators among us as warnings.

Avenging Women

I claim the furies as gods of the matrifocal cultures predating Greek city states. As often happens, the older gods show up in the cultures that supplant them. So the Odyssey and the Orestia depict the Erinyes as hags and harpies, as hysterical females with serpents for hair. The furies chased the wrongdoer and drove them mad. But still, in these stories they are powerful in their vengeance of a woman wronged.

Women on my Facebook feed are posting classical works of art that depict women murdering men. Judith and Holofernes, the Gorgon.

Artemisia Gentileschi, Judith Slaying Holofernes, 1620-21, oil on canvas, 162.5 x 199 cm (Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy) from Wikimedia
The Orestia goes on to describe how Athena and Apollo argue over the role of the furies. Athena, in this story, is the woman as a tool of patriarchy, denying the voice of women in favor of law. In this story Athena ends up being in the side of the law and the side of being nice. She renamed the furies “Eumenides”: the kindly ones.

Taming the Fury

Calling them Eumenides is a way of trying to tame them, make them “nice”. From then on the Eumenides could enforce justice, but only if the process of trial and law gave them the power. No longer were they able to respond to the cries for help from the wronged. No longer could they be the givers of natural consequences.

Revenge and justice are rarely the same thing. The furies reacted to damage to the natural order and their actions were as simple as addition and subtraction. A life equals a life, a death demands another death. However, in line with that logic lies eternal retribution and no end nor restitution.
Tarot card, "Two of Swords," produced in 1916 (public domain)

I learned from the Tarot cards that there are two justices. The divine justice, the kind that comes as consequences which also allows for amends or atonement. The blind justice (or two of swords) is the justice that humans attempt to achieve. Blind justice stripped the power of natural consequences from the furies. By establishing the rule of law, Athena and Apollo did attempt to stop the endless eye for an eye cycle that the furies were pursuing, but rather than finding an avenue for atonement or amends, they simply contained that primal power.

True Justice

True justice acknowledges the possibility of return to right relationship. But it also allows for natural consequences to the violation of natural order.

When the rule of law is used to oppress, to silence and to enforce decorum, of what use is it?
Scales of Justice statue, Middlesbrough, holding two fighting children, created by sculptor Graham Ibbeson, 1991 Photo by Oliver Dixon (Creative Commons 2.0)

After reading and seeing parts of the Kavanaugh hearing I had an excruciatingly stiff neck. When I started receiving invitations to change my Facebook profile picture to plain black I suddenly put it together. Silencing the survivors and pain around my throat chakra. I was in so much pain I could not even sit at my computer to try to give voice to this blog post.

We need the voices of women, of survivors, of the marginalized and the wronged, now.

Are You Furious?

Where are or Who are the furies now? It would seem that social media has taken their forms. Are memes, animated gifs, and video shorts how natural consequences respond to the cries of the wronged and oppressed!? There truly is enough to drive anyone mad.

Instead of passively clicking “like”, or changing our Facebook profile picture, we could strive to be the hands, voices and instruments of natural justice, (or Karma as many people in the West seem to call it). Perhaps we need to be the voice of Gaeia.



The law can imperfectly exact some justice, but there are also ways and places where it ties the hands of justice: de-fangs the furies.

Hope

We hope for consequences for wrong doing. We hope that that the liar, the cheater, the avaricious has a failed business because people do not choose to trust them or do business with them. We hope that the rapist or harasser become involuntarily celibate and is lonely. We hope that the survivors of racism, colonialism, sexism, capitalism, gender binary oppression, all the survivors have voices that are heard by the furies.

We are the furies. We Are the hands and voices and forces for justice on this earth. We hope that those who are not survivors of these things, but are allies, or just people with compassion, will also live according to the natural justice of the furies.

No, not hope. We persist, and we will prevail.
denise carbonell, cc2.0

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Autumn Equinox: Harvest Home

We are not our own


Return again, return again,
return to the home of your soul
Return to who you are Return to what you are
Return to where you are
Born and reborn again

CC0 Public Domain
We are created and re-created by our relationships with our world, our family our institutions, and our experiences. We are constantly born and reborn again.

Earth forms us


Air moves us, fire transforms us, water shapes us, earth heals us
And the balance of the wheel goes round and round (the balance of the wheel goes round)

As the seasons pass we return to what we were, but each season of return we are also new. As the season ends again, and a new season, begins, it is a time to reflect on how we will approach this season anew. We are reborn.


The nights are getting cooler, the days are still warm, and there is something magical in the sunlight, for it seems silvery and indirect. And we move closer to the hearth. The shorter day creates longer evening hours. For many, it marks the end of the summer and travel season. This time coincides with the return to school. Homecoming leads us into the fall marking the final days of freedom the summer provided. As we gather the last of the tomatoes or start working on our homework from school, our attention is suddenly arrested by the sound of trumpeting from the skies, as lines of geese cut silhouettes across the moon.

Week before last, the rains came and we moved indoors. We were reminded that winter rains will be with us soon.

Give thanks


The rain turned my attention to my rain barrels. All summer water is a precious resource for the garden. The water from the roof of my house is gathered together, in the rain barrels, flowing together. Then the rain from the barrels in turn feeds the garden.

Amazon river basin: many streams feeding one great river by Kmusser


The garden keeps me connected to the cycles of life. The longest day and the shortest day of the year, the solstices, and the days midway between, the equinoxes, mark the turning of the year. Now, in the time of the fall equinox, the cucumber vines are dying, the tomatoes are putting out their last crop & the butternut squash is being revealed, huge and almost ready to pick.

Mother earth, Gaia, gives us much. And we need to give back to her as well.

How shall we give thanks: We can celebrate, we can engage in ritual, and we can give back.

Celebrate with ritual


Rituals for this season acknowledge the sacrifice of the spirit of vegetation. Rituals often include an enactment of the death and resurrection of the vegetation spirit. The greenman gives way to the hunter or the holly king.

License CC0

Mythically, this is the day of the year when the God of Light is defeated by his twin and alter ego, the God of Darkness. It is the time of the year when night conquers day. This is a threshold time. We are grieving for something we are losing while welcoming the new. We are grateful for the days of heat and light while our fields and gardens ripened and we played. And now we are grateful for the shift to the cool wet of winter.

Our winter is a season of rain. So a water ceremony is common in Unitarian Universalist congregations for our ritual of harvest home. Like the Rain barrels, our community gathers the water, representing the gifts we bring to community and all we have reaped from our summer. The water ceremony represents an ingathering of our spiritual community. Our water flows together and then that water feeds the garden of our community.

Give Back


In our gratitude we give back to the earth, and all things living. Our gifts are our liturgies of care. The harvest must be shared. We take care of all in our community.

  • What harvest do you have to share? 
  • What is coming to fruition within you?
  • Maybe it is a bounty of zucchini, or maybe a bounty of baby clothes…

Recess is over. Now is the time to learn and the time to share.

CC0 Public Domain

Whether you are parenting, teaching in RE. Being a friend, or writing... there are so many ways you can share that which you have nurtured within yourself. And always, the best gift you can give to the universe is to continue to grow.

We Are Not Alone



And if love's encounters lead us on a way uncertain and unknown,

all the saints with prayer surround us: We are not alone.


Growing and giving back is not always easy, but we don’t have to do it alone! We are surrounded by our community, and we are surrounded by the legacy of those who have gone before us. As the song goes:

Forward through the ages, in unbroken line,

Move the faithful spirits, at the call divine. 


Rutlandguttersupply
Many are the faithful spirits, and they are an unbroken line, stretching back through time, like a chain. I imagine this chain is like a rain chain. A rain chain is something you hang from your downspout. The rain runoff runs down it. The rain chain I see in my mind’s eye is one with bells. Each bell sounds a note as the water runs down. Each of us is a part of the chain. Each of us sounds our own particular note. Each of us is enriched by the gifts of those who came before. We make music for the ages. They sowed what we harvest. We are not alone.

We are also surrounded by the community that exists with us in the now. We can reach out our hands and stand side by side.

We need our community. Often I feel like Piglet, in Winnie the Pooh in this passage from the books by A.A. Milne.
"Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind.
"Pooh?" he whispered.  "Yes, Piglet?"
"Nothing," said Piglet, taking Pooh's hand.
"I just wanted to be sure of you."

In our family, in our neighborhood, in our community of faith, we let us be sure of one another.


Monday, September 03, 2018

Tending the Seeds, Turning the Wheel

Turning the Wheel

"Witches' work is turning the wheel", says Minneapolis witch Steven Posch. This is a reference to progress; the progression through the seasons AND the progression of justice.

A painted Wheel of the Year from the Museum of Witchcraft, Boscastle by Midnightblueowl
Many of the earth-honoring traditions see the acknowledgement of the turning of the seasons as a religious duty. For Wiccans, celebrating the solstices, equinoxes, and cross quarter days connects us to the cycles of the seasons and gives us a framework for the spiritual work we do. The seasons progress from the incubation of Winter. Then we move, with the earth and the sun to embarking and planting of Spring. Next comes tending what we have planted in the Summer. Then, our attention turns to the harvest or manifestation of Autumn. The wheel of the seasons turns finally to integration, a kind of storing-of-insights, when the cycle to begins again with Winter incubation.

There are four ways that "Turning the Wheel" rituals are important. First, it is valuable to acknowledge, celebrate and simply NOTICE the changes in the world around you. Second, participating in the rituals of seasonal progression has an internal psychological and spiritual effect, creating internal transformation. Third, many people believe that these rituals have a physical effect on the natural world. Fourth, the transformation that is wrought within each participant can manifest in action to create changes in the world through our voices, hands, behavior and votes.

Poetic Truth


There's a fine line between turning the wheel, where we think of our rituals as necessary for the life cycle to continue, and celebrating the wheel, where we think of our seasonal rituals as inspiration for internal and societal transformation. Indigenous teachers are often vague about making this distinction. They are speaking poetic and mythological truths. Back when I lived in upstate NY, I heard the Iroquois elder, Ama Lee, urge those of us living in Iroquois territory to do the rituals because the the corn needs the rituals of "the people" in order for it to thrive.

Personally, I'm agnostic about the effects of human rituals on the plants and the earth. Acknowledging the poetic reality where our rituals are necessary to our natural world, I'm willing to participate without empirical evidence. I do have evidence, however, that our rituals have real effects in each person's psyche, and our social interconnections.

Countryside Vegetable Garden - CCO Public Domain
We in the Northern hemisphere are in the harvest time of year. Our backyard garden is trying to escape the fence. The blueberries we picked are frozen and ready to burst flavor in January and February. The cucumbers from our garden are outpacing our ability to eat, turn them into soup, or pickle them. But what spiritual insights are emerging at this time? What can we harvest from the planting and tending we've done over the Spring and Summer?

Change in the Real World


Certainly in the area of U.S. politics seeds have been planted. The response to the current administration has opened up awareness of deep divisions in our country and activated well-meaning, but heretofore unaware people of privilege, to work for justice. More people who LOOK LIKE and LIVE LIKE the people they will be representing are running for office. This change in the political landscape will be harvested in November. I plan to tend, as best I can, this new life and hope so that people from school board members to senators are elected who will lead our people toward justice, compassion, and a return to ideals which I value most about our nation.

2015 Strike in "Dinkytown" Minneapolis/St. Paul - Photo by FibonacciBlue
Seeds were planted in the area of economic justice as my town, and others, adopted new minimum wage laws. On April 15th, 2015 fast food workers across the USA walked out on strike to hold protests and marches demanding a $15/hour minimum wage. In the Twin Cities, striking fast food workers were joined by university workers, students, janitors, retail workers and airport workers. They call for a $15/hour minimum wage, paid sick days, and fairer scheduling of work hours. For large employers, the minimum wage became $9.65 on January 1, 2018. In Portland, Oregon, where I am, beginning July 1, 2018 the minimum wage increased to $10.75.


Labor Day


Labor day was instituted in response to the work of unions and labor justice activists. The work of change-making was not easy. There were divisions of culture and language among the workers. The owners controlled the police and militias. The workers were mostly immigrants so they didn't have the sympathies of the general public. Never-the-less, they persisted.

IWW Textile workers face militia during 1912 strike in Lawrence MA

Child labor laws, the weekend, fair wages and safe working environments were instituted because of the pressure the workers put on the companies and government. All these things have been eroded over time. We have allowed the war against unions, that is waged through propaganda, to turn the wheel back.

There is argument about whether the current United States is an oligarchy (rule by a few who hold power of various kinds) or plutocracy (rule by the rich). Whichever it is, we generally agree that the workers of the United States do not feel represented by their elected officials. As the influence of unions has eroded, there is no longer a strong, unified, force protecting workers.

This is the work of this age, to rebuild the connections, solidarity, and heart for activism that defies the forces of economic greed. This is the work of turning the wheel. This is the work of earth-honoring people and all those who recognize the one-ness of our sacred worth.

From the labor movement to laboring for one another


After the wave of activism that gave us unions, there were other waves of solidarity and activism. Other movements toward caring for our fellow human beings and our home, planet earth. Feminism, anti-racism, fair treatment for people with disabilities, eco-consciousness… All of these began to take hold through the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.

If you watched the movie “Hidden Figures” you probably noticed the many challenges women of color experienced while working at NASA. One main reason Katherine Johnson, and many other women, got jobs at NASA was that the men were at war and employers were desperate to find talented, brilliant people, even if they were women, and even if they were women of color. Desperation turned the wheel toward progress.

Actors and producer of "Hidden Figures" NASA Kennedy/Kim Shiflett
I recently read an article that was written by a psychologist about Donald Trump. He made some guesses about Trump's mental health. His analysis applies to ALL people who misuse power. He advises us to "be clearer than ever about your core values, beliefs and principles, and rely on them for guidance and comfort." His advice for those of us who are working to create a world of compassion, justice, and sustainability applies no matter who the current "person in power" is.

We need to speak truth to power. We need to be prophets in the Hebrew Bible sense (one who tells the people in power how they are wrong and what they need to do to better serve their God.) We need to turn the wheel of justice. We need to "Challenge every day the natural inclination to feel overwhelmed, fatigued or numb."

Your Wheel May Not Look Like My Wheel


The wheel of the year as passed down from English strains of pagandom don't make sense in many locations in the world. My father in Chile tells me about the cooling temps while I talk about trees budding out. My cousin in Hawaii, like island and equatorial people, pays attention to seasons of rain and arid months. Climate change is shifting much of what many of us experienced in our childhoods.

We are so mobile now, traveling far from the places we grew up, that the seasonal rhythm you knew as a child may have no bearing on the seasonal rhythm where you live now. I travel with my spouse from Oregon, where I grew up, to the South West in the Winter. At first the desert felt like a foreign land, even a moonscape, to me. We've learned to live lightly in our travel trailer in a dry climate. Even simple changes, like how we wash dishes are different from what we do in the very wet Winter of Oregon. I've had to learn about this new-to-me land, and a learn a new way of honoring the season of Winter there. I've also learned different ways of being a part of social change because Southern Arizona is very different from Portland Oregon!

Seasons1
Note: Distances are exaggerated and not to scale
We need to look, listen, pay attention to the cycles of the natural world where we are and learn what they are telling us, for the place where each of us is now. We need to look, listen, pay attention to the rhythms and changes of the political, social, and cultural worlds as well.


Turn Your Wheel


So, yes, pay attention to the rituals so that the corn, (or sugar cane, or sweet potato, or peanuts, or whatever fills that niche in your area) can thrive. And pay attention to these rituals so that your heart and your head and your spirit deepen into your core values, beliefs and principles. Do the rituals so you can shift toward planting seeds and tending the tiny growing tendrils of justice.

By Steven Posch (2003)

Witches' work is turning the wheel,
and round the wheel doth turn.
Time wheels, the world wheels,
time and space
embrace in the wheeling circle,
the dance of the wheel.

The only constant is constant change:
the nature of a wheel is to turn.
Witches' work is turning the wheel:
to divine the course of change
and to aid it, to add her will
to the will of the wheel;
for the witch is the agent of change.

And witches' work is turning the wheel,
and round the wheel doth turn.
------------------
Reverend Amy provides spiritual mentoring to dispirited helpers yearning to uncover and use their spiritual superpowers to create more love and justice in the world. See more at http://AmyBeltaine.info.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

What Type of "Witch" are You?

What Type of Witch are You?

Moon witch? Forest Witch? Bone Witch? Which witch are you? I was thinking about the types of magic, the types of lore, and the types of devotion earth-honoring and deities-relating folks engage in. I think of them as moon, forest, and bone domains. Inhabited by Moon, Forest, and Bone witches. Then I realized that I’d developed this idea before… for a game!

Moon, Forest, or Bone Witch? Which are you?
The latest D&D players handbook includes the “Warlock” class (a class is a sort of profession for your player). Anyone who has been in Paganism or earth-honoring spirituality probably knows that the word warlock means oathbreaker and we usually use ‘witch’ instead. (Yes, there are male witches.) The D&D warlock also is described as using “pact magic” which I imagine is reminiscent of the “pact with the devil” ideas made up by the medieval witch hunters.

So I created an alternative D&D class called Witch. As I mapped out the skills the witch would have I realized that I could easily conceive of three types of witches. Astral, Green, and Blood.

Astral Witches

"Astral Witch"
Don Crosby (Merlin)
by Artist Douglas Baulch CC 3.0
Astral witches are tuned into the planetary movements, the cycles of the seasons and the rotation of the earth. They derive their game powers from sunrises and sunsets, moon phases and astronomical events. They might be tarot card readers, astrologers, temple priest(esse)s or open ritual leaders. Moon witches, or Sun witches, or star witches are tuned into time and able to navigate by the stars. Astral witches are sometimes called wizards or sages and are wise about the timeless aspects of living - ethics, meaning, the rise and fall of civilizations. You find astral witches in urban contexts.

Green Witches

George Casely uses a hazel twig to find water
 by Ministry of Information Photo Division Photographer,
 IWM Non-Commercial License
Green witches derive their game powers from plants and the earth. They have a relationship (similar to druids in the game) to the land where they live and move. Like hedge witches of old, they can be healers, students of weather and growing things, and good cooks. Villager seek out earth or land witches for help with gardens, children and love. You’ll find green witches affiliated with rural communities.

Blood Witches

Last Tuvan shaman.
Taken 1 week before her death.
by David Baxendale. CC BY-ND 2.0 
Blood witches derive their game powers from their own (or others) lives, bodies, bones and blood. They, like ancient shamans, interact with the ancestors of a person and the spirits of animals. Like tribal priests throughout the world, they are wise about death, about the inner world, and are advisers to clans and tribes. Blood and bone witches, or shamans, might be birth midwives and death midwives and facilitate small community ritual. Blood witches affiliate with peoples, tribes, and families.

Finding Your Type

Did you recognize any witches in your own life in these descriptions? Unlike D&D, in real life we can experience the wisdom of any of these three domains. We can embrace the spirit of Astral witches and work the magic of prophecy, warning people of the ethical errors of empire. As midwives, village healers, and caretakers of the community we can work the magic of herbal healing, whether it be through a cup of white willow bark tea for a headache or a cup of tea and conversation for a heartache. Like shamans we can work the magic of soul retrieval, reminding the community of their best selves, calling folks in, and singing the songs that remind us of our ancestors’ gifts. 

All of us can do community ritual honoring the changing of the seasons, celebrating birth and mourning a death together and we can do private candle magic ceremonies to mark our own life milestones, aspirations, bondings, and bindings.

Image composite. Free from Pixabay
My spiritual type has shifted over the years. I teach a class on spiritual types that takes into account your Enneagram type, MBTI and other factors. I used to exclusively identify with the green witch These days I’m resonating with the astral and blood witches as well. It might be age related, life phase related: moving from the immediate and practical, to the concerns of the public sphere, and finally, to the concerns of legacy and heritage. It might be that someone is authentically called to one type. Certainly I’ve seen young blood witches and old green witches. Or it can be something someone dances through all your life.

Yes, you might even relate the astral witches to the priests and prophets, the green witches to the cunning men and cunning women, and the blood witches to the shamanic practitioners.
Was this enough to get you thinking about which witch is alive in your soul right now?
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Reverend Amy helps givers who are feeling disconnected or depleted to uncover and use their spiritual superpowers so you can conspire with divine love and build the world you dream of in flow and abundance. Learn more at http://amybeltaine.info, Book Here.

Monday, August 06, 2018

With Great Magic Comes Great Responsibility

Magical

Have you ever been so amazed, and overwhelmed (in a good way) that you said “It was magical, I got shivers!”? Looking back, each moment I said that, it was a moment of change in my consciousness, and change in my life. A moment of consequence!

In the stories and myths of our culture magic, or super-powers, are usually accompanied by a consequence. The Avengers are blamed for what goes wrong and treated with suspicion. The X-Men are persecuted. In a video game, using a power draws down your “mana” or life-force.


The magical sword Excalibur, that made Arthur king when he pulled it from the stone had power that came with terrible consequences. Harry Potter’s magical powers came with ever increasing responsibility. In the Movie, Frozen, Queen Elsa struggles to accept her powers, and it is not until she accepts both her power AND the responsibilities that come with them, that they become a gift instead of a burden. As Stan Lee, the creator of Spiderman, said “with great power, must also come, great responsibility.”

Responsibility


Composite from Disney film "Frozen"
The responsibility has to do with being in community. In the movie Frozen, Elsa’s powers were destructive when she was trying to suppress them: she made her entire kingdom sink into an eternal winter! Then, after she ran away she let go of the constraints she put on herself and ‘let it go”, but she cut herself off from her community. She needed love to invite her back into the community. When the community welcomed her, she accepted her responsibility and could use her powers in service to love and justice.

We are responsible for the things that we do. Running away does not fix that. But suppressing your own awesomeness also doesn't fix anything. You have a superpower, you probably have a couple. You are full of magic, I don't know what your magic is, but I bet your friends do... We each need our community, and they need our whole selves.

Folk Religions


Pagan stories and traditions describe the power that comes from the earth as magic, indigenous traditions describe the power that arises from a tribe and ancestors as magic. As we learn from myth and tradition we all have access to some of that magic power.

In UU congregations we usually don’t talk about spiritual matters in terms of power. But in the Pagan and earth-relating worlds we talk about spiritual power. The Aborigine of Australia, and the Shinto teachings speak of the dangers and responsibility of working with the power of spirit. Sufi, especially Dervish, spirituality speaks to the overwhelming and transformative experience of feeling the divine flow through and within us. Psychologists tell of the great power that spiritual awareness yields.

Creating Change


artists interpretation of creation and the milky way
There are many definitions of the word magic. One definition I like because it is compatible with what anthropologists learn from cultures that practice magic: Magic is creating change by connecting with the energies of nature and community. Some people go to the wilderness to recharge. Some go to the ocean to heal. We all need to mourn in community and celebrate marriages and milestones with community. When we look into a clear night sky and experience the vastness of space… we feel something… it's magic.

Around the world and throughout human history Indigenous traditions have tapped into this great spiritual power.

Candle Magic

Folk Religions have been powerful spiritual forces for a very long time. And Wicca, though it is not a true folk religion, has demonstrated striking strength. When something has been so important to human community for so long, so transformative, there must be jewels of wisdom within - Jewels we can learn from!

For instance, I think folk religions’ ability to talk about power, the connection to nature, and the ability to create ecstatic group ritual are fabulous jewels we grow from, individually, and collectively.

One practice that helps spiritual practitioners to grow and transform is candle magic. We light a candle to remember a person in Joys and Sorrows or to represent the family blessings at a wedding. We are practicing candle magic here today because we used the chalice lighting to help us focus on being here together.

Another spiritual practice is to dedicate yourself to the study of a divine aspect, like a god or goddess or mythical character. I spent a year meditating on the myth of Inanna’s pilgrimage to the underworld. I chose the Babylonian goddess Inanna as a way to recover from a very bad, horrible, no good year, when I experienced a lot of loss. The poetry, myths and rituals of Inanna losing everything and then returning (with a little help from her friends) helped me make sense of these losses and to rebuild my life and my power.



Magic has Consequences


Let’s go back to that word Magic. The definition of Magik, among Pagans is usually: “The art of changing consciousness at will.”

One of the consequences of doing the work of magic is that it can change reality like it did for me. If Magik is the art of transforming consciousness at will, what does consciousness create? Well, Schoedinger says that consciousness creates reality. So Schroedinger’s Cat would say that Magik has consequences in reality!

I want to be be very clear here. Ritual, prayer, candle magic, and all the rest is not putting in a request to the divine piggy bank for a specific pay-out. When I pray for world peace I’m not expecting Big Daddy in the Sky to go “POOF, OK, you got it.” When people paint themselves blue because that is their team’s colors, they are changing themselves, not actually making their sports team win. The only people who can do THAT magic trick are the players on the teams. 

I’m asking, like Susan B. Anthony did, to pray with my feet, my hands, my voice, my life. I’m asking to change ME so that I can change the world. I'm asking, now that you know you can do magic, how will YOU change the world?

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Reverend Amy helps Givers and Justice-Seekers to uncover and use their spiritual superpowers through individual mentoring, speaking, retreats, workshops and rites of passage. Learn more at http://AmyBeltaine.info, or Book Here.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

UU or Pagan?

It's been a month of blog posts about how UU and Pagan can and do fit together. Here's my little bit.

Yesterday I took a couple of online tests. One quiz rated me theologically 100% Neo-pagan. Another quiz directed me to join a UU congregation. Yep. Exactly. UU and Pagan!


The Search

I spent over 20 years attempting to find or create consistent community, institutional consistency, strength, scientific and academic integrity, serious minded respect, respect for diversity and reliable structure among Pagan groups. Finding a religious home that included many of those things AND welcomed my Pagan spiritual path was sweet. I had been Gardnerian, Wiccan, Reclaiming, eclectic, Dianic... Nothing fit. UU did. That was my personal journey.


Solstice at Ithaca UU Fellowship
IthaCUUPS

On a broader level... The Pagans of IthaCuups at my congregation in Ithaca NY were a major force in creating Pagan Pride Day. UU was the ecumenical force among the often fundamentalist subgroups of Pagans in Ithaca at the time. And the CUUPS group grew the congregation, in size and in spiritual maturity. It took some work, by the pantheists, pan-entheists, Christians, and Pagans, to help the congregation become more comfortable with spiritual topics and expressions in Ithaca. That was good work.

The Jewish congregation that met at our UU congregation's building was welcome and appreciated. If a Pagan congregation/coven/grove/blot/fill-in-the-blank had wanted to enter into the same sort of partnership I like to think they would have been welcomed. UU congregations are equipped with our principles and purposes to enter into inter-religious partnerships like that.


One person's dating of religions. Do not read as progression.
Can you pick out which are
Earth-honoring/Deities-relating/Indigenous/Pagan?
Can you name some that are missing?
CUUPS

CUUPS is for those who are UUs who feel their theology would be called Pagan or Earth-honoring/Deities-relating, or vice versa. At the annual General Assembly of UUs the Earth-honoring UUs often share booth space with the Jewish UUs, Mystic UUs, Christian UUs, Buddhist UUs..., etc. We have friendly connections with Ministry for the Earth (which emerged in many ways from CUUPS) and the UU Women and Religion group (that was closely identified with CUUPS through the 70's.)

In congregations, many Buddhist UU groups host Buddhist gatherings at their home congregations, or even Sufi-appreciating UUs invite folks to lead Dances of Universal Peace at their congregations, just as Pagan UUs host gatherings where all Pagans are welcome.



I realize that not all congregations are fully on board with all the theologies that fit under the UU roof. Educating and developing mutually respectful relationships across faith differences is a learning edge. This is perhaps one of the greatest gifts to the world that Unitarian Universalism has to offer: Our striving, (and failing, and striving again) to move forward with an inclusive sense of Inherent worth and respect for the interconnections of life. Let us hope that congregations continue to learn and grow and that our neighbors continue to feel welcome and neighborly.


Tilikum Crossing "people's bridge"
 downtown Portland (Chinook word for friend)

Portland, Oregon


Then I moved to Portland, Oregon. I was thrilled to find most West Coast congregations embrace Earth-honoring and Pagan spirituality. I was confused by the antipathy of Pagans toward congregations of all kinds, including UU. Old wounds run deep. It is healing for indigenous and Pagan folks to experience Unitarian Universalism. No, we don't burn witches, we ask them to help with the kids and on the worship team and on the grounds team.

The benefits to and from UUs and Pagans run both ways. Earth-honoring folks in UU congregations can help wean their congregations from such fierce adherence to the trappings of Christianity in the worship style. Future UU Pagans would love to be a part of a congregation that offered worship/ritual and study/growth. I celebrate our Christian heritage. Christian UUs find that Pagan UUs are in alignment with them on some important things. Humanist UUs discover the same thing!

Coexist

At about 12% of the population those of us
in the "other" category need each other to survive

UU's aspire to tolerance, ecumenism, diversity, and respect. The world needs this desperately. UUs actively practice (and fail) and practice these things. Pagan traditions with strong belief structures or hierarchies or "ways of doing ritual" need this UU superpower too. It's a good thing when we can spread the saving practices of respect for the inherent worth of all people to other faith traditions.

Here's this beautiful thing I've noticed happening. Now that I am deeply in this UU context, I have been expanding my understanding of what Earth-honoring paths there might be. I'm exploring which ones connect to my heart most strongly. Explorations of my own indigenous heritage(s) is exciting and full of joy. The cool thing is that the commitment to racial justice work (that came to me through my family and my congregation) has contributed to this renewal of my spiritual seeking.

I think I've found a really great spiritual home. Unitarian Universalism fits this earth-honoring UU quite well!

N.B. IthaCUUPS folded some time around 2011. Good news though! The congregation still exists. Ithaca UUF is open to the next Earth-honoring or Pagan UUs who want to be a part of the community!
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Rev. Amy travels West of the Rockies providing spiritual mentoring to helpers and justice seekers who are depleted or disconnected through preaching, worship leading, one-on-one meetings and workshops. Learn more at http://AmyBeltaine.info. Book Here.