A Day in the Life

I see the light peeking around the edges of the curtains. I know I’ve slept late. It’s Tuesday. Monday nights mean choir rehearsal, and I don’t get home until 9.30 – well, past my bedtime! It was another night of me not being able to sing, thanks to my myriad colds. I can’t dwell on self-pity for too long: the children have heard Adam putzing in the kitchen and they come climbing into my side of the bed for morning snuggles. Just as we’ve attained fair and equal snuggles for all, Adam comes in to tell us it’s 7.30 and breakfast is on the table.

They scramble off the bed and race to the table. I make my way slowly: bathroom, find robe, open up the windows in the bedroom. When I get the table I see bowls of oatmeal in front of the kids and a spinach omelet waiting for me.

Olympia artist Niki McClure's calendar

Olympia artist Niki McClure’s calendar

Adam gets the kids dressed while I take the briefest of showers. Once dressed, I pack lunches and snacks, and off we go. We’re bundled in boots and thick coats. Last night’s downpour surely meant there would be puddles this morning, but no. As we walk up the hill to school, my son informs me that Papa was wrong; he didn’t need his boots after all.

I drop one kid off at kindergarten, another next door at a preschool. Happy kids are happily learning and playing. I descend home, down the hill, feeling wiped out. I’ve been awake an hour and fifteen minutes.

Once home I survey the mess of the kitchen. I feel overwhelmed by all the To-Do’s cluttering up my head. It’s Tuesday, so we have nothing to do tonight, except enjoy one another. It’s Tuesday, which also means it’s Kali puja day. First, though, I need to sit.

I make a cup of green tea and sit myself on the horrid burgundy corduroy couch. I enjoy the thin sunlight shining in through the windows. I sip my tea and do the barest of responding to comments, threads, and emails online. I watch a news clip on the Fukushima disaster. I begin berating myself for all the things I’ve left undone: a book review or two, blog posts I keep meaning to write, emails to be written, Christmas presents to sort out, and oh yeah, there’s a book on hold for me at the library.

I’m tired of feeling tired and sick of being sick. Self-pity threatens to eat me whole. I remind myself that I’m pregnant, it’s autumn, and I have two small kids that bring every sniffle home. What might fell them for two days will no doubt fell me for five. I’ve been sick every week for 5 weeks straight. But it will pass. I remind myself of that: this will pass.

I shut my lap top, drain my tea-cup, and peel myself off the couch. It’s nearly ten. Walking into the kitchen I realize I haven’t bought fresh flowers this week, so I grab a fat medjool date and head to my altar. I lay the date in my offering dish, light my candles and incense, and do the most basic of pujas. Still, puja feels good, like visiting an old friend. While sitting in meditation I think of my 2013 collage up on the fridge. I realize that this last part of the year was ‘set aside’ for rest. My collages are surprisingly prophetic. Sometimes I forget this. I drew the Moon and the Hanged Man for the last few months of this year. While the wheel of the days continue to turn and opportunities continue to knock, I need to realize that this time period for me is one of quiet, rest, and internal contemplation.

My altar this day

My altar this day

With that helpful reminder fresh in my head, I bow and make prayers. I pray for my Feri teachers, who are in need of healing right now. I pray for myself, also in need of some immune support. I ask that I might get the rest I need, learn what it is I need to at this time, and gather the strength I need for whatever is to come after this season passes.

It’s now 10.30. One hour until I pick up my daughter from preschool. I decide to throw in a load of laundry, then drive out to my friendly local farm and get eggs. I return in time to get lunch heating in the oven before walking up to get the girl.

Walking home in warm coats

Walking home in warm coats

Lunch is last night’s shepherd’s pie with a green salad. Adam and I talk about how his work is going, the realizations I had in meditation, the news I picked up on the farm; our daughter reminds us at least six times that her birthday is coming up (it’s not until February, but she is obsessed).

I tidy up the kitchen. Daughter asks for a bath, so I run the bath, brew a cup of tea and sit to write. Just as I get into the piece she’s through; I dry her off and dress her. She asks to watch Rastamouse while I write. I finish up and move on to general mental housekeeping: answering more emails and making lists of everything: Christmas lists, prepping for the various coming holidays, etc.

Cup of tea drained, more cartoons than I care to admit, and one distracted descent into Facebook, I finally get to work on my lists before reading to my daughter and letting her play with marbles. Only half way through my lists, my husband and I decide to do an impromptu drive-by of a potential house (we’re still house hunting) before going to pick up our son from kindergarten at 3pm. The house’s location isn’t quite right.

Once home everyone gets snacks. I go back to my lists. The kids get two cartoons before spending the rest of the afternoon drawing, reading and making a mess of the living room. We work on reading homework and I field a meltdown. I’m still trying to organize my lists. I am interrupted every few minutes. I give up and decide to work on it after the kids are in bed.

4.30 rolls around and I realize I need to fold some laundry and start on dinner. After reading the kids two more stories. We do a quick tidy up, which is dismantled minutes later. The youngest comes asking to play with rice. I dye some rice orange and the kids make a fine mess in the kitchen while I cook. The boy asks for a bath, which he runs and then picks up his mess while the bath fills. This is a first.

Orange rice for the win

Orange rice for the win

Dinner cooks. Adam watches basketball. I sweep up the rice and start lighting some candles. I light the family altar candle, say the Holy Mother prayer and a few others for some family needs. I discuss the meltdown issues with Adam (stress at school).

IMG_0776

Dinner is lamb and pork meatballs, sweet and sour sauce, roasted cabbage, and chard – all homemade, all super tasty! Everyone asks for seconds. It’s been chaos for the last two hours, but I’m feeling peaceful and sated at the table.

After dinner I go to the super awesome neighbors across the street for a quick chat and to pick up some keys. I walk over in my slippers. When I return, the end of the basketball game is on and the kids are reading on the couch. I finally fold the laundry and put it away. I make a cup of throat coat tea for myself and the boy. It’s time for the kids to get ready for bed and, of course, they get squirrelly and riled up. Adam gets them in their pjs and brushes their teeth while I write a little.

Pjs, toothbrushing, focus, night-time pees, get out of the laundry basket, time for bed, which story do you want, please focus on you, get in bed. While Adam works on the dishes, a story is read by me, hugs and kisses doled out. Adam goes in to sing them to sleep. It’s not terribly successful tonight.

I finally finish making my lists and get organized. I sort out what I want to accomplish tomorrow (add pictures to this post, post it, write up a book review, vacuum the house, don’t forget to buy milk and eggs, and get that package from the post office). I finally open this week’s Economist. And now it’s time for me go to bed. It’s 8.30 and I can’t wait to crawl into bed and do it all again tomorrow.

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Maxim Monday: Pray For Things Possible

Do witches and Hindus pray? Absolutely! I think Paganism gets looked at as though it’s not a praying tradition (or collection of traditions). But it is. Prayer is a form of magic! This maxim is reminding us to pray for things possible. I think more of us could use that reminder.

I pray every single day. Everything I pray for is something that I think, or at the very least, hope, is possible. Why would I pray for things impossible? Why put energy into something I think has no chance of coming to pass? I think most of us pray for things possible. The question is, do you really believe that what you are praying for is possible? Really and truly? If not, there is very little chance of it ever coming to pass.

I don’t think it matters if prayer works because a divinity graces us with assistance, or if prayer might work just because of positive thinking. In the CS Lewis bio-pic, Shadowlands, Lewis says, “I pray, not because it changes God, but because it changes me.” This is the main crux of prayer. It’s a form of magic, it’s a form of meditation, but ultimately it’s a source of change. If we can change our attitudes, increase our compassion, determination, and efficacy in the world, then things can and will change.

Almost all traditions have some form of the saying “Be careful what you pray for.” That’s a good reminder too. Most traditions also remind us that answers to prayer don’t always come in the forms we most expect (or desire). Maybe this is way to expand the ‘proof’ that prayer works. It’s good advice anyway. This maxim adds to the advice: focus on praying for what is possible.

Letting Go with Dhumavati

Having tools to develop my Self, as a spiritual being and as a form of self-therapy, are among the reasons I love practicing witchcraft and Hinduism. Both traditions serve my desire for theosis, or becoming a god, or achieving enlightenment.

One necessary ability in this journey is being able to see clearly. Tantric Hinduism does not encourage complete renunciation of the world, rather embracing the world and also seeing it clearly is its complex call to humans. Seeing clearly, particularly seeing one’s Self clearly, can be a very sobering experience.

I’d like to think that the power, self-confidence, and other strengths I’ve developed over the last few years of my practice are the most visible aspects of myself. But I’m not convinced that’s true, or that it’s important. As I pray to Kali Ma to “slay the fears that limit my spirit and dance upon the grave of my iniquities,” She gleefully gives me what I ask for. So my fears are laid before me and my iniquities spread out for all (or at least some very important people near me) to see.

I am still – still – sorting through the rubble of my relationship issues. In some of the situations I am not at ‘fault’ and in others I am most definitely at fault, but the lowest common denominator in all of it is…. me. There are certain areas of my life in which I cannot be trusted to make good judgment calls.  There are times when I act out of scarcity and those times are when I screw things up, bad. My Lady Kali lays this all before me. Again and again and again. I asked to slay my fears and dance on my iniquities, therefore I must see them. And oh, it is humbling.

In fact, it is so humbling as to feel humiliating, and I grieve. I sat before my altar this weekend and wept. I have feelings of shame, but it is my shame. None of the gods I work with now will have anything to do with shame; it’s not them putting shame on me. Instead, the gods, particularly of Hinduism, bear a profound compassion. They answer our prayers not out of spite, or to show us how flawed we are so that we can grovel for their grace, but so that we can see clearly and heal. The truth really will set us free.

I’ve been reading recently of Dhumavati, the goddess of widows and those with nothing left to lose. Her name means ‘Smoky One,’ for like smoke she is unattached to anything, she is barely seen, she is able to go wherever she wills, as no boundary can keep her out. She is withered and dirty, a crone. She seems a little insane since she has no ‘function’ and therefore needs not keep to any rules. She has nothing, is nothing, and can offer nothing. But she is full of compassion for those who grieve. She is a bestower of boons. She brings comfort; She knows what it is like to lose it all.

250px-Dhumavati

I realize I’ve had experiences with Dhumavati at a few other points in my life. She is powerful and not to be trifled with. In fact, she is considered inauspicious; married people and those with children are unwise to court her. I can understand: as a parent, and pregnant to boot, there are losses I would rather not know anything about. But I feel her again. There is a great deal of grief and loss that I don’t know what to do with, nor do I know how to stop making the same mistakes. So I petition her, placate her with offerings, and ask for her wisdom and comfort.

Dhum dhum dhumavati svaha

Dhumavati’s main lesson is to ‘let go.’ At the core of life is the brutal reality that we only think we’re in control of our lives. But if we take one step back we might see just how little control we have. We can let go. Often letting go creates more freedom and very little destruction. Sometimes letting go means the house of cards collapses and we have to see that we were clinging to an illusion. That is painful, but also freeing. Seeing clearly is freedom.

This song has been running through my head. Appropriate and so, so good. Enjoy.

Bargaining with Kali

I’ve been quiet lately in this space. There is a lot of intensity in my personal life right now. The last I wrote with any depth was about praying to Kali. She continues to work in my life. I continue to ask her to slay the fears that limit my spirit, and she continues to give me plenty of opportunities to face my fears. I rarely like what I see, nor do I feel all that secure. I made a promise to my partner that I would not back away, that I would press forward.

Here is the image I have in my head: I am riding a wild white horse bareback as it is racing across a wide open plain. My hands are at my side. My chest is thrust forward. Riding another white horse ahead of me is Kali. Her black tangled hair writhes like snakes around her. She rides her horse backward, facing me. She is performing open heart surgery on me. In her hands is a long spear with a scythe tip on the end. My chest is bloody and wide open. She has my heart snagged on the tip of her scythe and she is pulling ever so gently as we ride like the wind across this vast land. She is smiling. She has no fear; it is not her heart oozing on the tip.

Does this mean I am a victim? No. I am a willing sacrifice. I am offering up the old boundaries, the old patterns, the old cage that held my heart. Break it, smash it, make room for something bigger, wilder, freer.

There are big, big changes afoot for my family in 2013. I did a money spell on the dark moon. Next week on the full moon I am sending out another wish bird spell for a house. The emotional work I am slogging through is an incantation for my transformation. I still pray: O Kali Ma, slay the fears that limit my spirit. And she has delivered! She has given me the opportunity to do just that. Lakshmi has poured abundance in my lap. Now I must pry open my hands, let go of what no longer serves, and make room for all that goodness.

Kali Devi

Kali Devi

Morpheus’ recent post on sovereignty and The Morrigan inspired me to get before my altar, to get even more specific with Kali. This is not a one-sided relationship, where I beg for crumbs from some feudal master. I am not Kali’s equal, but I have my own sovereignty. From one angle I am the one with my chest cracked open. From another angle I am Kali performing the surgery.

Ok, Kali, I said, sitting before my altar this morning. You have given me what I asked for. Thank you. I will not retreat. I will press forward. I will not retreat. But if what you are pressing me forward fo —

YOU MUST SING.

I didn’t get through my prayer before a loud voice in my head told me I had to sing. I went cold and thought, this could just be my brain. But I’ve never interrupted myself like that before. I must sing.

Fuck.

I went back to praying: If this is really going to happen, I need some security, some emotional, spiritual and material support. You give me that and I will sing. I will sing and you provide that. Help me. In this open heart surgery, give me a blood transfusion with the courage and strength to keep riding this horse.

Is it wise to bargain with Kali? We shall see.

What is the significance of singing? In what feels like a different life, I used to sing: jazz, opera, musical theatre. This January marks my 23rd year since I started studying voice. Twelve years ago I was given the opportunity to pursue a path toward professional singing and I chose theology. In the last four and half years (since my son was born) I’ve done barely anything at all. Sleep deprivation wreaks havoc on the voice and the will. Having an infant gets in the way of rehearsals. Now I resist the painful rust that rests on my chords.

I am reluctant to go into the details of my love/hate relationship with singing. A history of performance anxiety and panic attacks certainly doesn’t help a singer’s career. I have long known that I would need to face this part of me again as I deepen my magical practice. My husband looked at me last night during a conversation unrelated to singing (and yet entirely related) and asked me, Do you want to be an initiate? Do you want to be half the witch I think you are? My answer is, of course, YES.

I will press forward, I will not retreat. The surgery is begun, let it be completed. Winter officially arrived yesterday with snow and cold; the winnowing season is coming to a close. Solstice is around the corner and winter feels like a good season in which to recover. Let the heart surgery continue.

I will sing. I might resist, but dammit, I will sing.

 

 

Be careful what you pray for….

Because you just might get it.

I’ve been quiet. There’s been a lot going on in my house since Adam’s grandmother died two weeks ago. As soon as he returned from the funeral, my in-laws arrived and then it was Thanksgiving. Then my daughter came down with a double infection and a bronchial thingamajig. Oh yeah, and I’ve been not so successfully fighting the cold and…..

And dealing with so much stuff that I cannot talk about publicly. On top of some wonderful opportunities that I look forward to sharing with you next week, I am dealing with some very deep relationship issues. Which leads me to the title of this post.

Yesterday I was overwhelmed with intense feelings. I felt like a deer in headlights, paralyzed, unable to see if the bright lights were safe or potentially fatal. I walked myself into my office (altar room) and sat in meditation for a while. The moment I walked into the room I was smacked upside the head with the realization that every single day I pray to Mahakali to slay the fears that limit my spirit. If I’m not prepared to face my fears – my deepest insecurities, to dig deep, to expose my heart – then what the hell am I doing praying that prayer?

Kali Ma

Kali Ma

And I realized I had only last month prayed and venerated Lakshmi, goddess of abundance, asking for all good things. If I am not prepared to make room for that abundance, then I am foolish indeed.

So I’m facing my fears. Mostly it feels like I’m flailing and talking too much to my loved ones. Mostly it feels like I’m vacillating between feeling strong and expansive, and shame that I’ve not got my shit figured out. I am clearing out the dead weeds in my patterns, past and heart, making room for new growth, new love, new patterns; more, better, stronger.

Prayer of Rededication

An acquaintance of mine and Feri initiate, who goes by the internet nom de plume Happydog Potatohead, wrote this beautiful prayer recently. I was struck to the quick when I read it. Not only do I revere Kali, but Happydog speaks of the fire, the burning, the boundaries – these things which I’ve been feeling, pushing against, embracing. This prayer expresses my heart more accurately and eloquently than I could myself. Enjoy.

 

My Patroness, my Maitresse de ma Tete, is Kali.

Ghosts cannot abide me.

My power is the power to guide, to make boundaries, and to divide rightly.

I proclaim DIVISION, I proclaim BOUNDARIES, I proclaim FIRE.

I invoke my GODDESS,

who is no ‘mysterious one,’ (empty words from empty mouths),

She who is Queen above all the worlds,

And whose fire lit the stars

Long before an ape became a man,

Long before a man became a tribe,

Long before a tribe became a village,

Long before a village became a town,

Long before a town became a city,

Long before a city became a kingdom,

She was, She was, She was,

And the burning of Her worship is in the fire-heart

Of me. Oh heart, my Heart,

How I yearn for a glimpse of Your bright steel.

How I yearn for the touch of Your hand.

How I yearn for Your glory of light,

And to dance with You, I who have never

danced with any other,

I spin and turn and yearn

For You. To You.

Help me now, my Mother, my Sister, my Lover, my GODDESS,

Help me now to divide rightly, to use the blade well,

to set fire to that which is waste and to burn,

to set boundaries against foolishness and emptiness,

to bring my fire, granted from You, back to Your fire

to reignite, to re-imagine, to renew.

Mahakali, Mahakali, Mahakali,

Mother and Destroyer of all things and all worlds

in their time,

I renew and re-offer myself to You,

In the name of Fire and Sacrifice,

in the name of Love and Power,

in the name of Creation and Destruction,

in the name of Chaos

and in the name of Order,

I, even I, stand before You

and renew my Love before Love.

Amen.

This week

Part 4 of my testimony will have to wait until next week. It’s been a week of lousy sleep due to the teething my daughter is doing. She’s ambitious: she’s cutting 6-8 teeth at once. Yay. I just don’t think I’ve got a post in me today.

Here are some links for your weekend reading:

Earlier this week I wrote a book review on Ten Moons: The Inner Journey of Pregnancy for Pagan Families.

This is an interesting essay on the difference between prayer and meditation.

 

Enjoy!